Further More Sanctified (cont.)

In part 1, “Never More Justified” we saw that we are never more justified as a Christian than when we first believed. Never more or less right with God; Never more worthy of our justification; and God is never more pleased with us (in the fundamental sense of us being His children through adoption in Christ). In part 2a “Further More Sanctified” we saw three ways in which greater sanctification brings about positive developments in our Christian life. Namely, through the process of sanctification we can grow more like Christ; better glorify God; and better enjoy God.

We continue this look at being “Further More Sanctified” with three more features of growth in holiness and Christlike, Christian maturity.

#4 We can gain greater victory over sin the more we are sanctified 

Being justified means our relationship to sin is changed forever. Our spiritual identity is no longer defined by our rebellion against God. Our status is no longer determined by how badly we’ve dishonoured God and gone against His ways. There is a sense in which we are no longer sinners. And yet there is a sense in which we still are.

Tragically, justified Christians still sin. We still think, speak and act in ways that do not honour God’s authority and character. We still stumble and take our personal satisfaction into our own hands and take short-cuts to short-lived gratification. We still exhibit signs of self-reliance, whereby we try to look good in front of others (and perhaps even in front of God!) by how well we can perform certain kinds of tasks and behaviours.

That’s why sanctification is important. Because every justified Christian is called not to simply rest in their righteous status and be indifferent to whether or not we dishonour God through sin. We’re each called to go to war with sin. To fight dishonorable thoughts and attitudes. To resist temptation. To put our sinful passions to death.

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The war against sin is one that will last the duration of our lives – but it is one that God has ordained to be won progressively battle by battle, rather than some kind of immediate, total annihilation victory via weapons of mass destruction. The good news is that each victory in our battles against sin is a real gain, where the sin that remains in us becomes less potent than it was before and our capacity to live holy lives in accordance with God’s will increases.

We need to value sanctification because we can be slowly and steadily conquering sin by the grace of God, the power of Christ and the with the help of the Spirit.

#5 We can be of greater use to God and greater benefit to others the more we are sanctified 

We already noted in the last post how being progressively sanctified enables us to increasingly bring glory to God and enjoy what we have in Him. But as we are made more like Christ and increasingly live out our justified status as God’s children, we can also be fitter vessels for God’s use in advancing His Kingdom and serving others.

This is probably seen most clearly in the way Paul talked about people’s suitability for certain kinds of ministry. In 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, he gives some lists of the qualities that Christians need to exhibit if they’re going to be serving God’s people in particular ways.

Example: “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” (Titus 1:7-8)

Both the positive and negative characteristics in these verses are a test of whether the candidate for pastoral ministry and church leadership has been sufficiently sanctified in their character to faithfully communicate and demonstrate what the gospel of Jesus is all about. A man who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined in their conduct demonstrates that the gospel has really been applied to their heart by the Holy Spirit and transformation of character is taking place. But a man who is unable to restrain himself when it comes to prideful opinion, temper, alcohol, physical force or material goods needs to let Jesus do more work in his heart before he can be used by Jesus as He works in the hearts of others.

The more your character has been sanctified, the more your lifestyle will adorn the gospel and commend it to others – rather than bringing it into disrepute. The more sanctified you are, the more others can learn from you as they seek to live lives that honour God and proclaim the gospel themselves.

#6 We can be better prepared for heaven the more we are sanctified 

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Finally, sanctification is vital in the way it prepares us for eternity. Justification gains us a place in heaven and in the new creation. But sanctification readies our soul for eternity in a special way. When we die we will be with Christ and when we experience the resurrection of our bodies, we will be perfect (more on that next time!) and more Christlike than we could ever be in this life. But the whole of the Christian’s life is the process of becoming more and more like Christ and more and more like what we’ll be when we see Him (see 1 John 3:2-3).

Becoming like Jesus; seeking God’s glory in all that we do; gaining greater enjoyment of God; putting to death our sinful and worldly desires; and seeking the advancement of God’s Kingdom by pursuing the kind of holy character that reflects the gospel and can be used in God’s service,  all point to the end goal of our lives.

Growth in sanctification loudly declares that the entirety of our present identity and our aims in life is centred on who we will be and what we will do for eternity. Our eternal destiny is to glorify God as perfected reflectors of Christ, while enjoying the fullness of God and his everlasting Kingdom.

Each phase of sanctification is the Holy Spirit pulling back the curtain a little more to show us and the world what kind of person we’ll be when God is finished with us and completes His plan of redemption. Each decision to actively seek God’s glory in this life is a testimony to our highest purpose in the next. Each time we say “no!” to sin and resist temptation points us and others to the sinless perfection we’ll enjoy in God’s presence and the greater reward He offers to us for seeking His Kingdom and righteousness.

As we wax brighter and brighter in holiness, like the moon progressing through its phases, we grow in joyful anticipation of the day when we most fully reflect Christ – when His image in us is never again obscured by the shadow of sin and worldliness.

 

[1] JimmyMac210 – just returned home from hospital “heaven” (CC BY-NC 2.0) flickr

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