Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
October 8, 2000
What I will have to say the next several weeks are things that I have said before in various sermons, yet I know it will be new for some of you. For others, this may be old stuff, yet, it is these basic elements of the Christian life that we often need to be reminded of over and over again. Peter made such a comment in 2 Peter 3:1,2. This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior [spoken] by your apostles.
We need to be reminded of things we already know. I hope to be able to stir your minds up to remember this important truths about our sanctification and the practical results in how we live our lives.
The term “sanctification” is from the same root word for “holy.” It essentially means “to be set apart” with the connotation being “to be set apart for the Lord.” A person who is not a true Christian, a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, is not sanctified. They are not set apart for the Lord, but are still dead in the trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1) and under God’s condemnation. They will eventually be set apart from the Lord when they are sentenced to eternal hell and shut out of the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power (Rev. 20:11-15; 2 Thess. 1:9).
When a person comes under the conviction of the Holy Spirit about their sinfulness and repents, that is, they turn from their sin and self-righteousness to trust in the righteousness and atonement of Jesus Christ as the substitute payment for their sins, they are sanctified. Paul comments in 1 Corinthians 6 that the Corinthian believers had been marked by their great sinfulness at one time, but “you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.” When they were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus they were saved from their sins and set apart unto the Lord. They were sanctified.
Sanctification is also an ongoing process. The Christian was set apart unto the Lord at salvation, but he/she is also continually being more set apart unto the Lord in their daily lives as they learn to walk in the Spirit in obedience to the Word of God. That is why Paul calls on the Roman believers to refrain from being slaves to impurity and lawlessness but instead to present themselves as slaves of righteousness resulting in sanctification (Romans 6:19). It is also why Paul prays for the Thessalonian believers that the God of Peace Himself [would] sanctify [them] entirely (1 Thess. 5:23). You were sanctified at salvation, but you are also in the process of being sanctified.
Let me try to illustrate. You go to the animal shelter and buy a two year-old dog. The dog belongs to you from the moment you purchase it. The dog is now set apart as yours since you have purchased its redemption from its imprisonment in the pound. But the dog still has a mind trained by its previous owners. You own the dog, but its habits and loyalty are mixed at best. You call it and sometimes it comes and sometimes it does not. As time goes on you work with the dog and train it to respond to you. The dog became yours at the time of purchase, but you are also making it more yours as its loyalty to you increases. As the dog becomes more obedient to your commands, you have greater ownership of its mind and will.
The Christian was purchased by Jesus. You were redeemed from your bondage to sin by His blood. You were set apart to Him at salvation, but you still had sinful habits and a worldly mindset. As you learn more of Jesus and His word and walk with Him, your habits, thoughts and desires change so that your loyalty to Him continues to increase. You are becoming more and more set apart to Him as you live in His righteousness. You are in the process of being sanctified.
Sanctification is also something that will happen in the future when we put aside this frail body and take on immortality. The righteous life we strive for now will then be reality forever. We will be like Him (1 John 3:2) and have the holiness without which we could not see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).
With our understanding of the three aspects to sanctification, then we should also see the absolute necessity of it in our lives. If you have not received the first sanctification, then you will not pursue the second and you cannot receive the last, and without that, you cannot enter heaven.
There have been many that balk at the idea of living a sanctified life. In their effort to stress the grace of God in salvation and to make it clear that we cannot earn it, they diminish the importance of pursuing a sanctified life. Some even reject it. But the scriptures are clear at the necessity of sanctification in this life.
For example: Romans 6:22 (NASB) But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. The context of the passage defines sanctification here as living in righteousness and contrasts that with living in impurity and lawlessness (vs. 19).
In 1 Cor. 6:11, which I mentioned earlier, sanctification is presented as living the opposite of the sinful lifestyle that existed prior to salvation and is listed as something different from justification. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.
1 Thess 4:3 states, For this is the will of God, your sanctification; [that is,] that you abstain from sexual immorality. Paul talks about living honorably in marriage and adds in verse 7, For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. The contrast with impurity here means that this can only be a reference to living in practical righteousness.
2 Tim 2:21 states, Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these [things](speaking about worldly and empty chatter – vs. 16), he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Again, we find that sanctification is something we are to pursue if we are to be useful to our Master.
Then there is Hebrew 12:14, Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. Again, we are to pursue it and its importance is stressed by the fact that if we do not have it, we will not see the Lord. This in no way implies that you can earn your salvation, but it does make it clear that salvation from sin will change the life of the individual. The truly saved will pursue a life of righteousness. If that is not true in the person’s life, then there is a good reason for them to examine and test themselves to see whether they are actually in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). One of the purposes of salvation is that we be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). If there is no conforming to that image, it is legitimate to question the reality of any professed faith in Jesus Christ.
Sanctification begins with the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing the individual to a conviction of Sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8f). When the person repents and puts their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation from sin, then they are set apart to Christ and they begin their journey of being conformed to His image. They are no longer slaves of sin, but now learn to be slaves of righteousness. Their life changes in practice and attitude. There is God’s work in producing this in you, for it is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:2, etc.), but, as we have already pointed out, there is also the work you are required to do in pursuing it. You must cease doing somethings and begin doing others in striving to live in righteousness according to commands and principles of God’s Word.
Where does a person start in their own pursuit of sanctification after they are saved? How does that affect how they view themselves? How does it change the way the live? Those are questions we will strive to answer in very practical ways over the next few weeks.
The starting place for the Christian to pursue sanctification is their mind. How you think will control how you view yourself, others, the world and what you do in practice. I have often said before and will say again now, that a person can claim to believe anything they want, but the proof of what they actually believe will be seen in what they do.
The person without Jesus Christ walks in the futility of their minds because their understanding is darkened (Eph. 4:17) and their minds are blinded by the god of this world – Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). Because of that blindness, their natural mind does not accept the things from the Spirit of God. They are foolishness to them (1 Cor. 2:14). They will remain in that state until they are quickened (made alive) by the Holy Spirit who then illumines their minds to understand the truth.
The change in the mind that starts with salvation continues on throughout a Christians life. You are not spiritually “zapped” with all knowledge and understanding at salvation, but you do start to be receptive to the teaching ministry of the Spirit so that you might understand the Word of God (1 John 2:27). There is the Spirit’s work, but there is also your work of reading, studying and meditating on the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer under the New Covenant, but the work of the believer is still the same as in the Old Testament when David said, Psalm 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping [it] according to Thy word. 10 With all my heart I have sought Thee; Do not let me wander from Thy commandments. 11 Thy word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against Thee.
Transformed by the Renewing of Your Mind
In the book of Romans, Paul spends the first 11 chapters presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its ramifications. It is filled with lots of theology and deep thoughts. In chapters 12-16, Paul brings out the practical out-workings of the Gospel. In other words, in view of what Jesus has done to save you from sin, this is how you are to live. Look at Romans 12:1,2.
I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
His call is for Christians to live a certain way in view of God’s mercy in saving us. What we do with our bodies and how we conduct our lives should be radically affected by the salvation we received by faith in Jesus. In verse two, Paul commands us not to let ourselves become conformed to this world and then tells us how to keep that from happening. It is through becoming transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Now before I discuss that further, let me briefly comment on being conformed to this world. Each of us was born into the world system, and if we are true Christians, we have been saved out of it. We have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:13). But even with that transfer, we still struggle with living like we were still in the domain of darkness. There is ignorance to overcome. There are bad habits to break. There is also the fighting against the world system to continually pressure us to go back and live again like we belong to it. Paul comments about this in both Romans 6 & 7 in discussing the necessity of no longer being slaves of sin and instead being slaves of righteousness and of the frustration of often finding yourself doing the very sinful thing you were fighting against. There is an internal and external war for how we live our lives.
For example. The Bible is clear that we are not to covet. It is the tenth commandment (Ex. 20:17). It is directly repeated in the New Testament (Rom. 7:7; 13:9). We are not to be greedy and lust for what other people have (Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5). We are to be content with what God has provided us (1 Tim. 6:8; Heb. 13:5). Internally there is the struggle against our own desires that sees what others have resulting in discontentment and longing to have the same too. Paul had to learn to be content in all circumstances (Phil. 4:11), so must we. But even as we learn to be content and not covet, the world system continues to pressure us to be discontent and to covet. That is the major purpose of modern advertising. It seeks to create a need within you that only their product can fill, so go out now and buy it! There is internal and external pressure. We must resist that pressure and not let the world mold us into being like everyone else. We are to be different from the unsaved.
How is that done? Through being transformed by the renewing of our minds. The word transformed here is the same one we get our word “metamorphosis” from. That is an important word for a former entomologist for it is what happens to many kinds of insects as they change from the immature stage to the mature stage. A caterpillar will completely transform from an ugly worm like creature into a beautiful butterfly through metamorphosis. In the process itself, the animal basically digests itself into a soup which is then reformed into all the new structures of the butterfly. (It amazes me that anyone could watch or study this process in insects and still believe in evolution. It is not something that could happen by the random chance of chemical processes. It is an intricate design demonstrating that there is a supernatural designer).
The same is true for the Christian. We who once were dead in our trespasses and sin are radically changed by being made alive in Christ (Eph. 2). The manner in which we live is transformed from being slaves of sin into being slaves of righteousness. What is important in our lives and what we think undergoes metamorphosis and changes from selfishness and pride to humility and selflessness. That change occurs through the “renewing of our minds.”
The word “renew” (anakainwsiV/anakainosis) simply means to “make new.” Our minds are changed into something new as the old thoughts are exchanged for new ones. In Eph. 5:26, Paul describes Jesus doing this for the church saying, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” As the Word of God goes in, the thoughts of the world are cleaned out.
David expressed the impact of the Scriptures on a person’s life in Psalm 19:7-11
The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. 10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward.
The Word of God is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean and true. It restores the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlighten the eyes, endures forever and is righteous altogether. It changes a person’s life because it changes how they think and life. No wonder David judged the Scriptures to be more desirable than pure gold and more satisfying than the drippings of the honeycomb.
As we feed upon the Bible, the thoughts that we have are changed. The sinful way we used to view things is changed into a godly viewpoint. Let me give you some examples.
I have already mentioned coveting, but as I mediate on God’s commands not to covet and to love even my enemies, then I stop looking at what other people have as something I need myself. Instead, I start looking at what I have that may be of benefit to someone else. I am transformed from being greedy to being giving. Instead of always looking to get, I start looking to give.
As I consider lying and apply God’s commands to not lie and deceive (Ex. 20:16; 1 Tim. 1:10), but instead to be those who tell the truth and are set free by the truth (Eph. 4:15; John 8:32), I find that lying is no longer to my advantage. Deceiving people to either protect myself or manipulate them to do what I want does not work long term because it destroys the trust needed for relationships to function well. It also destroys my credibility in sharing the gospel with them. I stop living for what is easy at the moment and work at what is right and best.
As I seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness and trust His promise to provide and be content in that (Mt. 6), I find that stealing becomes repulsive. I reject it as a way to get what I want. The pleasure of a good nights sleep from an honest day’s work is more satisfying than short term thrill of getting something for nothing. I want to treat people the way that I want them to treat me (Mt. 7:12).
The opposite sex is no longer viewed as objects of lust, but rather as precious people created for God’s glory. I begin to view them as brothers and sisters who are to be honored instead of objects that are to be exploited.
I realize the seriousness of anger as I consider what Jesus says about it (Mt. 6:21f). I learn that the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:20) and start finding new ways of dealing with it. I start extending grace and mercy instead of revenge.
My view of God changes as I learn that He is not a doting grandfather who exists for my pleasure, but I am here for His purposes. I am awed by His attributes – His power, love, justice, patience, goodness, holiness, etc. My desire in life changes to become a quest to know Him and honor Him.
I change as my mind changes. Therefore, it is vital that my mind is on the right things. I limit my exposure to what is not godly and increase my exposure to what is godly. As Psalm 1 puts it, How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 And he will be like a tree [firmly] planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season, And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
A Mind fixed on the right things.
If I want to enjoy the benefits of godliness such as peace and joy in all circumstances, then I must learn to have my mind fixed on the right things. Paul calls us to do so in Philippians 4:8 saying, Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
We have that verse printed on a banner that hangs in front of our TV set. It is a great reminder to be careful of what we may be exposing ourselves to from the idiot box. But I also need that verse hanging in front of my eyes when I read a book or magazine. I need it to ring in my ears when I listen to the radio or talk with people. It is the grid by which everything should go through before I allow it into my mind. Do the things that you watch, read or listen to meet the criteria of this verse. Are they true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy? If not, then we are not renewing our mind, we are continuing to pollute it.
A Mind seeking the wisdom from above.
James 3:13-18 also shows that it is what is in our minds that controls our beliefs, attitudes and behavior. Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and [so] lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
What do you fill your mind with? Is it wisdom from above or earthly wisdom? Your attitudes and actions will demonstrate what is in your mind.
The call to us as Christians is to be sanctified in all things. We belong to Jesus Christ and so should be set apart from the world and unto Him. The practical aspect of living in that manner starts with our minds. What do you think about? What influences do you allow in? If you are allowing garbage to be put into your mind, don’t be surprised when it is garbage that comes out. God’s commands on this are clear, it is a matter of your obedience. Put up whatever barriers are needed to protect yourself from the influences of the ungodly, and at the same time, fill your mind with that which is godly. Sanctify your mind.
Three Aspects of Sanctification
Salvation: 1 Cor. 6:11
The Necessity of Ongoing Sanctification
The Holy Spirit’s Work (1 Peter 1:2, etc.)
The Non-Christian’s Condition
The Christian’s Pursuit of Sanctification
Romans 12:1,2 – Transformed by a Renewed Mind
The Pressure to Conform
An Internal & External Struggle – Romans 6 & 7
Transformed = _______________________
The Effect of the Word of God
View of God
A Mind Fixed on the Right Things – Philippians 4:8
A Mind Seeking Wisdom from Above – James 3:13-18
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