But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48, NLT)
Scripture defines sanctification as, “The act of being set apart once for all to be holy” (1 Cor 6:11). To be sanctified means to be set apart.
In the Old Testament it was most often the places and objects of worship that were called “set apart” for God’s honor and use:
- Holy priest (Ex 28:41)
- Holy garments (Ex 29:21)
- A holy altar (Ex 30:10)
- The Holy Land (Lev 27:21)
As you turn the page to the New Testament, we discover that we, the body of Christ, are the temple of God and it is us--you and I--who are “set apart” for God’s honor and use.
2 Timothy 2:21 (HCSB) - So if anyone purifies himself from anything dishonorable, he will be a special instrument, set apart [sanctified], useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
If you are in Christ, you are sanctified--set apart for God’s use! God has put you in a place of honor as a believer that is much higher than you might imagine.
Do you feel the tensions in these two statements:
God has already made me holy
God is making me holy.
It takes faith in both of these truths to see how God is sanctifying you.
But here’s why it is so important that you see yourself as a saint:
Until you see who you are in Christ, you’ll always fight your feelings as you grow…
This is why growth can’t be built on your feelings. Your growth as a Christian has its foundation in faith--faith in who God has made you to be and in the work He is doing in your life.
The doctrine of sanctification sets the foundation for our growth as Christians. Without understanding this doctrine, you can easily find yourself falling into to the traps of:
- Legalism: trying to grow in Christ based on your own effort.
- License: presuming on God’s grace to grow you no matter how you live.
TWO ASPECTS OF SANCTIFICATION
1. Sanctification is once and complete.
1 Corinthians 1:30 - God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.
Paul says that God has made us holy--past tense. Because of our trust in Christ, we have been “freed from sin” and “made right with God.”
Hebrews 10:10 - For God's will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.
We are made holy because of what Jesus did for us all on the cross! When we trust in Christ, God sees us from that moment on as having the same holiness as His Son. It’s not something we earn. It’s a gift from God.
>>> Once God has made us holy (new life) we start on the path of growing into being the new people he wants us to be (new possibilities).
2. Sanctification is continual and progressive.
1 Peter 2:2 - Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation.
2 Peter 3:18 - you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Growth is a choice we make and actions we take. God has purposely decided to give us an opportunity to be involved in the process of our growth.
Hebrew 10:14 - For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.
>>> Understanding the doctrine and two aspects of sanctification helps us from being fooled when it comes to our responsibility to grow as Christians.
Growth is not:
- How many Worship Rallies you attend
- How many verses you’ve memorized
- How many books you’ve read
- How many minutes you spent in your quiet time this morning
>>> The doctrine of sanctification is a truth that reminds us that Christian growth is not just a matter of checking off the items on a spiritual “to-do” list (church, bible, pray, give, etc.). What makes the difference is our faith in Christ as we do these things.
THE DAILY PROCESS OF GROWTH
Here are three faith decisions you can make that will put you in the center of God’s growth process for your life:
1. By faith, you ask God to renew your mind.
Romans 12:2 - Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Unless you begin to think differently, you’ll never begin to live differently. Change happens from the inside out, not from the outside in.
EPHESIANS 4:25-29, 31-32
“Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.” -Anonymous
2. By faith, you practice the disciplines of growth.
“...discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7, NASB).
Growth takes time and energy, and is a matter of discipline that is dependent on God to grow us through our obedience.
Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline:
“By themselves, the spiritual disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done… The disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.”
The question then is, “How do I put myself in the place where spiritual growth will happen in my life?”
- Living and Growing Spiritually
- Spend time with God, His Word, and in prayer.
- Involved in Biblical Community
- Commit yourself to rally together with other believers each week.
- Find community and accountability in a Life Group.
- Focusing on Others
- The most important thing to God is how you treat the people created in His image.
- Life is about so much more than just you.
- Do You See What I See
- Share your story with someone. Invite them. Lead them to new life and new possibilities.
- Exercising Stewardship
- Anyone who thinks they can grow as a believer without making a disciplined commitment of their finances to God is fooling themselves.
- There’s no better way to express faith than to entrust to God the thing we’re so dependent on.
- We don’t give until it hurts--we give until it stops hurting.
3. By faith, you choose to trust God in the circumstances of life.
God has allowed our choice to be one of the key factors in our growth. One of the most important choices we make is our response to the difficulties and trials we all face.
Romans 5:3-5 - We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Often the first step to growth in our lives is to get a problem.
We all have problems in our lives. What determines whether or not they grow us is our response and attitude.
Hebrews 5:8 - Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.
Charles R. Swindoll - “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company...a church....a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.”
We can choose to recognize that God is at work even through the difficulties of life. That even now, in this season, in the disappointment, in the loss, in the frustration, in the confusion and uncertainty, He is sanctifying me and making me more like Christ.
- Do you think any Christian ever truly feels completely holy? Can you remember the times and places in your life when you have felt the most holy?
- What are the inner attitudes that encourage and inspire your growth in Christ? What attitudes put up a barrier to your growth?
- How has becoming a Christian changed your life? What new habits do you now enjoy as a Christian?
- What are two or three practical things that we can do to cooperate with God in His desire to renew our minds?
- Which of the disciplines of growth do you find God using the most frequently and/or the most effectively in your life?