Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Christ Our Sanctifier, Part 1

One of the most relatable passages in the Bible is found in Romans 7:14–25. Over the past several weeks I’ve shared these verses with those that are new to Christ; and it has been fun to see the light bulbs of understanding come on as I’ve explained how the ministry of Jesus Christ as Our Sanctifier works. 

Read the following verses and ask yourself, "Can I relate?"

What I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate (15)… For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want (19). 

Paul is talking about being obedient in his walk with Jesus. He is saying he’d like to be consistently obedient, but he is failing.

Who can’t relate to this? Who doesn’t find themselves saying something to the effect of “I don’t want to be angry” or “I don’t want to be lustful” or “I don’t want to be addicted.” Paul goes on to write in verses 21–25:

 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:15, 19, 21–25

A former pastor of Fulton Alliance Church wrote:
“Unsuccessful struggle against sin and a lack of power in life and ministry frustrates those who have asked Jesus to be their Savior but not their Sanctifier, resulting in a lack of joy in their walk with Christ. At the point when we are born again, we become members of God’s family. We believe He paid the price for our sin, and we are positionally sanctified, or set apart from those who are not born again, and are seen as holy because of what Christ has done.”  —Rev. John Soper
The “unsuccessful struggle against sin… frustrates those who have asked Jesus to be their Savior but not their Sanctifier.” This is the type of person who Paul is writing about. It’s the person who accepts Christ as Savior but finds themselves continuing in life seemingly unchanged with sin as a constant reminder of their failure. That is so frustrating.
If a Christian is sentenced to live a life imprisoned to sin, how is that appealing? When a Christian continues to do the things that they know God is opposed to, how is it possible for them to say they have JOY, PEACE and FREEDOM? How are they ever to believe that God is loving when it seems like all they ever do is disappoint Him? Why should a Christian resist sin if they are doomed to eventually fall in into it? Those are some great questions—questions that I’ve asked myself.

If we rely on our own strength and moral fortitude to overcome sin and be “successful” in our practice of Christianity, we will eventually fail. As people who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, we are saved by God and experience what is known as positional sanctification. However, we still live in a world whose god is Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4), and we still are left to face our daily lives in a body corrupted by sin (1st John 1:8). We cannot live in a fallen world and depend on an corrupted body and then expect to overcome sin. A successful follower of Christ—a victorious follower—must depend on God and the power He gives to overcome. Just a few verses after this passage at the end of Romans 7, Paul writes in Romans 8:1–2,
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Paul just finished crying out, “Who will save me—the wretched man that I am?” And the answer here is the Spirit of life that is found in Christ Jesus. Those of us Christ-followers who cry out like Paul, “Wretched man (or woman) that I am” can find their hope to overcome sin in the Holy Spirit. Each of us that are in Christ Jesus have this hope to be set free.

Paul goes on to write in 1st Thessalonians chapter 4:1–8,
Brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;  that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,  not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
Our hope is found in Jesus Christ who has given us God’s Holy Spirit. God’s desire for us—according to these verses—is that we would not walk in sin but rather in obedience to the commands He has given us. The word that we are given here that describes our walking in obedience is the word “sanctification” (ἁγιασμός). This Greek word is taken from the Greek word for “holy” (ἅγιος). “Sanctification” literally means “to make holy.” God’s desire for us is that we would be made holy (v. 3). Paul explains our holiness (our ability to be obedient) is realized in the person of the Holy Spirit. And in verse 8 he explains that the one who rejects this teaching does not reject the writer (or the blogger) but rather is rejecting Father God.

So, my friends: Be holy as our God is holy. Be holy by not rejecting the Holy Spirit. Those who are reading this blog that live like I once lived—in defeat, repeating the same sins again and again—aren’t encouraged by me telling them to BE SANCTIFIED, BE HOLY, or BE CONSISTENTLY OBEDIENT. Well wishes don't resolves anything for us if we don't understand HOW something practically functions. How are we to be holy? and How are we to embrace and not reject the Holy Spirit? In the next post I'll try and answer those questions.

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