Men at Work: Every Believer's Role in Sanctification - Part 1

Tom Pennington • Philippians 2:12-13

  • 2004-05-16 AM
  • Sanctification
  • Sermons


A few years ago, a friend of mine loaned me a book, a book by a man by the name of Cotton Mather. Now some of you may remember that name from history classes. He was a Puritan involved in the New England area in the beginning days of our country. And you may remember Cotton Mather for his contribution to sort of the religious heritage of our country. But what you may not be aware is that Cotton Mather was also very much into the issue and practice of medicine in his day.

Well, my friend had a book on his shelf called Angel of Bethesda. This book was written in 1724. Angel of Bethesda, of course, was a reference to the story in the New Testament where the angel would come down and supposedly trouble the waters, and the first person in was healed, and so he named his book Angel of Bethesda, a book about medicine in early New England. It actually reflected standard medical practice of the times. You probably won't want any of these things done to you. Let me give you a couple of examples.

1724, Angel of Bethesda, if you had a toothache here's how it was recommended in those days that you treat it. You take the thigh bone of a toad, and rub it over the tooth, and that will take care of your toothache. You might want to ask your dentist about that the next time you go. Or maybe, if you have insomnia, here's a remedy for insomnia. Some

of you struggle, as you get older you struggle with going to sleep, that the book says this: if you have insomnia, shave your head, and take a napkin, and dip a napkin in a mixture of water and vinegar, and add a little wine, and put that on your head. It was obviously easy to recognize those people who struggled with insomnia. Warts, if you had warts, then you were supposed to take either beef of bacon, so I guess pork or beef will do, and rub the warts with it, and then bury the flesh that you used in the ground, or hang it up in the air to dry, and somehow that would get rid of your warts. There's an entire chapter which I will not go into on the medicinal uses of urine; both internal and external including as a cure for chapped lips.

Now when I read this book Angel of Bethesda, I had three questions. The first question was: why did my friend have this in his library?

The second one was: what were the people thinking who first tried those things? I mean what possessed a man to kill a toad and to take its thigh bone and rub it on his tooth. Have you ever wondered that, I mean what gave them that idea?

But the third question that came into my mind was what are our doctors doing that 300 years from now they will look back on and say can you believe that they subjected those people to those treatments.

You know it's hard to believe that anyone every embraced the kind of diagnosis and treatment that was offered in Angel of Bethesda. But as bizarre as that is, I'm afraid that in the spiritual realm we do very much the same thing. We diagnose ourselves, we diagnose our own problems and then we come up with treatments that are every bit as bizarre for dealing with our spiritual issues as those were for dealing with physical ones. We try to concoct our own formula for overcoming the sin that is resident within us. We create our own grossly deficient version of sanctification or the process of biblical change.

Today, we come to a biblical prescription, a biblical prescription for dealing with sin; for dealing with the sin that remains in our lives, and it's one that's absolutely guaranteed to work. It worked 2000 years ago in the first century church when it was written to the Philippians, and it works today. And if the Lord should tarry, it will work 2000 years in the future. It will never be outdated. It will always be the one, the only biblical prescription for appropriately dealing with the sin that remains in our lives.

Let me read you the passage in Philippians 2 as we continue our study of this great book. Turn to Philippians 2:12; Paul writes,

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Let me remind you of the context of those two brief verses. Over the last several weeks we've been looking at the incredible doctrine of the condescension of Jesus Christ, His humiliation in becoming a man and then His great exaltation in being exalted to the highest heaven by His Father. And as we've looked at that great theology, our hearts have been lifted up and exalted to the clouds, but Paul doesn't let us stay there. He immediately comes back down to the practical issues of Christian living, he used those verses to remind us of the supreme example of humility, but now he comes to the issue from Christ's perfect obedience to our responsibility of obedience. Lloyd-Jones called these two verses one of the most perfect summaries of the Christian life to be found anywhere in all of the New Testament. You see these two verses provide us with an overview of the entire process that theologians call sanctification.

Sanctification is nothing more than the process of true biblical change. It's what you need if you're in Christ, it's what I need. It's what every Christian … it's where we live. It's the process whereby we are conformed more and more every day to the image of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, just as Mather had in the Angel of Bethesda, we have sort of come up with some of our own concoctions for dealing with the sin that resides within us. And we think that if these things are there, then it means we're sanctified.

Let me give you a few things that sanctification is not. This is what true biblical change is not. These are some of our false conclusions about sanctification.

Number one, participating in spiritual activities is not sanctification. Participating in spiritual activities like attending church on a Sunday morning, coming to Sunday school, maybe adding a midweek Bible study, and even daily having your devotions. Those things, as important as they are in and of themselves, are not sanctification. You can participate in those things your entire life and be no more like Jesus Christ than when you first started. You can even be an unbeliever and participate in those things.

I want you to turn to Isaiah 1. The prophet Isaiah illustrates this reality in stinging words as he begins his prophecy, Isaiah 1. He's writing to Judah the southern kingdom. The people of God, and he says this to them in verse 10, he says basically listen, God has had enough, verse 10,

Here the word of the Lord, You rulers of Sodom; (He's referring to the people of Israel as if they were living in Sodom and Gomorrah.) Give ear to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah. "What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offering of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, and lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. "So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. [Because] Your hands are covered with blood."

God says to the children of Judah through His prophet Isaiah, listen I will not accept your spiritual activities in exchange for true righteousness of heart. Spiritual activities are not sanctification.

There's a second false idea about sanctification and that is: the idea that having affirming emotional experiences is sanctification. This is very popular in our in our day. You know people who have sort of an experience where they weep, and they feel this closeness to God, and they think that is true biblical change that that's somehow the process of sanctification that God's changing them because of this experience they had.

You know there are some amazing experiences recorded in the Scripture, but I don't think they are any more amazing than what happened at the foot of Mount Sinai in Exodus 19. You don't need to turn there, but let me remind you, the children of Israel are just 3 months out of Egypt, they gather at the foot of Mount Sinai and Moses says, from God, Moses says to the people listen, let me tell you don't come near the mountain, don't come on the mountain because I'm going to come, and I'm going to hover over the top of that mountain.

And God did, and there was this dark cloud that looked like smoke on the top of the mountain, and there was this flaming fire consuming the top of the mountain. There were earthquakes; the mountain trembled in the presence of God. And then a trumpet started blowing and the trumpet just kept getting louder and louder and louder, and the people looked up, and they knew there was God, that God was making a visible presentation of Himself to them, and all of a sudden the trumpet ceases blowing. There's dead silence, and God speaks where He can be heard among all the people. And He speaks the Ten Commandments; He speaks what's recorded in Exodus 20. God spoke to them from that mountain and gave them His word.

What an amazing experience, wouldn't it have been great to have been there, not just seen it on TV. I know you're thinking about Charlton Heston, unfortunately. Wouldn't it have been great to have actually been there, what an experience. And yet it was only 40 days later, when the same people who had that great emotional experience were asking Aaron to make a golden calf before which they fell down and worshiped, and then got up to play the Bible says in debauchery. You see emotional experiences are the not the same as personal sanctification.

Thirdly: sanctification is not keeping a set of rules and regulations. It's not keeping a set of rules and regulations. You know the approach to Christianity that says; I don't smoke, and I don't chew, and I don't run with girls that do. The problem with this is it it's a change. It's a moving target; because it changes from generation to generation these sorts of external sets of rules and regulations. For example, D. L. Moody preached against the sin of men, are you ready men, wearing ruffled shirts. I hope you don't have any in your closet. Billy Sunday preached against women, ladies take note, you need to clean out your purses when you get home, chewing gum. It doesn't look the most attractive in the world, but there's nothing sinful about it.

My brother was a youth pastor for a while, and I remember his telling me, he went and visited a Christian college to sort of investigate to see if it's one that he might be taking his young people to, or perhaps he was there with a group, I don't remember the specifics; but I do remember this. That day as he was sitting in the chapel of this Christian college that you would recognize if I called its name, there was an announcement made that because it had come to the attention of the administration the staff that some of the male and female students were seizing the opportunity during the singing of hymns in the services to touch hands and hold hands under the hymn book, that there would now be no longer permitted the sharing of hymn books in the services. You can just imagine some of the things that were going on under that hymn book.

It's ridiculous, it's absolutely ridiculous, and yet you know even as we laugh about those, we have our own set. We each tend to have our own set that if we keep these things then that means we're holy, we're sanctified. The problem with this sort of external approach to sanctification with a set of rules and regulations is that it focuses it always focuses on less important issues. Carl Henry the great theologian wrote this, "Arbitrary legalism is a poor substitute for an inner morality, not only this but such legalism emphasizes the less important issues in life and ignores or excuses the weightier matters of the law. Smoking can be a subject of legislation, pride cannot." It ignores the crucial issues of the heart.

But you know not only does this approach of rules and regulations, not only is it ineffective because of that, but it also does something else that's even more serious, and that is rules and regulations tend to awaken the flesh. Paul says this in Romans 7, I want you to turn there. I just want to focus on this because this is an approach many people have in our day to sanctification. Notice Romans 7:8, Paul writes,

But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment," [what commandment, back in verse 7] "YOU SHALL NOT COVET" … sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came," [in other words when I came to understand God's requirement guess what happened,] "sin came alive and I died;

You see even God's perfect law awakens the flesh, it doesn't have the capacity to change someone's heart, how much more is that true of manmade rules and regulations. It awakens the flesh. Romans 7, he goes on to say that basically the flesh has no power to control the flesh. So, you can't make rules and regulate sanctification. And let me tell you something, in places where rules and regulations are the standard for sanctification, you will find the grossest kinds of sins because law always awakens the flesh. And it has no power; the flesh has no power to control itself. It will only go under hymn books.

Number 4, another thing sanctification is not, sanctification is not simply avoiding overtly sinful actions. Some people think you know what if I just stay away from the obvious sins, then that must mean that I'm a pretty good person. That I'm actually being made holy, I mean after all like David, I've never murdered anyone. I've never been an adulterer, never taken anyone's wife; I've never stolen anything from a store. And yet the same people who embrace that as a standard of holiness turn right around and accommodate their own anger, their own bitterness their lust their greed their pride.

Turn to Luke 18, Luke 18; I want you to see that avoiding overtly sinful actions is not sanctification either. Luke 18:9, you remember,

[Jesus] … [tells] this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt. "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector." [Notice what the Pharisee says in verse 11,] "The Pharisee stood and was praying this" [I love this] "to himself" [that's what hypocrites always do, they don't really pray to God, he was talking to himself, so others could hear; he was praying this to himself.] "God, I thank you that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector."

What he was claiming is that he had avoided overtly sinful actions and that made him acceptable to God. Christ says absolutely not, absolutely not.

Number 5 in our little list, what sanctification is not; it is not performing the right actions. If it's not avoiding overtly sinful actions maybe if I do the right things then that's sanctification, no not that either. Look back in Luke 18 again, this man continues, this Pharisee, verse 13, or I'm sorry verse 12. "I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get."

Fasting and paying tithes were responsibilities that God had laid on him and he takes pride in them, he says God look I'm doing the right things. I'm making the right actions, you must be happy with that; you must be satisfied with that. In my case I'm doing it twice a week, and I pay tithes of everything I get. Notice what Christ says in verse 14 after He gives the prayer of the tax collector. He says, "I tell you this tax collector went to his house justified rather than the other." No, performing the right actions or avoiding overtly sinful actions doesn't make you sanctified.

Number 6, sanctification is not accumulating knowledge about spiritual things; accumulating knowledge about spiritual things. You have a great privilege, we've celebrated today the wonderful history; God's raising up this church 25 years ago. It's a Bible church, committed to the teaching of God's Word, that's part of the reason you come is because want to hear God's Word, some of you have sat under it for many years, but accumulating knowledge about spiritual things is not the same thing as personal sanctification. You remember 1 Corinthians 8:1, where Paul says that knowledge apart from a growing love for God and love for others can actually make you proud. Knowledge isn't sanctification, accumulating knowledge isn't sanctification as we'll learn next time we talk about this issue. Accumulating knowledge is crucial to the process, but it is not the same thing as sanctification.

Did you notice that list? Look at it again. There is nothing in that list that excludes unbelievers. Unbelievers can do every one of those things. So, what is true biblical sanctification? Well, that question is at the heart of our Christian lives and experience. So, we're going to take the next several weeks to unpack what the Bible teaches about how we are changed into the image of Jesus Christ. I was going to fly through this in a single message, but I told the elders this morning, as I dealt with it this week as my heart and mind was into it, I just felt it would be a dereliction of duty if I flew past this that's so crucial to our lives and experience as believers. I want to review it myself for my own spiritual good, and I want you to hear it for your spiritual growth and edification because this is where we live every day. We're to be pursuing becoming more like Christ. How does that happen? If it's not any of those things, what is it?

Well there are two sides to the process of sanctification. Man's role and God's role; and in these two verses in Philippians 2:12 - 13, Paul reminds us of both. We are going to examine verses 12 - 13 of Philippians 2 in detail in the coming weeks. But before we look at those in detail, I want us to back up and take an overview look at what the Bible teaches about this crucial issue. I guess you can think of it as kind of an extended multi-week introduction to Philippians 2:12 - 13. Why? Why am I going to do it this way? Well because nothing is more important to your spiritual health than understanding how you are transformed in the image of Jesus Christ.

Today, I want us to answer three basic questions about the biblical doctrine, excuse me two basic questions, I don't have time to get to the third, I already discovered that. I want to answer two basic questions about the biblical doctrine of sanctification.

First of all, what does sanctification mean; what does sanctification mean? Well the word "sanctify" basically has two primary senses or meanings in in the New Testament or in the Scripture. The first basic sense of the word "to sanctify" means "to set apart, to consecrate; to set apart from a common to a sacred use, to set apart for God's service". It's used often this way in the Scripture of things, for example the temple vessels. Those articles that were used in the worship of God in the temple and the tabernacle were said to be sanctified. What did that mean? That doesn't mean they were made holy, it meant instead they were set apart from the common every day use to the special consecrated use of God. It's used in same way of Christ, Christ is said to be sanctified obviously Christ didn't need to be set apart from sin. He never sinned so it simply means that Christ was set apart for the special service of God during His earthly life; consecrated to God. It's used of Christians in general this way in a number of passages in the New Testament.

For example (and we won't turn there), but 1 Corinthians 1:2, Acts 26:18, Hebrews 10:10, 1 Peter 1:2; in all of those passages it's used of Christians in this positional sense. It's used to describe their position. Positionally, at the moment of salvation, we are set apart for the service of God. We are set apart from the profane to serve our God. That happens at a moment in time; we have been separated from the world and wholly devoted to God's use. Theologians call that positional sanctification. It happens at the moment of our salvation when God sets us apart for His own special use.

But there's a second sense of this word in the New Testament. "Sanctify" also means to actually "make holy, to purify, to render something morally clean". Again, used many times this way in the New Testament. Let me show you one, turn to Ephesians 5, Ephesians 5:25. Famous passage about husbands loving their wives and he says, I want you to do that husbands,

… just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her so that He might sanctify her. [What do you mean sanctify her?] Verse 27, [He puts it a different way.] that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

Listen, that's what God is about. He's about actually making us holy; you see the first sense of that word describes what happened at the moment of salvation. Positionaly we were set apart for God's service. The second sense of the word describes a work that God actually does within us. Practically, we are made holy in an ongoing process; God is purifying, cleansing, and conforming us to the image of His Son. Scripture and theologians call that process sanctification.

Let me give you a definition as we kind of get started here on our multi-week study of this issue. Let me give you a definition of "sanctification". One writer describes it this way, "It is the work of God's free grace by which His Spirit continuously delivers the justified sinner from the pollution of sin, renews his whole nature in the image of God and enables him more and more to die to sin and to live unto righteousness." Now I know you didn't get that in your notes, but you'll have to get the tape. You've got the sense that this is a work of God, by which He removes from us day by day the pattern of sin. We have a decreasing pattern of sin, and we have an increasing pattern of righteousness. You see at the moment of salvation several things happen.

First of all, regeneration, at the moment of salvation instantaneously these things occur.

Regeneration, this is the implanting of a new nature, it's a new principle of life. The Bible uses the images of birth, remember Christ talking to Nicodemus in John 3. He says it's like being born again. It also, the Scripture uses the image of creation, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, he says that if you're in Christ then you are a new what, creation. It's as if God recreated you. Same or a different image is used rather in Ephesians 2:5, it's like resurrection, he says "[you] … were dead in … trespasses and sin [and God] made … [you] alive." He resurrected you. What an amazing picture of what God does.

So, regeneration occurs, at that same moment faith and repentance occurs. These are gifts God gives to us, faith comes to us as a gift from God, repentance comes as a gift to us from God. And then we turn and express those back to God, we believe in His Son and we repent and turn from our sin. Justification occurs; we are forgiven and declared forever righteous. And as we've just learned positional sanctification occurs at that same moment in time God sets us apart for His own use. But do you notice none of those things that happen at the moment of salvation, none of them remove the presence of sin. Our new nature is incarcerated in what the Bible calls our flesh; our unredeemed humanness.

So, we have two problems that still linger even after the amazing reality of salvation and all that happens at that moment. One is the presence of sin, and the other is the lack of positive holiness; so, sanctification kicks in this process that gradually delivers us from the pollution of our sin and renews our whole being in the image of God or Christlikeness. You see, regeneration is our spiritual birth, being born again. Sanctification is our spiritual growth and development. So, sanctification what does it mean? It refers to the process through which we are made holy. But that leads us to the next question that we need to ask and answer this morning.

Number 2, what is the nature of this change called sanctification? What is the nature of this change called sanctification? And we're going to hurry through these, but I want to give you a collection of propositions. As I went through the Scripture and pulled out all of those passages that deal with the truth of sanctification and its nature, I've congealed them, consolidated them to these basic propositions. What is the nature of this change?

Here we go, number one: it's a change made possible by the work of Christ. It's of grace we never earn sanctification by our own obedience and efforts. First Corinthians 1 makes this point profoundly. First Corinthians 1 of course the context is in verse 18, Paul's talking about the message of the cross. All that Christ accomplished at the cross and when he gets to verse 30, he says this, "But by God's doing you are in Christ Jesus and Christ Jesus became to us righteousness and sanctification." Sanctification comes to us because of the work of Jesus Christ. It's not something we earn by our obedience or efforts.

Number 2 in my little list here of the nature of this change. It is completely a work of God; it is completely a work of God. In fact, we're told in the Scripture, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 that the Father does it, in Hebrews 2:11 we're told the Son does it, and in 1 Corinthians 6:11 we're told the Holy Spirit does it. It is a work of the triune God; you cannot produce biblical change in yourself.

Turn to John 17, Christ is praying on the night before His crucifixion; His High Priestly prayer, and He prays this in verse 17. He says, "Father sanctify them in the truth Your word is truth." Now remember this is a prayer. So, what is Christ acknowledging, He's saying God I want You to sanctify them. It is a work of God. Same point is made over in John 15:6 or excuse me 5, Christ says, "apart from Me you can do (a little something) nothing." Nothing. It's a work of God, sanctification: the issue of change in our lives is from God. First Thessalonians 5:23, Paul ends his letter to the Thessalonicans by saying, look I want to God to sanctify you entirely, it's something God has to do. Back in Philippians where we've been studying, in 1:6, Paul says "… [God] began this work in you … [and He's going to perfect it]." Philippians 2:13 that we read just a few moments ago, "you're to work out your own salvation because it's God who is at work in you."

Charles Hodge the great American theologian writes this,

the mere power of truth, argument, motive, persuasion, or eloquence cannot produce holiness of heart and life, nor can these effects be produced by the power of the will or by all the resources of man however protracted or skillful in their application. They are the gifts of God the fruits of the Spirit, Paul may plant and Apollos water, but it is God who gives the increase.

It is completely a work of God.

Number 3, it involves maximum human effort. You say, now wait a minute, that seems to contradict what you just said. It doesn't. Listen carefully, it involves maximum human effort. This is throughout the Scripture. In Romans 6 - 7, we won't turn there, but Paul lays out the reality that we are not to present our members as instruments of sin anymore. He says stop doing that, instead present your members as instruments of righteousness. But then there's this shocking statement in 1 Corinthians. First Corinthians 7, I'm sorry 2 Corinthians that's what I meant. Second Corinthians 7:1, Paul says, "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." Paul says listen, you're to expend maximum effort toward holiness.

But even as we do that, we need to remember our role. What exactly are we to do? Some of you have been studying in your home fellowships. You've been studying the book by Donald Whitney on spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. He begins that book by appealing to 1 Timothy 4:7, where it says we are to train or discipline ourselves as one preparing for the athletic games unto Godliness. Work hard he says, train yourselves, just like an athlete would train in pursuing Godliness. We're to expend maximum effort; but remember even as you expend maximum effort your effort doesn't earn or achieve your sanctification it is still a work of God's grace. We expend the effort, but God produces the change.

Number 4, it's a process. Sanctification is a process. It doesn't happen suddenly. It's not an experience. It's not a crisis. I wish I could tell you that you will wake up, be sitting at breakfast one morning and boom, God will zap you, and all of a sudden, you'll be holy. I wish I could tell you that, I wish that were true but it's not. It's a process. Ephesians 4:15, "grow up in Christ"' we're told. Second Peter 3:18, "grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." In 1 John 2 we're told that it is like a child. It's the process of growth. It's like being a child and then like being a young man and then like being a father. In other words, our spiritual growth mirrors physical growth. It's not that we grow spiritually at the same rate we do physically. It's that it's like in kind; just as you can't wake up as a two-year-old one morning, and all of a sudden do all that an adult can do. Neither can you as a young Christian do that spiritually. It's a process of spiritual growth and development.

Number 5, it is a constant war within. You see this process of sanctification is not something that happens without a struggle or a fight. Again, I hate to bring you this bad news, but you will never be without conflict in this life. It will always be there. It dogged even the Apostle Paul. In Galatians 5:17 he says you have this opposition going on between your flesh, your unredeemed humanness and the Spirit. In Romans 7 he describes it most profoundly. Turn to Romans 7 for a moment, Romans 7. He says, verse 21,

I find … [this] 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. [Get the imagery of warfare, there's a battle going on.] 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 with] I myself with mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

This isn't an excuse to sin. Paul addresses that. Instead it should be a motive to pursue holiness. Don't give up it's going to be a fight, it's going to be a conflict throughout life.

Number 6, sanctification is only complete when you die or when Christ returns. It will only be complete when you die or when Christ returns. There is no perfection in this life. Turn over to Philippians 3. Philippians 3:12, Paul says, "I haven't obtained it already, I haven't become perfect, I press on." Verse 13, "I don't regard myself as having laid hold of it yet;" [What's it?] Verse 14, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

What's he saying? We'll discover when we get there, he's basically saying, I'm pursuing Christlikeness. I haven't arrived. I'm still pursuing it. When Paul writes Philippians, he has been in Christ for 30, almost 30 years. He's an old Apostle. I hate to tell you this but if Paul didn't arrive neither will you and neither will I. There is no perfectionism. You will not be perfect in this life.

My father-in-law used to tell the story of a lady that he knew when he was growing up, and she believed in perfectionism, and he and some of his young theologs his young fellow seminary students decided to show her that that wasn't true. And so, and I don't recommend that you try this at home. But they basically set out to provoke her to anger. They managed to succeed, and then they reminded her that anger was a sin, to which she said, "Oh no, she said, I don't sin. I just make mistakes." You see the only way you can believe in perfection in this life is to redefine terms. It's to say that sin is only willful or known acts of sin. It's to lower the standard. You'll only be complete; your sanctification will only be complete when you die or when Christ returns.

Number 7, and I'm going to take just a couple of more minutes. I apologize for the extra time this morning, but I want to finish these couple of additional points. Number 7, Sanctification is a renovation of the inner man or the whole person. It's a renovation of your entire being; it's not merely a change in your behavior. Hey listen, unbelievers can change their behavior. You remember when the AIDS crisis hit. There were a number of homosexuals that stopped their behavior. You can change your behavior, but you can't change your heart. You see the difference between sanctification and self-reformation is the same difference between a clean heart and clean clothes. There's a world apart of difference. It's the difference between a living man and a marble statue. Only God can make that renovation of the heart. External reformation falls far short of sanctification. Hodge writes again,

It may leave a man's inward character in the sight of God unchanged, it may remain destitute of love to God of faith in Christ and of all the holy exercises in affections. Sanctification in its essential nature is not external holy acts, but such a change in the state of the soul that sinful acts become more infrequent and holy acts more and more habitual and controlling.

Now I'm going to develop this more two weeks from today. So, I'm not going to go into it in any more detail. But it's a renovation of who you are down to the core of your being.

Number 8, it's a means to an end. It's a means to an end. It's not an end in itself so that we can be free from the trouble of sin. You know some people want God to take their sin away because it embarrasses them, or it's a headache, or it's a problem. That isn't the reason to be sanctified. First Peter 1:14 and 16 says, you're children of the Father since your Father is holy so you're to be holy; so you can commune and fellowship with your Father so you bear the family resemblance. Sanctification is a means to that end.

And finally, sanctification is guaranteed. Number 9, sanctification is guaranteed because it is the goal of our salvation. You remember Ephesians 5, Ephesians 5:25, we just read a moment ago, he says, "Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her so that [for the purpose that] He might sanctify her." Listen this is what God set out to do. You remember Romans 8:29 he says, "those whom God called, He predestined to" [what?] "be … conformed to the image of His Son."

When God saved you, He had a purpose in mind, and He's not going to stop until you are conformed to the image of His Son. God will accomplish it. Either we will learn, or He will discipline us as sons, as Hebrews 12 says. So, how do you respond to all of that? Well, express thanks to God, God's at work in you. God's at work to make you like His Son. This was His plan. Thank Him for it. Praise Him for His goodness. He's the one that makes it possible for us to have fellowship with Him. And if you have slacked off in your fight with sin, if you've just begun to tolerate some sin in your life then confess that as sin, and today commit yourself to put off those sins. Recommit yourself to making maximum effort because Hebrews 12:14 says this, listen carefully. "Pursue … sanctification without which no man will see the Lord."

Let's pray together.

Father thank You for Your Word, thank You for Your goodness that when You saved us You didn't leave us as orphans. But You gave us Your Spirit and Your Word, and You're at work in us to conform us to the image of Your Son.

Lord, forgive us for not expending the maximum effort, for not waging war with our own sin, for giving in, for waving the white flag of surrender. Lord, help us even today to recommit ourselves to expend maximum effort. And Lord, over the coming weeks as we look exactly how to expend that effort, exactly what processes and means You put in place. Lord, I pray that we as a church would be a people who are holy, who are committed to becoming more and more like Your Son.

We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.