Sanctification…done deal or ongoing?

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Regarding this item of “sanctification”, it is a very loaded issue. It was so “loaded” for me because I had been taught, and then taught it myself, that there are these three simple steps of salvation:

1. Justification – God’s legal declaration that I am not guilty.
2. Sanctification – the life long process by which I slowly but surely live up to my new “justified” legal status. The majoritive concept was “look as what Jesus has done—he justified you, now get busy living like it. Do all you can to live more and more holy (sanctification).” So in essence, it was the idea of “we all know you’re not really holy, I mean look at you…you’re a mess…you have a wicked evil heart…etc…etc, but now you need to try become thing you aren’t really. You’re not holy, but it’s time to try to be it over time.” Obviously that’s a great oversimplification, but the general idea I was focused on.
3. Glorification – the day in the future when either you die or Jesus returns when you actually will be holy and no sin, etc.
I think in general this is the same approach that many throughout the christian church have regarding salvation, christian growth, etc. Again, I did for years and years.
Back in 2012 after we moved to Crozet to start LJC, I began to read the scriptures where they said things like “you were sanctified” & “you have been sanctified”, etc. Not only are these used in both aorist tense (simple past action) and perfect tense (an event that fully happened in the past with continuing results into the present and future) but they are also passive. This means that our sanctification not only happened in the past and we live today in the results of it (the perfect tense element), but Someone else did the sanctifying. If it’s passive voice then we cannot be the ones doing it. We are the ones to whom it is being done. My entire concept of “sanctification” was being called into question. Not only is the Scriptures saying it is a past event whose results continue into the present and the future (perfect tense), but it is also something that God did to us and not us doing ourselves (passive voice). If you remember, I used to believe that it was an ongoing process that I did as I tried harder and harder. Wrong on two elements! I’ve been wrong a lot in my life! LOL.
An example of an aorist tense verb is “The baby cried.” It’s a simple past reality. It doesn’t not  mean the baby isn’t still crying, but it is simply emphasizing the fact that there was a moment in the past when the baby cried. An example of perfect tense would be “The baby has cried for hours.” This conveys that there was a point in time when the baby went from not crying to crying and it seems to be still crying!
When the scriptures use “were sanctified” (like 1 Cor 6:11 – ἡγιάσθητε) it is aorist, passive, indicative, 2nd person, plural (you were made holy or sanctified), it is like “the baby cried”. It is saying there was a point in time in the past when we weren’t holy (sanctified), but then at a point in time we were made holy (sanctified). It’s punctiliar if you will.
When the scriptures use “have been sanctified” (like Hebrews 10:10), this is the perfect, passive usage. We were made holy, and we remain holy. In Biblical Greek, Zerwick defines perfect tense as “indicating not the past action as such but the present ’state of affairs’ resulting from the past action.” So the past action was “we were made holy (sanctified)”, but when used in the perfect tense the emphasis is on the fact that we remain holy (sanctified) as a result of the one time event of the past—our being born again. This may not be a great example, but if I were to say, “You and your spouse have been married for 10 years.” We’re not saying that you have been progressively getting more and more married over the last 10 years! You were married once and the result of that is that you now, 10 years later, are still married—not more married, not less married, but still 100% married. So “we have been made holy (sanctified)” means, we were made holy the day we were born again, and we remain holy to this very day and, as Hebrews 7:16 says, we remain holy forever because Jesus, who is our new life, lives forever!
Regarding the typical teaching that justification is the term referring to that pivotal moment at the time of salvation and sanctification being a long process, consider I Cor 6:11 again. The phrase, “you were justified” is aorist, passive. Meaning it happened once and Someone else did it. Therefore, I agree 100%. “You were justified” is a term referring to that “pivotal moment at the time of salvation.” Absolutely! But notice that “you were sanctified” also is aorist passive. So if we rightly treat “you were justified” as a past moment that occurred at salvation because it’s aorist (simple past) and passive (God did it—not us), then don’t we need to do the same to the phrase “you were sanctified” since it is the exact same tense (aorist) and voice (passive)? Why would we treat identical verbs in tense and voice differently in the same verse? Further, “you were washed”  is also aorist and passive meaning our washing (forgiveness) is also as “done deal” as our justification and sanctification! Hallelujah!
Here’s my summary. I was clueless as to the new birth. I was clueless as to the “circumcision made without hands” that Paul speaks of in Col 2. I thought salvation was just some sort of simple paper transaction in Heaven, but I remained a sinner by nature. I thought I was supposed to do by best to pull myself up by my own bootstraps and live a holy life to prove to God and others that I really loved Jesus. In essences I was using my own power of the flesh to manage my sins and modify my behavior. It worked some days and didn’t others. But then I realized, almost 4 years ago now, that Christianity is much much more. I began to realize that there wasn’t some sort of simple paper transaction where God purchased me, but rather His purchase of me was one in which He plunged my entire old man, my old nature, my old spirit, my old identity, my old heart, all my sins, all me who I was in Adam, etc…He plunged all who I was into death with CHRIST. It wasn’t just some sort of paper transaction. It was the termination by crucifixion of who I was and the resurrection by new creation of a brand new “me”. A new creation. A new man. A new human spirit—no longer created in the image of Adam (Gen 5:1-5) but now created in the very image of God himself in true righteousness and true holiness (sanctification) Eph 4:24. We have a whole new identity—no longer Adam, but now Jesus. We have a whole new origin—no longer Adam, but now Jesus. We have a whole new hometown—no longer earth, but now Jerusalem above is our mother (Gal 4:26). We have a whole new citizenship—no longer of this world, but of the very kingdom of Heaven. We have a whole new nature—no longer a sinful nature from Adam, but we are partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). I could continue! It’s more than just a change in categories as I always thought. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I (the old me) who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” Gal 2:20. This was never as clear to me as it is now! I died. Jesus is my life. He’s not a priority in my life, he actually is my life! WOW! If Jesus is my life, then am I holy (sanctified)? I am, all because of Jesus. “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified” Hebrews 10:14. The only way Walt Davis is holy, perfect, pure, righteous, forgiven, guiltless, redeemed, blameless, etc is because the old Walt Davis died with Christ. A new Walt Davis has been raised and created—truly a new creation. Paul even says in Gal 6:14-15 that because of our death with Jesus the only thing that matters now is the new creation.

But isn’t there a process? Who of us at the moment of salvation immediately live perfectly in this world?

Yes, there absolutely is a process! This is what Paul calls “Transformation”. In 2 Cor 3 Paul talks about how the law (specifically the 10 commandments) once had glory but now they have no glory in comparison to the far surpassing glory of Jesus who is now in us. “Our behavior in this world is not merely managed by trying to live up to laws written on stones”, I hear him saying. Our behavior is “TRANSFORMED” as the bi-product of us beginning to truly see who Jesus is (full of glory), and who we now are in Him (full of glory), for we have become one with Him (1 Cor. 6:17). Paul is saying that as we behold the glory of Christ in our inner man the natural bi-product is the very reality of who we now are in Christ to manifest itself through these bodies. This is the life long process of “transformation”. He says the same thing in Romans 12:2. As our minds are renewed to the truth of who Jesus is, who we now are in him (holy, blameless, etc) we will be transformed outwardly. The very fruit of the Spirit will “leak” out! But it doesn’t come by trying harder and harder to live in some sort of way contrary to who I think I really am. It comes by my mind being renewed to the truth of who I now am.
I used to see christianity as “try to live up to something you clearly aren’t.” Whereas today I see christianity as “see who Jesus is…see who we now are in Him (all by grace)… and now live here in this world based on the truth of who we now are.” This is how Paul approached the sinful church in Corinth. In chapter 1 he reminded them that they are saints. That they are forgiven. That they are holy  (sanctified). That they are …! In chapter 6 he reminds them that they were sinners of all sorts, but they were washed, they were sanctified, they were justified. In other words, they’ve been made new! They aren’t who they once were, so why are they living like they once did. With a new nature, a new heart, a new spirit, etc, we simply live from who we now are. As we believe who we are, we live as who we are. If we believe we are still sinners by nature, we’ll likely still sin! However, if we see that we are holy (sanctified) and righteous as partakers of the divine nature now by new birth, we’ll begin to see (a process) that sin is not for us any more. It’s who we once were, but not any more! We’ve died to sin and are now alive to God (glorious fact), now consider yourselves dead to sin and live to God (renewal of the mind) Romans 6. In other words, “whether you realize it or not, you are dead to sin and alive to God…now believe it! Trust it! Internalize it! Personalize it! Etc”! I love it!
In fact, in 2 Peter 1, Peter says that sinning happens when we forget how pure (holy) we actually are! (2 Peter 1:9).
And so therefore, all of it (justification sanctification, transformation, etc) is all of God! He’s the one who does it all. In both 2 Cor 3:18 and Romans 2:12, “Transformation” is passive meaning God does it! We don’t even transform ourselves!

But what do we do? Isn’t there something we are to do?

Yes, absolutely! We are called to believe. Just like the serpent Moses lifted up in the wilderness (Numbers 21) and all who looked and believed lived, Jesus himself has been lifted up for all to look and believe. As we believe who He is and who we now are in Him—as our minds are being renewed—we will be like He is even in this world. We already are like him in the spirit for His Spirit gave birth to our spirit, but Christ in us is so powerful that even as our minds are set on Him, He transforms (process) these bodies by Him living through us. This is what it means to rest in the finished work of Jesus! “It is finished!” He said so Himself! LOL!
Here’s an article by a well respected theologian on what he calls “Definitive Sanctification” which is basically what I just outlined. I don’t agree 100% with everything he says, but it does a good job once it gets into the idea of sanctification being “punctiliar”.  This isn’t anything “new”. It’s just getting back to what the scriptures originally taught before years and years of history.
Ultimately, if someone would rather use the term “sanctification” for call what Paul calls “transformation,” I’m not going to argue! My concern is that by using “sanctification” to refer to a process by which we are getting more and more holy, then we may, like I did for the first 31 years of my life, completely miss the truth that Jesus has already made me holy by killing the old me and raising a new me that is already holy and righteous. I don’t want people to think that they are getting more and more holy when the truth is that they have been made holy by new birth. One is religion. The other is the gospel.
Obviously, don’t ever just take my word for anything…please! I really believe that the christian church has gotten into the “mess” it is in today by simply listening and parroting what people say behind a pulpit instead of examining it for themselves and having the Spirit guide them in truth. Press in for yourself. Search the scriptures. Pray for a spirit of wisdom and revelation. Let the Spirit of the Living God Himself be your guide!
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Sanctification…done deal or ongoing?

Why so much “grace talk” at Life Journey?

IMG_6570 (1)I’ve received a lot of encouraging comments over the last two weeks as we are wrapping up our Fall series/theme “The Hurt and the Healer.” These last three weeks (ending this coming Sunday) have dealt with finding true healing for when “sin happens yet again.” We’ve all been there where the same besetting sins manifest themselves over and over. We try everything we can think of and everything anyone says to try, but it happens yet again. Even trip after trip to an altar (either literal or figurative) begging God to forgive us and promising to never do it again hasn’t worked. It hurts when sin happens yet again.
 
What we’ve seen the last two weeks, and again this coming Sunday, is simply amazing. It’s totally opposite from what our natural minds would think. As christians, we tend to think that sin is “put to death in the flesh” by greater adherence to rules, regulations, laws, etc. But in this short three chapter letter Paul sends to Titus, Paul is saying that this thinking is totally wrong. In fact, he says that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” Titus 2:11-12. All christians would believe that grace brings salvation. But do all christians believe that grace is what instructs us on how to say “no” to sin and “yes” to Jesus? From my limited experience in the christian world, I would say the typical approach is “Jesus (aka the grace of God) brings salvation, but now it’s the law (rules, regulations, “do this”, “don’t do that”, Moses, etc) that instructs us on how to say “no” to sin and “yes” to Jesus. 
 
What’s your experience been? Has your recipe for victory over sin been to continue in the same grace that brought your salvation in the first place? If so, awesome! Or has your recipe for victory over sin been to move “beyond” grace to rules, regulations, and law in order to kick that old habitual sinful habit? How’s that going for you? It didn’t work for me. I thought there was something wrong with me. But then I just started to trust what Jesus had revealed to the Apostles. You know, the early church devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42), and I think that’s a good idea to continue doing today! 
 
If we trust the Scriptures, let’s trust what the Scriptures actually say! The message of the Apostles is that we are now in a New Covenant. Peter says we have become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). John says all our sins (past, present, & future) have been forgiven us for His name’s sake (1 John 2:12). Paul says that the very thing that empowers the parasite of sin in our mortal bodies is the law itself (1 Cor. 15:56) and we are no longer under law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but it seems the Apostles are trying to get us to see things that we don’t see all that well with our human mind and eyes.
 
Let me ask you, is grace just a part of the equation or is grace everything? The law came by Moses, but grace and truth (think “reality”) was revealed by Jesus Christ! Is the law bad? Of course not! It perfectly does what it was designed to do! It was created to reveal our great inability to be perfect and our great need for someone to rescue us from our condition of our union with the flesh. Thank God for the Law! It was given to all mankind at the fall in Genesis 2, but then placed front and center with the Israelites in the Old Covenant. Thank God for it because through it we know we are not able to satisfy God’s holy standard. It was the tool God used to lead us to Jesus. But once led now to Jesus, what do we have? WE HAVE JESUS! 
 
The law has done its job! We celebrate the job the law did. We thank God for using the law to open our eyes to our great need for Jesus. And now we have Him. We have the One who perfectly fulfilled every piece of the law. We now have the One who did what we couldn’t. In fact, we died with Him. We were buried with Him. And we have been raised with Him as wholly, completely new people. A royal priesthood. A holy nation. A people of His own possession. We have Jesus. Our need for the law is over. Its work is completed. In fact, to go back to the law to learn how to live now that we have Jesus is not only demeaning the power of Jesus now in us, but it is “antinomian” (fancy word for “against the law”). The law’s purpose was never to guide Christ-filled people in how to live. The law’s purpose was to increase sinning (Romans 5:20), and to reveal just how much we need Jesus (Gal 3:24). As christians, let us not be “antinomian” by trying to use it to teach us how to say “no” to sin and “yes” to Jesus. Let us celebrate the the wonderful work the law did to bring us to see our need for Jesus and now see our relationship as the Apostles saw it. We are dead to the law and now alive to Another—Jesus Christ Himself (Romans 7:4). 
 
I understand the great fear of American Christianity when it comes to this idea of living by the life of Another now in us rather than living by a set of “principles, standards, rules, and regulations.” The fear is that if we walk away from law based living, we will walk into greater sinning. So the solution is to have more and more christian laws to live by, to better modify our behavior and manage our sin. But what if that, what makes such perfect sense to our minds, is not at all what the Apostles taught nor what the Gospel is really all about? What if the Apostles’ teachings, the gospel, was not about falling away from law and into sin, but falling away from law and into JESUS? Think about it. Will falling “into Jesus” result in greater sin? Will being rooted and grounded in the love of Jesus towards us swell within us a desire to manifest the very sin we have died to? Will a greater awareness of the death of my old man and the reality of who I now am—a new creation created new in the image of God in true holiness and righteousness (Eph 4:24), forgiven of all my sin, raised and seated now with Christ in the heavenly places, blameless, righteous, justified, sanctified, made holy, all by the very grace of God through the shed blood of Jesus—cause you to desire sin? 
 
I used to think that too much grace talk would hurt christians and lead us to sin. I used to think that we needed a good balance between law and grace. Think about this with me. Eph 1:7-8 says that God has lavished the full riches of His grace upon us who believe in Jesus. How rich is God in his grace? I’d say He’s pretty rich, don’t you? Let’s just say He’s infinitely rich in His grace. Well, Eph 1:7-8 says that God has lavished the riches of this infinite grace upon us in all “wisdom and insight”. Let’s use our heads. If, like I used to believe, too much grace is dangerous and we need to balance grace with law, then doesn’t it sound like someone forgot to send that memo to God? If too much grace is dangerous, then God is being very dangerous in this thing called the New Covenant for He has lavished us with the riches of His grace. To top it all off, he did it with all “wisdom and insight”. That means that God knew what He was doing. He didn’t press the “lavish them with the full riches of my grace” button on accident when he meant to press the “balance some grace with some law” button. No, His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are higher than ours. He lavished us with the full riches of His infinite grace on purpose—with all wisdom and insight—because He knows something we struggle to believe: The more Grace of God we see, the more Changed by God we’ll be.
 
This grace of God is scandalous isn’t it? It is! It requires us to do the very thing we don’t want to do the most—to trust someone else for EVERYTHING. We trust Jesus not just for our salvation, but as we see what he’s actually done for us and in us, we trust that He changes us on the outside too—from the inside out. The temptation to run to the law to know how to live will always be present because the Enemy knows the power of the law—how the law is the power of sin (1 Cor 15:56). Let us be wise. Let us know the schemes of the deceiver. Let us not follow the example of the “foolish Galatians” who thought it wise to move beyond grace to law in order to say “no” to sin and “yes” to Jesus. Let us continue in the same way we started—by faith. 
 
The Apostles had it right. “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). To walk “by the Spirit” is to walk by faith—to walk trusting in what the very Spirit of Christ has done. 
 
Is grace enough? I think it is! But don’t take my word for it! I’ve been wrong before. Let the Spirit of God in you reveal to you the truth of who Jesus is and who you now are in Him.
 
Thank you, Jesus, for not only bringing salvation when you appeared, but also now instructing us by your finished work and your presence within on how to say “no” to sin and “yes” to you!
 
I encourage you to check out the podcast (podcast.lifejourneyva.com) to hear the first two weeks of this three week focus on finding true healing “when sin happens yet again.” If you’re in town this weekend, I encourage you to be at Life Journey Church – 10AM – Western Albemarle High School. www.lifejourneyva.com.
Why so much “grace talk” at Life Journey?