Growing as a Disciple
Growing as a Disciple
The Sanctifying work of the Spirit
“for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
- Philippians 2:13
“Be holy like Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God.”
- Kevin DeYoung
Two Misconceptions about Sanctification. Before discussing sanctification or growing as a disciple, here are two misconceptions.
1. Sanctification is about my victory over sin and temptation.
No, sanctification is not about us or our victory over sin. This is a human-centered view of spiritual growth and the reason we become discouraged when we fail. Jerry Bridges puts it this way, “We're more concerned about our own "victory" over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve God's heart.” As Pastor Chad wrote last week, sanctification is about beholding Christ to become like Christ for the glory of God (2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Peter 2:21; Romans 8:29).
2. Sanctification is about the individual.
Yes, it involves the individual, but always within the context of community. Sometimes our American individualism and culture can interfere with understanding this in scripture. For example, a holistic view of Philippians takes into account that Paul speaks to the church in Philippi as individuals and as a community, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…” (Philippians 1:27-28). Individually we are to live in a “manner worth of the gospel of Christ” while also standing together as a community that displays the gospel. In their commentary on Philippians, Tony Merida and Francis Chan explain it this way, “Whenever someone visits a Christian congregation and observes their way of life, they should be reminded of Christ’s kingdom. Churches are little outposts of the kingdom of God.”
What is sanctification?
In the Westminster Shorter Catechism (question 35), sanctification is defined as “the work of God's free grace (2 Thessalonians 2:13), whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God (Ephesians 4:23-24), and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness (Romans 6:1-11; Galatians 2:20).”
In the New Testament, sanctification is stated as past, present and future. In other words, we are sanctified, we are being sanctified, and we will be sanctified.
What is God’s role in sanctification?
Past Sanctification: We are sanctified through Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:11; Hebrews 10:10, 14; Acts 20:32; Acts 26:18). Sanctification occurs simultaneously with justification (declared or made righteous by God) and regeneration (new life; made alive with Christ). This is a result of Christ and His Victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:56-57).
Present Sanctification: We are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13; Titus 3:4-6; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:1-2; 1 Peter 1:2). J.I. Packer explains the vital role of the Spirit, “The Christian’s life in all its aspects—intellectual and ethical, devotional and relational, upsurging in worship and outgoing in witness—is supernatural; only the Spirit can initiate and sustain it. So apart from him, not only will there be no lively believers and no lively congregations, there will be no believers and no congregations at all.”
Here are a few things the Holy Spirit does:
convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8);
regenerates us (John 3:5-8; Titus 3:5);
sets us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2);
dwells in us (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:14; John 14:17);
empowers us (Ephesians 3:16; Luke 24:48-49; Acts 1:8);
gives spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1-12);
guides us into all truth (John 14:26, 16:13);
glorifies and bears witness of Christ (John 15:26; 16:13-14);
leads us (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18; Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1);
sanctifies us (1 Peter 1:2; Romans 5:16);
produces fruit of the gospel in us (Galatians 5:22-23);
teaches us to pray (Romans 8:26);
and transforms us in to the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Jesus taught that it was better for Him to leave so that the Holy Spirit would be given to us.
Here are some things Jesus said about the Holy Spirit:
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:7-11)
Future Sanctification: We will be sanctified by God when we meet Him face to face whether it is at the end of our life or when Christ returns (Romans 8:29-30; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13, 5:23-24; Jude 24). Paul teaches, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)
What is our role in sanctification?
A.W. Tozer puts it simply – “to yield.” Yielding to God is not a passive experience. It’s a deliberate, difficult and life-long task. How do we actively yield to the work of the Holy Spirit in us? First, the Holy Spirit reveals truth to us through Scripture. This is how He teaches us and transforms us into the image of Christ. Jerry Bridges explains, “We cannot effectively pursue holiness without the Word of God stored up in our minds where it can be used by the Holy Spirit to transform us.” The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12) The Holy Spirit is what makes the Word of God “living and active” so that it transforms us.
Second, we respond with repentance, belief, and obedience. While there are particulars in scripture concerning Christian living, the greatest truth the Holy Spirit will reveal is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must keep the gospel at the forefront of our minds each day. The Holy Spirit is the transforming power behind the message of the gospel. Without the gospel, we will not repent, believe or obey.
Tim Keller puts it this way, “The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope — at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.”
Third, continually commit yourself to a community of believers. You cannot love Christ without also loving His church and you cannot live a Christ-centered, gospel-displaying life without the church. We need each other. We are sinful, wicked beings living in a sinful, wicked world. Together, we are an outpost of Christ’s Kingdom. We hold each other accountable, encourage Christ-likeness, comfort those who are suffering, meet physical needs, provide theological clarity and biblical wisdom. Paul writes, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:15-17).
Yield your heart and devote your life to knowing Christ and making Him known.