“For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” (1 Thes. 4:3a)
Sin, and the child of God: No human on the planet will ever live without sin, other than the Person, Jesus Christ. However, how we view sin may be the best indicator as to whether or not we truly know the Lord. If you view willful, deliberate sin as something that Jesus already paid the price for, as long as you say that you have decided to allow Him to forgive you (accepted Christ as your Savior), then you do not know the Lord. Christ’s blood cleanses the sins of those who believe the Word of God to be Truth, not of those who don’t (those who claim to “believe” but worship myths of man rather than the Word)! (John 5:24) Those who believe God live with the Holy fear of rejecting His Word. If you are a “believer” that believes that you can continue in your willful, deliberate sin and take the position that Jesus already did all the work, then you do not believe God, but you believe in a “god” who is not to be feared! You cannot believe God and be content with holding onto all the many sins of self that many Christians revel in today. As I often say, Satan’s deception will always attempt to bring comfort to your life of sin — but not for those who believe God.
The self-seeking “Christian”
Do you consider self-seeking behavior as sin that is on you to work out, or do you view this sin as something that is on Jesus to forgive you for? Indeed, it is on us to diligently strive to refine our hearts and ask the Lord to reveal all the remaining sins of self (pride/arrogance, envy, lust, and selfish ambition) that still reside within. (2 Pet. 1:3-11) There are believers who will say, “I do not murder, I do not cheat on my spouse, and I do not steal; moreover, it doesn’t really matter because I have “accepted Christ as my Savior.” Okay, that is all fantastic, but do you harbor envy and selfish ambition? Because “where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:16)
According to scripture, selfish ambition is characteristic of a heart that rejects His Truth and follows evil, whereas humility describes the character of one who loves the Truth and has the same mindset as Christ. (Rom. 2:8, Phil 2:1-5) And I am not addressing this from a place of judgment, I am simply letting Christians know what scripture has to say about the life that they have committed to living since the vast majority of those who call themselves Christians in America today are nearly, completely ignorant as to what the Word of God has to say in the matter. Because scripture states those who truly belong to Christ do not look out for their own interest. (Phil. 2:21) That’s what self-denial is all about. Indeed, being “saved” does not result from something that you “DO,” but being sanctified does!
Whatever happened to sanctification?
Look, I am as far from living a sinless life as the next man, and I do not say all that I say because I am claiming to have arrived (Phil 3:10-14); all I am doing is delivering the message that the Lord has given me to deliver. And the only thing that I will ever claim to be, is someone who believes God — believes His Word to be Truth. And, if you believe God, then you know that it is God’s will that you be sanctified, to live a holy life — that you turn from sin, give up your will to serve His, and wholeheartedly strive to go and sin no more. (1 Thes. 4:3-8) It is the genuine desire to grow and mature in Christ — to refine the remaining sin in your heart — that marks the genuine believer from the false believer. And this speaks to something that we must DO because what “believing in Jesus” is really supposed to mean, is that you have made an oath to God that you will do so! (John 11:26)
To be clear, the child of God does NOT obey because he believes that doing so will somehow earn his salvation, the child of God obeys because he was sincere when he professed that he had committed to follow Jesus. The false believer says, “Jesus already did all the work.” Well, deception always contains a little bit of Truth. Yes, Jesus already did all the work to make forgiveness and salvation possible. But I can tell you something that Jesus didn’t do, He didn’t remove the responsibility for the children of God to obey the commands of God; being sanctified is our responsibility, and it most certainly isn’t something that Jesus has already done.
But today we have tens of millions of Christians attending church who “believe” that they have received God’s Spirit and have “been saved” simply because they claim to believe such and such, or because they did this or that. THAT IS NOT THE WAY THAT IT WORKS! Not according to God anyway. We cannot accomplish salvation; we cannot save ourselves. That means, we are saved only by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:8-10); not by praying a prayer simply because you want salvation, and salvation is certainly not obtained by performing the rituals and works created by man — we are saved only by the grace of God and His grace only extends to those who believe His Word. And His Word tells us that He calls us and saves us so that we bear the fruit of His kingdom. (John 15:16)
So, regarding our sin and the desire to hold on to any little bit of self in our hearts, it isn’t as though Jesus takes care of that for us; that work is on us to do, it is only on Him to provide the power to do it. And this process of working out our sin and being made holy is called sanctification. But if you remove the Truth regarding the cost of following Jesus from the full Gospel message, then it is impossible to “go and make disciples” and as a result, all you are doing is providing a highway to hell to those who accept your deception (Matt. 23:13-15)
If you pursue salvation rather than pursue God, you will find comfort in such concepts as, “Jesus plus nothing,” or “Jesus has already done all the work.” These deceptive phrases stem from the reality that there is nothing that we can DO to earn our salvation. True. But if that is what you hang your “hat of salvation” on, then you have missed the entire point of the full Gospel message! God never said, go and do the thing that your teacher says to do in order to be saved, God said “go and make disciples” which involves obeying everything that He commanded. (Matt. 28:18) And therein lies your salvation; not kneeling down or turning around and doing the hokey pokey. Without question, there’s plenty that God’s children know that they must DO. But the point is that God says His children will do it out of the love that they have for Him, not simply because they are looking for a reward. (John 14:23-24)
Thus, salvation isn’t something that God commands us to go and DO, salvation is the end result for those who go and do what He says. (Luke 6:46-49, James 1:22) If you pursue God, if you earnestly seek the Lord, He will reveal that there is much that you must DO — and what we must do has everything to do with being sanctified, and obeying His commands, not trying to go and save ourselves. And that is how “Jesus plus nothing” and “faith without works is dead,” can both be true. (James 2:20-26, Heb. 10:36) The last thing that I would like to add regarding both of these statements is this: It is entirely possible to believe that there is nothing that we can do to earn our salvation, and still go to hell; but according to God’s promise, it is entirely impossible to diligently strive to grow in the image of Christ — to be sanctified — and wind up with that same eternal fate. (John 8:51, Heb. 5:8-9, Rev. 3:8-10) You cannot do the will of God (sanctify yourself) and still go to hell. (1 John 2: 17) Yet you can do many other good works all in an effort to do what you might think serving His will is, and still fail to enter His kingdom. (Matt. 7:21-23) His words, not mine… Be sanctified.
It starts with fear…
Woe to those who live with no fear of God! (Prov. 1:7) Where’s the Christian who takes the sanctification process seriously today? Is being sanctified top on your priority list for this day, and each day of your life? Because if you claim to be a Christian, it should be. Consider this, there can be no sanctification without the fear of the Lord. (2 Cor. 7:1) The fear of the Lord is the necessary fuel required in order to ignite the sanctification process. But what is taught in the church today? That “god” is not to be feared. Well, if your “god” does not command you to fear Him, then your “god” is not the God of the Bible, your “god” is not the Creator of the universe and all life itself. Please read all of these… Deut. 5:29, Ps. 103:11-18, Luke 12:5, Acts 10:34-35) I believe that Ex. 20:20 provides the perfect vision (20/20 vision) of God’s grace.
So, what is “the fear of the Lord” all about? The fear of the Lord is the grace of God. It is only by the grace of God that one lives with the fear of rejecting His commands; the fear of the Lord is the fear that He impresses upon the hearts of those who truly love Him. (Titus 1:11-14) “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thes. 4:7) It is through the fear of the Lord that we avoid sin and wickedness. (Prov. 16:6) However, simply believing in the existence of God will not result in the fear of the Lord, believing God, believing what the Word of God says, will. Moreover, believing in a false grace will not result in the fear of the Lord, but only loving the Truth will. “The fear of the Lord” is referring to the eternal consequence of deliberately rejecting the Lord’s commands. Without that fear, you will not be sanctified; without that fear, you cannot come to know the Lord. Unless you do not believe God. (Ps. 25:14)
God’s grace directly applies to matters of His Truth that lead to holiness (repentance, obedience, and sanctification), not matters of deception that lead to sin. (Rom 2:4, John 9:39-41) The Word of God never states that His grace extends to those who do not fear Him — those who pervert His grace as a license to sin (Jude 1:4) — but the Word makes clear that His grace does extend to those who do! (Luke 1:50) Without the fear of the Lord, we can have no disciples of Christ. Without true disciples of Christ, sanctification is dead. And what have we in the church today? Subjects ignorant as to the fact that it is obeying the Truth which sanctifies us. (1 Peter 1:22) If you are not an active participant in the sanctification process, then you have yet to be truly saved.
We are not sanctified by anything other than the Word of God — Truth. (John 17:17) If you wholeheartedly put God’s Word to practice (do what God commands you to do), you will be sanctified. Being sanctified is the process of making that which is unholy and impure, pure and holy. And “without holiness, no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14) Again, the power to live a holy life comes from the Spirit of the Lord, but the desire to be sanctified must come from within your own heart. No genuine desire, no Spirit’s power. It isn’t as though the child of God instantly stops sinning, it is that the child of God views sin as his responsibility to work out rather than reveling in, nor does the child of God consider Jesus the forgiveness of sins for the unrepentant heart. That is what “insulting the Spirit of grace” and “trampling the Son of God underfoot” are referring to. (Heb. 10:26-31)
If Truth is accepted into your heart, you will trust in the security of your salvation but accept the conditions (cost) associated with it! You will believe that your salvation is secure, but it is conditional upon you wholeheartedly following the teaching of Jesus Christ. That is what, “to remain in Him,” means. And that is the belief required for us to be sanctified — to serve God’s will. That is how believing the Truth produces the fruit of the kingdom. If, however, deception is accepted into your heart, it will produce entitled, arrogant subjects that feel no need to hold fast to the commands of God, and wholeheartedly strive to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. After all, what is to fear when you believe that you already sit there holding the crown of Life on your head whether you believe the Word of God and obey His commands or not?
It’s not about you…
The entire point of receiving the Lord’s Spirit is that we glorify God by demonstrating His divine power to completely transform our lives, that we become a new creation — to bring us from darkness to light, from blind to now seeing. Indeed, you cannot receive the Lord’s Spirit, and NOT be changed! (Gal. 6:15) The question that all Christians need to ask themselves is: Has your “salvation” glorified God, or simply glorified you? Were you looking to be made holy, or were you merely looking to be “saved” in the event that there truly is an eternal hell? If your “salvation” is all about you, then you have yet to be truly saved. If your salvation is all about God, then that is a good indication that you have truly come to know the Lord.
The power of His Spirit in us is not for us, it is there to glorify Him! Yes, receiving the Lord’s Spirit results in freedom, peace, joy, and contentment; but all those beautiful realities involve matters of the spirit, not the matters, or the cares, regarding the things of this world. If you expect to receive the desires of your heart (where they may contradict the will of God) now that you have “accepted Christ as your Savior,” you will not. (Luke 16:15) Because before you can truly receive the Lord’s Spirit, your genuine desire must be to serve the Lord’s will. If a genuine desire to obey God truly defines the desire in your heart, then He will give you His Spirit; and through His Spirit’s power and your genuine desire, He will give you the joy in your heart — you will learn obedience through your suffering and grow in the image of Christ. (Rom. 5:3-5) For we are confident of this: that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6) But if your heart’s desire is genuinely selfish (desiring the gift but wanting no part of the cost), you most certainly will NOT receive His Spirit and He will allow you to go your own way — living with no fear of God!
We’re in the season of the last days, which is to say that the church is covered in as much deception today as was the earth covered by water in the days of Noah. If you believe in God, beware of what you believe about Him! Only His Word reveals the Truth that needs to be accepted into your heart. Seek Him from there. Reject deception, accept Truth. Fear the Lord. (Ps. 139:23-24)
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