Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23). Sanctification is one of those big theological words often misunderstood by new and old believers alike. It is the Greek word hagiasmos, meaning holiness. It is understood to include past, present, and future holiness. In reference to past holiness, it speaks of position. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “You were sanctified” (1 Cor. 6:11). In a sense, it is a position without reference to sin. In other words, as a believer I may sin from time to time but that does not change my position of holiness before the Lord. In reference to future holiness, it speaks to that time when Christ returns and I see Him face to face. This is often referred to as glorification. Romans 8:30 describes in past tense this future event wherein all believers will be glorified. This event will occur at the Rapture of the Church and will be an instantaneous conformity to the image of Christ—“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Finally, there is present holiness. This is the moment-by-moment, day-by-day process of sanctification whereby I choose obedience to God over the sinful desires of the flesh. It is made possible only by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and my choice to submit to Him. This is not always an easy choice and is yet another reason Paul wrote, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim. 6:12).
I think Paul has present sanctification in mind in Romans 6:22. It is a present “sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). This is a pretty strong assertion but it is the gospel truth! Basically, this means one who is truly saved “by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8) will give evidence that he or she truly belongs to Christ. In other words, they will give evidence of a changed life. Matthew wrote, “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8). Obviously, the Bible isn’t referring to sinless perfection but it is referring to less sinning and greater holiness! This is why the writer of Hebrews wrote, “Pursue sanctification” (Heb 12:14), and Paul wrote, “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). In other words, I can’t walk the aisle of my church, pray the “sinner’s prayer,” follow that with baptism, then go out and live like the world only to fall back on “once saved always saved.” My life must give clear evidence of a change. This change is known as sanctification or holiness. Such moment-by-moment, day-by-day holiness is possible because I have “been freed from sin and enslaved to God.” The “benefit” of this freedom from sin and enslavement to God is present sanctification. And the outcome of present sanctification is eternal life! John describes this process of present sanctification as overcoming—“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). How can you know if your faith is real, that you’ve truly been saved by grace through faith, that you’ve been sanctified and will be sanctified? Ask yourself these questions: Are you fighting the good fight of faith? Are you pursuing sanctification? Paul wrote, “If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13). Charles Spurgeon put it this way: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” I don’t know about you, but I want to live eternally with Christ! Therefore, I’m fighting the good fight and pursuing present sanctification right now.
When I was growing up we attended Silver City Baptist Church. Every so often we would have Sunday evening hymn sings where the congregation chose the songs. Without fail, Mama Nick always requested “Victory in Jesus,” only she called it “Victory of Jesus!” Because of the victory of Jesus, we can experience victory in Jesus. It troubles me deeply when I see folks who claim to belong to Christ but whose lives are anything but victorious. I’m not suggesting believers don’t struggle with temptation and sin. I know I do! But when someone continually chooses willful disobedience and sin as a lifestyle over what they know to be right, then it calls into question whether or not their faith is real. Real faith works itself out in present sanctification. This will always be the case because real faith overcomes the world! Is your faith real? Are you an overcomer? Are you experiencing present sanctification? “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23).
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