Posts Tagged ‘sanctification’

Consecration is our part, sanctification is God’s part. (1)

What must I do to inherit eternal life? (2)

I am not certain Christians ask this question anymore.  We have become so enamored with the world that we, in the terms of Joel O’Steen, “Want our best life now!”

Not me, I want my best life after my death.

I already know that this worldly life is short and full of toil and angst.  Even if I inherit my father’s DNA, his family lives to a 100, my life will be short.  Even if I count my blessings everyday, my life will still be a rose garden, a life full of beauty in the midst of thorns.

Most of us assume that we must provide our own transport and fuel to get to heaven.  Most of us assume that we enter heaven on the basis of what we have done in life.  That is not God’s way.

In the world’s economy, we earn grace.  In God’s economy, grace if given by God.

God asks us to dedicate our life to Him.  He then, takes care of the rest. He will sanctify us, make us fit for heaven.

It bugs me that I cannot earn my way into heaven.  I can only earn my way into hell.

God wants my heart.

God wants your heart.

When God has your heart, He has your life, both now and for evermore.

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  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).
  2. Luke 10:25 and Luke 18:18.

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How to Be Born From Above

Preaching Notes  September 30, 2012

John 3:1–18 (ESV)

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 

Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.  If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.


I.    From Problems to Solutions 

God’s Two Desires – Titus 2:14 – Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

God desires salvation and sanctification

Dealing with Romans 3:23 – “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

Even the saved keep sinning

Nicodemus and Jesus

An educated old-school enquirer reveals a lack of knowledge and faith

Jesus’ drives the conversation

Seeing and Entering the Kingdom of God

Requires rebirth

II.  What Does It Mean to be Born Anothen

Born again …

Born from above …

Not a new concept – see Ezekiel 36:25-28 and Jeremiah 31:28-31

The old way has not and will not work

Christian hell, fire, and damnation

The importance of worship

God does not want us to fail, thus He helps us to succeed

We have to accept the help

We accept God’s help, through faith, not through personal effort

// kids, I want to do it by myself

III.  How to Be Born from Above

The work of the Spirit – John 3:5-8

A God-initiated transformation of our lives

// to the work of the wind (another word for spirit)

Comes at its will, works at its will

Effects are felt and seen

Powerful effects in small ways

Spirit work predicated on work of Jesus

Jesus promises the Spirit to come after Him

The work of the Son – John 3:10-14

The work of Jesus

To die for the forgiveness of our sins

Nicodemus – knew about need for forgiveness, atonement

This may be part he genuinely did not get

Jesus work predicated on work of God

The work of God – John 3:16-18

The work of God was His love for the world

Generous, gracious, steadfast merciful love

Nicodemus knew – Hesed

These 1st three works built on each other

Revealed by God over time

The work of the Believer – John 3:15, 16, 18

Final work or action ==> salvation

Individual coming to faith in Jesus

Belief or faith – also the work of God

But is one which must be received

Irresistible Grace – core of reformed theology

Faith is a gift received through an open heart

Hard hearts are closed to God’s work

IV.  What about You?

DA Carson

God’s ultimate purpose is the salvation of those in the world who believe in him. Whoever believes in him experiences new birth, has eternal life, and is saved.  The alternative is to perish, to lose one’s life, and to be doomed to destruction. There is no third option

God has done His work, we need to receive it in faith, which is believe and trust

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It’s not perfect!

That critical inner voice haunts me each time I step back and examine my work.  

Nothing I do is perfect.  

Moments after sharing my work with the world, I see the imperfections of my labor.  

It is easy for me to spot the flaw in my sermon, just preached.

Grammatical errors and misspellings leap from the computer screen after posting my daily devotionals.

The imperfections only become clear after my work has been birthed and put out for all to see.

I do not need any critics to help me see the flaws in my efforts.

This is why Jesus’ admonition disturbs me:

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (1)

This is one command, I am destined to never fulfill.  I will never do anything perfect.  Everything I do will be flawed.

Yet, I refuse to be content with imperfection.

What am I to do? 

I pray.

“Help me Jesus!”

He does.

Thanks be to God!

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  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Matthew 5:48.

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“God made me this way!”

“Really!  Do you really believe God made you a grumpy, self-centered, impatient clod?”

… the conversation paused.

Now, I would understand if someone who believes in evolution and unintelligent design said this.   I would also pity the person who was so resigned to wallowing in their emotional DNA, that they were willing to be miserable and force everyone else to endure their miserableness.

“God made me this way” is not an excuse a Christian can use neither should it be one a Christian accepts from another believer.

Paul wrote:

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God! (1)

If you ascribe to the theory that “God made you this way” then as a Christian, you must affirm the truth and promise of God’s declaration through Paul in Second Corinthians, “In Christ you are a NEW creation!”

Which way do you want to play the game?

Blaming God for the way you live is a game.  It is a game which you will never win!  It is a game which becomes a burden to those around you. 

I am not sure what I am suppose to say to a woman who uses this excuse, but to a Christian brother, I would say, “Man up!”

As a Christian, the teaching of Paul in Titus 3:3-5, is a glorious promise, which frees us from the “Blame God Game.”

Paul writes:

We were once … foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 

But now … when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us. (2)

Note the contrast at the beginning of the two sentences:

“We once were …”  becomes  “But now …”

The “once upon a time …” becomes a new “now and forevermore …”

The old ways have died and the new have come alive within you.

It’s the beauty of the movement from winter into spring.

It’s your new life in Christ.

The old has past away and BEHOLD the new has come!  

This is from God!

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  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Corinthians 5:17–18.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Titus 3:3–5.

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“Confession is one of God’s ways

of strengthening us in our faith.” (1)

I have always found confession to be a humbling experience.  Thus, when I read Hannah Smith’s declaration that confession strengthens our faith, I took pause.

My aversion to confession is natural, as I assume it is for all.  Three childhood sins remain vivid in my memory.

I forged a school note, twice, once with my Dad’s signature and then with my Mom’s.  After the second attempt at my crime, the school called home.  Since Dad was at work and Mom could not hear, my oldest brother had the delight of reporting the news of my sin to Mom.  I still remember my tears and shame when I had to confess to Mom face-to-face.  She responded with tender grace.

After a heated discussion with my other brother, I accidentally caused a sharp object to tear through a painting my Mom had been working on for months.  I waited in wretched fear of having to tell my Mom what happened.  To have died first would have been easier.  Surprisingly, she was thrilled to hear the news.  The painting had been a pain-in-the-_____ to her and she was glad to be done with it.  At least that is what she told me.

The third sin has yet to be confessed, unless a childhood buddy broke our blood-vow not of silence.  I was for confession, but my buddies were not.  Even then I knew secret sins eventually became known.  The sin?  My buddies and I caused a fire inside of a friend’s playhouse, burning the furnishings.  My buddies lived in fear that if we confessed, we would have been dead meat.  Thus the blood-vow which, I confess I just broke.

My Mom covered my sin and shame with her grace.  It was not what expected.  I still carry the shame of the third sin. Perhaps this is why I now more easily confess my sins.

I prefer grace to shame, even punishment is better than shame.

In his first letter, John writes:

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (2)

God greets our confessed sin with grace.

Confession does not lessen the severity of sin, but it does lighten the load of sin.  God, in His grace, removes the dead weight of our sin and restores us to life, temporal and eternal.

Sin does affects us, as this bit of poetry suggests:

Sin has been hammering my heart

Unto a hardness, void of love … (3)

Hannah Smith knew what she is talking about.  Sin confessed in shame finds strength when it is placed on the cross of God’s grace.


(1) Hannah Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life  (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
(2)  The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Jn 1:8–9.
(3)  Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).

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Touch Fouls

All sin and fall short of the glory of God

Romans 3:23

The Lord has been teaching me about my utter weakness in the presence of temptation. I have grown significantly in knowledge, but I have not grown in grace and feel that I actually don’t have any more power over sin than when I was first converted.

Hannah Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Is Hannah Smith alluding to the fact that she is committing a growing number of hideous sins?  I doubt it.  Most likely, she has recognized that despite her best effort to be a faithful Christian, she still sins on a regular basis.  Her sins, rather than hideous and blatant, would be best described as touch fouls in a basketball game.

Touch fouls are those minor bumps between basketball players, while technically a foul, do not affect the play of the game.  This is why commentators refer to them as play on fouls – no harm, no whistle, keep playing.

Every Christian, no matter how devout, commits touch foul sins daily.  If we remember Romans 3:23, then we should not be surprised by them.  Neither should they frighten us.

Charles Spurgeon wrote: “Once saved, sin will never get the upper hand so as to be absolute monarch of our nature.”  (Morning and Evening: Daily Readings, Peabody, MA, Hendrickson Publishers, 2006)

If we are committing flagrant fouls over and over, then we should be alarmed that sin, not God, has dominion over us.

Hannah Smith is correct, we do not have power over sin.  But God does.  This is why Christians pray, “Lead us not into temptation.”  We deal with sin by calling upon God’s power, rather than relying upon our own.

If Jesus reigns in your heart, your sin is on-the-ropes.

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 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,

the conviction of things not seen.

 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God,

so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Hebrews 11:1 and 3

There is never a reason to remain downcast, for everything may be brought to God “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving” (Phil. 4:6). “Put your hope in God” (Ps. 43:5). There is never a time when we cannot hope in God.  Our hope will not be in vain, and in the Lord’s own timing help will come.  Our work is to lay our petitions before the Lord, and in childlike simplicity to pour out our hearts before Him.  “For I will yet praise him” (Ps. 43:5). More prayer, more exercising of our faith, and more patient waiting leads to blessings, abundant blessings.

George Mueller

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 

that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 

1 John 5:14

What if my heart is cold and I feel that I lack faith? John says, “Here is the remedy, ask and pray. He will hear you.”   Your best course of action is to rely on God and pray “Lord, give me faith.”

Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 38). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Keeping Faith

Whenever God reveals something, He expects us to believe Him and adjust our lives accordingly. What does this mean?

It means we trust Him implicitly for all of our needs because He says He will provide (Phil. 4:19).

It means we approach crises with the assurance that God will bring good from them (Rom. 8:28).

It means that, despite what happens in our lives, we will never doubt God’s love because He has told us that He loves us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3).

At times we try to justify our lack of faith! We know what God has promised, but we doubt that He will make a practical difference in our life.

Blackaby, Richard (2006-12-01). Experiencing God Day By Day (p. 39). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Faith is letting God reign within us

Are we prepared for what sanctification will cost? It will cost an intense narrowing of all our interests on earth, and an immense broadening of all our interests in God. Sanctification means intense concentration on God’s point of view. It means every power of body, soul and spirit chained and kept for God’s purpose only. Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the disposition that ruled Him will rule us. Are we prepared for what that will cost? It will cost everything that is not of God in us.

Jesus has prayed that we might be one with Him as He is one with the Father. The one and only characteristic of the Holy Spirit in a man is a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ, and freedom from everything that is unlike Him.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993).

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