FROM SALVATION TO SANCTIFICATION
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities (demons), nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 38,39
This verse just might be the strongest statement about grace made by a human being other than Jesus . Read the verse again, and let it sink in this time, concentrating not just on the part where demons or death or life cannot separate us. Consider the part that states that neither things present, nor things to come, nor any created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God.
In short, no longer do our sins separate us from God. Yes, I know, we have always been told that our sins separate us from God, and it is true that they did, while we were yet dead in them. But we are not dead in our sins anymore, we are alive in Christ.
Positionally speaking, we are already perfect in the eyes of God. If nothing can separate us from God, then neither can our sins, the sins of today, tomorrow, and forever. That means we need to stop thinking we aren’t close to God because of our current or future sin.
A gospel of works dictates that we have to do something, that we can do anything!! Anything to sanctify ourselves, and make ourselves “good Christians”. Listen, there is no such thing as a good Christian. Even Paul was depraved, and he admitted it in Romans chapter seven. There is Paul, the author of over half the New Testament, the preacher of righteousness, admitting his own depravity. If Paul, who was blinded by the risen Jesus, is depraved, what right or reason do any of us have to expect to sanctify ourselves? Paul couldn’t sanctify himself. Can you?
No, and neither can I!!! But then how will we put to death the sins of the flesh? There is always that question, and that question is valid, yet it is a question taken out of the context of a works gospel, a message taught to us telling us we have to “be good”. Well, naturally, when we hear that, we think we have to do it ourselves.
Here is a thought that might help. God tells us there is this place, called heaven, where a person can spend eternity with Him. Yet, he tells us, you cannot go there because of your sin, and just so you know what sin is, here is the Law, so you can know that you have broken it, and therefore are not worthy of heaven. What are you going to do? Are you going to immediately set to work in earning your way into heaven, so you can be with God? God gave us the Law so that we would know what sin was, and that we were lost in it. Did He stop there?
No, he did not. Knowing we were lost, God offered us His Son, as a way of getting there. What work did we have to do to get there? None!!!! It was done for us. It’s grace!!! Grace is something given, not something attained.
Now, we have this last item to ponder. How do we become sanctified? How do we put to death the sins of the flesh. Here is an answer that if I left it just as I am about to state it, would make you angry. The sins of the flesh have already been put to death, through Jesus, on the cross. There!!! Should I stop? Or should I go on?
I will not leave you hanging like a bad movie trying to sell a sequel. If God showed us the Law because without it we would not know what sin was, and if He gave us His Son because without Him we would not get to heaven, the place God told us about, would it follow that when God says you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect, that He will do that for us, as well? Look at this verse from Romans.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren, and these whom He predestined, He also called, and these whom He called, he also justified, and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
Romans 8: 29, 30
Did you notice the word predestined? We have been predestined to be conformed to Jesus’ image, in the very same way we have been predestined to be saved. And this conforming is not an all at once thing, for the word conformed speaks of a process. Well, we have known that when we are resurrected, we will be resurrected in perfection. But what about now?
The conforming that Paul is speaking of is what is occurring here, in this place, us being conformed to Christ’s image. If we are predestined for it, then is it our responsibility to achieve it? Was it our responsibility to come up with a way to save ourselves? No, the way is God’s. We are responsible for our actions, not our sanctification. Whoa!!! Now that seems like a contradiction, doesn’t it?
Wait a minute, and let me explain. Just as we are responsible for our actions before we come to Christ, we are responsible after. But being responsible for actions does not imply that we make the changes within us. The lost are responsible for their condition, because of their actions. Look back at the verse above. We are predestined to be conformed.
So, He who made us to rely , to trust upon Him for salvation, wouldn’t He also make us to trust upon Him for sanctification as well? In fact, do not all our efforts at this process go up to Him as filthy rags? Our efforts in the flesh are efforts full of depravity. What good thing can come from depravity? Only God can take depravity, and use it for good. We cannot. Grace.
Now look at this verse.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5: 22,23
Check that one out in your bible. Paul says more after that, but I wanted to include this specific verse for a reason, to give further evidence of grace in your life. We know that verse, and we try to make it happen in our lives, because after all, we are Christians, and aren’t we supposed to be producing fruit? Any “good Christian” will make living this verse his or her life’s “work”. In fact, we go to such lengths with this verse, that we will actually lie around other Christians, and say that we have joy and peace, even when we don’t. Why is that? Because we have been taught that we must “bear” fruit. This fruit then, is becoming a burden, if we are bearing it. That is a play on words, I know, but the fact is, if we have to work at it, it is a burden, and one that our consciences never gives us peace from. Do you think that is what Jesus intended when he mentioned the abundant life thing, or the light burden thing? We are busy doing the Pharisee thing, earning fruit, working towards producing fruit. Trying to please God.
Listen well now. You do not have to do anything anymore to please God. He is already well pleased with you. He is in love with you, look at what He gave you!!!!
Back to the verse. The fruit of the Spirit. Hmmm……..
What leaps off the page at you when you read, “The fruit of the Spirit?” Here is what leaps off at me. “The fruit of the Spirit”. Okay, Tom’s playing games. No, I am not!!! Whose fruit is it? Is it our fruit? To whom does the fruit belong? Does it belong to me? Conspicuously, my name has been left off these pages. If I can earn fruit, then the Bible should say, “But the fruit of Tom”. Somehow, that was left out. I know I have to produce fruit. This fruit should be mine, and I should be named!!!!
Is the Bible in error, or are the millions of Christians who believe they not only have to, but can produce fruit? Who’s wrong? Just as in Ephesians, we are told that not only is salvation a gift, but also faith, which is not our own, but is a gift from God so that no one may boast, thus here as well, this fruit is not even our own, so that no one may boast.
So if the fruit does not belong to us, who does it belong to? The Holy Spirit!!! It’s His fruit, given to us, so that the light of Christ may shine around us. It doesn’t belong to us, it’s the fruit of the Spirit.
Romans talks about us as heirs. Specifically, heirs of God. Well, what does an heir do to earn his inheritance? Basically, nothing. If we are heirs of God, what do we inherit? Everything!!! Does everything include righteousness? You bet it does!!! So then, coming full circle, do we live in a gospel of works, or the Gospel of grace? Is grace only for our salvation, or is now grace the determining factor in every part of our lives. Is it grace plus a few works? Is it grace plus somehow figuring out a way that no one else has thought of to please God? No!!! It is just grace, in everything! That which we have, we were given, and that which we need, has been given, and is yet to be given, to us.
One last word about this. Jesus warned against the coming gospel of works, as do most of Paul’s letters. What was it Jesus said to the Pharisees? (Believe it or not, we have many modern day Pharisees)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, for you travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” Matthew 23: 15
The gospel of works is Satan’s gospel. We need to be careful when we evangelize, that we do not teach anything but grace, and leave the sanctification of these we teach to God. God is in the business of perfection, we are not. We are not there yet, and our every effort at perfection is depravity.
What does that mean? Am I going to have to try harder, to be a better Christian? Because up to now, I’ve been trying really hard!!
No!!!! On the contrary, I am going to have to trust God all the more!!! If He is trustworthy for your salvation, is He not also more than trustworthy for your sanctification?
Jesus trusted His Father perfectly, relied upon Him in all things, and did nothing without Him. Jesus said, “Follow me.” I think this is what He meant. Grace is a gift, and it doesn’t end at salvation. God is a lover to us, wanting to give good gifts. He doesn’t make the goal, and then say, “Go do it yourself.” He makes the destination, He paves the road, picks you up, and carries you to the finish, all the while keeping you safe and warm. That is grace.