Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Are you being sanctified?

"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." Romans 8:29,30


There is a teaching in the Church today that goes something like this:

Believers have been predestined by God to become like Christ. This becoming like Christ is termed, sanctification and is understood as a process by which the believer increasingly becomes more and more like Jesus. God's purpose for the believer's life is therefore to use circumstances and life to conform His children to Christ. Every hardship and difficult circumstance is then embraced as God's will to refine the believer to become Christ-like. Scriptures such as Romans 8:29,30 and Hebrews 12:5-11 are quoted to substantiate this teaching and you will hear Christians speak of God taking them through the desert; God breaking them; God disciplining them so that they become more like Christ. It sounds spiritual but is this really what the Bible teaches?

The Problem

The problem with this teaching is that it is not only unbiblical but also deceptive.

Let us suppose for a moment that the teaching is true and that every believer is undergoing a process of sanctification.

First of all one needs to ask, why? What is God's purpose in saving us and then working on us to become like Christ? If it is to prepare us for heaven, then surely it is unfair when some live longer than others. If the goal of sanctification is to make us Christ-like, then who will be included as the Bride that God is coming back to that is "a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Eph. 5:27)? Will it be those who have completed the process of sanctification?

Confused Christians

Those who believe this theology live lives of condemnation and fear and interpret the work of Satan as God's work of sanctification! These poor Christians live their lives in misery and even thank God for His "discipline" when the Devil is having a field day, tormenting the deceived child of God. "It's my cross to bear," they explain and continue faithfully and miserably serving the Lord. I thought the Gospel was Good News and that the teaching about God our Saviour was attractive (Titus 2:10)!

Sanctification explained

The root of the problem is in the wrong understanding of sanctification. Wrongly interpreted, Romans 8:29,30 is said to show us that the believer is predestined to be conformed to Christ in the sense that once saved, the believer becomes more and more like Christ. However, the Bible is clear that once the believer is saved through faith in Christ, s/he is sanctified! The believer is therefore predestined to be conformed to Christ, the moment s/he believes. In other words, the believer is Christ-like, the moment s/he is baptised into Christ (Gal. 3:26). The believer's union with the Holy One makes him holy - sanctified! The NT always addresses the Church as God's holy people (sanctified people).

Be holy!

"To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy." 1 Cor. 1:2

God says "Be holy, for I am holy." 1 Peter 1:15,16

God does not say, "become holy"; He says, "BE holy"!

You can only be what you are! I cannot be holy unless I am holy!

You ARE sanctified!

Those who are in Christ are holy - they are sanctified. The believer is called to live a holy life because s/he is holy and not in order to become holy. Click here for more on "Are you holy?"

Does God not dicipline His children?

Yes, certainly! Hebrews 12 confirms that. But, what does God discipline us for?

The context in Hebrews 12 is not character-building but disobedience (sin). God disciplines His children when they sin so that they will continue to live holy lives. God is faithful and will help us continue in holiness (see 1 Thess. 5:23). Hardship is used by God to test our faith and for us to persevere in holiness (see James 1:2-4).

Good News!

The Good News is that through faith in Christ, the believer is sanctified and is made "a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Eph. 5:27). This is the believer's assurance and hope and it is from this hope that faith springs up that drives out fear and condemnation (Col. 1:5; Rom. 8:1, 33-39; 1 John 4:18).

Where is your joy?

Where is your joy? The fruit of the Spirit is joy (Gal. 5:22).

"For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Romans 14:17

Satan is intent on stealing your joy. As long as you believe that the purpose for your life is to become holy, the Devil will continue to accuse you, condemn you and and make you completely ineffective for God's Kingdom purposes as you continue your self-improvement program and live in misery and continuous failure. Don't let Satan deceive you, child of God! Jesus is your holiness (1 Cor. 1:30)! Depend on Him! He has made you holy!

Jesus, your Brother!

You have been predestined to be like Jesus so that He can be your Brother (Rom. 8:29).

"Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers." Hebrews 2:11

As a son of God, you have been made holy; you have been justified and you have been glorified (Heb. 2:10; Rom. 8:30). That is Good News! Rejoice in your holiness and don't allow the enemy to deceive you and rob you of your joy!

Recommended reading: "The Believer's Secret of Holiness" by Andrew Murray.