Sanctification

Text:  John 17:6-19

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe on Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last day, He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.”

Martin Luther’s explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed.

As we conclude this series, we look to the work of the Holy Spirit. In our catechism, it explains the work of the Spirit saying, “The Holy Spirit sanctifies me (makes me holy) by bringing me to faith in Christ, so that I might have the blessings of redemption and lead a godly life.

Our first article had to do with the Creator. The second, Jesus Christ the Redeemer. And now in the third we look to the Sanctifier. The Holy Spirit.

The word, sanctification, is used in two ways. In the wide sense, it is the whole work of the Holy Spirit by which He brings us to faith and also enables us to lead a godly life. In the more narrow sense it is that part of the Holy Spirit’s work within us which directs and empowers the believer to live a godly life.

In summary, it is the Holy Spirit at work in us to bring us closer to godliness, to holiness, to righteousness and to grace.    1 Corinthians 6:11 puts it this way, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

So, how is this process working in you? Are you being led to a sanctified life or are you still treading water in the oceans of secularism? Are you moving closer to godliness or are you spinning your wheels in worldliness?

“Luther says that by nature we are spiritually blind, dead and an enemy of God therefore we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or even come to Him.” By our very nature we are water treaders and wheel spinners.

By our very nature we are condemned because of the sin we cannot shed. Yet God has provided His Holy Spirit to change everything. Now, in faith, we have been made whole and without condemnation through the faith worked into our hearts.

Now we have a future that is so amazing there are no earthly words that could describe it. Now we have the promise of everlasting life at the side of the one who loved us enough to make all this possible. Now we are made holy and pure by the refining fires of the Spirit.

Before Redeemer, I was blessed to serve a church in Ashton, Idaho. At the time, I was just a Deacon and I served in that capacity for three years doing full-time pastoral care just as I do here. It kind of just happened. At a meeting, I was at to help them through a split in their church that had just occurred, they asked if I would consider being their Shepherd. That was an evening that would change my life forever.

I asked one of the leaders of the church sometime later why they thought I would make a good pastor. His response kind of surprised me. He said that, for him, it all started when I did a study on the works of the Holy Spirit with them. It wasn’t something they had ever studied before and it really made an impression on him.

I’m afraid that happens a lot in our Lutheran churches. We tend to be very Christ centered. Not that that’s a bad thing.

We should be centered on our Savior. But we must not do it at the expense of proper instruction on the works of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We must not miss out on the knowledge of our own sanctification.

The doctrine of sanctification is one of the most misunderstood teachings recorded in the New Testament. It’s hard to grasp God being able to make us very faulty people holy in any form.

Yet God cannot deal with un-holiness. As a just God He cannot allow it in His creation and there is no place for un-holiness in heaven. As you can imagine, this presents a big problem. A just and most holy God and His sinful and very unholy people.

Of course, we as children of God understand what he had to do to rectify this situation. Because we could not attain sanctification, holiness on our own, God had to make a way to bring it to us. He did this in His Son who took on our sin so we could take on His righteousness and holiness. He did it with His Holy Spirit to work faith into our hearts. Only a God sized love could have thought of that.

The root word in the Greek for the English word sanctify is the word hagizo (ha-gee-zo) which means, “to be set apart.” In the Old Testament, the root Hebrew word is kadash which means “to cut or separate.”

In either case, sanctification has to do with separation and it has to be because someone else did the separating. God made us to be His children separate from the world and, in the process, through faith instilled in us by His Holy Spirit, we became holy because He is holy. We are separated so that we might remain sanctified.

But it all has to start with God. Because only His Holy Spirit could call us by the Gospel. Only by word of His Spirit could we be invited into relationship with Him. Only by way of His Spirit could we receive any of our countless blessings.

In the Scriptures, we find many places where this amazing relationship is described:

1 Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 

2 Corinthians 4:6, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 

1 Peter 1:8, “Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” 

And Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” 

And as we are sanctified we are also regenerated. We are, in a way, reborn into a holy existence, free from the condemnation we have inherited because of sin.

Luther says: “The Holy Spirit sanctifies me in the true faith, that is, by faith He works a renewal of my whole life – in spirit, will, attitude, and desires – so that I now strive to overcome sin and do good works.”

It wasn’t possible for our loving God to leave us condemned so He used that God sized love to bring new life to His adopted children through faith instilled by His own Holy Spirit. Through Him we have been renewed, born again, transformed from darkness into light.

Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” 

2 Corinthians 5:17, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” 

This sanctification, this setting apart to be holy and worthy in God’s eye, is a gift from God that continues to transform us from hopeless to hopeful, from condemned to saved, from slavery to freedom.

But the Holy Spirit does even more than this. He leads us to use this new life for the benefit of God’s glory by doing good works. A good work is everything that a child of God does, speaks, or thinks in faith for the glory of God, and for the benefit of our neighbor.

In other words, good works all are those things that draw you nearer to  God. This is the very opposite of what sin does to us. Sin can be defined as anything that separates you from God.

The Holy Spirit creates good works in us to keep us on the right path to paradise. Through His guidance our relationship with God grows and grows until we get to that point that we can depend fully on Him.  Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  Until that day when we see Christ again, the Holy Spirit will continue to create in us good works so that we might be prepared for that blessed day.

Later in the third article it shines the light of the Holy Spirits work in our churches, in the forgiveness that has become so vital to us and in the holy fellowship we share. Together, we make up one body in which the Spirit works. And as He works to bring us together, He guides us to a better understanding of our role in the whole. Really, the Spirit works continually to make holy what had fallen into sin. Praise God he will never tire or rest until all has been accomplished according to His will.

In order to receive these numerous blessings, however, we must be content to surrender to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. He won’t force you to do what you must, but He will continue to work in you so that you might come to an understanding of His desires for you.

Our sanctification is brought about by the deliberate separation of ourselves from all worldliness and un-godliness, from all that is unclean and unholy.

And that sanctification cannot come except through the Holy Spirit. Together he urges us to be holy instruments unto God for the accomplishment of His holy purposes. Through our final surrender to Him, we come into holiness, into sanctification, separating ourselves from those things which would hinder us in our course of faith. It takes effort on our part but those things most important in our transformation have already been perfected in the Spirit of God.

Open your heart to His leading as you understand His place in your life. Know that He never tires of helping you come to faith and nothing you do can ever stop Him from loving you enough to never leave you or forsake you. May the Holy Spirit lead you to all the exciting places he has planned for you. May His guidance show you the face of Christ in all of creation and may you be sanctified in truth according to His work in your hearts. Amen.

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