Why don’t we believe this?
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. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. -1 Thessalonians 5:23–24
He will do it. What? Sanctify you entirely.
The iconic, biblical slave master is the Judaiser. He has work for you to do, Christian. He knows there is work to be done, “to haste His return,” or some other notion of performance sanctification.
The Judaiser knows the plans he has for you, and in his mind, they won’t hurt you, but only bring you (or him) success. He is wrong. When the focus and burden shifts from God to the Christian, you know it is the diabolical plot of the pharisaical Judaiser.
Sanctification is the will of God for your life (1 Thess 4:3). It begins on the day the Holy Spirit begins his residency and work to conform you to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). He who began this good work in you, will bring it to completion (Phil 1:6), for greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 Jn 4:4), that is, greater than any slave master in the world…including your own flesh.
Works-based sanctification is as bankrupt as works-based justification. Still, the pharisaical pastor is relentless. He has forgotten you are Christ’s sheep (Ps 23; Jn 10). He is convinced that with your human potential, and his program, you will achieve peak performance. Thus, he secretly considers himself your “life coach.” His objective: your holiness and soul winning performance.
Isn’t that good?
Christianity, apart from Christ, is not Christianity. It is religion, a rigor, and a regimen. It is Christianity reliant upon the wisdom and power of the flesh. Christianity that is not performed by the person of the Holy Spirit is pseudo-Christianity. The Holy Spirit is not the enabler of your flesh to do the required work of sanctification. No, Paul wrote, “He will do it.”
How comforting this word is to the Christian! Have you failed to meet the standard of your pharisaical, Judaiser pastor? Do you feel guilt when he accuses you or snubs you based on your poor Christian performance?
The pastor’s job is not to point out your flaws, short-comings, and innumerable, unforgiveable sins, as an under-performing Christian; rather, the role of the pastor is to open his Bible and preach Christ.
We don’t need another “you can do this” pep talk from the pulpit because we don’t need another hero. We need a man of God who can say, “Look, here on the pages of Scripture, it says, ‘God will sanctify you, entirely.’”
How does God sanctify His people? His Word and His Spirit (Jn 17:17), or in other words, it is “Him.” Sanctification is a relationship. It is a friend who sticks closer to you than a brother. It is Christ in you, willing and doing His good pleasure (Gal 2:20; Phil 2:13).
If your pastor is unhappy with your Christian performance, remind him that “God’s got this,” for He who willed your holiness (1 Pet 1:16), will accomplish your holiness…and glorification for that matter!
If your takeaway from last Sunday’s sermon is yet again another list of things you are now resolving to do (very popular for the first Sunday in January and very manipulative if it pertains to financial giving), then look for a church where the Gospel of grace is preached.
Grace is the work of God to sanctify His children. Beware of preachers who use the term, but who have some configuration of “do this, or don’t do that, and you will live the good Christian life.”
Grace accomplishes its good work internally, albeit, stealthily. In contrast, those notorious legalists want to see you in your zoot suit with a smile on your face, with the eager refrain, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” Another rule, another task, another program participation (always comes with a catchy name), another obstacle guaranteed to have you work for your best life now.
Grace is rest for the Christian. Fear not, little flock. Be anxious for nothing. Christ will lead you into green pastures and beside still waters. The Good Shepherd will protect you; and as you delight in His presence, and the hearing of His voice, you will, by His grace, become more like Him. The God of peace…He is faithful…He will do it…entirely. He’s got this.
Spokane Valley, Washington
February 15, 2022