Charles Dickens’ classic novel, Great Expectations, chronicles a tale of a young, poor boy, named Pip. The little guy is an apprentice blacksmith and has no hope of ever being rich on his own merit. He is fascinated by the genteel society and opulence of the upper crust. His fantasy is to one day be a gentleman himself. Then one fine day he is visited by an attorney who informs him that he has come into some serendipitous fortune of property and unimagined wealth.
Pip’s dream of being a gentleman is suddenly within reach. But he soon discovers that his great expectations of fitting into the haut monde of 19th century London will require more than just the position his money affords him.
His practice belies his origins. So, with the help of a friend, he is discipled in the arcane ways of etiquette and sophistication. He painstakingly observes and mimics the nuances of the behavior, fashion, and mannerisms of those he now considers his peers. He masters the accentuation of their speech and employs skilled tailors to create fashionable clothing that completes the metamorphosis from urchin to elite.
In the same way any of us may be suddenly declared holy and righteous by God in our position, but our speech, conduct, and attitudes will undergo incremental improvement before our practice matches our position. We call that metamorphosis sanctification.
Last week we saw the Apostle Peter laying a foundation of hope, building his argument on… four foundation stones of salvation.
- PLAN OF SALVATION (LAST WEEK)
- PATH OF SALVATION
1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
The next course Peter serves is a dish that is just as meaty, and affects the way we speak, dress, work, sleep, and even the way we style our hair and accessorize our outfits. Welcome to the doctrine of sanctification!
The Nature of Sanctification
The word sanctification means “setting apart” or “becoming holy.” The Old Testament is largely a record of the nation of Israel being set apart from the other nations through civil, ceremonial, and moral laws. Israel was distinct in language, diet, culture, country, and traditions.
Christians in the New Testament are also set apart, but in a different way. Since the New Covenant was inaugurated, worship is no longer about being different from other nations in our cultural accoutrements or our diet; it isabout being different from unbelievers in our heart’s desires and the resultant changes in attitude and actions.
Holiness is not a mystical aura you cultivate with religious robes and reclusive asceticism. Holiness displays its presence by affecting what you choose to watch on TV and say on Facebook, the jokes you tell and laugh at, the length of your skirt and hair, the use of the internet and credit cards. Holiness is about sinning less and being more like Christ.
Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…
The Spectrum of Sanctification
Since sanctification is gradual, the longer you are a Christian, the more you should victory over your sins.
Sadly, holiness is not proportional to how long you have been saved. Some have been Christians for decades but are still selfish, angry, bitter, gossipy folks in the church. How can this be? Because they are like the man in James 1: 23…a hearer of the word and not a doer.
Sanctification takes effort, commitment, and intentional progress.
2 Pet 1:5-8 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Justification is instantaneous, but sanctification takes a lifetime.
The Certainty of Sanctification
Christians are declared perfect in the books of heaven, though we are still growing in holiness. Our position is determined at justification. But our practice isn’t perfect.
But my sanctification is sure because it is God’s Spirit at work in me.
Philippians 2:13 … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
You might be asking, what is the point of all this? Well, check in with us next Monday and Peter will tell us the Purpose and the Promise of salvation