As Christmas approaches it offers us the opportunity for reflection. It seems to be relatively easy to remember from Christmas to Christmas. You can look back over the years and reminisce how things have changed and also how they remain the same. Christmas is one of the most photographed holidays of the year and we can look back through the years at our hairstyle, clothing, Christmas tree, decorations, relatives, etc. and see how we have grown .
As believers in Christ we all know that our faith has a destination (heaven). We are pilgrims upon the earth – seeking a city whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10). We look forward to the day when all of the imperfections of our present life will be replaced with the eternal perfection of salvation (1 Corinthians 15:51-58). Eternity should always be in the forefront of our lives. It keeps us focused on the things that really matter and keeps us from being ensnared with temporal traps of temptation.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.
Heaven is the destination and life is the journey we take on our way to the place that Jesus is preparing for us (John 14:1-4). Most of us (unless the rapture occurs) have quite a few more Christmases to go before we will pass on from this life into our eternal reward. It is comforting to focus on our destination. We can ponder the things that eyes have not seen and ears have not heard but we must live today, tomorrow and the rest of our days before we will reach the pearly gates.
During our earthly journey we begin to realize that our destination is heaven but our goal is Jesus. Christianity becomes skewed when we as believers make heaven our goal. The purpose of redemption was not merely to provide the redeemed a mansion over the hilltop in heaven but to transform the redeemed into the image of Jesus Christ.
We can rejoice in knowing what “Z” is. We have read the last chapter of the book, “We win”. Heaven is both our hope and our home. Today we face different circumstances. Today we face life with its struggles and joys. Today we face life with temptation, persecution and our own humanity. Today we must live and be living epistles for the Lord Jesus Christ.
In our journey towards “Z” we all begin at “A”. As you are reading this some of you may be at “C” and others at “T” but we are all on our way to “Z”. During our journey towards “Z” God is constantly working on us.
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart. (Proverbs 17:3)
Jesus must become more important, while I become less important. (John 3:30)
And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. (2 Corinthians 3:18 TMB)
There is no easy way for us to say it. We all have to change. We are losing ourselves that we might gain Him. Our old self is dead and dying and His life is living through us (Galatians 2:20). We are being renewed in our mind (Romans 12:1-2) so that we cease to think, believe and operate as we did prior to knowing Jesus and begin to think, believe and operate as He does. There is a lot of teaching on this subject and consequently some confusion. The best way to doctrinally describe the Goal and the Journey is with “Sanctification”.
We are sanctified. We are being sanctified and we will be sanctified. These are not choices for us to make. These are realities in the Word of God. I want to break this down into Positional, Ultimate and Experiential Sanctification with a focus on Experiential Sanctification.
Positional Sanctification is the beginning of our Christian journey. We are translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13). We are changed; recreated to be like Jesus.
We are sanctified (set apart) because of our faith in Jesus. Positional sanctification takes place when we are born again. We become righteous in the eyes of God because of our faith in Jesus Christ. We receive His righteousness by grace through faith. We stand washed, cleansed and holy in the eyes of God regardless of what we have or have not done. You are sanctified right now because of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. His blood has cleansed you from all sin and unrighteousness.
For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. (Hebrews 10:10)
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Ultimate Sanctification is the goal of our Christian journey; we become like Jesus. Sin and all of its effects are completely removed and we receive the fullness of our salvation. We receive our eternal bodies.
What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:50-53)
Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. (1 John 3:2)
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. (Philippians 3:20-21)
Experiential Sanctification takes place throughout our Christian journey. As a result of being born again and receiving the Holy Spirit to live inside of us we change. Our actions, words, character and attitudes begin to change as we come to know Christ and His word more deeply.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
This passage of scripture explains it better than I or any preacher I know could ever do:
With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:17-32)
There are many other scriptures that we could use to discuss sanctification but I think this will get you started on a study.
I am writing this message to encourage you in your walk with Christ.
- You are no longer who you were before you met Jesus.
- You are not yet who you will be when you reach eternity.
- The Holy Spirit is changing you progressively as you digest, meditate upon and obey the word of God.
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14)
Experiential Sanctification is not a work of our will. It is not a singular event although many believers experience significant milestones in our walk with Jesus where we take leaps forward. Experiential Sanctification is a work of grace, the Holy Spirit and our faithful obedience. He changes us as we press into Him.
I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. (Philippians 3:12-16 TMB)
Christianity is a journey and it has a goal.
We are positionally sanctified by our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are made righteous because of Him.
We will be ultimately sanctified when we enter eternity.
WE are experientially sanctified as we pursue Jesus and submit to His word and will.
You look more like Jesus today than you ever have.
I pray that you would constantly be hungry for more of Him. When we are hungry for righteousness He promises to fill us (Matthew 5:6)