Where Are They?

There are no first-class Christians who have attained victory over all known sin and the curse that is common to humanity since the fall.  Nor are there carnal Christians who are forgiven but devoid of the Spirit and his sanctifying power.

– Horton, Michael, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World; Zondervan; copyright 214; Kindle Edition; page 204

His Command and Their Duty

It is, however, his command and therefore their duty; yea, further, from the new nature he has given them, it is their desire to watch and strive against sin; and to propose the mortification of the whole body of sin, and the advancement of sanctification in their hearts, as their great and constant aim, to which they are to have an habitual preserving regard.

– John Newton

as quoted by Duguid, Barbara; Extravagant Grace: God’s Glory Displayed in our Weakness; P&R Publishing; Philipsburg, NJ; copyright 2013; Page 142-143

Ascribing Far Too Much Power to People

We are taught that it is within our power to allow or inhibit God’s work of sanctification in our lives, so that our progress in personal holiness is up to us.  If we try harder and cooperate with God, we can succeed and achieve virtual perfection, becoming spiritual princes and princesses.  If we choose not to be fully committed to God, however, he is powerless to change us and can’t possibly bless us as he longs to.

That view ascribes far too much power to people who are actually weak and full of sin.

Duguid, Barbara; Extravagant Grace: God’s Glory Displayed in our Weakness; P&R Publishing; Philippsburg, NJ; copyright 2013; Page 77

This is Shocking News, Isn’t It?

God could have saved us and made us instantly perfect.  Instead, he chose to save us and leave indwelling sin in our hearts and bodies to wage war against the new and blossoming desires to please God that accompany salvation.  This is a raging battle that we often lose, and that often leaves us feeling defeated and joyless in our walk with God.  Yet [John] Newton also points out that since we know God does all things for his own glory and the good of his people, his decision to leave Christians with many struggles with sin must also somehow serve to glorify him and benefit his people.  This is shocking news, isn’t it?

– Duguid, Barbara; Extravagant Grace: God’s Glory Displayed in our Weakness; P&R Publishing; Philippsburg, NJ; copyright 2013; Page 294

Christianity Is Not First and Foremost About Us, Our Behavior and Obedience

Christianity is not first and foremost about our behavior, our obedience, our response, and our daily victory over sin.  It is first and foremost about Jesus!  It is about His person; His substitutionary work; His incarnation, life, death resurrection, ascension and promised return.  We are justified – and sanctified – by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone.

– Tchividjian, Tullian; Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free; David C Cook Publishers, Copyright 2013, Kindle Edition, page 68

Sanctification, Not Just Justification, Requires the Gospel

Yet we are on the wrong track if we think that the gospel was only necessary for “getting saved” and not for staying saved – even for growing in holiness.  It is always “in view of God’s mercies” that we can offer ourselves as “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1-2).  Our sanctification, no less than our justification depends on Christ’s absolution, so that we live out of gratitude rather than guilt and out of faith rather than self-trust.  No longer trying to make God indebted to us, we receive his gift and share it with others.  The gospel makes us extroverts: looking outside of ourselves to Christ in faith and to our neighbor in love.

Horton, Michael; The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; Copyright 2009; page 132

To Confuse the Two, We Loose the Great Weapon in the Fight

It is crucial in the fight for joy that we not confuse or combine justification and sanctification.  Confusing them will, in the end, undermine the gospel and turn justification by faith into justification by performance.  If that happens, the great gospel weapon in the fight for joy will fall from our hands.

– Piper, John; When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy; copyright 2004; Crossway Books; Wheaton, Il.; p. 84

The Difference Between Justification and Sanctification

Then, and only then, on the basis of this forgiveness and this declaration of righteousness, God gives us his Holy Spirit to transform us morally and progressively into the image of his Son.  This progressive change is not justification but is based on justification.  This change is what we call sanctification (Romans 6:22)

– Piper, John; When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy; copyright 2004; Crossway Books; Wheaton, Il.; p. 84

Adversity is Meant for our Sanctification

So the discipline of adversity is given to us by God as a means of our sanctification.  Our role in this discipline is to respond to it and to acquiesce to whatever God may be doing, even though a particular instance of adversity makes no sense to us.  As we do this we will see in due time the fruit of the Spirit produced in our lives.

– Bridges, Jerry; The Disciplined of Grace:God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness; NavPress; Colorado Springs; copyright 1994; p. 230