Let Us Reason Together Part 18 – God Sanctifies all whom He Justifies

by Mike Ratliff

Pe. Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Redeem me from man's oppression, that I may keep your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes. My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law. (Psalms 119:129-136)

Many "evangelists" in our Western culture preach a gospel of Easy-Believism. Their "gospel" is one of temporal focus. This "Easy-Believism gospel" draws those who want to claim salvation, but do not intend to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ except in lip service only. This "cheap grace gospel" does not preach the need to repent because sin is never an issue. The pastors and teachers of this "cheap grace gospel" advise those who suffer from a guilty conscience to ignore it because guilt is nothing more than a holdover from listening to too many hell-fire and brimstone preachers. Since sin is not a problem, there is little, if any, emphasis on sanctification. Why bother since all who believe in Jesus are going to Heaven? The message coming from the pulpit is God loves us just the way we are so enjoy life. Do not worry about that repentance stuff. That will just make you feel guilty again. All that justification and sanctification stuff is for theologians. Just remember to tithe as God makes you rich.

The word gospel is Greek for "Good News." The good news of the gospel is Jesus Christ paid the price for the sins of His elect. Salvation is for those whom God draws to believe on Jesus via "costly grace." Salvation is a free, but those who are truly His give their lives to their Lord as living sacrifices. (Romans 12:1) That means living their rest of their lives as His disciples. Jesus bought them with the price of His blood. He did not go to the cross to save people who refuse to repent.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:8-15)

Those whom Jesus bought with His blood must also repent and live lives that glorify Him. Once the Holy Spirit regenerates the heart of the new believer, he or she does indeed repent and turn to Christ for salvation. At that moment, God the Father justifies that believer then adopts him or her into the family of God.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

Does this sound like Easy-Believism to you? Salvation is necessary because all descendants of Adam are lost in their sins and cannot save themselves. (Romans 3) Without this salvation all are lost, forever cutoff from God. The gospel is very good news to those whom God foreknew, predestined and called to believe. At the moment of the effectual call, the sinner now has the ability to repent and believe and does so. As the sinner repents, God the Father justifies, adopts, and sanctifies him or her. Glorification awaits them in Heaven in the ultimate fulfillment of predestination.

Justification is a work by God alone to declare the sinner righteous according the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Grace is amazing. All whom God justifies are adopted and sanctified. Sanctification is a cooperative work between God and the Born Again nature of the believer. This process will go on for the rest of the believer's physical life. The believer's cooperation with this process is what we have been referring to throughout this book as walking the Walk by Faith. The more we cooperate the more mature we become and thereby walk the Walk by Faith effectively. However, we may not cooperate as we should which will cause our spiritual maturation to stagnate.

I laid out this condensed version of the "Ordo Salutis" to introduce the next stanza we will look at in Psalm 119 entitled, "Pe." The first line in this stanza is, "Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them." As the Holy Spirit regenerates the heart of the sinner so he or she can repent and believe He takes up residence there. Spiritual growth from new birth to mature Christian is not instantaneous. The ongoing sanctification process is a maturing work that will change the heart of the believer from hardheartedness to tenderheartedness by softening and cutting away the layers of callousness separating the conscience from the soul. At each step of submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ by believing God and stepping out on faith the Lord cuts away more and more of the callousness. This opens up the soul to God's value system residing in the conscience.

One of the changes this process accomplishes in the heart of the believer is a love for the Word of God. God does this because He uses His Word to accomplish much of His sanctifying work.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

As we study and meditate on the Word of God, the Holy Spirit does His sanctifying work in our hearts. If we neglect scripture memorization and meditation, we cut ourselves off from a tremendously edifying blessing. The post-modern Western Church is spiritually immature because its Bible knowledge is shallow if not nearly nonexistent.

The second line in this stanza is, "The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple." Is there a lack of godly wisdom in the majority of what we call the Western Church? Much of what I see in Christian bookstores is geared to feed the natural Man not the spiritual Man. Of course, the spiritually shallow Soul-led believers gobble them up. Sadly, after a short period those self-help books are passé and become the latest Christian fad that has run its course. Then, someone must come up with the next thing that is all the rage within our churches. Those who spew these things out are guilty of entertaining the goats instead of feeding the sheep.

Godly wisdom comes from God not from the doctrines of men and devils. If we need His wisdom, where do we start?

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

When we ask God for wisdom, where does He lead, guide, and direct our hearts to pursue it? In v130, we read that the psalmist knows what the Word of God does for our hearts. The more scripture we have internalized the quicker this process will be. As we find ourselves in these situations where we must seek the Lord's wisdom it should be obvious we are in the midst of a God designed test or trial. These tests and trials are the circumstances God uses to grow us spiritually. Sanctification can be quite painful sometimes especially where we must humble ourselves. These circumstances will always seem costly to the immature believer because they are still struggling with pride issues much more than the more mature believers are. As we grow in grace, our hearts become more and more tender. Pride cannot grow in a tender heart. It thrives only in the hard, rocky, and sour soil of the hard heart. Sanctification removes what is not of God from our hearts and replaces it with godly treasure such as the fruit of the spirit. Christ-likeness is the goal. (Romans 8:29) Bible knowledge must become deep so Christ-likeness will develop in our hearts. As God matures us unto Christ-likeness, He will also give us an abiding hunger and thirst for righteousness along with a deep love for His Word. We see this in the third line in this stanza, which is, "I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments." The Soul-led believer does not have this overwhelming love for the things of God because he or she is completely self-focused. When God is ready to mature them, He will draw them into the processes that will accomplish it. He will give them a hunger and desperation for holiness and maturity. If they pursue God obediently, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, He will bless them with more and more hunger and thirst for Him.

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)

Yes, as we pursue God in our thirst and hunger for His righteousness we will be satisfied. This satisfaction is fulfillment. We do not experience this once and that is it. Instead, God will continually draw us to go deeper and deeper with Him each time. This will build more and more hunger and thirst for Him. We do not develop this hunger and thirst ourselves. He gives it to us.

As we grow in grace, God kicks our old support systems out from under us. What used to look steady and secure is now rickety and unsure. We are being lead to trust Him alone for our fulfillment and security. Old comfortable religious beliefs and doctrines of men no longer work. God's truth comes hard upon them and we are dragged kicking and screaming into its light. Suddenly, God's light shines into proper doctrine which most people see as old fashioned and risky, but God gives us the wisdom and insight to grasp them and see that God's ways are not our ways. Salvation is all by and through Him and all for His glory. Christianity is for our edification and His glory foremost. As we mature, God will direct our paths into the proper understanding of Him and His ways. Sanctification is the process whereby God takes away our self-imposed spiritual blindness and deafness as He gives us eyes to see and ears to hear the truth. The catch is that we must be willing and obedient enough to follow Him down the path of discovery as He leads us into the Valley of Humiliation. For it is when our pride is on the ash heap that we can see and hear the truth. We must eradicate self-confidence through the mortification of our sin nature. God's wisdom is apparent to us only to the extent we are humble and Spirit-led. If we allow self-confidence to drive us we immediately stop being humble. Our confidence must be 100% in Christ and 0% in us for us to be able to hear Him effectively. However, let us be honest. If we are "lucky," we are 50% in Christ and 50% in us. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we must admit we are walking through this life in complete self-dependence as we call on Him for help only when we come to the end of our capabilities. This should not be. We must resolve in our hearts to put ourselves in position to hear Him so He can change us.

The psalmist understood this. The fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh lines in this stanza are, "Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Redeem me from man's oppression, that I may keep your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes." The disciple who is committed to personal holiness has it right. If they believe they are able to do that by and through self-will and determination, failure awaits though. In addition, that in no way glorifies God. However, as we determine we cannot walk in the spirit by trying hard to be godly we make the first step in the right direction. The Spirit-led walk is empowered by the Holy Spirit as we focus our hearts on God and His glory. We must never stop learning what He directs us to learn. We must repent of whatever He shows us. We must walk in all humility with a complete lack of self-protection. This is impossible for us unless we are Spirit-led.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-25)

If we cooperate with God as He takes us through the sanctification processes He lays out for us, we will grow and mature in grace to the point we will walk through life consciously within His grace. As we stray into any of those ugly fleshly pursuits we see in the passage above God will draw us back to Him. If we refuse to obey that call, we will suffer a hardening of our hearts. Repentance is inevitable, but the longer we stray the harder it will be. Not only that, but we will lose precious time in our spiritual growth because we are backsliding when we are not growing.

The eighth line in this stanza is, "My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law." As we mature, our love for God grows continuously. When we are God focused like that, we also take on His values. After all, they are resident in our consciences and the more mature we become the more apparent those values are to our souls. As we walk through our lives in this mode, the desires of our hearts match His. What hurts Him hurts us. What delights Him delights us. What angers Him angers us. You get the idea. When the ungodly trample all over God's law, it is a hateful thing, but when the Soul-led Christian does it, it is a hurtful thing. When we see the deceived Church spewing out its humanistic gospel as hordes of deceived people flock to edify themselves we should shed streams of tears.

God's law, the moral law, is still very much in effect. It reveals God and His standards and ways to us. Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law in Himself, but the Ten Commandments will stand forever. When we see people who call themselves Christians belittling sin by saying repentance is not necessary we should wear sackcloth and sit among the ashes. We should tear our clothes, pull out our hair and beards, and sit appalled all day like Ezra when he found out about the apostasy of the people upon coming to Jerusalem. Why? If the apostasy of the Church does not offend us then we are in serious trouble because it most definitely offends God. We must pray for a Great Awakening to come upon us. We must pray for God to raise up the Christian leaders to preach the truth in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church must refocus back to God and His glory.

Oh Lord God, how can you stand us? We have sinned, Oh Lord. We have taken your wonderful good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and turned it into something Man does instead of a gracious gift from You. Please forgive us Lord. Please raise up prophets amongst us who will preach and teach the truth in the power of the Holy Spirit. Wake us up Lord. All of your glory Lord—Amen

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

12 thoughts on “Let Us Reason Together Part 18 – God Sanctifies all whom He Justifies

  1. Mike stated, “Pride cannot grow in a tender heart. It thrives only in the hard, rocky, and sour soil of the hard heart.”

    Mike this is an excellent obserbvation! A broken and contrite heart is the heart that God is seeking. A humble heart places us in the posture that is required to hear God.

    Mike stated, “This should not be. We must resolve in our hearts to put ourselves in position to hear Him so He can change us.”

    Oh how true this is. We must mortify the flesh….pull out each sin by the roots….as deeply as they go. And as you have so effectively said, this is ALL of God. ( I love Romans 8!)

    Mike states, “The Spirit-led walk is empowered by the Holy Spirit as we focus our hearts on God and His glory. We must never stop learning what He directs us to learn. We must repent of whatever He shows us. We must walk in all humility with a complete lack of self-protection. This is impossible for us unless we are Spirit-led.”

    Again….Execllent!

    As we REST in the work of Christ, believing that Christ has paid the penalty for our sin, and has set us FREE from it. We also understand that the same power that resurrected Christ from the dead is now in us, and we have POWER over sin. When we believe that Christ is enough! We don’t need our way. We don’t have to be defended. We don’t have to have others fill us. We can love. We can forgive. Christ has and is everything. He is life itself. Then and only then is God truly glorified in the believer.

    “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” John Piper, Desiring God Ministries

    Mike, thank you again for taking time to share your heart. I am sure that God will use this post to edify the saints, and spur them on to good works, based on the justification through Christ! Bless you!

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  2. Thank you bruesedreed. Somehow it is different when I read those excerpts in the context of your analysis than when I read them from my manuscript. Your analysis tells me that this is where you live. I do as well, but I struggle to stay there. That old sin nature of mine wants to be self-oriented, self-protective and self-focused. Pride wants me to harden up my heart. However, God is hard at work reminding me of my commitment to live for His glory alone.

    There are times that I get discourged that few people read what I write and publishers aren’t interested, but then I get a comment like this and it makes it all worth it. I am positive that God directed you to read this post and write that comment. Let’s pray that others will read not only what I have written, but your wonderful comment as well.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  3. Mike,
    I must respond to your comment, because I do not live there. At least not continually as I should and desire to. I do live there more than I did ten years ago, and certainly way more than I did 20 years ago when God saved me. I think young hearts must grow to understand these truths. We hear the Word…and the elect certainly believe and begin to attempt to walk by faith. But so often our sin is unseen to us. For me I was blind to the roots of my sins. I clearly saw the symptoms. You know, I saw the out burst of anger, or the ungodly speech. I knew I strggled with loving my family. I even thought I I had some terrific understand about forgiveness, because of some battles I had faced at that time. So you see, I saw the symptoms….but I was completely oblivious to the root.

    I now understand that every single one of those sins has the ROOT SIN OF UNBELIEF. And one of my greatest besetting sins is fear of man. I have been through some gut wrenching experiences to enable this stubborn and willful heart to see this. After God graciously shows us our sins, even if it takes years, then and only then can we repent and walk by faith. And lest anyone ever think that this is easy. It is not. It feels like death, because it is death of self. And it is impossible without God’s grace, which enables us to move. The Spirit is the energy for the work of sanctification in us. He is the agent that enables us to walk the life of faith and live unto Christ. And when the opportunity comes for me to SEE my sin, even though is is painful, I should rejoice because this is a gift that is necessary for me to be sanctified.

    Now, there is something that I have not mentioned that is absolutely imperative in this whole process. TRUTH!!! I must know and believe TRUTH. This is why it is so imperative for us to be in the Word! With out the Word it is impossible for us to see our sin. Seeing our sin will only produce a fleshy drive to do better, or obey the law next time. This is pride in a different form. I have been here way more than I would like to admit. It is EASIER to think that somehow I will just TRY HARDER. I will TAME this flesh…and make it OBEY. This is UNBELIEF on several levels. It is a complete misunderstanding of the Gospel, which is to produce a heart that RESTS.

    The missing link in that attempt to forsake sin and be sanctified is this. After God graciously opens my eyes to sin, I must remember the gospel and believe! We are sanctified the same way we are saved….by believing the gospel. As I see my sin instead of wallowing in self pity, or deciding to over come it in my own strength, I must humbly admit to God that I am helpless in forsaking this sin, and remind my self that Jesus has defeated the power of sin in me. This is all because of His work, living a perfect righteousness, and dying a sacrificial death, on my behalf. He did this for my sanctification. I remind my self that God has given me the Spirit, the same power that resurrected Christ from the grave. Can you imagine, the resurrection power is unleashed in our hearts to over come sin in our lives!?! I REST in that work, believing that Christ is enough. His work on Calvary was enough to give me a standing before God. His work was enough to defeat the sin that has bound me. When I believe and begin to walk by faith, the sanctification process continues. The Gospel has its effectual work in my heart and I begin to recognize the fruit of the Spirit. (And amazingly this is furthering the Kindgom…which is one of our first calls…but that is for another time.)

    So you see, I MUST continually preach the gospel to my self. This is so very important. So many miss this. But it is imperative for us to truly REST in the Work of Christ.

    Did not mean to go on so, Mike. I exort you to “not grow weary in doing good, for in due time you will reap, if you faint not.” Your posts are clearly FULL of truth. I guess you struggle as my husband does, in that you do not “SEE” the fruit of your efforts. Remember the Word of God will NOT return void. I can tell you this. Your post and blog is a tremendous encouragement to me. Some of the very wording you use, I use almost verbatim. Strange huh?…as I have never met you. But this I take, is evidence of the Sprit which leads us into all truth.

    Thank you!

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  4. brusedreed,

    Your comment left me with chill bumps running up and down my back and arms and tears in my eyes. Your process is THE process God directed me to write about back in 2004. I have kept it up, but it just seems that most believers have little interest in it. However, there are the few who do. When those few get this message it is awesome to observe. Just like you and me they start mortifying their sins by uprooting them via God's grace. Dying to self is very painful, yet the most peaceful and fulfilling thing we do. Why? Our hearts become full of His grace, peace and joy. We may be suffereing big time on the flesh side of things, but at total peace with God in our hearts. I believe John Bunyan called this our Valley of Humiliation. I live in it, but my flesh wants out. It is a constant battle. That is what the full armor of God for. To acquire this armor and use it correctly requires what you said in your comment, we must stay in the Word, get the Word in us and live it out via the Grace of God. Prayer permeates the entire process.

    I am convinced that the lack of visible fruit from this is God's doing. In that I have peace. The message is for the remnant who will hear. It is for the few who are on the narrow path. There is no way to go on this pilgrimage without great sacrifice. In our day an time, most believers I know aren't willing to do that.

    I was going through a great deal of temptation yesterday to simply quit. This is how I handled it. I have learned to analyze the nature of the "voice." I ask, "Is this how God would speak to me?" Nope! So, I go to God in prayer and seek wisdom and knowledge. Quitting sounds so peaceful and less stressful! However, God knows what he is doing. Right in the middle of that I got your first comment and that prayer request. Then I knew I was going to rebuke that voice and move forward with my savior with my hand on the plough.

    How does it feel to be an instrument for God's glory bruisedreed?

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  5. Tremendously humbled. May he continue to increase and I decrease!

    Heb 10:22-25 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

    To God be ALL the Glory!

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  6. Good post, Mr. Ratliff. God does work sanctification in us. He will see the work He has begun through to completion. What a great piece of hope God gives us with that fact!

    “As we mature, God will direct our paths into the proper understanding of Him and His ways. Sanctification is the process whereby God takes away our self-imposed spiritual blindness and deafness as He gives us eyes to see and ears to hear the truth. The catch is that we must be willing and obedient enough to follow Him down the path of discovery as He leads us into the Valley of Humiliation.”

    The Valley of Humiliation. Just as God made Christian stronger and stronger and more and more dependant on Him through the journey of life in the Pilgrim’s Progress, so He does to us. What a change there is from the man who can hardly make it through the Slough of Despond to the man who is freed from Doubting Castle by the key of Promise! Christian does not doubt when he stands at the river of death – trusting God, he wades right in.

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  7. Thanks!

    Your words show a keen insight into our spiritual maturity process. The Pilgrim’s Progress is probably my favorite book after the Bible. I often wonder how Bunyan could come up with such a insightful allegory that each of us can see ourself in those different levels of maturity.

    Our sanctification does require our cooperation. We go easy or we can go hard. 🙂 I think I prefer to cooperate now. Running from God only prolongs the time in the Valley.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  8. Hello Mike,

    Love your post and your insight. The “belief” of cheap gracers is less profitable than the belief of devils, for at least their belief causes them to tremble.

    Keep up the good work.

    PL

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