by Mike Ratliff
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:12-14 ESV)
I had a very insightful discussion today. The person with whom I was conversing was curious about why I was “so negative” about Barack Obama. She was quite excited about him becoming the US President. I first mentioned his economic plan of increasing deficit spending by reducing taxes and increasing Government spending. She looked at me as if I was a cretin. She informed me that all of the Nobel Prize winners in economics were applauding his plan. I then said that I had a minor in Economics and had taken some Master level classes in it as well and that deficit spending by a Government is not the panacea that most people think it is and can cause the Dollar to become valueless. It actually takes money away from future generations who will have to deal with a huge national debt. She then said that that was what FDR did to end the Great Depression. I then told her that the Great Depression did not end until WWII started. The war caused it to end. All FDR’s programs did was to give help to some. However, I then said that my real problem with Mr. Obama and his administration was their focus on taking away all restrictions on abortion as well as promoting their homosexual agenda along with veiled threats of enforcing hate crimes against those who preach against these things. She then told me that she did not believe that he would do any of that and besides, the economy was far more important to her than what the Bible said about those things.
The Liberals with whom I work are overjoyed with what is going on in Washington. Some of their faces have a glow about them as they walk the halls. They also have a permanent smile to go with it. They are also deliberately deaf to the truth. Have they been deceived? I also heard a bit on the radio as I drove home from work today about Bill Maher’s crusade to “harpoon” all religion. He especially hates Christianity. He considers it the primary cause of all of the earth’s problems. His devaluing of Christianity seems to be just another example of the condescending attitude I experienced during that discussion earlier today. No matter how firm we are when we tell the truth to them, if God does not open their hard hearts they will not hear it.
What I have been trying to get my coworker to understand is that there is a vast difference between genuine Christianity and that old form that she grew up with in Europe that is all about religiosity instead of what we teach here, which is that genuine believers are new creations and are in the midst of God’s plan of sanctification for them until He takes them home. They have a living faith and the Holy Spirit who is their power source. According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q. 35), sanctification is “the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”
Sanctification is a continuing change, which is worked by God in genuine believers. The result of this is that they are made more and more free from sinful habits as Christlike affections, dispositions, and virtues are formed in them. Of course, we must understand that this in no way totally eradicates all sin from the Christian immediately. However, it is far more than a force that merely restrains or represses sin without progressively mortifying it. No, Sanctification is the term that describes real transformation of the genuine Christian and not just an outer appearance of godliness.
The word Sanctify in the New Testament is the Greek word ἁγιάζω or hagiazō. This verb means “to hallow or to be holy.” This is God’s work in those He saves. Prior to our salvation, all of us are spiritually filthy. When God begins this sanctification process, He is actually removing us or separating us from fellowship with the world. All Christians are called to not love the world and this becomes more and more true in them as their fellowship with God grows while their fellowship with the world dies away. This is how God sanctifies His people and conforms them to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29.) This amounts to a moral renovation, which flows from the work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13; 12:1,2; 1 Corinthians 6:11, 19, 20; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:22-24; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 13:20,21). This is God calling His children to holiness while graciously giving them what He commands (1 Thessalonians 4:4; 5:23).
We talk a great deal here about regeneration. All genuine Christians are regenerate. They are New Creations. Regeneration is birth while Sanctification is growth. As New Creations believers receive at their new birth from God desires that were non-existent before including desires for God, for holiness, and to be the cause of bringing glory to His name. They also deeply desire fellowship with God through prayer and worship. They also desire to love and help others. God implants these at salvation. They are grown through the work of the Holy Spirit according to God’s purpose. This enables Christians to fulfill these godly desires (Philippians 2:12, 13). As they mature, Christians become more and more Christlike. Christ’s character becomes more and more manifest in them through the fruit of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 4:19; 5:22-25).
Regeneration, like baptism by the Holy Spirit, takes place in a moment at salvation. In regeneration, the believer is actually brought from spiritual death unto life. This is God’s work exclusively. Our sanctification is an ongoing process depending upon God’s continual work in us. It consists of our seemingly never-ending struggle against sin. We are genuinely sanctified as we seek to obey God in our repentance fully dependent on God (2 Corinthians 7:1; Philippians 3:10-14; Hebrews 12:14). Never forget my brethren that we cannot do good works without our Lord’s enablement, which He is ready to give in order to strengthen us so we are able to abide in Him by asking for His help in all we do (Colossians 1:11; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:7; 2:1).
My brethren, our sanctification is the process through which our gracious God grows our Lord’s character in us over time. A huge part of this is our struggle with sin. We err when we try to do this without our Lord’s help. In fact, we are not abiding at the level we need to if we try to be self-sufficient in this. Remember, we did not save ourselves nor can we sanctify ourselves.
I am convinced that how we deal with the Obama administration during this time is a huge part of our sanctification. We must balance out what we are commanded to do in that we must be good citizens, but we must also be obedient to God in all things. Therefore, when our government attempts to enforce unrighteousness upon us we have no choice except to take a stand in obedience to God. This is exactly the opposite of my friend’s remark above about caring far more about the economy than what the Bible has to say about homosexuality and the murder of unborn babies. Let us seek the Lord in prayer for wisdom, discernment, and direction. We cannot compromise my brethren.
Soli Deo Gloria!