The following is a sermon I listened to this morning on my way to work. If you have ever wondered about sanctification, this sermon should give you much insight into God’s part in our sanctification and our part in it. This sermon was preached by Mike Riccardi of Grace-Life Pulpit on the 19th of May, 2013.
We love the doctrine of justification. Following in the footsteps of Martin Luther and the Reformation, we hail the doctrine of justification as that great doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. It is precious to us. We hold it dear to our hearts, because it captures the very essence of the Gospel of God’s grace to us sinners who know that we can do nothing to earn our acceptance with a holy God. We know that our only hope is to be reckoned righteous on the ground of the perfect, alien righteousness of Christ credited to our account by faith alone, apart from works. We love this doctrine because our goodness and our efforts and our achievements are debased, and Christ is exalted as all in all.
And we also love the doctrine of glorification. We look forward with great joy, eagerness, and anticipation to that day when our struggle with sin will have reached its completion, when we will find the rest and the reward upon which we have steadfastly fixed our hope for all these years. It brings great encouragement and sweetness to our souls to contemplate the day when we will finally see our dear Lord Jesus face to face, when we will finally discover what it means to have unhindered fellowship and communion with the Savior whom we love more than anything or anyone—that day when we will enter in to the fullness of joy and the eternal pleasures that accompany being in His presence (cf. Ps 16:11).
But sometimes the doctrine of sanctification doesn’t fill us with the same sense of wonder and appreciation. That may be because we are quickly reminded of how slowly we are progressing in the process of sanctification. To think of the doctrine of sanctification simply reminds us of what we ought to be but what we’re not.
It also might be because there is a great deal of confusion about the doctrine of sanctification. Christians have long debated what the role of the believer is in progressive sanctification—whether we are to be actively engaged in and pursuing holiness, or whether we are to be passive, waiting faithfully for God to work holiness in us. You have folks, on the one hand, who say things like, “You just do everything you can and leave the rest to God,” as if you’re pretty alright on your own, you just need God to give you a little boost. These are the people with the bumper stickers that say, “God is my co-pilot.” If God is your co-pilot, you are in the wrong seat, my friend. Or sometimes you’ll hear, “Pray like a Calvinist, but work like an Arminian. Pray as if it all depended on God, but work as if it all depended on you.” I think I get what that means, but it’s never a good idea to pretend that something that’s false is true just to achieve a certain result. In fact, I’m not sure I can think of a better recipe for disaster in your pursuit of holiness than to adopt errant theology as the basis for your philosophy of the Christian life.
But on the other hand, you have the quietists who say things like, “Your problem is that you’re trying to live the Christian life. What you really need to do is let Christ live through you. You just need to let go and let God. Stop striving, and just relax.” And so confusion abounds, and in dozens of other ways.
But if there’s one doctrine that we can’t afford to be confused about, it’s the doctrine of sanctification. And that’s because it’s where we all live. All of us who are Christians live in between the time of our past justification and our future glorification, in the present pursuit of the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Listen to the entire sermon by clicking the link below.