1 Thess 5:23-28
The Christian life is a hard life with many ups and downs. There are times of great blessings and times of great disappointments, whether it’s towards us or by us. There are so many things we want to do better for the glory of His name, but fall short doing them at times. There are so many things in the bible to remember or understand that many of us have a hard time knowing where to start. We sometimes wish that the Christian life had an auto pilot button and all we had to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. But that’s not so! Following Christ is not simple saying your prayers and reading a few scriptures only to sit back and watch your faith fly itself. As on writer said “you don’t soar past problems, cruise through relationships and then glide effortlessly into spiritual maturity. Christianity requires hard work. In fact, Jesus made no secret of the level of commitment required to take this journey.” Listen to what Jesus said “"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:2-33
This young church in Thessalonica has demonstrated for us what it means to be committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. If we’re His, our lives will reflect our commitment to Him. Our lives are hidden in Christ and He will fulfill His purposes through His sanctifying work. Paul’s final exhortation in his letter is summed up in his closing prayer. The only way we will ever have a healthy church. The only way we will ever have a healthy Christina life. The only way we can put these truths into practice fully and successfully is in the completing work of Christ in our lives. Remember Paul said …… (v12-v22) This is only possible through the sanctifying work of God in our lives through the gospel. Not only did Jesus save us and restore our broken relationships with God the Father. He is endless in His perfecting work in our lives. Though we are sinners saved by grace….we are righteous in the eyes of Father.....Because, Jesus is still saving and transforming each and everyone one of God’s elect children by His mercy and grace. See, the gospel doesn’t just save you were you’re at and leave you helpless and aimlessly wandering alone in this fallen world. He saves you, and He keeps you, as He directs you home into His glory. Paul's emphasizes that it is God Who sanctifies us ("Himself sanctifies you"), accomplishing His work in us.
The source of our sanctification is God Himself. Look what Paul writes in the closing of prayer! (V23) “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely” First we need to understand this word “sanctify”
“Sanctify” means “to set apart” or “separate” from sin to holiness. See, sanctification is the ongoing, the continual process by which God increasingly sets His children apart from sin and He directs us in the path of holy living. Sin always displeases the heart of God, but walking in holiness and seeking God’s will for our lives, pleases Him. Sanctification is not a new word to God’s children, but an old own! “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Gen 2:3. In the Book of Job we read “So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all.” Job 1:5. Prior to God giving Moses the Ten Commandments, He set Israel as a holy nation. “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation….." Exo 19:5-6. The Puritan Thomas Watson stated it this way, '[Sanctification] is a principle of grace savingly wrought, whereby the heart becomes holy, and is made after God’s own heart. A sanctified person bears not only God’s name, but His image”
Our sanctification has 3 parts to it!
Positional sanctification- this came when God took your wretched disposition and saved and secured you in the Son through the gospel. In Heb 10:10 we read “….we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Ultimate sanctification- this is when God makes believers sinless in body and spirit forever in Heaven. Paul said in Phil 3:20-21 “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
Progressive sanctification- this is the process the Christian lives between our position and our ultimate sanctification. This is the here and now! The mundane of life, as we await His return or He calls us home. The time where God transforms and molds you into the image of His Son. Removing the things you once loved and replacing it with His purpose that bring Him glory in your life. Progressive sanctification is our pursuit of holiness through the Spirit. As Paul said so eloquently “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” 2 Cor 3:18. See sanctification is not vaccination shot, a swallowing of miracle pill or a free ride into the glorious presence of God. It’s an ongoing work that God does in the life of you and me and we desperately need this work to be done in our lives. It’s so ongoing …..Paul says God will bring it to “completion!”
“Completion” this means “entirely” In other words, He will complete your sanctification to the very end…..He will finish it! As Paul “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6. Do you see the confidence that Paul has in the God of the Universe? This means all (every) aspects of your Christian life now and forever will be changed and completed for your good and His glory. Nothing will be left unaffected by God’s mighty power in your life. Even the things that hold or cause you stumble daily; the things you pray wouldn’t plague your life anymore. Even in our defeat….. we find comfort and victory, because God is the One who sanctifies us. Now, that doesn’t give us license to sin habitually and do whatever we want…..….I’m talking about the things that cause us to stumble, the things we hate in our lives.
- The angry outburst moment when things don’t go your way.
- The moment of pride and self-righteousness when we’re confronted by someone.
- The hate of correction when you’re in the wrong and bitterness you have towards someone when that happens.
- The disobedient or rebellious action you have towards your parents because you don’t want to do something they’ve requested.
- The unloving comment or the sarcastic comment you make towards your spouse.
- The laziness in not wanting to go to church today or open His word to find rest for your weary and frightened soul.
The lists is endless and discouraging at times, but know this, we have a God in Heaven who will change those things one by one when we hand it over or submit to His perfect will for our lives. See the God is the one who saves, and transforms and according to Paul, He will finish it. Not just parts of you but all of you…….Look at (vb23) “spirit and soul and body” What is Paul saying? God not only sanctifies the immaterial part of the believer, but also the material part as well. Nothing in your life is left out of God’s mercy and grace! God takes the whole person and sanctifies him or her completely. God is not an angry distant deity who is looking to find ways to trip you up and laughs when you fall into sin. He is very concerned and cares about every part of your being. See, the Thessalonians had come to know God as a loving and compassionate Father who is in love with His adopted children. Chuck Swindoll said this about this portion of scripture “Our God has compassion filling His eyes because His wrath has been appeased at the cross. We don’t have to drag our good deeds before Him like sacrificial offerings, hoping He’s in a good mood that day. He demands nothing more of us for salvation than that we receive His love and forgiveness as a gift. Christ’s blood has done the work of atonement, and God is satisfied.” That’s why Paul said God is the “God of peace” who is the source of our peace. He is a God who set you apart unto holy living and He does this by taking all of you, as He does His perfect work in your life.
Look what Paul says next! By saving and sanctifying your material and immaterial being, He will do something amazing! He will keep you “blameless” at His coming. “Keep” means to preserve….God will keep you on the path of holiness. It conveys the sense of protecting, watching over and guarding something which is in one’s possession. As Jude wrote “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,” Jude 24
“blameless” means irreproachably, faultlessly. The noun describes that which is without defect or blemish and thus describes not being able to find fault in someone or something. This is amazing isn’t it? It’s one thing to be saved from the wrath of God, but it’s completely remarkable for Him to call or present me blameless. THIS IS A HUMBLING THOUGHT. Especially when we battle with sin each and every day! This is very comforting and that’s why Paul is telling this young in the faith church to continue as you are doing! The mark of a healthy church is a saved church that God is working and restoring for His glory on earth and in Heaven and He will present His bride blameless at His coming. As Paul said in the beginning of his letter “for we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.” 1:4. He has set you apart and He has left us with these comforting words! “…He will surely do it.” God has the power to save you from His wrath. God has the power to keep you daily…minute by minute. God has the power to guarantee our ultimate sanctification. As Paul wrote “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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.” Rom 8:28-30
This is the God whom Paul is telling us about! This is the God who we celebrate and praise with our lips and our lives. So, why is this promise important for Paul to remind this young, vibrant church that God is the one who starts and keeps His children? Because it reminds us that no matter how much we fail at times trying to live our lives for the glory of His name. He will continue to break, mold and shape us into His glorious presence. Even when we feel once again…… I’ve failed Him. As the story of a man who thought God would never love him again after what he did……….and it took a young lady to remind him of God’s sanctifying merciful grace in the lives of God’s elect children. “Robert Robinson had been saved out of a uncontrolled life of sin through George Whitefield's ministry in England. Shortly after that, at the age of twenty-three, Robinson wrote the hymn "Come, Thou Fount." Sadly, Robinson wandered far and, like the Prodigal Son, journeyed into the distant country of carnality. Until one day he was traveling by stagecoach and sitting beside a young woman engrossed in her book. She ran across a verse she thought was beautiful and asked him what he thought of it. "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love." Bursting into tears, Robinson said, "Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then. The woman suddenly understood. “You also wrote, ‘Here’s my heart, O take and seal it.’ Mr Robinson. It’s not too late.” In that moment he turned his heart back to God and walked with him the rest of his days."
We need to understand! God is the one who saves, the one who sanctifies, the one who keeps and the one who glorifies these fallen broken bodies. He is the one who restores my soul every single day and He does this without hesitation or dropping an ounce of sweat. He does this because Jesus saves to the uttermost parts and He will keep those who are his. As Paul said (read v23-v28). Remind each other of this truth and all of God’s children and live your lives by submitting with adoration and praise to the only one who has the power to change and keep your soul forever. Love the church and the family of God. The mark, the evidence of a healthy church is God sanctifying power as He uses us for His glory and the gospel.