Over the past few months, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to dive deeper into the topic of sanctification in the Christian life. Now, I know most Christians know the gospel message and get very excited when they hear that Christ suffered and died to appease the wrath of God that was supposed to be dealt upon us for our sins. I mean, it’s extremely good news when you know that you are a sinner and that God is absolutely holy. But oftentimes, we praise the message and continue on with our daily lives thinking that we’re all good. When we actually have some work to do.
Titus 2:11-14 gives us a good summation of what our efforts should be focused on:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
I mean, look at that! The work of the gospel includes our training and our purification. We know that we were declared to be justified by Christ’s work, and there is nothing that we can do to add or take away from that. Our standing before God is settled because of the obedient life and death of Christ, and the guarantee that it is accepted by God is demonstrated by Christ’s resurrection.
Yet, the gospel message isn’t here to just make us feel good about ourselves and feel okay when we die. We are also supposed to be trained and purified by the message, and this training is fully worked out by the Holy Spirit within us. However, we can either be actively engaged in the work, or we can give it no thought and suffer with spiritual malnutrition and immaturity our entire Christian lives, bearing very little fruit at all.
…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
So, I’ve been giving this topic a lot of thought and really assessing my life over these past months. I don’t want to be a Christian that just loves Jesus while I bear no kind of fruit any where else in my life. I don’t want to be a Christian that’s always engaging in various kinds of sin and telling other people “You can’t judge me!” just because I refuse to give up practicing my sin. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t want to be like that servant who received a gift and hid it in the ground because he was too lazy to apply some effort and work to get something out of it. I don’t want to be like that same servant who just came up with excuses for why he didn’t do anything at all.
I’m sorry, Christ means way too much to me to just be shiftless and lazy about my Christian life. He lived and died on my behalf, and I owe Him so much more than excuses about why I still do things that I know are wrong and fail to do the things that I know are right. Basically, I want to walk in a manner that is worthy of the calling of being a disciple of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:1).
And in my effort to learn more about what I ought to be doing, I read two great books this summer: The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification by Walter Marshall and The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung. Now Marshall’s book is a great read, but it is an older book (first published in 1692). It is particularly good for people who deal with regular guilt and heaviness over their sinfulness, although they are really children of God. So the book is extremely encouraging, and it constantly points you to the hope and reality of the gospel in your Christian life while you are daily battling sin. You can actually read the book online if you click here.
Kevin DeYoung’s book is just an instant classic for me. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be reading this book at least once a year until I die because it is just that good and just that convicting. If you’ve read my post up until this point, and you’ve asked yourself why in the world is it that important and why you should care….ummmm, you definitely need to get this book! Kevin is an “in your face” kind of writer who promptly gives you a “swift kick in the rear” in terms of convicting you about your attitude and disregard of pursuing sanctification in the first place. It’s just a great book!
So I just want to encourage you to think fully about the gospel. It’s great news for us, but it is also news that tells of an ongoing work that ought to be done within us. I really hope you get your hands on these books as quickly as possible. And consider this final quote from J.C. Ryle:
Sanctification, then, is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith gives to a Christian – He that abideth in Me, and I him, the same bringeth forth much fruit (John 15:5). The branch which bears no fruit is no living branch of the vine. The union with Christ which produces no effect on heart and life is a mere formal union, which is worthless before God. The faith which has not a sanctifying influence on the character is no better than the faith of devils. It is a “dead faith,” because it is alone.