Sanctification: Regeneration Perfected

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Regeneration

In our first set of exercises, we began stretching our spiritual muscles as we learned some of the basic principles of Salvation…

We also learned that Salvation is the process by which God redeems lost sinners—those who have been in bondage to the world, the flesh, and the devil since their births; buying their freedom for them through the substitutionary death of Christ on the Cross and thus making it possible for them to be adopted into the family of God as His children.

A person’s Salvation isn’t limited to his just being adopted by God, though; it also involves his being transformed into a true Christ-resembling Child of the Most High.  That’s because, once a person becomes a child of God through the process known as the New Birth, he or she can no longer continue to think, speak, and act like the sinner he or she once was; instead, he or she must learn to think and behave in a manner befitting the son or daughter of a Holy King.  And, this is where Sanctification comes into play.

 

Sanctification

As we discovered in Salvation: What It Is and Why We Need It, Sanctification is the second of the three Stages in Salvation, with the first being Redemption and the last being Glorification; and, that it means…

To make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate;
To purify or free from sin;
To make productive of or conducive to spiritual blessing. 

And, according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, it is something which…

…involves more than a mere moral reformation of character, brought about by the power of the truth:  it is the work of the Holy Spirit bringing the whole nature more and more under the influences of the new gracious principles implanted in the soul in regeneration.  In other words, sanctification is the carrying on to perfection the work begun in regeneration, and it extends to the whole man.[1]
 

The Work of Regeneration

In order to better understand the work being referred to here, we will need to go back to Salvation:  How Do We Get It, where we learned that…

…Regeneration is the act by which our dead spirits are brought back to life again by the Holy Spirit of God…

…and, where we learned that the need for this regeneration goes all the way back to Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden.  For, it was then that their spirits, as well as those of all of their future descendants, died—or, were separated or cut off from God.  As for how this spiritual death impacted them, and us, in practical terms, it completely shut down the communication system God had established between Him and Man; and, it overturned the authority structure He had designed for His entire created world.

System Failure and Structural Collapse

When God created man, He fashioned him with a Spirit, Soul, and Body, so that…

  • Through his Spirit, he could relate to and communicate with God;
  • Through his Body, he could relate to and function in the physical world; and,
  • Through his Soul, consisting of his mind, will, and emotions, he could not only relate to other human beings, but his soul could also serve as the connecting point between his spirit and his body.

When this system was functioning as it should—which was, before the entrance of sin into the world—it meant that…

  • God’s Spirit could speak to man’s spirit, telling him what God wanted him to do;
  • Man’s spirit could relay that message to man’s soul; and,
  • Man’s soul could then direct man’s body to carry out the command it had been given by God…

…and, in this way, the will of God would be carried out on the earth by man.

As for the authority structure that God had devised for His creation, it was ordered along very similar lines—with God at the top of the structure and Man next in authority under Him; then, with Woman, an equal partner with her husband, yet coming under his authority—to be followed lastly by the creatures in the animal world.  Given that this arrangement was one which was ordained by God, it should come as no surprise that in his scheme to overturn it, Satan would come disguised in the form of an animal (a creature at the bottom rung of the ladder) and present himself first to the woman (on the next level up), who would then turn around and entice the man (on the next higher rung) to disobey God.

Unfortunately, and certainly unforeseen by our forbearers, this colossal structural collapse marked the beginning of what would turn out to be mankind’s perpetual rebellion against authority in every form; manifesting itself not only in his rebellion against God’s authority, but also in the rebellion of wives against husbands, children against parents, workers against employers, and the governed against those governing them.  It was a rebellion which also gave rise to an egocentric lust for power which would eventually lead to the commission of every other kind of sin that man could imagine.

This entrance of sin into the world also resulted in the failure of the once ideal system of communication between God and Man.  Instead of the top down system previously described, it became a bottom up one in which man’s flesh, instead of his spirit, began dictating to him what his thoughts, feelings, and actions should be.  That’s because, with the death or separation of man’s spirit from God’s Spirit because of sin, there was no longer any communication between God and man; a situation which left man’s powerful fleshly appetites to determine what he would or would not do in any given situation.  And, this is the way that it has been ever since.

The Apostle James explains the consequences of this system failure in the following way…

…what causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war with you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel (James 4:1-2)…

…each person is tempted when he lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it is conceived gives birth to sin and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:13-15).

The Effects of the Fall
Extending Regeneration to the Whole Man

Since the unregenerate, or…

…the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14)…

…when a person becomes Born Again, it then becomes the work of the Holy Spirit, through the process of Sanctification, to restore what was lost to that person as a result of The Fall and to reprogram him as to the right way to live.  As we have just learned, this means that…

  • His soul will have to be restored to its proper function; and,
  • His inborn tendency to rebel against authority will have to be dealt with and brought under control.

Rebellion to Submission

Although this work is a challenging one, and one taking a lifetime to complete, its success will be insured by the presence of the Holy Spirit who, once a person is regenerated, takes up residence within him.  Working from the inside out, He not only begins teaching this new Child of God the right way to live, but He provides him with the supernatural power needed for him to succeed.  Evidences of this success will become apparent in the life of the believer as…

  • He learns to communicate with God, his Father, through Prayer;
  • His mind is transformed into the mind of Christ through the Study of God’s Word;
  • The character of Christ is formed in him through Testing;
  • The works of Christ are reproduced in his service through the Gifts of the Spirit; and,
  • He learns to successfully wage Spiritual Warfare through his respect for and submission to God’s Authority Structure.

We will learn more about this process of spiritual transformation in our upcoming workout sessions, as we begin the basic exercises in Sanctification dealing with Prayer, the Bible, the Fruit of the Spirit and Testing; with these to be followed later by the more advanced exercises in Service, the Gifts of the Spirit, and Spiritual Warfare.  Before moving on to these, however, we first need to become better acquainted with our Trainer and Coach, the Holy Spirit, whom we will meet when we get together for our next session.  Until then…

…may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Thes. 5:23)

 

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The Sidewalk Prophets remind us that our salvation makes all things new…

 

[1]  Sanctification. Dictionary.com. Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/sanctification (accessed: April 07, 2016).

 

 

Salvation: What It Is and Why We Need It

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When it comes to thinking about Salvation, there seem to be two vastly different approaches to the subject.  Although both of these are very broad generalizations…

  • To the “Unsaved,” Salvation is often regarded as either–
    • an antiquated theological doctrine, designed to rob life of its happiness and any sense of personal fulfillment; or,
    • a religious crutch for those who lack the intelligence, sophistication, attractiveness, or success necessary to do life well on their own; while…
  • To the “Saved,” it is seen merely as the means by which—
    • their sins are forgiven and their lives are made right with God; and,
    • their eternal destination is changed from Hell to Heaven.

Of course, the first approach is completely inaccurate and the second one is woefully incomplete.  So, in an effort to correct the former and complete the latter, let’s begin to stretch our Spiritual understanding as we learn What Salvation Is, and Why We Need It.

Salvation

We All Need to be Rescued by Jesus


What Salvation Is
 

For a definition of Salvation, I prefer the one found in my little Webster’s pocket dictionary which defines Salvation simply as “a saving or a being saved” or as “a person or thing that saves.”  I like this definition because “a saving” implies an act“a being saved” implies a process; and “a person or thing that saves” implies that salvation is not something that we can do for ourselves—it must come from a source outside of us.  Essentially, this is what Biblical Salvation is all about; for, in reality it is…

  • The One-Time Act of faith which makes a person a child of God;
  • The Life-Long Process of spiritual growth which follows; one which transforms the character and behavior of that person into that of a child of God; and,
  • Jesusthe One Outside of Ourselves who does all of the saving.


The One-Time Act of Faith

As simple as this may seem on the surface, please don’t let its simplicity blind you to the real significance of this One-Time Act of Salvation; for it is the only legitimate, divinely-authorized way in which a Holy God takes a Sinner, or a person who was…

…dead in the trespasses and sins in which [he] once walked, following the course of this world…carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and [was] by nature [a child] of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:1-3)…

…and not only adopts him or her into His family as His own child, but also makes that child a Joint-Heir with His only begotten Son, Jesus!  And, it is through this One-Time Act that a person goes from being alienated from God to being accepted by Him; goes from religious slavery to spiritual freedom, from unrighteousness to holiness, and from certain death to life everlasting!  So, just how does all of this happen?  Well, through the three stages of Salvation known as Redemption, Sanctification, and Glorification.


Redemption and Why We Need It 

Since the definition of Redemption is…to pay off, as a debt; to buy back or recover; to ransom or to obtain the release of a captive by paying the demanded price; to restore to favor… 

Redemption for our purposes is the act by which our sin debt is paid; making us righteous in the sight of God, and releasing us from the penalty and power of sin. 

This act is a necessity for us because while God is holy, due to the sin nature we all inherited from Adam and Eve, we are not.  Therefore, before any of us can be reconciled to God and any adoption can take place, something has to be done about the problem of sin in our lives.

The Heart is Desperately Wicked

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34

While most of us are all too quick to deny that any sin problem exists, it is a spiritual reality that from the moment of our births until the moment of our deaths, we are constantly building up a “rap sheet” of offenses against God; that is—through our thoughts, words, or deeds, we are repeatedly violating the laws of God’s righteousness, with these violations all too judiciously being transcribed into our “permanent records.”  This means that we are all lawbreakers from birth, on the run from God, and unaware of the day looming before us when we will be apprehended and called to appear in His court for judgment.

Guilty

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” –Romans 3:23

Sadly, because we don’t realize or accept the fact that we are sinners, or because we think we will be able to appeal to God on the basis of our morality or relatively good works, we mistakenly think that we can safely put this day of reckoning off until after our deaths. But, this is a disastrous decision which will leave us standing before the Righteous Judge of the Universe, alone, guilty, and without any legal representation.  And, once the charges against us have been read—and our appeals of innocence have been proven to be without merit—this Just Judge will have no other choice but to honor the law and sentence us to the death that the law demands—a death which will mean our eternal separation from God and all things holy.

But, there is a way that such a terrible outcome can be avoided. You see, this Righteous Judge is also the God of love, grace, and mercy—the One who was…

… not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9)…

…and because of that, He made a way to provide us with an Advocate, sort of a court appointed attorney, who will plead the cases of all those who will come before Him and acknowledge the crimes for which they are guilty—if they will only do so before they die!

Advocate

Jesus is Our Advocate

This Advocate is Jesus, the Son of God, and He can represent a sinner before God because He is the One who came to earth, lived a sinless life which met the righteous demands of God’s law, and then died an agonizing death on the Cross to pay off the sin debt owed by every human being who has ever lived.  Through the substitution of His death for theirs, deaths which the law calls for, He is able to clear the charges against them and offer them a pardon, without so much as a fine to pay!  Once pardoned, and with their sin records expunged by the blood of Christ, they can stand righteous before God, and are in a position to be legally adopted as His spiritual children!


As for Sanctification

Since the definition for Sanctification is …to set apart as holy; to consecrate, or to devote to sacred use…

…Sanctification, for us, is the process whereby a new child of God is set apart for the sacred or holy service of God.

In reality, this is the life-long schooling in righteousness that every child of God must undergo if he or she is to realize the eternal purpose for which they were created.  It begins at the moment of adoption when the Holy Spirit of God comes to live within the heart of each new believer, and He begins teaching him what it means to be a child of God.  He does this by…

  • Training him in the laws of God, and then empowering him to obey those laws;
  • Reproducing the character of Christ in him through the development of the “fruit of the Spirit”–or the character qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control;
  • Empowering him to carry out the work of Christ through the various “giftings” of service imparted by the very same Spirit;
  • Teaching him how to worship God, and how to overcome His enemies through prevailing prayer and persistent praise; and,
  • Helping him learn to die to the things of the flesh so that he can learn to live by the power of the Spirit.

This training—which we will discuss in greater detail in a later session—is designed to totally transform every child of God, until he thinks, speaks, and acts like Jesus; something which, when completed, will prepare him ultimately for his graduation into the glorious and eternal presence of God, his Father.

Glorification

Glorification: The Final Stage of our Salvation


About Glorification…

Since the definition for Glorification is …to give glory to, to honor; to extol; to praise highly

Glorification is what we will experience when, upon our physical deaths, our earthly bodies are replaced by heavenly or glorified ones, and we are ushered into the presence of God where we will receive the inheritance He has promised to His children.

Then, as the legitimate, blood-bought children of God, we will be recognized and honored in heaven, and share in the same glory that is accorded to Christ.  And, having been prepared and equipped through our earthly training process, we will be ready to move into positions of authority as co-regents, or rulers, with Christ, when He sets up His kingdom, first on earth and later in eternity.

As you can see, Salvation is, in no way, just an antiquated theological doctrine or religious crutch for the needy; neither is it merely about having one’s sins forgiven so he or she can bypass Hell and go to Heaven.  It is the one and only way that we can realize our God-ordained destinies of becoming the Children of God—destinies made possible solely through the sacrificial death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ—and ones which will become realities once we have been Born Again.  

 

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A message worth considering from Francesca Battistelli…

 

 

All Aboard…For Salvation!

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Train conductor2

All Aboard!

Woo-hoo!  The time has finally come for us to embark upon our rocking and rolling trip through the Word of God.  So far, we have gone over our travel tips, and have gotten our itinerary all worked out.  Now, here with our bags packed and our tickets in hand, it is time for us to board the Truth Train and depart for the first stop on our journey, the Salvation Station.

At this point, some of you may be wondering why a stop there is necessary at all.  For those of you traveling in Group #1—those who may have already experienced salvation, or who may have been involved in the life of a church for many years—you may be thinking that you already have a sufficient grasp on the subject, and that a stop there would be a colossal waste of your time.  While for those in Group #2—those traveling with us who may have come from unchurched or secular backgrounds, and who may have either made successes of life on their own, or who may have been taught that, in life, there are no absolutes, that truth is a subjective thing, and that morality is something entirely relative to the situation at hand—you may be thinking to yourselves, “I’ve got it made, what do I need salvation from—or for?”  And, for those traveling in Group #3—those who may be coming from other cultural or religious backgrounds, some which may believe that salvation is something that is only attainable upon death, when your works are measured, and the good ones outweigh the bad ones—you may also be considering a stop at this station to be completely unnecessary.

However, a stop here could…
For those in Group #1:  Make you aware that your present knowledge of salvation is limited; and,  reveal how that knowledge can be greatly expanded, both to your own advantage and to that of the Kingdom of God.
For those in Group #2:  Prove that what you’ve been taught about truth, morality, and the meaning of life is incorrect; and, convince you that you are a sinner; and one who is indeed in need of salvation.
For those in Group #3:  Help you see that your works, no matter how noble or altruistic they may have been, will never be good enough for you to earn your own salvation; and, introduce you to the Person whose one work of atonement is the only one deemed acceptable by God, thus making it the only one capable of securing the salvation that we all need. 

Now, in just the short amount of time that it took to say that, we’ve already reached our first stop; a stop which will prove to be most essential because it is here that we will learn what salvation is, what it does for us, and why we need it.  As for finding out how we get it, that is something that we will discover when we reach the next stop on our tour—the New Birth Station.

Although those of you in Group #1 might prefer a complicated, detailed, or more theological definition of salvation, I think that it would be in the best interests of all who are traveling with us to start with the most basic one possible.  Personally, I like the one I found in my little Webster’s pocket dictionary, for it defines salvation simply as “a saving or a being saved” or as “a person or thing that saves.”  I like these definitions because “a saving” implies an act, “a being saved” implies a process; and “a person or thing that saves” implies that salvation is not something that we can do for ourselves—it is something that must come from a source outside of us.  Essentially, this is what Biblical Salvation is all about:

  • It is about the one-time act of faith that makes a person a child of God;
  • It is about the life-long process of spiritual growth which follows; the one that transforms the character and behavior of that person into that of a child of God; and,
  • It is about Jesus, the One outside of ourselves who will be doing all of the saving.
Salvation

“Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.”–Proverbs 8:33

As simple as all this may seem on the surface, please don’t let the simplicity of it keep you from the realization that SALVATION IS REALLY A BIG DEAL!  In fact, it is the only legitimate, divinely-authorized plan and process by which a Holy God takes a Sinner—that is, someone who was “…dead in the trespasses and sins in which [he] once walked, following the course of this world…carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and [was] by nature [a child] of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:1-3),” and not only adopts him or her into His family as His very own child, but also makes that child a Joint-Heir with His own Son, Jesus!  Wow! Just imagine, going from alienation to acceptance, from slavery to freedom, from unrighteousness to holiness, and from certain death to life everlasting!

And just how does He make this happen?  Through a three stage process that we will come to know as:

  • Salvation, Part I—Which is our Redemption;
  • Salvation, Part II—Which is our Sanctification; and,
  • Salvation, Part III—Which is our Glorification.

About Redemption… 

Since our DOT for Redemption is—to pay off, as a debt; to buy back or recover; to ransom or to obtain the release of a captive by paying the demanded price; to restore to favor—Redemption, for us, is the act by which our sin debt is paid; an act making us righteous in the sight of God, and setting us free from the penalty and power of sin so we can be legally adopted as His children. This act is a necessity for us because, while God is holy, due to the sin nature we all inherited from our first set of parents, Adam and Eve, we are not.  Therefore, before any adoption can take place, something has to be done about the problem of sin in our lives, so that we can be reconciled to God and become holy like Him.

Before the Judge

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27)

While most of us are all too quick to deny that such a problem exists, it is a spiritual reality that from the day of our births to the day of our deaths, we are busy acquiring a “rap sheet” full of offenses against God–that is we, either through our thoughts, words, or deeds, are repeatedly violating the laws of God’s righteousness, violations which are all too judiciously being transcribed into our “permanent records.”  This means that we are all lawbreakers who are on the run from God, totally unaware of the day looming before us when we will be apprehended and called upon to appear in His court for judgment.

Sadly, and all too often, either because we don’t realize or believe we are sinners, or because we think we will be able to appeal to God on the basis of our morality or relatively good works, we mistakenly think it safe to put this day of reckoning off until after our deaths.  But this is a disastrous decision which will leave us standing before the righteous Judge of the universe, alone, guilty, and without any legal representation whatsoever.  And once the charges against us have been read, and our appeals have been proven to be without merit, this Just Judge will have no other choice but to honor the law and sentence us to the death that it demands—a death which will mean our eternal separation from God
and all things holy.

But there is a way that such a terrible outcome can be avoided. You see, this righteous Judge is also the God of love, grace, and mercy—the One who is “… not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9)”—and because of that, He has made a way to provide an Advocate, sort of a court appointed attorney, to plead the cases of all those who will come before Him and acknowledge the crimes of which they are guilty—if they will do so before they die!  This Advocate is Jesus, the Son of God, and He can represent a sinner before God because He came to earth, lived a sinless life that met the righteous demands of God’s law, and then died an agonizing death on the Cross in order to pay off the sin debt owed by every human being who has ever lived.  Through the substitution of His death for their deaths, which the law calls for, He is able to clear the charges against them and to offer them a pardon, without so much as even a fine to pay!  Once pardoned, and with their sin records  expunged by the blood of Christ, they can stand righteous before God, and then can be legally adopted as His spiritual children!

Salvation Offer

Take Advantage of This Offer While You Can

About Sanctification…

Since our Dot for Sanctification is—to set apart as holy; to consecrate, or to devote to sacred use—Sanctification, for us, is the process whereby a new child of God is set apart for the sacred or holy service of God.  In reality, this is the life-long schooling in righteousness that every child of God must undergo if he or she is to realize the eternal purpose for which they were created.  It begins at the moment of adoption when the Holy Spirit of God comes to live within the heart of each new child, and He begins to teach him what it means to be a child of God.  He does this by:

  • Training him in the laws of God, and then empowering him to obey those laws;
  • Reproducing the character of Christ in him through the development of the “fruit of the Spirit”–or the character qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control;
  • Empowering him to carry out the work of Christ through the various “giftings” of service imparted by the very same Spirit;
  • Teaching him how to worship God, and how to overcome His enemies through prevailing prayer and persistent praise; and,
  • Helping him learn to die to the things of the flesh so that he can learn to live by the power of the Spirit.

This training is designed to totally transform every child of God, until he thinks, speaks, and acts like Jesus; and which, when completed, will prepare him ultimately for his graduation into the glorious and eternal presence of God, his Father.

About Glorification…

Since our Dot for Glorification is—to give glory to, to honor; to extol; to praise highly—Glorification is what we will experience when, upon our physical deaths, our earthly bodies are replaced by heavenly or glorified ones, and we are ushered into the presence of God where we will receive the inheritance He has promised to His children.  As the legitimate, blood-bought children of God, we will be recognized and honored in heaven, and share in the same glory that is accorded to Christ.  Plus, having been prepared and equipped through our earthly training process, we will be ready to move into positions of authority as co-regents, or rulers, with Christ, when He sets up His kingdom, first on earth and later in eternity.

WOW!  As you can see, SALVATION REALLY IS A BIG DEAL—in fact, it is the BIGGEST and the BEST DEAL ever to be offered!  So, how do we go about taking advantage of such  a great deal?  Well, that is something we will find out about at our next stop, where we will learn all about the New Birth.  Until then, though, it is back on the train for everyone–so all aboard!

 

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Laura Story reminds us of “What A Savior” we have…