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“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sanctification the work of a lifetime

“Sanctification is the work of a lifetime.” Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 65.

There are a few common Ellen G. Whiteisms that remained strong through the decades after her passing. And this was one of them.

“The germination of the seed represents the beginning of spiritual life, and the development of the plant is a beautiful figure of Christian growth. As in nature, so in grace; there can be no life without growth. The plant must either grow or die. As its growth is silent and imperceptible, but continuous, so is the development of the Christian life. At every stage of development our life may be perfect; yet if God’s purpose for us is fulfilled, there will be continual advancement. Sanctification is the work of a lifetime. As our opportunities multiply, our experience will enlarge, and our knowledge increase. We shall become strong to bear responsibility, and our maturity will be in proportion to our privileges.” Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 65.

Sanctification is not the work of a moment, an hour, a day, but of a lifetime. It is not gained by a happy flight of feeling, but is the result of constantly dying to sin, and constantly living for Christ. Wrongs cannot be righted nor reformations wrought in the character by feeble, intermittent efforts. It is only by long, persevering effort, sore discipline, and stern conflict, that we shall overcome. We know not one day how strong will be our conflict the next. So long as Satan reigns, we shall have self to subdue, besetting sins to overcome; so long as life shall last, there will be no stopping place, no point which we can reach and say, I have fully attained. Sanctification is the result of lifelong obedience. 
     None of the apostles and prophets ever claimed to be without sin. Men who have lived the nearest to God, men who would sacrifice life itself rather than knowingly commit a wrong act, men whom God has honored with divine light and power, have confessed the sinfulness of their nature. They have put no confidence in the flesh, have claimed no righteousness of their own, but have trusted wholly in the righteousness of Christ.”  Acts of the Apostles, p. 560,561.

“The ten virgins all claim to be Christians, but five are true and five are false. All have a name, a call, a lamp, and all claim to be doing God service. All apparently watch for His appearing. All started apparently prepared, but five were wanting. Five were found surprised, dismayed, without oil, outside the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. There are many who cry peace, peace, when there is no peace. This is the most perilous belief for the human soul to entertain. Christ speaks to all who bear His name, who claim to be His followers, to eat His flesh and drink His blood, else they can have no part with Him. Be not like the foolish virgins, who take for granted that the promises of God are theirs, while they do not live as Christ has enjoined upon them. Christ teaches us that profession is nothing. ‘He that will come after Me,’ He says, ‘let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me’ [Luke 9:23].
     Let no one take for granted that he is saved. Sanctification is the work of a lifetime. Said Christ, ‘Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [Matthew 5:19, 20].” Manuscript Releases, vol. 16, p. 274,275.

But, today we don’t quote these things anymore. It is a privileged few who hear the old paths and remember the way the Lord led us in our past history. Many, many have abandoned the narrow way and fallen in line with the apostate churches. Many Adventists don’t even make an attempt to overcome their character flaws, as if Jesus and His Day of Judgment were not just around the corner. Many are claiming that we will be dealing with our old sins up to the day that Jesus returns. This, my friends, is a grievous error and a deadly hope. And it is very unbiblical.

Victory over sin, is it biblical? Overcoming, is it true? Maybe the Bible had it wrong. (I’m being facetious.) Those frail, fallible men must have misunderstood the science of salvation. Maybe they weren’t “holy men of God…moved by the Holy Ghost” (2Pet. 1:21). Maybe the Bible itself is worthless, as most people think today. The professed people of God and the world thought this same way 2,000 years ago, but all who were humbled by the punishment of Jehovah came to change their minds. This should give us hope if we change our minds and should cause us to expect another great outpouring of God’s Spirit of truth.

If victory over sin isn’t possible, then that would throw new light on the old Ellen Whiteism, “Sanctification is the work of a lifetime.” (I’m still being facetious.) It could mean that I can work and work and work to overcome a flaw or a temptation or a self-indulgence, and if I die without ever having the victory over that flaw or temptation or self-indulgence, then Jesus will still smile on me and give me my eternal reward with Him and with the other saints. Because, even if I died in my sin, at least during my whole life long I was working at overcoming. I tried to have the victory. It’s the thought that counts, anyway. (Enough with being facetious.)

This is not the picture we get from the Spirit of Prophecy or the Bible. Sanctification and victory over sin are not only possible, they are mandatory for obtaining heaven. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.” (Rev. 3:21).

But, before God ever judged anyone for lack of sanctification He always called him first to be justified. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” (1Jn. 3:1-3).

But, to all who reject the requirements of justification, and thus turn away from being made the sons of God, He says, “If you haven’t made a “covenant with Me by sacrifice” don’t “declare My statutes” or “take My covenant in thy mouth.” (Ps. 50:5,16). If we will not sacrifice pride, if He can’t humble our pride in the dust, then He says, “thou hast no part with Me.” (John 13:8). We must submit to His Law and break under His grace; we must submit to God’s only strategy to save us from ourselves.

Paul wrote, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16).

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Rom. 6:12-14).

Paul is giving to the Gentile and Jewish believers the key to victory over sin.  “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey...”, yielding to the love of God in Christ. Yielding speaks of surrender, submission. “I yield my will to You.” “I submit myself to You.” “I surrender to You.”

“Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.” Steps to Christ, p. 47. This statement is the experience of Paul that runs from Romans 7:25 to the end of Romans 8.

“For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the Law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the Law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Rom. 7:5, 6). These words from Paul sit as a follow-on to, and an introductory explanation of, his Romans 6 encouragement for overcoming sin, quoted above. And they are a preview of Paul’s own Romans 7 struggles and his powerful Romans 8 victory.

As a preliminary of his wrestling, Paul first introduces his Romans 7:15-20 drama as a continuation of Romans 6. These verses bridge the Romans 6 admonitions of getting sanctified with the glories of the Romans 8 reconciliation with God and walking with Jesus. But, what happened in between those two chapters? We see another Jacob in Paul, who had been oblivious to his sinfulness, then struggled and wrestled with a standard that was infinitely higher than his own, and finally became desperate to have the beauty that he saw in the excellent, perfectly selfless character of Christ. It was in complete helplessness and hopelessness in himself that Paul had yielded, surrendered, submitted, subjected his will to the Law of God and the Spirit of Christ. Upon surrender he gave all authority to God in Christ; he gave glory to God. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.” (Ps. 50:23).

The problem with most Adventists, post-Reformation Protestants, and modern Evangelicals in victory over sin has been that most of us had “desires for goodness and holiness”, but not the deathly, desperate “desires for goodness and holiness” that Paul had in Romans 7:24. We didn’t want to go that far; we didn’t want to seem fanatical, emotionally unbalanced, foolish. And therefore, we didn’t have justification; we were not justified. We stopped before we ever started on the road to victory. Our work-of-a-lifetime sanctification never left the launch pad. We never came to the place where the Reformers were while they struggled to have peace under the papacy of Medieval Europe. Those people grew more and more desperate in the dense religious darkness; until with the Bible made understandable, like a slingshot, their previous desperation sent them high into the light of heaven. It was the same for the Jews who accepted the Messiah. After centuries of learning, hearing, and following the humanism of Babylon through the Mishnah, they were dying for living bread. Only they could accept the call of God to be justified and be received by Him. Then only those children of Abraham could have sanctification through the Son. And they considered it a privilege to be given a lifetime to become more and more like their Messiah Jesus, their Intercessor Michael in the Holy Place standing for His true childlike people.

This desperation we see in Jacob. He had desired to serve Jehovah like Abraham and Isaac had. But, his life was so full of sin and character flaws that God had a tough time to catch Jacob’s heart and to legally give His blessings to Jacob. As much as He wanted to give them He had to refrain until the time came that Jacob would yield himself to His father’s God. In the interim, He took full advantage of every opening of Jacob’s yearning heavenward to inform him that He loved him.

But, God did for Jacob what Jacob was unable to do for himself, that is come to surrender. And the same God is able to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves… that is, yield to Him.  “What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself.” Testimonies to Ministers, p. 456.

Yielding is what Jacob finally did at the brook Jabbok. After a long life of living apart from God, and reaping the whirlwind, providence finally brought Jacob to the place where he could surrender his self-will in exchange for an eternal union with the God of his fathers. Jacob was ready, made ready by the troubles from the world of sin that he had created for himself. He had come to the point of admitting to his huge sins and Jesus deemed him ready for justification and reconciliation with Him.

So, Jacob yielded. He got the Lord’s affection and His promise to forever stay with His prodigal son. After a life of trouble, this is all that Jacob had come to desire. Everything in this world he now considered dung. Being justified by faith he had peace with God, and even while in great physical pain his mind was bright and at rest. “The sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.” (Gen. 32:31). All nature sang and around him rang the wonders of God’s love. “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isa. 55:12).

His pain was excruciating, but it was acceptable. Not a murmur escaped his lips, but only thanksgiving to the Lord, and kindness and humility to all around. Israel’s every nerve of his being was troubled, but he was not distressed; his back side wrenched in agony, but he was not in despair; his body was persecuted, but he was no more forsaken; his pride was cast down, but his joy was not destroyed; from that day onward he would always bear “about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in [his] body.” (2Cor. 4:8-10).

After the long night of wrestling with God, Jacob’s pride was extracted from his conscience, especially as the day began to dawn when his femur was extracted from his hip. Giving up our earthly reputation and hopes is like our pulling teeth. In the court of our own mind we like to believe that self has been a good boy.

It was by Jacob’s yielding and surrendering that he got his new name, Israel, meaning “he who wrestles with God and overcomes.” Yielding is never easy for the sinner. In fact it is impossible without the wrestling with God. Yielding could only receive the will’s recruitment into action as Jacob received the blessing from God and the evidence that God had patiently loved him, and always would.

Now Israel could be sanctified. Now, and not before this could his holy work of a lifetime begin. Before Israel’s justification he couldn’t be sanctified. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom. 8:7). To try sanctification before being justified is getting the cart before the horse. It just doesn’t work. It not only ends in failure for righteousness, but even gives victory for wickedness, ending in global chaos and perdition.

Yet that is just where Satan has put billions of people ever since Cain did this. He has led them to believe that they were surrendered and yielded and in good standing with God, though without ever struggling and stressing with God. Then Satan lets these moralist “Christians” loose to conquer the realm of sanctification. Satan drives his unconverted subjects to be moral and ethical because he knows that they will only be so on the outside, but that they will believe they are sanctified in the heart. The new heart is always a mystery to everyone born in this world. No one knows what it is until he has fought to have God’s love with all his heart. But, Satan’s leading the unrepentant toward sanctification has led to much ascetic torment and gloom, disillusionment (confusion of face), and eternal loss. Eventually their ineptitude to receive God’s blessing and the resulting chastisement of their peace becomes so intense that their only satisfaction has been to torment others. This has resulted in physical abuse and abuses of all kinds within marriages, families, societies, etc. Child sacrifices came out of this. Constant warfare and war-related torture, Inquisitions and concentration camps have been the result. All the “abominations of the earth” (Rev. 17:5) have sprung from this very small germ—sanctification without justification.
 
But, justification and the gift of God’s Spirit cause our sanctification; the power of the Spirit upon our spirit empowers our will to do the things of humiliation and repentance before God for our past life of sin. These are the hard, shamed, detested things that we couldn’t or wouldn’t do before conversion.

“No sooner does one come to Christ than there is born in his heart a desire to make known to others what a precious friend he has found in Jesus; the saving and sanctifying truth cannot be shut up in his heart. If we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ and are filled with the joy of His indwelling Spirit, we shall not be able to hold our peace. If we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good we shall have something to tell. Like Philip when he found the Saviour, we shall invite others into His presence. We shall seek to present to them the attractions of Christ and the unseen realities of the world to come. There will be an intensity of desire to follow in the path that Jesus trod. There will be an earnest longing that those around us may ‘behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ John 1:29.” Steps to Christ, p. 78.

The yielding that Jesus had to His Father’s will is within the reach of every fallen son and daughter of Adam. No one need be hopeless concerning salvation. All can have peace with God through the justifying power of Christ. They can have the same peace with God that Jesus had. They will then have His same avocation to do God’s will because Jesus has given them His avocation for holiness. Therefore, everyone who submits to reconciliation with God will have the sanctified life, the true sanctification that exceeds “the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.” (Matt. 5:20).

Their sanctification will not be groundless, but will be founded upon acceptance with God through surrender, submission, and repentance to Him, which Jesus gave them because they did not have it in themselves to create surrender to God and His Law. They will receive a natural avocation to order their words and actions in accordance with the Law of God. Their thoughts and words will be of Jesus, and their life will follow suit accordingly. They have a new heart and will, and their behavior complies with their will in doing God’s will.

Victory over sin, is it biblical? Overcoming, is it possible? “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me: and to him that ordereth his [way] aright will I shew the salvation of God.” (Ps. 50:23). But, we must not put the cart before the horse; we must not put the life before the heart.

Justification must be before sanctification. Surrender to the Law of God before living subject to the Law of God. Repentance to God before obedience. A new heart before the new life. Conversion of heart before conversion of the life.

“Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.  
     Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith.” Steps to Christ, p. 48.

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