Grace and Sanctification

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John Newton


Here are the notes from last Sunday’s sermon

Grace is amazing. John Newton, slave trader was saved by it, knew the breathtaking enormity of it and penned the fabulous him Amazing Grace!

Let’s review where we have got to in this mini series

* We have been rescued from being by nature objects of God’s wrath to become objects of God’s mercy. One of the theological words Paul uses is propitiation – God’s wrath at our sin has been permanently turned away.
* Now no condemnation. Same again, we are no longer condemned now and forever more.
* Dead to sin – not under it’s power, with the inevitable consequence of temptation blowing it again. We are more than conquerors. Positioned to reign as more than conquerors!
* Set free from dead works – not trying to gain approval from God by our own efforts. Not saved BY works, but for works. He’s got great things for us to do, empowered by Him. But not to impress Him or be approved by Him.
* United with Christ. When he died, we died, when he rose again, we rose again. We’ve been bought at a great price and
* Our old nature has died of supernatural causes.

Turn with me to Romans 8:29-30
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

God had a plan in mind from eternity past –

1. He foreknew you and predestined you to be one of His.
2. He called you – the Spirit knocked on the door of your heart when someone explained the Gospel to you and you responded.
3. He justified you – declared you righteous, holy, because of what Jesus did on the cross and the resurrection.
4. He glorified you – interesting; it’s in the past tense. Even though Jesus hasn’t come back yet and you have not yet received your glorified new body, Paul writes that you are glorified. It is that sure.

Theologians call those verses the unbroken chain of salvation. There is such security in it. No ifs, no buts. Those God has predestined, he calls. Those He calls, he justifies, those he Justifies He glorifies.

That’s a great promise to live by!

Why isn’t sanctification on that list? Paul as ever wants us to settle who we are in Christ, before telling us how to live in the good of it. He wants us to settle justification and glorification in our hearts before we think of the practical outworking of grace in sanctification.

Sanctification is a topic that is getting mightily confused in our generation. As it has at times in the past too! There’s nothing new under the son.
Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.

2 Cor 7:1 Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

We have looked at the promises – sanctification is living in the good of them and seeing them grow in outworking by the grace and power of God in our lives as we yield to Him.

Bible shows us essentially there are three elements to sanctification.

1) We are sanctified at conversion!
Paul tells those wild Corinthians “But you were washed, you were sanctifed, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of out God”. Similarly in Acs 20:32 Paul refers to all Christians as those who are sanctified.

2) The New Testament shows us that there is a process that continues.
2 Cor 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Phil 3:13-14 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus
The bit he has not yet taken hold of is achieving all the purposes for which Christ saved him.

Heb 12 lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely”
Heb 12:14 “Strive for peace and holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
Peter in 1 Peter 1:15 “Be holy yourselves in all your conduct”

3) Sanctification is completed at Death and when the Lord returns!
When Jesus comes he will “change our lowly body to be like His glorious body” Phil 3:12
Then 1 Cor 15:49 “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” We will be fully like Him!

Grace means that sanctification is primarily a work of God
Paul prays in 1Thess 5:23 “May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly”
Sometimes the Father disciplines us. He works in us both to will and work for His good pleasure. He certainly equips us with everything good to do his will Heb 13:20-21
Mostly the Spirit works within us to change us and sanctify us. Peter wrote to God’s elect (which includes us) “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be your in abundance!”
The Spirit grows His fruit in us as we walk in the Spirit and are led by the Spirit.

So we have a role passively as we depend on God and actively as we strive to obey God by the power of the Spirit.

Let’s turn to 1 John 1:5-2:2
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
2 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
1) God is light v5

Not literally! John is grappling with words and images to convey who God is. Light is opposite to darkness, John’s showing us God is perfect, complete, not lacking anything or having any shadow. In the light we can see. The devil likes darkness where you can trip up.

Two weeks ago I sinned 12 times in half an hour. There you go, I have admitted it. I was at Hilltop with the kids on a school trip and got to do archery for the first time. I was okay, but I sinned 12 times! Sin is an archery term for missing the bullseye. God is perfect and doesn’t sin. He’s set the bullseye for life and we are quite good at missing it – we sin.
Conversion means we receive God’s grace and an identity change from sinner to saint in a moment, because Jesus has made us righteous. But the fact is we are saints who occasionally sin.

v6 tells us if we say we have fellowship with God and yet walk in darkness we are lying. John means if we deliberately continually choose to walk in darkness, we are not in fellowship with God. Christians are people of the light. People that prefer darkness are thus by definition not Christians.

2 We walk in the light v7
The Christian life is a journey we walk, we walk in the light. God has switched on the light in our lives and we walk in Him with Him in the light. Doesn’t really matter how the light came on. We can have fallen off a horse like Paul, been brought up in a Christian home like Timothy, or gradually got it like Peter. We walk in the light – we are in a process of walking in the light. Paul talks of walking in the Spirit, same thing.

We are on a journey with the Spirit, doing life. He tells what He feels, how to live shows us His ways, His attitudes and what pleases the Lord.
I recently read a pretty unhelpful quote from a guy called John Crowder “It is high time the church gets delivered from God pleasing”
Let’s compare that with what the Bible says…

  • To the church in Ephesus Paul wrote Eph 5:10 Find out what pleases the Lord
  • To the church in Corinth, Paul wrote 2 Cor 5:9 So we make it our goal to please him
  • To the church in Colossians, Paul wrote Col 1:10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God
  • To the church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote 1 Thess 4:1 Finally brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God,as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.
  • and also 1 Thess 2:4 We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.

Be careful folks- some of these fashionable teachers are teaching a false Gospel.

We want to please God because we love Him and are empowered by Him.

Walk in the light, is a journey with the Spirit where He walks with us, tells us what pleases Him! And we do what he says – not so we can earn our way to heaven, that’s sorted. But because we love Him!

Walking in the light is not like an Ofsted inspection where God is continually looking for how we have slipped up, looking for mistakes, digging for sin, having a go. Not at all – we died to the law! We have died to that fault finding nit picking husband who never lays a finger to help (Geoff give us a wave! Brilliant sketch by the way)
We walk hand in hand with God! He’s in us! he willnever leave us or forsake us! He loves us! Healing us, restoring us, building us up, guiding us, showing us, showing us what pleases Him and what grieves Him, changing us from one degree of glory to another.

God brings things into the light as we walk in the light, we walk in the Spirit. It’s like he goes into the different rooms of our lives and turns the lights on and leaves them – hey, my kids do that too!

v8 If we say we have no sin – we are deceived. If you think you are perfect you are deceived!
v10 If we say we have not sinned, you’re a liar!

When it comes to the fact that as saints we occasionally sin, there are two opposite errors that abound!

i) Condemnation – rather living with the identity of more than a conqueror, dead to sin and reigning in life, some folks live under the devil’s accusations and condemnation. You are useless, you will be never free… You live like Israel in the time of the Judges a constant cycle of sin, disaster, repentance and restoration.
At the extreme end of it there was once a young man here who believed that if he sinned he would go to hell, if he didn’t repent. Any unrepented of sin meant hell. That’s a different gospel! A false gospel. That’s not good news. I asked him, what would happen to you if you stubbed your toe on the way out of Cafe Nero, swore and then got run over a bus, before repenting. I’d go to hell. That is not the gospel. That is bondage.
We are justified, declared righteous. God’s wrath for your sin has been turned away. You are an object of mercy.
Less extreme is that morbid introspection, relentlessly confessing even sins you can’t remember. Oh God woe is me!
There’s no joy in living under condemnation and the truth is there is no now condemnation!
Satan loves that because you are robbed of joy and freedom.

ii) The opposite error is that God doesn’t see your sins anymore at all. He is in a good mood! That makes God sound like such a precocious moody teenager.
I’m not sure God was in a “good mood” with the church leader that I knew in a big city who sexually abused a teenage boy. I’m not sure that a wife is pleased to hear that God is in a good mood with her believing husband who has just sworn at her again.

I’m not sure that God was in a good mood with the Corinthian Christian who was having sex with his stepmum. 1 Cor 5:1 – they were turning a blind eye to it. So Paul addresses that sin referring back to it like yeast from the passover. Cleanse it, get rid of the old yeast. A modern picture would be to cut out that cancerous mole before it becomes malignant.

1 Cor 5:7 is really helpful “Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch – as you really are.” Did you hear that as you really are. We are new creatures, that’s who we really are, so get rid of anything in your life that is old creature!
Paul told them to “hand the man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” Ouch. Put him out of the Church, let Satan have his way, let him see what a big deal it is to not be under the protection of the church. Praise God, in 2 Cor 2 it’s clear the man came to his senses and repented of his sin And so Paul urges them in 2 Cor 2 to forgive him, affirm their love for him, comfort him so that he wouldn’t be overwhelmed by sorrow.

That’s an extreme example, sexual sin with your dad’s new wife, but Paul also nails greed, idolatry, slander, drunkenness and swindling in the same passage!

Grace is amazing! we have some amazing promises that I referred to at the start!
New creations – old self has died of supernatural causes
Dead to sin
Not under condemnation
Not under law
Set free from dead works to try and earn approval from God
Objects of mercy

So 2 Cor 7:1 Paul can says “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God”

How do we do that? Back to 1 John 1v9 “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”

When you blow it, confess it and be cleansed and then carry on enjoying all the promises in Christ!

In the next verses John writes that if we sin Jesus is our advocate as the propitiation of our sins. Some would say that therefore v9 is not for Christians its for Gnostics to become Christians. That’s not the plain sense of the two paragraphs!

I’d explain why like this.
Jesus is our propitiation – that’s a theological term for turning aside God’s wrath. So when we come to Christ – Jesus is become the one for us who has turned aside God’s righteous wrath for our sin. The Father and the Son agreed a plan where He could do it for us. The Father sent the Son, who willing came for the joy set before Him.
When we come to Christ, God’s anger towards our sin has gone forever. We are cleansed, made holy.

When as saints we sin, it dirties us up a bit – and so when we confess Jesus cleanses us again.

When Jesus was washing the disciples feet, Peter refused. And Jesus said no you must. So Peter says give me a whole bath then, to which Jesus replied you don’t need a bath, you just your feet washed. That’s the dynamic here – getting converted is a bath, occasional sinning is getting dirty feet – we don’t need to get saved again or have a whole bath, just a foot wash.

The context is that in the Ancient Middle East they didn’t have baths in the house, you went to the river for a bath. Walking home bare foot or sandalled meant you feet got dirty in the warp and woof of daily life. So you needed to wash your feet regularly.
When we believe in Christ, we have had a bath – baptism symbolises that beautifully. When we sin, we’ve got our feet dirty. Confess it and Jesus washes them again. In one way cleansing is more about our conscience than our position as a saint!

We are new creations – our Spirit has come alive to Christ, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us – we are temples of the Holy Spirit.
Paul tells us to transform our minds – they need to catch up with the reality of who we are now and stopping thinking mucky stuff! Our bodies also need to conform to who we really are.

If and when you muck it up, confess be cleansed and carry on enjoying the favour of God.

Lord Jesus I want to thank you for the great promises we have you. Thank you for saving us. Thank you for making us objects of mercy when we deserved to be objects of wrath, Thank you for lavishing every spiritual blessing upon us. Thank you Holy Spirit for indwelling us and filling us with joy and power as we walk in you. Lord help us to walk in the light in the power of the Spirit. We thank you for grace and your love Amen.

It may be that you have not trusted in Jesus death and resurrection. The old self is very much alive.
You need to repent and turn to Jesus. Decide that Jesus death and resurrection is the only way you can be forgiven and know God
You need to put your faith in Jesus – trust his death and resurrection is the way to God.

Why not follow me in this prayer.
Jesus I know I’m a sinner, falling short of your bullseye for life. Thank you for dying for me in my place and rising again to defeat the power of sin and the hold of death. I’m trusting in you right now that your death and resurrection is the only way to God. I want to follow you, so I gladly accept the miracle of being born again in your name Amen.

Christians – we have great promises and great grace. Let’s enjoy them!



Andy planted the Gateway Church in Sept 2007. He and Janet love to gather different nations together to grow in Christ while eating good food! He also helps to shape and serve a couple of Relational Mission's church plants in mainland Europe. Andy and Janet run regularly, largely to offset the hospitality eating! He also runs a popular WordPress plugin Church Admin