Hungering for His Grace: Sanctification, Part One

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. [Romans 5:20-6:4 ESV]

Our continued existence is sustained by God. We need Him. His desire for sinful man is to acknowledge we know we need Him. Not a simple acknowledgment of need then continuing with life uninterrupted. But a life interrupted, stopped, recreated, and the direction of life unalterably changed. He wants us to seek Him as if our very lives depend up finding Him. They do.

Modern life in the Westernized world has lost the sense of need for food known by our immediate ancestors. Before the convenience of large stores all life’s necessities had to be grown, hand-made, bartered for or done without. Life, and sustaining life, was hard work. Life expectancy was short and conditions were harsh. There were a select few who lived in ease and pleasure. For the vast majority of people life was lived hand to mouth. Even now there are billions of people who live on the edge of life, hunting for food, whether in an urban sprawl or a wilderness.

When a government provides the basic needs of its people giving food and not requiring to work personal motivation for a better lifestyle need not exist. Such a lifestyle does nothing to inspire any to seek the source of life bit does but has the exact opposite effect. Where all physical needs are provided, where desires, wishes and wants are paramount and more often than not, filled, need is overwhelmed by ease. Our corrupted self given our basest wants will never seek God. When the physical feeling of hunger and thirst for food is sated without effort there is no spiritual recognition of need let alone seeking to meet that need.

In Israel, 3,000 years ago, those who were afflicted with leprosy were considered outcasts by God. They had to leave their families and live separate lives unable to participate in the religious rituals instituted by God for His people. They were the untouchables of the Middle East, walking examples of sin. Then came Jesus, God in the flesh, who not only touched them but healed them and gave His disciples authority to heal them, also. Instead of being a living example of God’s displeasure with the person they became a living examples of God’s grace and healing of sin. When they sought out Jesus and asked for healing they were healed restored to the community of God’s kingdom. Their momentary discomfort drove them to God, resulting in their ultimate benefit.

God will use our physical circumstances to drive us to Himself. Paul, afflicted by an unknown disease, begged God’s release from the “thorn” in his flesh.

So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me [2 Cor. 12:7-9 ESV].

His discomfort drove him to God. He needed God more than he needed comfort and physical security. God gave him something this world cannot give. Grace, given through the conduit of faith, a tool of righteousness, is God’s strength delivered to those viewed as weakest in the world. His grace is available to all who hunger and thirst after His righteousness.

Those who receive God’s grace do not then hide behind grace from God. Of course, they cannot hide. But some people think if they close their eyes and can see no one then no one can see them. It shows a complete lack of understanding of our position before God if we say we follow Him but continue to sin without recognizing sin. Those who have been given new life, and are a new creation, even while remaining in the old body, hunger and thirst after righteousness as a natural result of receiving grace.

To hunger and thirst after the righteousness of God shows a change from seeking and needing the world, which is running toward death, to seeking and needing God, which is running toward Him and life. A fundamental change occurs caused by God within the essence of those chosen. This change is the spiritual death of the person, who is condemned by sin and sentenced to death, to their raising up to new life because of Christ’s righteous sacrifice. Whether struggling for food or with the provocation of sin it is the battlefield of the physical which reveals the desperate need for the spiritual.

God takes those who are His and sets them apart from the world for Himself. In theology proper this is called “sanctification.” This setting apart is not complete while any remain in the physical world, bound by sinful flesh. So it is not the completion of being set apart, the final result of sanctification, but the striving for and pursuit of, the hungering and thirsting for the final place which is most important for all who remain in the world.

As related to man created in God’s image sanctification means several things in Scripture. First, it means to intellectually acknowledge the righteousness of God.

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” [1 Peter 3:14-15 ESV].

Being ready with the defense demands every citizen work out in their minds why they are who they are. When Jesus prays “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” [Matthew 6:9 ESV] it is an acknowledgment of our position before and need of Him.

Sanctification also means to separate from that which is sinful or profane, that which corrupts. It is an emotional response to the moral demands of God resulting in repentance and trust in God. He will keep His promise to redeem us though we are ever sinful in this life. “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” [John 17:16-17 ESV].

Finally, sanctification means to purify. Here, all which corrupts is driven out of our life as if by fire and we voluntarily give Him control.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” [Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV].

Nothing impure will come before God. Everything, and everyone who comes into His presence must be pure and undefiled.

For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” [Hebrews 9:13-14 ESV].

Sanctification is separation from the use of self, the use of the world, and the  manipulation of Satan for the dedicated use of God. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer and they are conformed to the image of Christ. Obedience to God drives sin out of those who are His. God uses this world, our flesh and Satan to prepare us for eternity. This preparation is the process of sanctification and will not be stopped. However, there is no expectation of sinless perfection in this life, only the pursuit of God, the hungering and thirsting after His righteousness. We must fight and strive for God as if our lives depend upon reaching Him.

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