Faithlife Sermons

Sanctification

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Intro

Scripture describes salvation in some places like a jailbreak. We are told that Jesus came to set the prisoners of sin free. That sounds like really good news- but lets think about it for a second. Is setting prisoners free a good thing or a bad thing? It depends.
In the case of the Holocaust in WWII, it was a good thing because millions of people were wrongfully imprisoned and needed to be freed.
In the case of a maximum security prison, it would probably be a bad thing because you are releasing murderers, thieves, crazy people and all around bad individuals that are a menace to society.
What kind of jailbreak do we experience in salvation? Were we imprisoned wrongfully, and Jesus just restored the freedom that was rightfully ours? Or are we an evil and sinful people that earned the slavery we were in?
Let me propose a third option: What if a person were to show up at a prison, personally pay the bail on all the prisoners, and then, rather than simply placing them back into society as criminals, brought them all home with him and began a program of reforming them? What if his goal was not simply to release evil people back into the world, but he actually desired to make them into good people that would be a blessing to the world rather than an evil in it?
This is what our salvation looks like, and the program of reform we enter is what we call sanctification.
Within the program of sanctification we experience death, our old selves passing away, and rebirth, our new selves being raised up by the power of the Holy Spirit. All of this is done through the work of God in Jesus Christ by his Spirit.
Romans 6:1–14 ESV
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. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

The Old Self Is Dead

Romans 6:1 ESV
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
Paul is anticipating the question here- if God saves us by his grace and it doesn’t matter what we can offer, does that mean we can just keep on sinning and it won’t matter?
To answer the question, Paul starts talking about Baptism, which might sound weird to us at first. But it really wasn’t weird, and here is why: when we talk about our salvation, we talk a lot about Jesus’ death and resurrection, and how those events were the climax of his saving us. What is really interesting is that after Jesus died and resurrected, and right before he went back to heaven to reign as King, he told his disciples to do something: to make other people into disciples and to baptize them. Why baptize them?
That is exactly what Paul is explaining here: baptism is the sign that we are becoming one with Jesus Christ. We become one with him in his death, and one with him in his resurrected life.
Romans 6:3–5 ESV
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. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
So Baptism is really all about being united to Jesus. Baptism is a picture for us that the things that Jesus did: his life, his death, his resurrection, it is all applied to us!
So, how are we united to Jesus in death?
When Jesus saves us, he is starting us down a life-long path that starts with death. When I say it starts with death, I mean the death of who we used to be.
Romans 6:6–7 ESV
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Whatever our identity was, it is no longer. Our identity is now with Jesus.
Whatever our sinful habits were, they are no longer. Jesus is killing them.
If there is anything that we loved more than God, those things take a back seat now. God is King.
All of the sin that used to define us is put to death, and so who we used to be dies along with it. In Baptism we are buried with Jesus Christ into death and our sin is killed with us.
but we don’t stay dead!

The New Self Is Alive

So, how are we united to Jesus in life?
Romans 6:8–11 ESV
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
He continues
Romans 6:12–14 ESV
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
We are united to Jesus in new life in that the sin that used to control us can’t do that anymore. We have been given power and self-control through the Holy Spirit so that we can live truly good lives now, serving God rather than sin. Our lives can be defined by loving rather than sinning and hating.
Before Jesus saves us we are slaves to sin, prisoners. Sin controls us and we cannot fight it, nor do we want to.
When Jesus starts his saving work in us, We are freed from sin and it can’t control us anymore. We have a say now, and we are able to present ourselves to God as obedient servants for his good purposes.
Because Jesus has given us his Spirit and united us with him, our sin is dead in the grave and we are new creations that can choose to love him and serve him.
One more thing...
It is a common error to think that Sanctification works exactly the same way as justification, where it’s a one-time thing and then its done. Sanctification doesn’t work like that; it isn’t a one-time decision but a life-long process of transformation. When we are united to Jesus, we aren’t waking up as perfect people who never sin. Rather, we are being renewed day by day by the power of the Holy Spirit. Later in this book Paul is going to say
Romans 12:1–2 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Our responsibility in sanctification is not to be perfect right away, but to continually look to God in his Word (the Bible) to transform our minds. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Being saved by God doesn’t all happen in a day, it is a gracious work of God that will take the rest of your lives.
That is why I can say...
In justification I have been saved from judgement (past tense)
In sanctification I am being saved every day from sin (present tense)
One day, in glorification, I will be saved once for all from death (future tense)

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