People always ask me as we approach the conference of what I’m going to speak on, and I certainly understand that. The answer is usually whatever is on my mind. It’s not as if I can all of a sudden import something that’s alien to where I am. And for the last year I have been buried in the book of Galatians.
We have been going through the book of Galatians with our church congregation, and it has been really just an amazing experience for all of the family of Grace Community Church, as well as others who tune in on livestream. And going through the book of Galatians I came to chapter 4 obviously knowing that it was going to rise up out of the text in verse 19: “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you,” and that text gripped my mind and my heart to such a degree that it took me a long time to get beyond it. I had been preaching sections of Galatians, and I came to that verse, and I was stopped, in a sense, dead in my tracks. “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you,” that is the pastor’s purpose. That is the summation of the purpose of the ministry of a pastor, to see that Christ is formed in His people.
Paul was passionate about the sanctification of his people. Paul was passionate about the holiness of his people. A little bit of background before we look at that in specific. And this is a long introduction, so relax.
Paul, the ultra-orthodox Jew, Pharisee legalist, rising star in Judaism, is converted to Christ on the Damascus Road; called to be an apostle to the Gentiles, though he had a heart for Israel, such a passion for their salvation that he could almost wish himself accursed if that could mean their salvation. Plants churches on several missionary trips and writes letters back to them as their pastor and their shepherd, as well as the apostle of Christ. His first letter most likely is Galatians, written about 49 A.D. right after the Jerusalem Council; and the Jerusalem Council, as recorded in Acts 15, was discussing the issue of salvation by faith alone.
After that council where the question was raised about faith alone because there were people speaking in the council and saying faith was not enough, it had to be faith, plus circumcision, plus adherence to all the external ceremonies, rituals, and rites of Moses – Judaism. He writes his first letter, and his first letter is a defense of salvation by faith alone, the most important part of the gospel. Given the characters in the gospel – God, Christ, the Holy Spirit – the most important thing to know is that salvation is by faith alone.
He had gone into the southern part of Galatia and planted churches in several places. He planted churches in Antioch, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra – at least those four cities. That area was not far from where he was raised in Tarsus of Cilicia. Now, his objective in writing Galatians back to these churches is to establish the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, because some Jewish teachers had come from Jerusalem claiming to be Christians and demanding that Paul and the Galatians affirm that no one could be saved apart from circumcision and adherence to Mosaic ceremonies. In other words, the vestibule into Christianity was through Judaism. He wrote this against the Jewish legalists. This is the big fight. This is always the big fight for the gospel. The Galatian congregations are going to receive this letter and they’re going to hear a powerful, powerful defense. Paul is deeply concerned. His concern comes quickly in the letter.
Go back to chapter 1 for a moment, verse 6: “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;” – mark it down: if you add anything to faith you have a different gospel – “which is really not another;” – because there is no other gospel – “only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed, anathema, damned! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” Now it says damnation on anyone who preaches another gospel; and in this context another gospel is a gospel being preached by people who say they are Christians who believe in Christ and who believe salvation is by faith plus works.
The Galatians were true believers. Go back to chapter 3 for just a moment. “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain – if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the law, or by hearing with faith?”
This establishes that these readers are true believers. They have seen the revelation of Jesus Christ, they have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, and they have been blessed by the Father, as verse 5 indicates. So the Judaizers, in assaulting the true gospel, were attacking the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They were making an assault on heaven.
But Paul affirms that these are true believers over in verse 26 of that chapter: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Verse 29: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” So he affirms that these are true believers, they had begun in the Spirit. In chapter 4 and verse 28, he says, “You are brethren like Isaac, children of promise.” But now in chapter 3, if we go back to verse 1, he says, “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?” J. B. Phillips translated this, or paraphrased it, “You dear idiots, how can you be so stupid?”
Bewitched. Can a church of believers be bewitched? Apparently. Apparently. Baskainō, Greek verb used only here, nowhere else. It means “to fascinate,” or “to charm,” or “to deceive with flattery always with an evil intent, always with an evil intent.”
Over in chapter 5, verse 7, he says, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” What was happening there was their sanctification was being severely hindered, interrupted. They were literally being charmed in a deceitful way to lead them to evil. The word baskainō is used in extrabiblical literature to speak of things like demon spells and the evil eye and sorcery. It is reminiscent however of the words of our Lord to His own disciples in Luke 24 when he said to them, “O fools and slow of heart.” True believers can be fools and slow of heart, and true believers can be bewitched. I would go so far as to say, I think, maybe most churches are bewitched.
He says to them, “You are assaulting heaven by tolerating the lie of works as necessary for justification for salvation; and consequently, you are confused, and your sanctification is retarded.” Now, this is no cold, merely analytical word from Paul. He sees this deception as a severe threat to the one purpose that a pastor has with his people, and that is to be the agent of their sanctification. Election: entirely a work a God. Justification: entirely a work of God in a moment. Glorification: entirely a work of God in another moment. But between justification and glorification there’s only one work going on, and it is sanctification, and it is a process, and we has shepherds are engaged in being the instruments of God for the accomplishment of that process.
His passion is so inflamed that he discloses his burning heart in this letter with a range of emotion that really is stunning. He actually writes about how he feels here. These are the things that he says about how he feels. He is amazed – just pulling them out through the six chapters of Galatians. He is amazed, he is angry, he is threatened, he is confused, he is fearful, he is agitated, he is confrontive, he is sarcastic, he is intolerant, he is severe, he is perplexed, he is dogmatic, he is demanding, he is hurt, and he is humbled. That is a range of negative distress.
At the same time, he expresses he is loving, devoted, obedient, confident, encouraging, sacrificial, protective, faithful, and hopeful. I don’t know about you, but that’s the world I live in. Do you live in that world? If you live in that world, then you care about the sanctification of your people. If it’s about you, that’s a different thing. An astounding, really astounding range of pastoral passion.
May I digress, if ever so painfully. I’ve been cataloging the words that most describe modern pastors. None of those words appear in my list. Here are the words that most describe modern pastors: relevant, real, authentic, missional, exponential, cool, disruptive, innovative; multi-sight, multi-ethnic, or multi-anything; cultural, contemporary, millennial, no eschatology preferred, post-church, post-truth, intentional, formational, inclusive, heroic.
There was just a conference a few weeks ago of hero makers. That is the lingo of pastoral ministry nowadays. Missing words are: biblical, holy, humble, godly, separated, self-denying, pure, faithful, and sacrificial. Paul was not having a temporary psychological burnout, he had this passion throughout his entire ministry.
Six years later after writing Galatians – you would be familiar with this, just a couple of pages to the left – in 2 Corinthians, as he writes, in chapter 11, verse 1: “I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; for indeed you are bearing with me. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.”
What is this jealousy? What is this passion six years later? It’s the same thing: “I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
And even the Corinthians, he says, has fallen into some of the same bewitching, verse 4: “If one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.” Same exact concern. And you know the section at the end of the eleventh chapter how he talks about all the things he suffered.
But go down to the end of that. The significant suffering, verse 28: “Apart from such external things, who feels the deepest pain is the pastor over the daily pressure of concern for all the churches.” That’s not administrative jobs. Let’s not be concerned about the budget. He describes what it is in verse 29: “Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?” That’s how a pastor feels. If people in His church are led into sin he bears the pain of that sin. That’s how deep the passion for sanctification is in the pastor’s heart.
Over in chapter 12 in verse 14, “Here for this third time I’m ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.” It’s never about me, it’s always about you. “I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?” It was the same exact passion for the sanctification of his people.
Ten years later he writes Ephesians. Turn over to Ephesians chapter 4, very familiar words. He says, “As one who has been given to the church as apostle, and then there are prophets, and evangelists, and pastor-teachers,” – verse 11, Ephesians 4 – “for the equipping of the saints,” – verse 12 – “for the works of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Literally building the church into Christlikeness was his passion.
Verse 15: “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” And he wrote similar to the Colossians chapter 1, verse 28: “We proclaim Him,” – that is Christ – “the hope of glory. We proclaim Him,” – Colossians 1:28 – “admonishing every man, teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works with me.” That was his passion, that was his purpose, the sanctification of the people entrusted to his care.
Fifteen years later Peter wrote, “I exhort the elders among you” – 1 Peter 5 – “as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and partaker of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under a compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; not yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” Paul understood, Peter certainly understood the passion of the pastor.
Now, where did Paul learn such gripping commitment? He had no earthly mentor. He says that early in the book of Galatians. He didn’t receive the message that he was given. He didn’t receive the revelation he was given from flesh and blood. He had no earthly mentor, he had a private teacher and it was the Lord Jesus Christ three years in the desert. He learned what he learned from the Lord. The Lord was his mentor, the Lord was his teacher, and surely the Lord made it clear to Paul what his passion was for his people.
You say, “Well, what is his passion for his people?” Turn to John 17. In John 17:13, Jesus prays to the Father and says, “Now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.” The passion of Christ for His own is joy, that they would have full joy.
“I have given them Your word; the world has hated them, because they’re not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” There is the passion of Christ for His own: sanctification.
“As you sent Me into the world, I’ve also sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” Jesus is saying, “My own holiness is the model for them.”
Later in that chapter down in verse 22: “The glory which You’ve given Me I’ve given to them, that they that may be one, as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You’ve love Me. I want them to manifest My presence in their lives.” This is what Paul is desirous of, that Christ be formed in them.
The Lord Jesus Christ sanctified Himself to sanctify His people. The Lord Jesus Christ called on Paul to be sanctified himself in the power of the Spirit in order that he might be an example in sanctifying the people given into his care. Scripture is clear on this. First Corinthians 1:1 and 2 reads, “Paul, to the church sanctified in Christ Jesus, called holy ones.” First Corinthians 1:30, “In Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification.”
Second Corinthians 7:1, “Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” First Thessalonians 4:3, “This is the will of God, your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, and each know how to possess his own vessel” – his own body – “in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passions, like the people who don’t know God.”
First Thessalonians 3:12 and 13, “May the Lord cause you to increase in love, so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father.” Titus 2:14 – I love this verse: “Christ Jesus who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, passionate for good works.” Romans 6 says, “You were slaves of sin, you have now become slaves of righteousness.”
This doctrine of sanctification defines our ministry. We are for the sanctification of God’s people. Progressive, lifelong work. It’s why we do what we do. As the believer is sanctified, as the believer is increasingly exposed to the Word of God and virtuous in godly examples, the Spirit of God begins to reduce the seductiveness of the world, begins to reduce the desires of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and they’re replaced by an increased love for the Lord, an increased love for obedience, an increased longing for holiness and virtue and aspirations to the will of God and the honor of the Lord.
This is the work to which we’re called. You cannot be content that they’re there. You cannot be content that they like your preaching. You should feel pain in your soul if they are not being manifestly sanctified.
Now, I believe sanctification is taking place in all true believers; it is a work of God. But the extent of that separation from sin depends on the devotion to the means and the motivation. And the means are all the spiritual means that we’re familiar with: prayer, the Word of God, fellowship, worship; and the motivation is love, love for the Lord.
So, how do we sanctify our people? Do we need to be more demanding of them? Do we need to read the commandments with a little bit more force? Do we need to develop more self-discipline? Do we need to create more accountability?
We closed our Shepherds’ Conference last year by saying what we really need to do is just love Christ more. So it’s not putting demands on the people, it’s showing them Christ so that they love Him more. And Jesus Himself said, “If you love Me you keep My commandments.”
Why am I so concerned about this? Because I think this is treated with indifference in the contemporary church. This whole subject of sanctification is just absent, and it is the defining reality of our entire ministry to the people of God. Paul says, “I am in labor again.” He was once in labor, spiritual labor, in bringing them to spiritual birth. And now he’s back in labor, feeling all the same agonizing pains, to bring them to maturity.
Maturity’s another thing that seems to me to be in rare supply in churches today. Adolescents and immaturity seems to be dominating. I’m concerned about this because holiness, godliness, separation from sin and the world is essential for sanctification. Once all those things were very common in church life.
I grew up hearing sermons regularly about the need for holiness and godliness, separation from sin, from worldliness. Preachers used to give calls to holiness. The truth of sanctification had a much higher place in the thinking of people. The central work of the Holy Spirit was not some bizarre, inexplicable, esoteric, out-of-body fantasy; but the work of the Holy Spirit was seen in manifest holiness, manifest virtue.
Not true anymore. The truth of sanctification and holiness and godliness is absent from must of popular Christianity. Rarely, rarely do you hear any call from the popular preachers for sanctification and holiness, separation from the world, denial of fleshly desires, and selfishness; and this among men who will say, “Oh, we believe in the doctrine of election.” They like that doctrine, that’s a very comforting one; and who also will proclaim justification by faith alone.
And once in a while they’ll talk about glorification, although that’s not a big issue for many. Should be; it isn’t. But how little is said about sanctification. It’s almost as if you want to read about that you have to go back a few hundred years to find a book. And instead, in the current strategies of pragmatism, all the longings of the selfish human heart are legitimized; and the things that are of the world are incorporated into the churches as the necessary elements to attract those who on the surface have no interest in God. So you’ve got to find what they’re interested in and attract them that way.
The new version of Christianity, even some who say they’re reformed on those other issues, is committed to import the culture and the fashion of the world and appeal to people’s consuming self-interests, careful to avoid anything that condemns or convicts or frightens or terrifies or expects people to forget themselves, deny themselves, pursue with a passion all that is holy and all that honors God. And again, even in churches where there is belief in election and justification and glorification there seems to be indifference to sanctification.
On the other hand, there are faithful churches. You’re among them, led by faithful men, obviously, godly shepherds who lead their flock away from the world, away from self-interest, away from the fulfillment of their own desires, away from seeking and defining life only in terms of their own wish list. But this is a very popular thing, and it has become a very dominate influence.
How did we get to this point? Been reading a little bit on that. I’m not always prone to be reading kind of cultural assessments, but from time to time I do. I’ll give you just a little bit of a perspective, kind of pulling up above some of the things that I’ve been absorbing.
Churches for centuries were theological and transcendent, and God-centered and Christ-exalting, and trusting for growth, spiritual growth in the work of the Spirit, and concerned about virtue and holiness. Churches opposed worldliness; that was standard. Worship was seen as thinking reverently, humbly, and deeply about the glories of God.
All that has changed. The NEO churches are psychological, sociological, pragmatic, imminent, man-centered, using the name of Jesus or God as a token, trusting for growth on their success at drawing in the world, redefining worship as a mindless musical stimulation while the people think about their own desires being fulfilled rather than the glory of God. Vague spirituality replaces sound doctrine and true holiness. The names of God are used but have little real impact, because the people are more interested in themselves than in Him, more committed to personal satisfaction than sanctification. Attendance and loyalty to church is not related to the love of the truth and the love of God and the fear of God, but the love of self and what pleases one’s self.
How did we get here? Well, some of these historians, a man named Rousseau, another one named Taylor, take this back to Freud back in 1939. That was a great year. Freud and I were meeting on that year: he was dying and I was being born. Father of psychology-psychoanalysis. And part of what Freud said is that everyone should be free from all restraint and free from all constraint to be authentic – “authentic” is a key word – to be authentic. To be an authentic person you have to be true to yourself, and to be true to yourself you must accept the legitimacy of your own desires. This is authenticity. In other words, be who you are; this is your true self.
Obviously, the most liberated sinners are the young ones who don’t have the restraint that comes from the lessons of life. They don’t have the restraint that comes from a job, a responsibility, a boss, duty, success, failure, bad decisions. And so, in their youth sheltered by family and even their time in school they’re perpetually adolescent; but they’re authentic, because they’re who they are. So youthful, irresponsible desire is elevated to the noble place, and the perpetual adolescent is seen as the most authentic person.
Over the years since Freud this youthful authenticity has completely dominated the culture to such a degree that almost all advertising and entertainment is aimed at the 13 to 24-year-old who have the least money. They’re not out of the basement of their parents yet, but they define authenticity in the culture. And because the church preached against that kind of authenticity, sinful expression, they rejected the church, and they decided that the church is full of hypocrites who are not authentic, they’re playing a game. The selfish hedonist is the hero, and the church is just full of phonies. “If a church doesn’t let me be me I’m not going there.” So some decades ago churches began to worry they were going to lose their young people, and they thought it was their job not God’s to recover them. And as this cultural ethos took over church leaders began to fear they were going to lose their youth, and so they began to dumb down their churches and transform them into something that appealed to this cheap, immature, adolescent culture.
In the pre ‘60s nobody expected a church service to be entertaining. Nobody expected worship to be some kind of physical stimulation. Nobody expected flashing lights and smoke. Nobody expected to have their desires manipulated and to have them be told that God accepts them just the way they are.
When you went to church you expected to be thoughtful, and quiet, and prayerful, and sober, and you expected the Word of God to lead you to understanding, and to conviction, and to transformation, and to elevation. And at the very best, you would have an encounter with God through an understanding of His truth and the ability to express it in corporate worship. To the modern generation of young people, God-centered, serious, sober, scriptural worship, preaching about sin and holiness is far too absolute, far too offensive, and irrelevant to what they want. There’s no interest in sanctification, holiness, purity, godliness, or separation from the world. But again, the fact that we’re even talking about this indicates that people who run these churches have forgotten their job is not to make unbelievers happy with the church, it’s to make the saints like Christ. So this has sucked all emphasis on sin and righteousness and holiness and godliness and purity out of the church.
Now, there is, there is a heretical view of sanctification that fits this. Historically it’s called antinomianism, perfect, because antinomianism simply says, “Hey, God saved me. I’m under His grace, I don’t have to worry about sin. This is who I am, this is how I’m wired.” Go so far as to say, “Not only did Christ pay for my sins on the cross, but He also lived a perfect life which is credited to my account.” That’s true. “So if the life of Christ has been credited to my account already, He has lived a perfect life for me; I need to just accept that and stop worrying.” One writer said it this way: “Thou shalt not does not apply to me.”
This is an old heresy, but it’s back in a very popular way. And people think it’s kind of noble heresy, by the way, because they see it as a cure for legalism. “Well, we’re not like those legalistic, old churches, Christians saying no to everything. There’s no authenticity. We all know their feelings, their feelings are like ours; they’ve all bottled them up in this phony environment. We’re free, we’re not bound by legalism. We’re free.”
Let me tell you something: the antinomian thinks he’s free from the law, and he celebrates that. You read what they write: “We’re not under the law, we’re under grace. We’ve been freed from the law, we’ve been delivered from the law, so we’re not bound to the law. Christ has fulfilled the law for us, so I’m free from the law.” And when they speak and when they teach this is what they emphasize.
But let me help you to understand something: antinomianism is just the backside of legalism, it’s two sides of the same coin. An antinomian has not escaped from the law. The legalist defines his relationship to God by keeping the law; the antinomian defines his relationship to God by not having to keep the law. In both cases they define their relationship to God by the law rather than by a relationship to Christ.
I don’t define my Christian life by a relationship to the law, either bound by the law or freed from the law. I define my relationship to God as being in Christ. Legalism and antinomianism are two sides of the exact same heresy being attached to the law as a defining reality of your life, and the legalist can’t restrain the flesh with his legalism, and an antinomian cannot restrain the flesh with his understanding of the law either, that it has no power over him. Both will crash and burn. And we see it all the time. The legalist is the one who thinks he must keep the law to please God, the antinomian is the one who thinks he must not keep the law to please God. Neither has understood the defining relationship of true salvation, which is a loving relationship to Christ: Christ in us, and us in Christ.
My life has nothing to do with the law in terms of its definition. I’m in Christ, I’m joined to Christ, I love Christ, the Spirit is in me, and the Spirit empowers me to fulfill the will of Christ. It’s all about the Holy Spirit, it’s all about the Lord Himself and the union I have with Him, not about the law. But legalism is rejected by this culture, antinomianism is embraced by this culture. I suppose you can go to a lot of churches and proclaim that you’re LGBTQ or whatever and that’s not going to be an issue. There’s a lot more that could be said about that, we don’t have time to really cover that.
But one of the really severe problems with this contemporary form of antinomianism is that they go so far as to say, “If you obey the Word of God out of responsibility, duty, reverence, respect, obligation, that is sin.” That’s a trap. If I do something it’s a sin; if I don’t do it because I feel responsible to God not to do it, that’s a sin. If both of them are sin I might as well go the default route. You can be a Christian and be immoral. You can say you’re a Christian and live like Justin Bieber, who cares. Churches are happy to accommodate this error.
Turn back to Titus chapter 2 for just a moment, just to bring some biblical truth to this. Verse 11, Titus 2: “For the grace of God has appeared.” The grace of God has appeared in, of course, the arrival of the Son of God and the gospel and His person and work. “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation.” So God’s grace has come to bring salvation. That’s the first thing the grace of God does.
But notice, there’s more. Bringing salvation is followed in verse 12 by this, “instruction is to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” The same grace that saved us is the grace that instructs us to holiness: the grace of God instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires. It’s the same grace that brings us salvation that instructs us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, live sensibly, righteously, godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and appearing the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.
Why should we have a second coming look? Because he who has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure. And that because “Christ Jesus gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and purify for Himself a people for His own possession zealous for good works. These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” Hammer hard on the antinomians grace of God that brings salvation instructing.
Instructing is paideuō in the Greek, and you see it translated in the NAS “instructing” in verse 12. It appears in the book of Hebrews chapter 12 over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and it’s translated “discipline.” It’s translated discipline because that’s what it essentially means, and it talks about the discipline of the Lord being grievous, being something that you don’t like but it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. So sanctification is living under the commands of God and being disciplined by God to obey those commands. And if you don’t do that you may be weak, you may be sick, and you may die, 1 Corinthians 11.
Romans 5 says, “Sin reigned, and now grace reigns.” Did you get that? Grace is a sovereign over you. Divine grace is a sovereign, it reigns over you. It is a monarch, and that fits here. The grace of God instructs us to deny ungodliness. That paideuō verb is used in Paul’s letter to Timothy translated “correcting.” Grace corrects, grace disciplines, and all of this for the glory of God and our joy.
Can I say it simply? Sanctification is a process of fighting for full joy. Sanctification is the process of fighting for full joy and not selling out for a cheap substitute along the pathway. But because so many people want the young to come and not be offended in their self-authentication – and by the way, the young have infected all the older people too who act equally adolescent. Some pastors dress like they shop at Forever 21. I don’t even know if you can buy men’s clothes at Forever 21.
Well, how do we correct this? Okay, that was my introduction, let’s go back to Galatians. I told you, right, it was going to be long. Let’s, with that in our minds, go back to verse 19 of Galatians 4. I had much more to say, by the way. That’s what we always say when we just run out of material. Verse 19. You identify with that, I can tell.
Verse 19: “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.” You begin to feel the weight of that text now in that context that we’ve discussed? Paul desired painfully with all his loving, holy heart that his people be sanctified. Sanctification assumes maturity, doesn’t it?
What is it to be like Christ? Christ was not indifferent to the law of God, but Christ was not bound by that law, Christ was bound by that defined, unfathomable, perfect love. The Galatians have been foolish, they have been bewitched, and the bewitching that has come to them has caused the process of sanctification to be thwarted. “My children, I am like a birthing mother, and I’ve done this once before. Why am I doing it again?”
The first preaching of the gospel to these Galatian pagans was a painful experience for the apostles. He confronted sin and righteousness and judgment, and until the gospel broke through in the power of the Spirit and they were born into new life and they were delivered from the realm of darkness and they were justified by faith, and now he’s suffering all over again until Christ is formed in you, morphoō. It’s not about shape, it’s about the essential character, to be like Christ.
It’s not the goal of a pastor that people be content with his messages, it’s the goal of the pastor that he be satisfied with the sanctification of his people. And I don’t know that that will ever happen. I’ve told our people on a couple of occasions, “If I don’t recognize you in heaven it’s only because I won’t know you when you’re like Christ. So you’ll have reintroduce yourself.”
What does it say in Galatians 5:13? “You were called to freedom, brethren.” I preached on this last Sunday morning. You might want to get that message; you can download it. “You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use or turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh.” That’s obvious.
This is so baffling to Paul. Look what he says in the next verse, verse 20: “I could wish to be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.” This is just agonizing for him. “I wish I could be there to help in the work of sanctification. I wish I could be there to say, ‘Be followers of me as I am of Christ.’ I wish I could change my tone. I wish I wouldn’t have to talk this way. I’m just aporeō, puzzled, uncertain, at my wit’s end, grieved, heartbroken, that you’re not like Christ.”
So I just say as we begin this week together, this is the pastor’s passion. This is why you have been called to do what you do, to bring the people in your care to conformity to Christ so that they look like Him.
Jesus said it, didn’t He? “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Or Paul to the Philippians, “You’re lights in the world manifesting Christ.” This is our single calling. It’s not about redeeming the culture, it’s about the sanctification of the saints whose transformed lives will impact the culture and the world. I can’t fix the culture, that’s a delusion.
You’ve got to be real when you think about how much impact you can have, and it’s virtually nothing if you’re not proclaiming this. You don’t have any authority, you don’t have any power, there are not many mighty, not many noble. But put this in the hand of a minister of God and he becomes the most powerful force on the earth. And this Word of God is going to sanctify your people, and a sanctified people are going to change a culture. So we just wanted to start out this way emphasizing the urgency and importance of sanctification. I did have more to say, but that’s okay.
Now, we know that this is the work of the Word, right? “Sanctify them by Thy truth; Thy word is truth.” So we know that. We also know that adolescent, immature people don’t know how to listen to the Word of God. Listening to expository preaching is an acquired skill. You could go in and you could have the best framed expository message ever, and you could go into a group of adolescents who are used to smoke and mirrors, and flashing lights, and you know, sensual manipulation, and you would bore them to death, because they have never experienced the power of the Word of God unleashed when it’s exposited.
So it’s an acquired taste. It may take time even for the people to whom you minister to understand its power. But once they do, that’s why you’re here this week, because you want to be under the power of this truth. It is the most powerful spiritual experience we have.