Sanctification is the present ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in every Christian alive on the earth. It is the single work of God between justification and glorification. It involves edification, the increase of spiritual knowledge. It involves strength against temptation. It involves the Holy Spirit moving on the will. It involves the Holy Spirit producing the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the believer. But all of those things are for the purpose of the believer’s sanctification.
This then becomes the consuming passion of the apostle Paul, and so he says in chapter 4 of Galatians, verse 19, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you. Christ is already in you, but I want your life to take the shape of Jesus Christ, till Christ is formed in you, till you look like Christ.” It’s Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I life I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Paul is saying there that there’s a sense in which we want to be indistinguishable from Christ who is in us. That was the case in the early church so that the unbelievers in Antioch actually called believers in Christ “little Christs” or “Christians.”
Sanctification is what God is doing. We celebrate His work of election. We celebrate His work of justification, salvation, forgiveness of sin that occurred at our regeneration. We celebrate glorification when we all go to heaven. But in between we live in the process of sanctification, the work of the Holy Spirit by which He increases our holiness, detaches us more and more from sin, and more and more toward righteousness, holiness, and godliness. That work of the Holy Spirit is going on in the life of every true believer. “By their fruit you shall know them.” But remember in John 15, “The Father wills that you bear much fruit,” and that is evidence of an exhilarated sanctification. Sad to say, many believers are being sanctified at such an imperceptible rate that it’s hard to even see such progress.
On the other hand, there are many who have an exhilarated sanctification because they are so devoted to the means by which that sanctification occurs. And the primary means, as far as we’re concerned, is the Scripture. John 17:17, “Sanctify them” – Jesus prays to the Father – “by Thy truth; Thy Word is truth.” Our Lord says there in one very brief verse that the agent of sanctification is the Word of God. That is the means of sanctification in the power of the Holy Spirit operating in the life of the believer. Sanctification cannot occur apart from ingesting, believing, loving the Word of God.
I saw a rather startling, and yet not surprising, study this morning. Came out of LifeWay the Southern Baptist operation that does their books and curriculum. They did a survey and they said that less than fifty percent of born again, quote, “evangelicals” believe the core doctrines of Christianity. How is that possible to call yourself born again and an evangelical and not believe the core doctrines of Christianity? And here are the four that less than fifty percent believe: one, that Jesus Christ is the only Savior; two, that the Bible is the Word of God and authoritative; three, that one must come to Christ as Savior and Lord; and four, that we have a responsibility to preach the gospel to the world.
Less than half confessed born again evangelicals believe those things, which is to say that they are somehow attached to churches or whatever where the leadership is so weak that they don’t even understand the foundations of what they confess. This is testimony of the abysmal weakness of so called churches. To find in these churches the absence of even the basics that relate to the gospel of salvation and the responsibility to proclaim the gospel and the authority of Scripture is a frightening, frightening reality. Where those things don’t exist you can believe this: there is no passion for sanctification.
It is questionable whether if somebody doesn’t believe those things they are actually a Christian. How can sanctification be an issue if you’re not even dealing with somebody who’s regenerated? All Paul’s letters in one way or another reflect this painful consuming passion of His heart about the sanctification, the Christlikeness of believers.
Seems to be, as I said Monday, very little interest in that kind of pastoral passion. Pastors seem, in many cases, to be more concerned about the number of crowds, the style of ministry, the style of music, and maybe sometimes even more concerned about their fashion, than they are for the sanctification, holiness, godliness, purity, virtue, separation of their people from the world. Not a lot of calls to self-denying, holy submission to the Lord as He has revealed Himself and to His commands in Scripture.
Even pastors are not known for their deep devotion to Jesus Christ in their pursuit of holiness. Pretty sad, you know, just about every single day there’s another epic disaster of some pastor who’s immorality graft, greed, and corruption, or whatever, is revealed; so much so now that there are, I think in the survey I read last week, there are somewhere around six or eight professions in our culture that have more respect than pastors.
Well, pastors have earned that loss of respect. If there’s no concern for holiness and virtue in their lives, why would we expect it in the lives of the people that they have in their care? In their minds, ministry has to do with success on a superficial level, very little to do with holiness.
This is a culture, as we said on Monday, of dominant selfishness where people are basically programmed to think they are the center of the universe. That narcissism follows them into the church, where they expect to get what they want, and whether they get what they want or not validates the legitimacy of that church. Humility, the most lovely of virtues, is dead in the culture; and the culture has gone to church. It’s a large challenge to bring even Christians out of the brainwashing of self-centeredness to self-denial, cross-bearing, and seeking only to follow Jesus Christ no matter what the cost. There cannot be strong preaching on holiness, sanctification, and purity in churches trying to be as worldly as possible, to make the selfish feel comfortable.
So having said that, in this kind of church environment, is there any paradigm, any suggested paradigm of sanctification that might work? Well, there has to be. There has to be some explanation of the Christian life. If you say you’re an evangelical, you’re saved and born again, you say you’re a Christian, there’s got to be some approach to the issue of living your life.
What is growing and gaining in popularity is what has historically been called “antinomianism.” Nomos is the Greek word or “law.” “Anti” means “against law.” Antinomianism is an old, old heresy that comes in many, many, many forms; but it basically is the heresy that denies that the moral law of God plays any role at all in the life of a believer.
Now maybe you’ve heard that. The main architect of it in this young generation over the last five or ten years was a guy named Tullian Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham. He was advocating this loudly everywhere in every direction, “We are not under law. We are not under law. We are not bound by the moral law. We are free in Christ, we live in grace. Don’t worry about that. You can’t live under duty, you can’t live under the bondage of necessary obedience; you are free in Christ.”
Every time I hear somebody preach that I realize that they are covering up a life of sin with a very convenient theology. Well, as it turned out, the immorality in his life was rampant: threw him out of his church, threw him out of his marriage, uncovered all kinds of women. This is a convenient kind of theology for the kind of Christianity that Justin Bieber affirms.
Antinomianism: it’s an old, old heresy. It has come back strongly and it has come back popularly. And I’ve seen forms of this my whole ministry life. There was a kind of classic antinomianism that went through the ages, and early in my ministry it was the no lordship salvation that you could be a Christian by believing in Christ. And this was coming out of Dallas Theological Seminary, and they were populating the faculties of every Bible-teaching church and institution in America, with faculty members and pastors. It was the largest seminary in the country, they were flourishing; and their theology was this idea that you confess Jesus as Savior, and that’s all you need to do. And there doesn’t necessarily need to be a change in your life. In fact, you could actually, said Zane Hodges in a book – he was a faculty member there – you can be an unbelieving believer. You could actually, after you had come to Christ and confessed Him as Savior, become an unbeliever and you’re still saved.
The issue with that is an undermining of the very essential nature of regeneration. “If any man be in Christ he’s” – what – “new creation. Old things passed away, everything is new,” new will, new heart, new mind, new spirit. That kind of theology denied that. So that was a form of antinomianism. And I wrote a book called The Gospel According to Jesus to attack that many years ago. And I remember the publisher said, “Well we think that we’ll sell about twenty-five thousand of those.” And I think the first year was two hundred and fifty thousand, and the reason was because that book stepped on the oxygen hose of that movement, and they were gagging for air when that movement was exposed to the Scripture.
There were issues that followed that up, so I wrote another book, The Gospel According to the Apostles. I wrote several other books on the gospel: Ashamed of the Gospel – lots of other books. Finally, lately, The Gospel According to Paul, and now another book The Gospel According to God. And all these books address the issue of the denial in one way or anther of the reality of sanctification. There was also the movement of what was called quietism: you do nothing as a Christian. “Let go and let God” was the old form of that. That was a kind of antinomianism.
But here’s what antinomianists would say. This is the definition; this is there, sort of, theological defense: “Christians do not have any obligation to obey the moral law of God since Christ obeyed it for them.” And that’s true. It is true that Christ fulfilled all righteousness, and His righteousness is imputed to us. So they take from that the notion that we’re under no obligation to any of the moral law of God. We can’t do it, so we don’t need to worry about doing it; Christ did it for us. The problem with that is it rejects all biblical commands to believers; and the New Testament is full of them.
Now why do people come up with this? Well, antinomianism is imagined to be a cure for legalism. We don’t want to be legalists. We don’t want to be legalists. So antinomianism is the opposite of legalism. We’re not under the bondage of the law; we’re not trying to earn our way with God. We’re free from all law, we’re under grace. Sinclair Ferguson says in his book The Whole Christ, which I would highly recommend to you, “The wholesale removal of the law seems to provide a refuge for the antinomian. But the problem is not the law but the heart that remains unchanged.”
The antinomian thinks he’s free from legalism; he is not. He is still bound to the law. The antinomian is still a legalist. This is the delusion of antinomianism, that the antinomian thinks that by going in the opposite direction and completely rejecting the law and freeing himself from the law, he has therefore distanced himself permanently from legalism.
Legalism says that, “I earn my way with God. I work my way into salvation.” The antinomian thinks, “Well, I’m going to reject all that, and I’m going to reject the law altogether. I can’t do it, I won’t do it; He did it for me. It’s irrelevant to me, I pay no attention to it; I live any way I want to live.”
That is a very popular view today in this sinful form of whatever evangelicalism is. But here’s the problem: the antinomian is still a legalist. Why? Because he is defining his relationship to God by his relationship to the law. The legalist says, “I define my relationship to God by my keeping of the law.” The antinomian says, “I define my relationship to God by my not keeping the law.”
But in both cases, the law defines them. He’s still defining his religious life by his relationship to the law. The legalists is identified as one who thinks he must keep the law to please God. The antinomian is identified as one who thinks he must not keep the law to please God. He must sin so grace can abound – to put a twist on Romans 6.
But it’s two sides of the same heresy. The antinomian is just as much a legalist as the legalist; he hasn’t escaped at all. Neither has understood that the defining nature of salvation is not the law. You don’t define your salvation by thinking you earned it by keeping the law, or that you received it by grace and therefore you ignore the law. In both cases, you’re still defining your Christian experience by the law. And neither have understood this: true salvation is defined by my relationship not to the law, but to the Lord Jesus Christ.
I would never, if somebody asked me how to describe my Christian life I would never define my Christian life in connection to the law. I would define my Christian life as loving Christ, wanting to honor Christ, glorify Christ, serving Christ, knowing Christ, proclaiming Christ, obeying Christ. This alone breaks the bonds of legalism and antinomianism. Where you see somebody in antinomianism who thinks he’s free to do whatever he wants, he is still connected to the law, perhaps most likely because he has no relationship to Christ, no relationship.
The truth is that in Christ the Holy Spirit has written God’s moral law on my heart. I love that law. David said, “O, how I love the law.” Why do I love the law? Because I love Christ. And what is the law? The law is the emanating glory of Christ in precept form. Did you hear that? The law is the emanating glory of Christ in precept form. I love Christ; that’s how I define my life. I don’t define my life by a relationship to the law, I define my life by a relationship to Him.
That changes everything. If you’re still defining your life by your relationship to the law there’s a real question about whether you’re even a Christian. Legalism undermines the gospel by insisting that believers must add righteous works to faith in order to be saved. Antinomianism perverts the gospel by making nothing of the work of regeneration, denying that those who confess Jesus as Savior will also lovingly obey Him out of the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the recreation of the new man.
Antinomianism is living without regard for the righteousness of God, using grace as a cover for sin, a cloak of maliciousness, lasciviousness, Peter says. Antinomians say, “Since grace is infinite and sinners are saved by grace, and we stand in grace, we’re guaranteed forgiveness. And we don’t want to go back to the law and duty.” In fact, let me tell you how bad it gets; and I interacted with the very guy that I mentioned a little earlier in some conversations about this. Here’s what makes this so insidious: If I as a believer obey the Word of God because it’s right, if I do it out of duty, if I do it out of respect, if I do it out of obligation, if I do it out of responsibility, that is a sin, that is a sin.
So, this is the trap the antinomian puts you in: If you don’t obey the Word of God the Bible says, that’s a sin. If you do obey the Word of God by duty, responsibility, respect, or any other act of the human will, that’s a sin. So you can choose your sin, and the easy choice is the default position not to do it, and you sort of feel holy. And they would say this, that unless you do the right thing by some – I don’t even know how to define it – some esoteric, elevated, transcendent, emotional fit that you’ve come into by contemplating Christ suffering on the cross, any obedience short of that kind of emotional drive is a kind of sin.
This is horrendous trap: “I sin if I don’t, I sin if I do.” No wonder the antinomian says, “Don’t worry about it.” But you’ll hear these people sometimes say, “Preach the cross to yourself all the time. Preach the cross to yourself all the time. Preach the cross to yourself all the time.”
Why are they saying that? Because there’s this illusion that they can generate some kind of sentimentality that sort of elevates you above a sheer act of the will into some kind of emotional high where you sort of float into obedience. I’ve never had that experience. Obedience for me has always been an act of the will. But as I walk with Christ through the years my will gets stronger and stronger and stronger, to the point where there is little or no resistance in doing the thing that I know pleases the Lord.
All that to say, the current church culture, the current theological weakness is a breeding ground for antinomianism. You have churches full of non-Christians who think they’re born again, who think they’re evangelical, and who know their lives have not been transformed, who are full of sin. Antinomianism accommodates that and says, “Great, sure. You’re a Christian. And don’t worry about it, Jesus kept the law for you. So be what you want to be. Be authentic, be immoral, be LGBTQ, be transgender, be whatever you want.”
Churches are happy to accommodate this in this kind of culture. They want young people to come and not be offended. But they can’t show any interest in sanctification, this is the trend. They can’t cultivate in people a hatred of sin, not a hatred of sin in somebody else, but a hatred of sin in themselves. They’re only interested in what’s cool, what’s authentic. Churches now are not defined by sanctification and theology, they’re defined by style.
So how do we regrip the divine truth and the critical place of biblical sanctification in the church’s message? No better place than right where we are, Galatians 4:19. This must be our passion. We must have labor pains, deep, profound pain, until Christ is formed in us. Painful with his holy, loving heart, that his people weren’t fully sanctified. Paul has deep concerns about these people.
If you go back to verse 11 of that chapter, Galatians 4:11, “I fear for you, perhaps I have labored” – same concept – “over you for nothing. My children, I’m like a birthing mother, and the pain is excruciating to see Christ morphoō, see Christ literally morphed into your life, so that you become in some way indistinguishable from Him.”
There’s no place for antinomianism in that. Paul is not content that they understand grace. He is discontent that they’re not like Christ, and he’s even perplexed, he says at the end of verse 20: “I’m perplexed. I’m confused because you’ve believed the lies of false teachers.”
Now, having said that, let me build on that a little bit for a time. Get your Bible ready. The idea of conformity to the Lord Jesus Christ is at the heart of Paul’s teaching. Conformity to the Lord Jesus Christ is at the heart of Paul’s teaching. You will, I know, remember Romans 8:28. Everybody knows Romans 8:28; at least they know the part of it that they always quote when things aren’t going very well.
But in Romans 8:28 we read this: “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Okay, so what is His purpose? “For those whom He foreknew,” – that’s before the foundation of the world – “He predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.”
Predestination is not to justification, predestination is to conformity to Christ; that’s the objective, and that will ultimately happen in glorification. “So whom He justifies,” – verse 30 says – “He ultimately glorifies.” The whole purpose of salvation is the final conformity of every believer to Christ. John says, “We’ll be like Him, for we see Him as He is.” He will be the prōtotokos among many brothers, many like Him.
Again in Romans, toward the end of the book in the thirteenth chapter and the fourteenth verse, this is so simple and so basic, but it speaks to the same issue. Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” There’s a deathblow to antinomianism. Be like Christ, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, be conformed to Christ. Make no provision for the flesh and it’s lusts.
What is the role of a leader in the church? What is the role of a pastor? Go to Ephesians chapter 4. I had the Lord to help me to understand this in the very earliest years of my ministry. Foundational for any understanding of the life of the church.
Ephesians chapter 4 talks about how Christ descended into the earth in His incarnation, descended even into the grave, and then ascended back to heaven. And when He went back to heaven, “He then” – verse 11 says – “gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, some as evangelists,” – apostles and prophets were the foundation, followed by the evangelists – “and some as teaching pastors,” – here’s the point, verse 12 – “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge” – the deep, the epignōsis – “of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
That’s the point. All who are evangelists, teaching pastors, like the apostles and prophets, are given to the church to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body into the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, until they come to the measure of the fullness of the stature of Christ. To build the church and its people into Christlikeness is the whole point of ministry.
In Philippians chapter 3, verse 13, Paul says, “I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do:” – I like that. I like to simply, so that’s good for me. “One thing I do, just this one thing: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” What is the prize of the upward call? It’s what awaits us in heaven. What is the prize? Conformity to Christ. That’s what we read in Romans. The call upward, when you’re called into heaven, you will be like Christ.
So Paul says, “That’s the prize. And while I’m here in this life I press on so as to lay hold of that. I live for that goal here. I’ll attain it one day; but in the meantime, that’s my goal here. I press on toward the goal which will one day be the prize: to be like Jesus Christ.”
Again, Colossians 2, verse 6: “Therefore as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” What does it mean to walk in Him? Put your feet in His footsteps; conform your life pattern to Him. Christ is all in all. We do not define our Christian life by our relationship to the law, but our relationship to Christ.
Colossians 3:10, “Put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” Wow, what a statement. “Put on the new man, the new self, whom the Holy Spirit is renewing in a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” The Holy Spirit works to conform us to Christ. John says, “If you say you believe in Christ, then walk the way He walked.” Salvation places a person into the footsteps of Christ. The whole goal of sanctification is Christlikeness.
Now I want to take you to a key verse and I’ll wrap it up with this one, 2 Corinthians 3:18. This is really vital, 2 Corinthians 3:18. Paul makes a comparison between the old covenant and the new covenant, and he shows how the new covenant is so much better than the old covenant. It’s better because the old covenant was written with ink, the new covenant is written on the heart by the Holy Spirit. The old covenant was written on tablets of stone, and the new covenant is again written on the heart. The old covenant kills, the new covenant gives life. The old covenant fades, the new covenant endures. The old covenant is bondage, the new covenant is freedom. He’s comparing those covenants, and he comes down to verse 18: “But we all, with unveiled face,” – I want to stop right there.
When Moses came down from the mountain, he says back in verse 13, when Moses having seen the glory of God in the rock – Exodus 32, 33 – he goes up into the mountain. God shows him a little, tiny glimpse of His glory; it gets all over his face. He comes down, he stands before the people; the glory starts to fade, so he puts a veil over his face so they can’t see the glory fade. Well, that’s essentially verse 13. “Moses used to put a veil over his face so the sons of Israel wouldn’t look intently at the end of what was fading away.” He wanted them not to see the glory fading from his face.
“Their minds were hardened;” – verse 14 – “until this very day is the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it’s removed in Christ.” There was a veil over the face of those in the Old Testament, they couldn’t see the full glory. Moses could see a glimpse of it tucked in the rock, he couldn’t see the full glory. “But when Christ came, we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
His glory, the glory of God, was unveiled. Never had the glory of God been on display like it was in Christ. It was explosive and overwhelming; and we see it with an unveiled face. How do we see it? We didn’t see Christ; we weren’t there when He was there. But the revelation of His appearance starts in Matthew and goes all the way to the book of Revelation; and this is the record of the unveiling of His glory. We even get a glimpse that the people on the mount – Peter, James, and John were the only ones that God – and that is when He pulled back the veil of His flesh, and blazing glory went forth, and they all fell over in a coma. They saw His glory. We see His full glory, not for a moment on a mountain. We see His full glory displayed in the New Testament.
We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror” – a mirror in those days was a piece of metal flattened out, and flattened out, and flattened out, and polished to a fine, fine point, and you could look – if you held it close enough you could see clearly the image. So what he’s meaning to say is not that we’re looking at ourselves, but now we have a clear vision with an unveiled face.
Why do we have an unveiled face? Because all of the revelation of Jesus Christ is now complete. It wasn’t at the end of the Old Testament; it was in types and shadows and prophecies. “Now we, with an unveiled face, behold in a mirror the glory of the Lord.” And here’s the key: as we behold the glory of the Lord in its clarity in the New Testament, we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, meaning from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next, to the next. That’s progressive sanctification, and that is the work of the Lord who is the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. There you have, I think, the single most clear and direct statement about sanctification. Nothing obstructs our view – no veil, no hiding in a rock – full glory on display. Perfect vision of Christ, perfect vision of Christ in the sense that we have all the revelation of Him in the New Testament. And as we gaze at His glory there revealed, we are transformed into the same image.
Paul says, “I want you to be like Christ. I want Christ to morphoó, to morph into your life so that you become somewhat indistinguishable. Here the verb “transformed” is metamorphoō. It’s the same idea. What will happen is the Holy Spirt, as you gaze at the glory of Christ, will shape you into His image, from one level of glory to the next, to the next. That’s kind of a Hebraic way of laying down some things that go on in sequence. This describes progressive sanctification.
Moses gazed at the glory of the Lord, a little bit of it, an afterglow it says. He took on that glory, but it faded. The glory then was decreasing. The glory now, as we gaze it and it comes to our face, is increasing. The glory was decreasing on the face of Moses, the glory is increasing in us; and that is work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus promised that, by the way, back in the sixteenth chapter of John, when He was meeting with His disciples. He said this: “When the Holy Spirit comes He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and disclose it to you.” How did He do that? In the revelation of the New Testament. In the revelation of the New Testament. “He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit conforming us to Christlikeness, which occurs when we are looking into the glory of the Lord as revealed on the pages of the New Testament. You’re not going to have a catapult into the next plateau of sanctification by some emotional event happening in your life, it’s going to come in the constant preoccupation with the magnificence of Christ. When I see someone who defines his life by the law I see someone like Moses with a fading glory. When I see someone who defines his life by a relationship to Jesus Christ, that is ever-increasing because of the unparalleled incomparable magnetism of our Lord. Are we passive in this work of sanctification? Do we just let go and let God? No. Paul says, “that I may know Him, that I may know Him, that I may know Him.”
Everything in your Christian life and sanctification connects with you knowing Christ better; and the only way that can happen is to see the full revelation of His glory on the pages of Scripture. Sometimes people say to me, “Why do you just preach through the New Testament, preach through books of the New Testament?” Because that’s like taking my people to the mountain to see the glory of God with an unveiled face, and not just His afterglow like Moses. But the full, blazing glory of the transfigured Christ in spiritual reality is on the pages of the New Testament.
The antinomian is a legalist; he defines his spiritual life in relation to the law rather than Christ. And that is not what the Holy Spirit uses to sanctify somebody. What the Holy Spirit uses to sanctify somebody is their preoccupation with Christ. I love Him, therefore I love His moral, holy law, because that is just His emanating glory in precept form. The heart of the antinomian remains unchanged.
Just to close, turn to 2 Peter. This passage is, I think, should be anyway, 2 Peter 1, a deathblow to antinomians who seem so noble in their distain for obedience and the law. “Grace and peace” – verse 2 – “be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;” – if you want the fullness of grace and peace it comes with the knowledge, the fullness of knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus – “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” All that came in salvation. “For by these” – that is by His divine power and the true knowledge of Him – “He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” Past tense.
All right, you’ve been delivered from the world, you’ve escaped the world and its condemnation, you have been elevated beyond that. Now what does it say? Just kind of freewill your way through life and don’t worry about anything? No. “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence” – this is not passive – “applying all diligence, in you faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing,” – that’s sanctification – “they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I’ll just tell you this: an antinomian is fruitless – diligence in all these moral, noble characteristics. Where Christ dwells, the Spirit dwells. Where Christ and the Spirit dwell, there is love for God. Where there is love for God, there is love for the law of God, which is a manifestation of His character.
We are controlled by love, that’s why 1 Corinthians 16:22 defines a nonbeliever like this: “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be damned.” Look at all these people who say they’re Christians and are happy to define themselves by their relationship to the law, and in this culture by rejecting it, who have no evident love for Christ, no consuming passion to know Him better by seeing the glory of His revelation in Scripture.
Father, we thank You again. The time that we spend together on this is at the very heart of our lives. And You have not left us a lack of insight, a lack of knowledge, a lack of truth; it’s all here. Increase our love. We love You, Lord. We need to love You with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That’s what You deserve; that’s what we would love to give You. Forgive us for the superficiality of our love. If we love You, we keep Your commandments. So the more we love You, the more we love Your law, and the more we obey Your law, and the more joy we have. Sanctify us, that we might manifest Christ to the world.
There’s so much confusion, so many so-called Christians giving the world such horrific, horrific distortions of what Christianity is. Help us to be the reflection of the true Light, the Lord Jesus Christ. May that Light shine through us, to Your glory we pray. Amen.
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