Sanctified or destroyed

[This is my way of processing what I learned at the Desiring God conference focused on sanctification.  You can find more info and posts here.  This specific post comes from the talks by John Piper.]

I wish this post had a better title.

If it was called ‘how to get a great marriage’ or ‘single and ready to mingle’ it would attract no shortage of readers.  The word sanctification is kind of a buzz kill though.

And that sucks.

Cause – while we have a million felt needs, (like hugs and relationships and comfort and control) – we really only have a few real needs, and sanctification is one of them.  If I don’t get my ‘felt-needs’ met today it may feel like the end of the world, but if I don’t deal with the real-need of sanctification it will be the end of the world.

Satan has won a big victory by distracting us from the important with the urgent; convincing us that hugs are more important than pressing on.

The goal of this post is clear: I want to help cultivate a ‘felt-need’ for a real need.  I want us to feel how essential it is that we press on.

1. Feeling urgency about sanctification doesn’t make you legalistic.  Often, we look at the folks who seem to be ‘striving’ for holiness and we accuse them of working for their salvation.

But the New Testament is filled with verses that are designed to produce an urgency in us to pursue our sanctification. And these verses are explicitly spoken to believers.

Pursuing sanctification is the business of Christians.  In fact, it’s only possible for Christians.

If we try to defeat an un-cancelled sin — a sin that is not already covered by the blood of Jesus, that is, if we try to conquer our sin before it is canceled — we become our own saviors; we nullify the justification of the ungodly (Romans 4:4–5); and we head straight for despair and suicide.

The Cross doesn’t make the battle for holiness superlative, it makes it possible.  It guarantees success.

2. Fighting our sin is essential for salvation.  The Cross purchased for us a new heart governed by the Spirit of God, who is in the business of killing sin.  If we have been buried with Christ, we will rise again to walk in newness of life.

Make no mistake.  Pursuing holiness is not optional for a believer.

Our holiness at the end of the age will be the public vindication of God.  It will be the evidence that He’s righteous and that He’s not a liar.  It will be the evidence that His Spirit is stronger than our flesh.  That He wins.

That doesn’t mean we’ll be perfect.  Sanctification is not about a distance we cover, it’s about the direction we are facing.  It’s the orientation of our hearts, most often displayed in the crown jewel of our holiness: repentance.

3. Pray to care.  So many of us are scared of sanctification.  We’re scared that if we start to feel the need to press on, we will turn into worker bees striving to earn our salvation instead of trusting Jesus.  But the Bible says that if we trust Jesus we can work on our sanctification without taking any credit in success or despairing in failure.

My prayer for all of us is that we will just ask God to help us to care about holiness; that we will let His great promises and warnings in Scripture have their full effect in our lives.

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