This morning we’re talking about progressive sanctification. This is a subject that can take hours and hours of a class, so we won’t be able to chase down all details.
What do we mean by progressive sanctification? Progressively separated from sin and more dedicated to righteousness with the result being that the Christian becomes progressively more free and sanctified from sin.
Generally, we understand that there is often a huge gap between how we (or someone we know) lives and how the Bible says a Christian can and should live.
John Wesley represents an attempt to correct the weakness of Lutheranism and Calvinism (the reformed tradition). He offered some methods for growth, meeting together in small groups and ask each other questions. His understanding of progressive sanctification was hampered by his belief that a person should have a “crisis” at conversion and attain sinless sanctification.
A lot of discipleship training people promote comes down to learning Bible verses and what is right and good and trying harder to do the right thing. Each of the things in their place can be ok and helpful, even accountability can fall into this category. The problem here is that this doesn’t address the deeper issues that cause sin.
Common False Assumptions That Hinder Growth
Some of these may be partially true, but they are often twisted some from what the Bible says.
- All you need to do is go to church, read your Bible, and pray.
- Just try harder.
- Just repent of sin in your life.
- Just be obedient, don’t go too much on your feelings.
- If you had a real conversion you would be delivered from your sinful habits.
- You just lack baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- If you believe the right things you’ll behave the right way.
- People will change if you make them feel guilty or ashamed enough.
- All change requires is to decide to do it.
Marks of a Disciple of Christ
Born again – John 3 – Jesus tells Nicodemus that he “must be born again” this is a work of the Holy Spirit. We must be born again and trusting that Jesus is Lord and that He bore everything that is wrong with me to the cross. My salvation depends on Jesus.
Growing in a deeper and more authentic relationship with Christ – John 15, 2 Corinthians 3:18-19 – Being a Christian isn’t about just believing certain doctrines. It is about being in a relationship with Christ and growing deeper in that relationship. Being in the vine and being nourished by His life.
Learning what is true and righteous and best based on scripture Ephesians 4 – Based on scripture, the Holy Spirit, and righteous people in their lives. The result is that they will grow in spiritual maturity and will grow in the image of Christ. This is a lifetime process and there is not a single Christian who becomes perfectly mature in this life.
How a Disciple of Christ Grows
Growth towards spiritual maturity is identifying sinful behavior. The difficulty with this is that you can maybe get people to stop their sinful behavior for a time, but if you don’t help them beyond that they will eventually fall back into their sinful behavior. If we try to treat this behavior as the root sin, it doesn’t result in lasting change. Lasting change in our sinful behavior patterns requires a change in our attitudes and hearts.
Growth towards spiritual maturity means addressing heart attitudes and conditions. Some of these heart attitudes and conditions… fear, anxiety, powerlessness, guilt, shame, nobody cares about me, I don’t belong to anyone, lack of trust, lack of love, the feeling of guilt, and there are others. Christ can redeem these conditions and feelings that result in sinful attitudes and behaviors, often people aren’t even aware of having these attitudes and feelings.
Growth towards spiritual maturity means addressing untrue beliefs of the heart and the mind. There are two kinds of beliefs, there are beliefs of the mind and there are beliefs of the heart. They are not the same. Beliefs of the mind are what we claim to believe, what we think the Bible teaches. People can know a lot of things in their head that they can say is the truth, this is good! Beliefs of the heart on the other hand are “what feels true to me.” Often the beliefs of our hearts can contradict what we believe to be true in our minds.
What is Required to Change?
A change requires learning the truth from God’s word. We can’t learn to do the right thing in a vacuum. Change requires being completely honest with ourselves and learning to identify and acknowledge our sinful behavior and any sinful attitudes we have and any false “it feels true to me” beliefs that contribute to sinful attitudes and behavior.
A change requires repenting of one’s addiction to doing whatever makes me feel good. The addiction to feeling good is hard to change if the primary goal in our life is to feel good.
A change requires more than just a strong will. We can’t change if we don’t choose to change, but the first choice we need to make is to surrender our sinful attitudes and thoughts and behaviors and feel goods and it feels true to me beliefs to Jesus and allow Him to work in our heart in places that we can’t directly change.
We cannot “control ourselves” out of sin. Jesus and the Holy Spirit has to work in us, we can’t do it alone. Change requires learning to surrender everything we want to be different to God.
2 Corinthians 3:18 – Change requires private and public worship. This is something that is very difficult for some people. Worship is the primary place where God changes us. Some people need more than just private and public worship, there are times when people need more help.