Calvary Road Baptist Church

“PAUL’S AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL THEOLOGY: SANCTIFICATION”

Philippians 3.10; Luke 9.23

Let me ask you a question about human nature. I’d like your take on this. Imagine someone in our nation’s history who you personally find impressive. Perhaps it’s George Washington. Maybe it’s Benjamin Franklin. It could be Thomas Jefferson or even Abraham Lincoln. Do you think you would be satisfied to be introduced to whoever it was you admired and to just shake his hand? Could you just leave it at that, or would your admiration of him, coupled with his magnetism and charm, compel you to want to get to know him better if you had the opportunity?

Or how about you guys who are married? When you met that woman you are married to, was a “Hi, how are you?” and a handshake sufficient? Or did you feel compelled, upon meeting the woman of your dreams, to do whatever it took to get to know her better? When I was introduced to my bride to be she gave me a look that said, “Drop dead, sucker,” and walked away from me. Being the masochist that I am, I knew right then and there that this was a relationship worth pursuing. So, after I was introduced to her and you could say that I knew her, I took the initiative to get to know her better and better until I was able to persuade her to marry me.

Now, let’s shift to the Christian life. The Christian life is, of course, the life of someone who has been introduced to and who knows Jesus Christ. And since the Lord Jesus Christ is infinitely superior in every way to your spouse, is infinitely superior in every way to your most admired figure in history, is infinitely superior in every way to everyone, what is the likelihood that someone who has been introduced to Him, who has really been introduced to Him, will then be satisfied to leave the relationship at just the “Hi, how are you?” stage of development, when they could take it farther?

I am deeply suspicious of anyone who claims to know Jesus Christ who then gives no evidence of expending any effort to develop that relationship. I really wonder if the so-called Christian who claims to know Jesus Christ and simply leaves it at that has ever really met Jesus Christ. I mean, how is it possible to be introduced to the most wonderful person there is and have absolutely no interest in getting to know Him better? Is that possible? In a word, no, it is not possible.

In Philippians 3.7-11, Paul has written for us his personal autobiographical theology. To repeat from my last several messages from Philippians, Paul’s evaluation of even man’s best in comparison to Christ (in verses 7 and 8), led to his justification (verse 9), which leads to sanctification (verse 10), and which will ultimately lead to glorification (verse 11). Let’s stand and read the entire passage together:

7      But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

8      Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

9      And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

10     That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

11     If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

My text for this message is verse 10:

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”

If justification occurs when God pronounces you righteous in His sight because you have imputed to you the righteousness of Christ through faith in Christ, then sanctification as we are looking at it here is that gradual process that occurs in the believer’s life, after he is justified, by which he becomes more and more like Jesus Christ and more and more consecrated for service to God. In other words, to tie together several strands that I’ve been developing, justification is the result of what Jesus Christ does for the person who comes to Him by faith, while sanctification is the result of what the Holy Spirit does to the person who has come to Jesus Christ by faith. And while justification occurs instantaneously, is an event, sanctification occurs gradually, is a process that continues over the course of an entire Christian lifetime.

Turn, please, to Romans 8.29-30:

29     For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

30     Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

Take a look at the phrase “predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” In eternity past, God decreed that those He foreknew, and who He would in time call and justify through faith in Christ, would in an appropriate manner and by various means also be conformed to the image of His Son. Interestingly, though God determined this in eternity past to occur, the actual time frame in which it occurs is after a person is justified and before that same person is glorified. In other words, you are being conformed to the image of God’s Son after you are saved and before you die. Being conformed to the image of God’s Son is what happens to every genuinely saved person during the course of his Christian life. It is the very essence of Christianity. The theological term for this process is the word sanctification. Again, it occurs after justification and before glorification.

Now turn to Luke 9.23. If being conformed to the image of Christ is what sanctification looks like from God’s point of view, Luke 9.23 is a description of this process by the Lord Jesus Christ to His apostles, describing for them their own involvement in this process of being conformed to the image of Christ. I read:

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Holding your place in Luke 9.23, turn back to Philippians 3.10, and examine and compare these two verses. Both the twelve apostles the Savior first appointed and the Apostle Paul knew the Lord Jesus Christ. However, Paul’s introduction to the Savior was on the Damascus road, in the brightness of His glory. When the twelve met Him and became intrigued by Him, they saw Him at first only as a man, and then only later three of them glimpsed His glory on the mount of transfiguration.[1] However, in both situations, later with Paul and earlier with the twelve, to know Him meant you wanted to know Him better, more intimately, and more fully. Philippians 3.10 describes the situation of striving to know Christ better from Paul’s personal perspective, while Luke 9.23 records the Lord Jesus Christ’s instructions to His twelve, telling them what they had to do to get to know Him better. In both verses, what we have described is the believer’s responsibility in this process called sanctification.

LET’S FIRST LOOK AT THE GOAL

What is the goal in sanctification? The goal depends on who it is you are considering. God the Father’s goal in determining that you would be sanctified is to conform you to the image of His dear Son. But this thing called sanctification, looked at from the perspective of the Christian, seems to be somewhat different.

When the Lord Jesus Christ was detailing the requirements necessary to be His disciple, or to put it another way, the requirements necessary to hang around with Him, the requirements necessary to get to know Him more perfectly, more intimately, He phrased it in Luke 9.23 with these words: “If any man will come after me.” Imagine someone you’ve been introduced to being on a journey. You want to get to know him more fully, you want to learn of him, to study him, to look upon him and behold him. However, He is on his way to Jerusalem. He has an appointment with a cross. To get to know Him more intimately you have to follow after Him. There is simply no other way.

In Philippians 3.10, we see Paul’s version of the same process of sanctification. However, Paul deals with the issue more from the believer’s side of the situation. Perhaps it is because Paul wasn’t seeking to establish the structure of how disciples are made, but was showing to his readers the very heart of discipleship, the soul of sanctification. God wants you to be conformed to the image of His Son, but what motivation does God place into your bosom to want to pay the price of becoming more like Jesus Christ? It is the increasing desire to know Him. Understand that you already know Jesus Christ, if you are saved. But beyond being saved, forgiven, and on his way to heaven, Paul wanted to really know the One he loved.

The goal, then, is to know Him. It is to follow after Him in the journey of life. And since there are things the Savior is determined to accomplish, you will not get to know Him better by standing still and leaning up against a wall. You are going to have to get on the move to accomplish your goal.

THE GOAL OF KNOWING HIM IS A WORTHY GOAL. BUT WHAT STEPS MUST YOU TAKE IN YOUR LIFE TO KNOW HIM, TO KNOW HIM BETTER, TO KNOW HIM MORE FULLY?

In Luke 9.23, the Savior sets forth three definitive steps that must be taken by each and every disciple, each and every believer, to cultivate your relationship with Jesus Christ. Again, in Philippians 3.10, we find Paul expressing parallel steps in terms of the results these steps achieve in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Step number one. The Apostle Paul expresses the first step as experiencing “the power of His resurrection.” And no wonder, since Paul’s encounter was with the resurrected and glorified Savior, and in Luke we see disciples and sanctification expressed in terms of before the resurrection of Christ. In Luke 9.23, we read that anyone who wants to come after Jesus Christ must first “deny himself.” Think about these two verses in terms of modern Christianity and so-called Christian television. To Paul, the power of Christ’s resurrection was not evidenced by the ability to work miracles. It was the ability to keep under himself and to bring his body into submission, lest that after he had preached to others he himself should be a castaway, First Corinthians 9.27. In the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, the first step to discipleship, the initial requirement to get to know Him better, which was a step that would be empowered by His Own resurrection from the dead, is to deny yourself. So you see, the resurrection power of the Christian life is not seen in the working of miracles, but in the enablement of each and every genuinely saved person to make those individual choices in life in which you say “Yes,” to the Savior and you say “No” to your self. When you say “Yes” to Jesus Christ on Sunday morning and “No” to that extra hour of sleep that will cause you to miss church, that is a demonstration of resurrection power.

Step number two. The Lord Jesus Christ said that step number two would be to take up your cross daily. Paul phrased the concept in this experience: “the fellowship of his sufferings.” My friends, to get to know the Lord Jesus better, not only do you have to reckon Him better than anything else by saying no to yourself, which resurrection power enables you to do, but you have to shoulder the daily crosses that are yours to bear. Those personal crosses will result in suffering that will enable you to have more and more in common with the Lord Jesus Christ, thus “the fellowship of his sufferings.” When you shoulder your responsibilities as a giving, faithful, and serving church member, as a devoted, devotional, and disciplining Christian parent, as a believing spouse, and as a vibrant and witnessing Christian, you are making His cause your cause, you are sharing with Him the cause of Christ. And because the world hates Him, they will take out their hatred on you for serving Him. The result? More and more, you will have things in common with your Savior. He suffered unjustly, you will suffer unjustly. He sacrificed ultimately, you will also sacrifice, with some paying the ultimate sacrifice.

Step number three. The Savior told His twelve men that this final step is to “follow me.” And what could be likened more to following the Savior than the experience of being made conformable to His death? Turn to Acts 14.22 and let’s read a verse that sheds some light on what it means to follow Christ as a believer, and to be made conformable to His death. Luke describes Paul’s conduct toward believers after he had been stoned in Lystra:

“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”

Some exhortation, to tell those believers that they must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. But to get to know the Savior better will entail going through experiences similar to some of those He experienced. And during those difficult times, with your gaze fixed upon Him, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of your faith, your intimacy with Him, because of what you’re going through for Him, will grow and deepen.

If you are saved you have been justified. If you are saved you are now embarked on a lifelong journey toward eternity. What God wants to happen during that lifelong journey is for you to be conformed to the image of His Son, to become more Christ-like over time. He decided that life’s pursuit for you in eternity past. Jesus Christ described the accomplishing of that sanctification process as coming after Him, by denying yourself, by taking up your cross daily, and by following Him. The Apostle Paul said the same things in terms of coming to know Him by personal experience, by the power of His resurrection, by the fellowship of His sufferings, and by being made conformable to His death.

Two different ways of describing the three steps you must continually take in your life to know your Savior more intimately, more personally, and more passionately. And if you’ve ever really met Him, it’s something you will increasingly do. You see, the Savior is Someone you can never get to know well enough to satisfy your longing to know Him better.

Do you now realize that your calling as a Christian is to higher ends and more noble callings than those who live for and only serve themselves? You are God’s child, with your sins forgiven, with a new heart and a new nature, and with the indwelling Spirit of God to lead and guide you. It is given to you to not only know the Savior, Whom to know is life eternal, but to know Him intimately. This is accomplished in your Christian life as you walk with Him, learn of Him, lean on Him, fix your gaze upon Him, and passionately embrace Him. You have so much to live for as a believer in Jesus Christ.



[1] Isaiah 40.5; Matthew 17.1-5; John 1.14; 2 Peter 1.17


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