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August 23, 2010

Orthodoxy & Orthopraxy (Joy in Sanctification)

(Guest Blogger: Campus Pastor Gabriel Spence)

Sanctification: partnership with God, joy in the day of Christ

This week our study of Philippians 2:12-18 looks at some very important issues related to our salvation: the danger of living life for ourselves, instead of the day we stand before Christ, and the importance of responding to the Holy Spirit in repentance and pressing into Jesus.

In verse 12b and 13, we discover that sanctification is a partnership between us and God. We work out what He works in. The Holy Spirit initiates with us, and we respond in turn to the Holy Spirit. We have to have a biblically balanced understanding. If we get too concerned about our part, we tend toward legalism – keeping rules for sanctification. On the other hand, if we believe it’s all God’s responsibility, we tend to be lazy and unresponsive to the Holy Spirit’s initiation in our life.

Learning to live the Christian life is a little like learning to ride a bike. Riding a bike requires us to constantly shift our weight and steering to keep balanced and going in the right direction. As believers, we must learn to respond in repentance to the initiation of the Holy Spirit.

When we confuse theological themes in Scripture, many Christians have their faith shaken or wind up with an incorrect view of salvation. So it helps to understand three very important words: salvation, sanctification, and glorification.


Salvation is a transaction of the moment.

Salvation is all of Christ – we do not earn it, deserve it or naturally desire it. But God who was high and holy came to earth – a missionary God – to die. Christ’s death and resurrection made a way for us to be reconciled with God. Salvation has been called “the beautiful exchange” – where Jesus exchanges our sin for His righteousness. The only acceptance we have is because of Christ and His righteousness. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Sanctification is the process of a lifetime.

Sanctification, which we are addressing in this sermon and subsequent blog post, is a process the Holy Spirit initiates after we are saved and continues on until the day we are glorified in the presence of Christ in heaven. We work out what Christ works in us. Sanctification is the process of God conforming us to the image of His Son. This is not about keeping rules, adjusting external appearance, or even conforming to the expectations of religion. Sanctification is all about the transforming work of God, initiated by the Holy Spirit and continued by our response to the work of God in our hearts. God initiates, and we respond. (Philippians 2:12-13)

Glorification is the destination of eternity.

Glorification is the Christian’s destination. Someday, when our mortal life ends or Christ returns for us, we will receive a glorified body, like the glorified body Christ had in His resurrection. In that state, there will be no more sin or sin’s effects on our bodies. All handicaps and maladies will be eradicated, and we will experience the joy of perfect wholeness in the presence of Jesus! (Philippians 3:21)


At the end of verse 13, we see that God works in us to accomplish His good pleasure. God is not a surly old man, sitting on a cloud, waiting to zap us with a lightning bolt if we step out of line. He rejoices in saving and transforming people. Our God finds pleasure in our continual, ongoing spiritual maturation. It brings Him glory – and our joy is a result.

Think about how Ty Pennington of the “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” TV show exhibits great joy in transforming properties and making a difference for the people whose lives are touched. Now multiply that pleasure a million times and you begin to get a small picture of the pleasure God has in the salvation, sanctification and transformation of our lives.


Verse 14 talks about some specific sins in the believer’s life that quench the working of God in our life. It’s not hard to fall into sins like complaining (murmuring) and asking questions with questionable motives (disputings), but the consequences are very serious.

The children of Israel continually complained against God and His directives in their lives. As a result, God allowed them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years before a new generation – one that hadn’t complained and murmured against God – could inherit the Land of Promise. The application to us is that complaining (murmuring) kills. It kills the free flow of God’s blessing in our lives. In the case of Israel, it killed their ability to enter into the Land of Promise.

Even the casual observer can see God is serious about complaining. Complaining and grumbling is a denial that God is sovereign and in control. It amounts to thinking we know better what we need than God does!

Quick thought: A lot of complaining goes on online. Be careful that what you post on your personal Twitter, Facebook, and blog. You don’t want to get stuck in a spiritual wilderness because you fell into complaing and grumbling!

None of this means we should pretend we don’t face struggles and battle sin. We must be honest with and accountable to each other. A big part of Gospel community is being accountable so we can be encouraged by other believers. We want everyone to know that church is a place where it is “OK to not be OK.” It’s OK to not be OK; it just isn’t OK to stay that way.

Our honesty, however, should never turn into grumbling or complaining. God is very explicit in Scripture – through example and direct command – that complaining is very offensive to Him. Sometimes the problem isn’t that we’re complaining but just that we have it good and forget to praise God. Disaster strikes, and we accuse God, instead of allowing the trial to press us deeper into Him.

Verse 15a: Are you blameless and harmless? This is a hard question to answer if we are harboring sin in our lives. We are the Sons of God. What a privilege for those who were far off to be made the Sons of God!

Verse 15b: It is true we live in a crooked, jacked-up world. But the light will be brighter in the dark night. The world needs to see by our lives that Jesus is real. This is not accomplished by isolation in “holy huddles” or by complete conformity to the culture around us. We are called to show that Jesus makes a difference. When people see that, it will give us the opportunity to speak the Gospel. (v. 16a)

Verses 16b, 17 and 18: Paul speaks here about “rejoicing in the day of Christ.” The way we can have confidence and rejoice in the day of Christ is if we practice today what Paul said in verses 1-16. Basically Paul is summing up here. He has encouraged the Christians at Philippi to “let this mind be in you.” He has tenderly motivated them to respond to the initiation of the Holy Spirit and to avoid grumbling and complaining. Then he gives them one last motivation, saying, “It is a good thing if you can be offered up on sacrifice and service to Christ.”

When we let the grand illusion of the American dream get in the way of the things that are really important, we begin to live for ourselves and for the present, rather than living for the day we stand before Christ. However, if we respond to the initiation of the Holy Spirit with “I’m wrong; you’re right; I repent” – and press into Jesus instead of away from Him –the result, both now and when we stand before Christ, will be His glory and our joy!

Questions for Discussion and Application

1. Are you engaged in the process of sanctification? When the Holy Spirit initiates, are you responding? Are there specific things in your life He has prompted you to change?

2. Have you ever confused the different theological themes we spoke about?

3. What perspective of God do you have? Did it ever occur to you that He found pleasure in your spiritual maturation? Have you ever thought God was upset with you because you took a while to get it right?

4. Have you ever been guilty of complaining? Are you a disputer? Is this an area you can improve in? What does complaining do to the Holy Spirit’s working in our life?

5. What gives us joy in the day of Christ?

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