7th January 2024

Pilgrim’s Sanctification Part 1

Passage: 1 Corinthians 1:29-30, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15, Romans 6:19-23
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Automatically Generated Transcript

I'm not sure how many of you understand what is meant when someone says there's an elephant in the room. And that saying always had me a bit troubled, not knowing who they were talking about as being an elephant. And it only caught up with me along the way that it wasn't necessarily a person being referred to as the elephant in the room, but something that was very big and there, but no one seems to say anything as though they've noticed. And that's what the metaphor means about the elephant in the room. Now, there is often found something that we're all very familiar with, about which there's one unexplained part. And I have an awareness of probably what is the most public... published, the most read book of all English history, at least. I wonder whether you know what the book might be. It's one of them. Sometimes these things change and it's not... I'm not referring to the Bible, so leave the Bible out of this. But what is there that has been written that is very well written and read? And this thing has an elephant in the room. Anybody want to suggest a guess? It's a book that's been read by so many English-speaking people that it's a bit of a record, and yet there's something about it that doesn't ever get explained. All right. No takers? Well, the answer is, of course, Pilgrim's Progress. And so he had the idea right, but he just didn't tell us. And Pilgrim's Progress is a book, John Bunyan, and the idea of Pilgrim's Progress is a bit of a metaphor of the Christian life. And so the chief character is called Christian. He begins a walk that's to take him to the celestial city that represents heaven. He goes over the River Jordan, which represents dying. So everything about it is a bit of a metaphor. It's a way of saying it in a more visible way, but it means something. And what's the elephant in the room? Well, the book is good because it starts with Christian being led by Evangelist, a man who knows that he has to go to where the cross is. And there's a cross, and Christian has a big burden on his back. It's his sins. He goes there to where the cross is, and the burden falls off his back, and he's now released to start the journey. If he hadn't have gotten rid of his sins, he'd never make the long journey. He'd never made the long journey to the celestial city. And eventually, the end of the story is when he goes across the Jordan River and doesn't die or drown, and he ends up in what represents heaven. Well, what's the elephant? The elephant is, the book is called Pilgrim's Progress. And it's not just about the fact that he becomes a Christian by coming to the cross, as has been already explained to us in our morning service today. And it's not just that eventually he's to arrive at heaven, which is where we all go to if we have eternal life. But the book is about Pilgrim's Progress. And what is actually the progress that we make in the Christian life that's later than when you first get converted to Christ. Being converted to Christ is when you find the forgiveness of sins, when you receive eternal life. But it's post that, after that. But it's before you get to the River Jordan and go over and receive the benefit of Jesus' resurrection, helping you be resurrected to go to heaven. The book's all about the progress of the Christian. And yet no one seems to talk about it. Maybe there are some books you could find which do relate some of the incidents along the road that Pilgrim goes through as being a part of the progress. But it's a part of the progress of the Christian life. But it's a part of the Christian experience that many people don't get much teaching about, or make many comments of, or take very seriously, that there's meant to be progress in the Christian life if you are to get to the Celestial City. Now, I would get into trouble in some places for saying such things as that, because some people say, no, you've either got eternal life or you haven't. It's a done deal. They're actually quite correct. And one of my favourite verses that I like to use on people is that verse that says about Christ, that he gives us life, that he that has the Son has life. He that doesn't have the Son of God doesn't have life. Pretty straightforward. You've either got Christ or you haven't. If you have him, then you've got eternal life. That may be the case, but it doesn't mean that there's not meant to be any steps in between your first coming and finding Christ, and you're eventually getting to get into heaven. That's what the book Pilgrim's Progress is meant to be all about. It's the progress. How's yours getting on? Have you had progress? And what exactly is that progress about, and what names does the Bible give to that intermediate part post your coming to Christ, but before you get to glory, getting to glory is getting to heaven, having everything changed and made perfect, you know, in heaven. Well, the progress is what the Bible actually has some special language to talk about. And you might be surprised at it, but it's actually a very important part of the Christian life. I went through the Scriptures to find all the verses on that, and to my surprise, there were quite a lot of them. Well, at least, you know, five, six or seven. And given the time, I'm not going to take you through the tour that I had intended this morning, but I'll show you a few. And this is the elephant in the room in the Christian life that a lot of people don't pay much attention to. Well, 1 Corinthians is our first one, and chapter 1. And what's actually going on here has very much got relevant, in reference to the discussion in our church we've been having between understanding the Old Covenant, that was talked about in the Communion, that the Old Covenant was what the Jews went into by their escape from Egypt and their going through the Passover and them getting over the River Jordan and their journeying toward the Promised Land. See, even then, they had this big journey in between getting out of Egypt and getting into what became the Promised Land. And here in our verse in Corinthians, it's talking about this in-between period. And because of Him, you are in Christ Jesus, and that's what happens instantly. He that has the Son has life. If there's been a successful moment of your coming to Christ, whether you knew it or not is not the point. Whether it was with lots of flashes of light or not, that's not the point. Whether big feelings came over you and you wept for six days, that's not the point. But you somehow spiritually became in Christ Jesus. When that happened, He became to us wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. I didn't think about splitting up my sermon. That would have made enough for one day to go through these different words. What is this wisdom from God you get by coming to Christ? What is the righteousness that you can never earn of your own? And while you keep on trying, you're never going to get it from Him. You have to give up on your righteousness in order to get His. But then it's the next word that's our biggie. Sanctification. And it's interesting how little we know about what is Christian sanctification. And finally, redemption. Redemption is when you get over the river and you get into the celestial city in terms of Pilgrim's Progress concepts. But sanctification is the in-between period that is what's happening to us now. And I'd ask you the question, how's your sanctification going? That's the one we're now talking about. Well, let's go to another verse and from there we'll go to 2 Thessalonians 2 and verse 13. 2 Thessalonians 2 and verse 13. But we are always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, beloved by the Lord. This is the people versus brothers. That would include brothers and sisters. It means all those who love the Lord Jesus and are loved by the Lord Jesus. The word beloved is talking about how He loves you. Beloved by the Lord because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved. Now this particular book is written with a view to the Jewish people who became Christians. And they're the firstfruits. Firstfruits were early crops coming before the final big harvest time comes. So the firstfruits are the Jewish people who came to Christ. Later on the Gentiles get in the door too. But these ones are their firstfruits. Through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. Now here we learn how that sanctification gets prosecuted. How the elephant gets fed. How you actually have your sanctification to progress. For you, the pilgrim, to have some pilgrim's progress. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. And the Christian Church down through the centuries, especially Western Christianity, has struggled to fully understand the role of the Holy Spirit in our ongoing sanctification. There is a need for us to underline the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives to help us to get sanctified. And many times a very average Christian will find him or herself crying out to the Holy Spirit to help them to be more than what they are presently experiencing. It is normal for someone who is a Christian to recognise that they are not finding within their own persons how to do it on their own. And they need the Holy Spirit. If you have never been to a time of being a bit ashamed of your poor performance as a Christian, you are odd. I mean, you are unusual. No, you are fooling yourself. Because normal, average, to be expected Christian experience is that after you come to Christ and you know you have eternal life, he that has the Son has life, he that doesn't have the Son of God does not have life. You know you've got the life because you've got Jesus, but you're not always living it out too well. And in that recognition, the thing to do is to cry out to the Holy Spirit. For in your coming to Christ, what happened was that he gave you his Holy Spirit to live in you. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit don't do things separately. They always join in each other's activities and they work as a team, if you like. And there is a sense to understand the Trinity of God, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, that they are ones who, if you have business with one, you find yourself in business with the other. Or the three of them are all involved. That's true of everything that God does, whether it's creation of the world at the beginning of time, where the Spirit hovered over the waters. God the Father was the one that created the world, but he did it through the word of his Son and through the Spirit, Holy Spirit hovering over the waters. And then there were steps of that creation being brought to a perfection by God continuing the creation time. And when the creation was finished, then God, all of God, rested. That's why the Jewish people had to learn to have a rest. And there was a day of rest to understand that God finishes his work. But his creation work wasn't something that happened just in an instant and that was that. It was done over a number of days, our days by the way. Well, let me just say here, the Spirit is involved in your sanctification. There is no such thing as the Christian life that just gets to convert and then you just obey the Bible. That's a misunderstanding. The Christian life is done needing the help of the Holy Spirit who is given to us for the purpose. Notice though that the work of the Holy Spirit is brought together with a belief in the truth. That truth is a truth revealed by God as what we have in the Scriptures. The Bible is a New Testament and a New Testament. And we are given the Scriptures to go along with the work of the Spirit in our lives to help us to be sanctified. If you want to be a person that helps, aids your sanctification, if you want pilgrims to get progress, then spend time in the Scriptures. Make it something you program into your life to have your head in the Bible. You spend time reading, contemplating, thinking. Ask God to speak to you. Sometimes it's just something you read and you note a few things and that's it. And other times something hits you in the eyes and you realise that God is speaking to you. Sometimes it's very normal and natural that you might go for six months and you just learn a few things from the Bible. But every now and then God chooses His Word like an arrow in your mind. He shoots you in the morning when you're reading the Scriptures. And you know that He's talking to you and boy, you know you need to obey. It's a bit of a spiritual lesson that if you want to have the Scriptures speak to you, go back and start doing the thing He last spoke to you about. If you keep obeying them, they keep on speaking to you. But if you disobey or don't get to be obedient to what the Scriptures tell you, you'll find that they go silent. Why? Because they is a hymn. The one behind the Scriptures, the Word. He's a hymn. It's Jesus. And He wants you to be willing to show your listening ear if you want Him to go on talking to you. Well, this putting together of the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart and the aid of the Scriptures is what fosters your sanctification. That's why when someone becomes a Christian, we usually try and teach them to love the Bible. I'm ever grateful for when I got converted as a boy of nine, they gave us Little John's Gospel. And what was such a surprise to me is because my parents were always teaching me from the Bible. I knew the Bible. I respected it. But when I got given this Little John's Gospel, my brother converted the same day, we took home one each and we found we loved it. We loved it. We read it through, we read the whole thing in three days to little kids. Because it spoke to us. And there's something about sanctification that's tied to your leaning on the Scriptures and your letting them speak to you. And what we do with people who come to Christ is to give them some help. Sometimes it's just a little lesson in a book where they ask questions and give Bible verses to look up and somehow ferret out an answer. But it's to give them some dipping into the Scriptures and discovering that your assurance that you really are a Christian and your progress as a pilgrim is something that the Bible has a big part to play in. It's by the Spirit and belief in the truth. Now belief in the truth is actually highlighting not just the fact of where you find that truth, which is the Scriptures, but there is an essential truth in the Scriptures. Let me find out who, some of you know this very well, but put your hand up if you know what is the particular truth that is that which runs through the Scriptures. Put your hand up if you know what is the particular truth that runs through the Scriptures. I know a lot of people don't want to raise their hands in church because you've got sore shoulders or whatever reason. I don't know, but if you know what is the truth, there might be more than one right answer here, so don't be afraid. I'm not going to say, no, you're wrong. Unless you are. No, no, no, come on. Who knows what is the truth? It says there, sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. What is the truth? Or what is the core of that truth? Everything in the Scriptures is truth. But what's it got this and belief in? What particular truth is there in the Scriptures? Come on, let me see. Yeah, go ahead. . All right, you can't be more correct than picking on Jesus. All right, everybody give that a clap, please. All right, because Jesus is the truth. Let's go a bit broader than the truth. When it says sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, believing in Jesus matches that well. Thank you, right? But I could go a bit broader than just Jesus. What about Jesus? Come on. What truth is there to believe in that makes people get more sanctified? Yes? . Okay, thank you. You were listening to the time around communion. That was excellent. Yes, the storyline of what God did in order to work our salvation. And the storyline is all around Jesus. But it's about his coming into the world, his coming incarnated. We've just gone through Christmas. It's about him taking on humanity. And in his humanity, his obeying the law. When we failed, but he didn't. It's about him going to the cross. I like the way in the communion we mentioned how Jesus went to the cross. And if you listen to the hymns that we give, if you listen to the worship that we have, if you read the scriptures, you can't help but notice the scriptures all seem to point to the cross. The Old Testament predicts it. The New Testament expounds it. The letters of the New Testament talk about the relevance of it. The gospel is the truth. And belief in the truth is when we commit ourselves to the gospel of Christ as that which directs our lives. And when you learn the gospel, one of the first things that happened in our church when our youth group took a big step forward, when, and Heidi was working with Ryan. I don't know how many of you remember Ryan, but Heidi was his administrator and Ryan was the one teaching a home group. And what he taught the home group on was what is the gospel and took people through it. And Heidi got up a set of Bible verses that she put behind plastic, you know, those things when you can, I got a set and put them in the back of our toilet door. So no one came to our house for very often and didn't get to read these gospel verses, right? And, alright, next question. Some of you older people now, what do they call the list of Bible verses we in our church? We could have picked many different ones, but we picked on a certain set, and what do we call the ones that I eventually put in the back of our toilet door in our house? Yeah, the Roman road. Have you been to our toilet? No, no, I shouldn't. Anyway, yes, she said no to where she's not been. But anyway, yes, it's correct. The Roman road. Because you can actually find through the book of Romans that the skeleton that is all written around is the gospel and a set of verses and you get them all, for all have sinned, you know, and the one we've already quoted today. About the fact some, the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. And they go on through. And then we'll move now to my next verse and I'm only going to do a couple because our time is short. Please go to the book of Romans and in chapter 6, Romans chapter 6 verse 9 through to 23 was read to us by Joey as a Bible reading, or was it 19? I better check. Okay. That'll do for a start. We'll start at verse 19. I'm speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, leading to sanctification. Now the book of Romans, which has as its skeleton all the verses on the gospel, this is a part of it, that when you've come to Christ and you've believed in him, after that, a part of your, it's the elephant in the room, a part of your being sanctified comes about because you have to take a few big hard decisions and you have to make a decision not to present your members as slaves to impurity, not to present members of the personality characteristics you have in your bodies, your limbs, all of you, your mind, your eyes, not to present them to lawlessness, but just the opposite, to present your members, that's all the parts of you, as slaves to righteousness. There's a decision that you have to take that I am going to not go that way, the sin way, that was my habit, that was my background, that was what humanity is doing, goodness me. You know, ever since the end of the last century, the 1990s, our culture has turned more and more sinful. There's something on TV I like to watch because it's about the law and it's called Law and Order and they explain that in the justice system there's two groups of people who are busy helping us get law and order. One are the police force but the other are the prosecutors who prosecute the people who break the law. And so there's some chief personalities who work in the film, they're just fictional characters who are pretty good actors, I might say, and they represent the prosecutors and these are their stories they tell us. But what was interesting is that since 1990 or so this place has been going, the chief prosecutor is having an affair with his second-in-command prosecutor, she's a woman, obviously, and carrying on, and then one of the episodes was he left because she got Scotty at him and so he has another woman that comes in and she's younger and he's having an affair with her and that's the part of what the first one who's a bit annoyed at him tries to get something going in the court because she knows that's how he operates. And they're the heroes of the story. They're the heroes. And so American culture in particular, and I don't think ours is too much different, has these people who are the heroes to be copied and they're living out something that breaks the laws of God. Certainly not getting sanctified and it becomes a big problem because the ex-assistant prosecutor is now picking on him and making him to be someone that should be losing his licence and she's making up some stories about it but she knows what's probably going on with her replacement. And that's the part of the storyline. I love that show. It's not very good. And it's terrible at what it's presenting as normal. Usually there's nothing in the way they wrote up the film as to say there's anything wrong. It's just everybody has the right to their own morality is how it's presented. But if you had gone back 20 more years in the past, maybe I'm showing my age, but they wouldn't put that on TV back then. Or if they did, they'd let you know this is the wrong behaviour. But what's presented as normal these days is that which is totally against the laws of God and against the scriptures and that's our problem in our society. And if you're someone to make progress and you've got those misunderstandings written into how you live, then you're going to have to need to wake up to that fact and instead of presenting your members as slaves to the impurity to make a decision that you're going to present your members to be slaves to righteousness. What righteousness is that? The righteousness the Bible presents us to what God's character is like. By the way, there's an awful lot more I could say because it's not the righteousness that you can produce by your obedience because we keep failing. The whole shift from the old covenant to the new covenant is to recognise the fact that God had a whole set up with the whole business of the old covenant just to demonstrate how weak we are at keeping his law even when we have it as the Jewish people had. We can't keep the law because we're sinners and we keep going the wrong way and when we wake up to that, that's what the New Testament gospel's all about, that God had to provide a righteousness whereby we'd be right with him. And when you give up trying to do it in your own strength, that's when you first become a Christian and you trust in the righteousness of Jesus to make you acceptable to God. I should go on a lot more about that but this sermon hasn't got the time. But having come to Christ and being made righteousness because of his free gift of forgiveness and his free gift of righteousness because having Christ is your righteousness. He that has the Son has life. He that doesn't have the Son of God does not have life. And when you have this right this free gift of righteousness that gets you in the door so you are indeed saved, you do have eternal life, but now you're called upon by the book of Romans to present your members as slaves not to the old impurity but slaves to righteousness. And what does that do? It leads to sanctification. It's a beautiful word, sanctification. It's rather fascinating how the scriptures talk about the meaning of this word in the Greek. I got a bit of a surprise because of how broad are the different words the scriptures actually produce to explain the meaning of this word righteousness. It can mean consecration. Do you know the history of the Christian church has a lot of people experimenting trying to find how to get the Christians righteous. One way was to be committed to a monastery. And when you joined a particular group of people who were running the monastery you got consecrated to be holy. And sometimes you had to wear special clothes. They were very ugly in my opinion, the clothes I meant. But you got consecrated and the whole Roman Catholic system is sort of built around there being people who have got a special order who are trying hard to be holy. I'm not against the process of trying, but the idea that consecration is done by joining an order is missing the boat. Consecration is when you do what Romans, and we're just looking at, calls on you to do. When you present your members as slaves to righteous it leads to and the word hagios, which means holy. And some of the verses I've got to show you, I'll carry on another day, will take the same Greek word hagios or words like that, and they'll take it to mean a list of things. And they are consecration, sanctification, holiness, or purification. They're all different words that translations at different spots pick on from English to somehow get across what this word is about. But it's not consecration that a religious order can do for you. It's not some decision that you have to whip your back, like some of the films of the people who've been somehow made to think that if they've done a bad sin like that bloke who's murdering people, then he goes back to his own room and whips his back to punish himself somehow. Purifying away the murder he just committed. These are all misunderstandings people have, and they're all misunderstandings as to how Pilgrim is to progress. Oh, we have so much to learn about Pilgrim's progress, that one road would teach you how to do it. To come to a moment where you commit yourself not to present all your abilities and your time and your body and whatever to the impurities, but to present that to Christ and righteousness. And they're the steps that you take that help you progress as Pilgrim. I'm not going to go any further because I want you to remember what I've said. I want you to take it to heart. I asked you a question at the start. How much progress are you making in your sanctification? The Bible says this is the will of God even your sanctification. Some versions write even your holiness. Some versions might put those other ones. The fact that you're committed, consecrated. It's God's will for you and His will for other things. If your life is cluttered with all the impurities and all the lack of commitment. I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice is calling on you to say Lord I give you back that which you've redeemed to belong to you. That's one of the last verses in the Roman road. Romans 12. Do you hear the call? The call is not just to be a pilgrim. If you haven't started then you need as was said in the communion service you need to receive Christ. You need to find Christ. You need to believe in Christ. But the call I'm trying to give you is a call to sanctification. That you might be a pilgrim that's progressing along the road. It's not just getting to heaven. Pilgrim's progress is all about the journey to get you there through getting properly sanctified. Let's pray. Heavenly Father I thank you for the scriptures. Thank you for the great learning and help to me to see this again. Lord to see the scriptures speak about the truth the truth of the gospel which is not only about getting in the door in the first place but about how to progress through the journey. Help us to be those who welcome the journey even the hardships. Help us to be those who thank you for your help the Holy Spirit has and for the commitment to the truth of the gospel that is how we can actually ensure that we get sanctified. We praise you for that in Jesus name. Amen.

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