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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
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- Carla Rolfe
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Wednesday, September 02, 2015
Sanctification? Not Optional for the Believer.
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ - Matthew 7:22-23 [NASB]

I don't know what planet some of us are living on, but when I read this, I don't imagine that it'll will have been the atheists crying "Lord, Lord!" on that day - since no atheist is going to be looking to justify his claim on Christ through having been religiously active in his or her life.

The sad truth is that there are people who profess to be, and fully believe themselves to be, Christians, and these are dying and will day only to discover that their commitment to Christ in this life was a self-serving and superficial deceit.  They believed themselves to be in the fold when they were never really in it.

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.- Hebrews 12:14 [NASB]

If we are to believe the scriptures (and I do) it follows that any person capable of reading this, who doesn't pursue sanctification in this life is not going to be welcomed into the kingdom when they die - regardless of whether or not they consider themselves to be a Christian.

Wait, you say. What about once saved, always saved?

Listen: I am not saying that a Christian will lose their salvation if they don't pursue sanctification.  What I am saying is that a Christian who doesn't pursue sanctification isn't a Christian at all.  That applies straight across the board, from the pulpit to the pew, from the religiously active to the religiously dormant - all your prayer and bible reading, all your singing worship songs, all your church attendance and fine words for others in the faith - count for a hill of beans if you are not pursuing sanctification, because if you are not pursuing sanctification, you will not see the Lord - because whatever you have, it isn't saving faith.

So I am not saying you will lose your salvation, I am saying that if you are not pursuing sanctification, you weren't saved in the first place.

She will bear a Son; and you [Joseph] shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. - Matthew 1:21 [NASB]

Here is the thing, Jesus saves His people from their sins.  When you're genuinely born again you are baptized into Christ, into His death, and into His resurrection.  One "side-effect" of this new birth is that you will have the mind of Christ within you, and you will find yourself driven to pursue sanctification. 

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. - Philippians 2:12-13 [NASB]

If Christ is in you, you will begin to work out your own salvation (from sin) with fear and trembling because God is at work in you, providing both the desire and the ability to do so.

An "aside" thought: 
 As a Calvinist, I want to speak to my camp especially on this matter, because we are the camp that (correctly) preaches that a genuine believer cannot lose his or her salvation.  I don't believe that sound doctrine necessarily means a sound salvation.  The devil can know and preach the truth, but just as his assenting to the truth does not and cannot save him, even so a Calvinist can assent to the truth without living that truth out through a genuine faith.  Make no mistake - good theology is essential to a healthy faith - but it isn't a bullet proof guarantee.  Judas was familiar with the best doctrine of his day - and when he was sent out, I expect the proclaimed the truth "faithfully" - but it never penetrated his own heart.  So also, Calvinism, unless it works its way into a faith filled heart, is no proof against hell.  So while I hate to see anyone who professes Christ to miss this, I especially want those of my own theological ilk to handle the doctrine of sanctification properly.

Back to the discussion at hand
You cannot lose your salvation, but you can certainly believe yourself to be a genuine believer when you are not one.  When the scriptures say that you will not see God if you are not pursuing sanctification, and you find yourself on the wrong side of that equation, the call isn't to begin pursuing sanctification so that the equation balances out.  The call is to re-examine your faith with judgment day sobriety.  This is one of those tests that gives clear indication if you are or if you are not, in the kingdom.

A quick word on nuances
I don't feel comfortable describing the word "pursue" in Hebrews 12:14, (pursue sanctification) a "command".  The verb is certainly in the imperative mood, but while imperatives certainly direct the reader's action, the context should inform us whether the writer is commanding a thing, or simply giving instruction on a matter.

If I wanted to tell you how to drive a nail with a hammer, I would be using a lot of imperatives to do that, "Grip" the hammer firmly, "place" the nail, and "balance" it carefully, before you "swing" the hammer, etc.  I am not commanding you to hammer in a nail, I am telling you how to hammer in a nail.

We run into trouble when our understanding of imperatives is entirely one-dimensional, such that we read every imperative as though God were giving us a direct command.  God is certainly giving instruction through the epistle to the Hebrews in this matter, and clearly the intention is for the believer to actually "pursue" sanctification - but it is more of an instruction than a command.

Not unlike saying, Do not touch the red hot element on the stove, or you will get burned.  Yes, I am telling you not to do something, but it isn't so much a command, as it is an instruction.  If you heed the instruction, you will reap the benefit, and if you fail to heed it, you will suffer the consequences.  But it isn't really me commanding you - it is me instructing you.

I think that is what the author of Hebrews intends - he giving the readers some sound instruction: unless you are pursuing peace and sanctification you will never see God. This is rather like what our Lord said in John 14:15, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

In the case of John 14:15, our Lord is saying that love is evident in the works that same love provokes.  In the case of Hebrews 12:14, the author is saying that the pursuits of peace and sanctification are evidence of a genuine faith - a faith that will see the Lord.

In the parable of the soils, our Lord taught that the message of Christ would be received by men  in two ways: superficially or productively.  When it was productive, it produced fruit, thirty, sixty, or an hundred fold - which reminds us of the imagery of Christ as the Vine, that every branch in Christ bears fruit, and every branch that is not in Christ does not bear, and is cast into the fire.  When the seed is not productive, it either produced no growth (seed that fell on the hard packed earth), or produced superficial growth (seed in the thorny or rocky soils).

In the parable of the wheat and the tares, our Lord made it clear (to those who have ears to hear at least) that not everyone who followed Christ was genuine.  The Apostle Paul calls his readers to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith (c.f. 2 Corinthians 13:5).  Paul was under no illusions when it came to these matters - he clearly understood that many people would attach themselves to the church - being deceived into believing themselves to be Christians having only a superficial commitment to Christ.

The call then, isn't to false believers to work harder so that in working harder they will become genuine believers.  The call is to examine yourself and see if you are pursuing sanctification because God Himself is within you provoking you, giving you a desire to live a life that is pleasing to Him, and supplying that desire with the ability to do so. 

If you find yourself presently lacking in the desire to pursue holiness, you have little reason to believe yourself to be in the kingdom.  If you find that desire to live a life pleasing to God is present, but struggle with the desires of this world - you need to ask yourself whether the seed has fallen into rocky or thorny soil. 

Christ who indwells every genuine believer supplies the desire we feel to obey God, but a man who doesn't want to go to hell when he dies, may well supply from his own fear, a very real desire to please God in this life.  He will not desire to please God because of a strong sense that this is right and proper, and he wants to live in a right relationship with God in order to experience more fully the love and character of God - he will want to please God because he believes that doing so will secure for him a better afterlife.

So if you find yourself desiring to please God, but having no power to do so, examine more fully  why it is that you want to live a life that pleases God - is it for your sake, meaning, you want to please God because you secretly feel that if you don't it'll go bad for you; in which case you're not experiencing the same desire a Christian experiences - which is a desire to please God because at a soul deep level your greatest joy (in the here and now) is to know that you're "right" with God.

If you've got the right desire, it is from the Lord, and frankly, you will be pursuing sanctification.  You may not understand that you're doing that - but you will desire to live a life that is holy, and you will strive to do so in whatever power you have, whether it be doctrinally sound and therefore productive, or whether it be in the utter ignorance of an immature faith - you will find that certain things have changed since becoming a believer - it suddenly feels "wrong" to cuss, you suddenly are concerned even about what the world would consider "harmless" sins - white lies, accidentally stealing a pencil - driving over the speed limit - even just a little.

It isn't that you're forced to make these changes out of fear, it is that it seems right and natural.  Theologically speaking, Christ is at work in you, giving you the will and the ability to set these things aside.

But there will be much bigger things - things you wish you could set aside as effortlessly as these little things - and these will not go away by themselves.  Much like the demon that could not simply be cast out, but was driven out with prayer - so also there are things in the life of every believer that will not go out easily, but will only go out when the believer begins to pursue holiness (sanctification) in earnest.

That is what the author of Hebrews is talking about, and that is whom he is talking to. Every believer will pursue peace with God and with people, and every believer will pursue holiness - some thirty, some sixty, some an hundredfold.  But false believers will not long pursue holiness, if they pursue it at all - because they will not find it in their pursuit, and their failure to do so will only harden them, or at the very least so frustrate them that they will eventually give up trying and instead justify themselves in their bondage to sin.

This isn't a "do this so that you can be sure you're saved"  - it is saying, "Look at your self: if you're not pursuing holiness, something is -so- wrong with your faith that you will not see God - which is a colloquial way of saying, you will go to hell when you die."

It isn't that a Christian will lose their salvation if they aren't pursuing holiness (sanctification) - it is rather a diagnostic - you can be pretty sure your faith is not legitimate if you're not pursuing sanctification.  It isn't that you'll lose something you have, it is that even what you think you have (but actually don't have) will be taken away from you.

The attitude of some who attend modern day churches, is that justification gets you in the church, then sanctification is something you can do if you're a real keener.

That's poison.

Sanctification isn't optional, it is normal - where it is lacking in the life of a believer - hard questions need to be asked and answered, because where it is lacking, a soul is on the line.
posted by Daniel @ 10:54 AM  
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