Setting Apart from Sin to God
The following is a sermon I delivered Friday evening (January 12, 2007) at Christian Tabernacle (Houston, TX). This was the first of many “Sports Jam” events hosted by Global Force. Every young adult there participated in a few games of volley ball and then worshiped. I was given 15 minutes to teach on consecration.
I was excited to hear that I had been selected to speak to you tonight. It is such a great joy for me to explain Scripture. In fact, there is nothing more exciting to me other than the preparation itself. And I find that the two go hand-in-hand and so I was really excited to hear that I would was selected.
However, it was only seconds later that Matthew told me that I had only 15 minutes and that I would be speaking about consecration and suddenly my excitement turned into utter terror mainly because even the best preachers of our day spend years addressing consecration and sometimes only scratch the surface.
This is not because of the complexity of it, but because the Bible says so much about it. It is likely mentioned in one way or another in every chapter of the New Testament and certainly not absent from the Old Testament. And so rather than cram years of information into 15 minutes, I’m going to focus on one particular point. However, the point will somewhat difficult to get across so quickly and so I apologize if I rush a bit.
I mentioned to a few friends and family that I would be speaking tonight. They asked “About what?” “Consecration.” “Well, good … what is that?” And it became clear to me that my intentions to explain consecration and its importance to the Christian were right on point. I think that in our day, due to some new gospels that are circulating, we have managed to lose the biblical concept of consecration.
Now, I’d like to suggest at this moment that we use the term sanctification in place of the term consecration. And for a few reasons: First of all, consecration and sanctification are similar terms. In fact, if you were to look them up in a dictionary you might even find the same definition. And that definition would be “setting apart from sin to God.” They both mean the same thing. And … well, I know that is not much reason at all – so these next two reasons should convince you.
Secondly, consecration is generally an Old Testament term which referred to physical action that illustrated a spiritual reality. Sanctification is that spiritual reality. Remember, circumcision was the cutting away of flesh. It symbolized the cutting away of sin. Okay? So consecration serves as an illustration of sanctification. Consecration is physical and temporal. Sanctification is spiritual and eternal.
Thirdly, sanctification is the primary word used by Jesus and the apostles who wrote the New Testament. So for that reason, I suggest that we try to use the term sanctification. That way we are referring to the reality and not the illustration. Is that okay? Good.
I want to be honest with you tonight, I’m going to attack this subject at the point which is the very heart of the matter. And really lays at the heart of every Christian – namely, our decision to follow Christ. It is my goal that by the time I close you will be examining your heart as well as your faith. I want to make the connection from sanctification to the gospel because unless we understand the gospel we will never understand sanctification. The two coexist. Without the gospel, there would be no sanctification. And at the core of the gospel message lies the real teachings of sanctification.
Now, most likely you came in with a volley ball in your hand rather than a Bible, and that’s okay, I just want to read to you a portion of Romans 6 before we go any further because I think that it speaks to our topic rather well. Romans 6, beginning with verse 8:
“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead in deed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
Can we pray? Lord, make a spectacle of me. Do not allow me to deter or distract from you Word. It is our hope and all that we cling to. Draw our attention to You. Set all things aside as we have such an important topic before us tonight. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Today, we are being bombarded with a new gospel. You can easily tune in your television or crack open a book and learn about a gospel that is unlike the one we find in Scripture. In basic terms, it is the gospel of self-esteem. It is a self-centered gospel that tells you that you are good person, and dog-gone it, people like you. You need to live your best life now. God loves you the way you are. You’ve heard it before. It sounds really appealing.
But rather than producing holy believers who value Christ above all things of the earth, it produces illegimate Christians – people who sincerely and deeply believe that they are saved, but are in fact bent on hell. This new gospel is stripped of all reasons that make the gospel good news – namely, sin, hell, and God’s Lorshship. It is stripped of the aspects of sanctification.
The true gospel confronts you in your pride throws your sin in your face and says God is Holy and angry at you. I mean, when was the last time you heard that part of the gospel? God is holy and demands holiness from His creatures. And so the broken heart says, “Lord, save me from my sin.” This is the heart of sanctification. It begins with the gospel and it will end in glory. It is the first step to the last step this side of heaven.
And so sanctification then becomes a litmus test for our salvation. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “Sell everything and give it to the poor, then pick up your cross (that is the symbol of death, the symbol of self denial) and follow Me.” He used the parable of the seed saying, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it will not be productive.” He says, “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternity.” The gospel is not of self-esteem and self-love. It’s of self-suicide. It’s of self-hatred. It is “Lord, only You matter to me.”
So friends, if you not exemplifying true sanctification (a separation from sin unto God) then you might have received the wrong gospel.
Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” That is not a suggestion to live the good life. It is a command to be holy. It is a requirement to obey Him. To be born again is to confess the Jesus as Lord – that’s Master. That is when salvation comes. Jesus said, “Be holy as I am holy.”
Now, I don’t want to confuse you at this point. I don’t mean to say that you are saved because you are holy. That is far from the truth. I don’t mean to confuse sanctification with justification – which is the moment of regeneration whereby we are made right in Christ. I also don’t want to confuse sanctification with glorification – which is the moment in which we come face to face with our Lord in heaven.
I like to think of these three concepts like a football field. Now, I may be using the wrong terms here because I am not a sports guy by any stretch. But this is how I tend to picture it. The football is punted from across the field. It is received in the opposite end zone – that is where we begin. Once, it is received, we run like our lives depend on it (and for some of these football players – it really does). The whether may be rainy or snowy which makes the run very difficult. And then there are these gigantic, sweaty, muscle men who really just want to break us in half. But we’re running. And we’re not running for no reason, we have the opposite end zone in sight. It is some 100 yards away. The closer we get to it the more clearer it becomes and the greater our hope of reaching it, right?
Now what I have described is an illustration of the Christian life. The gospel is received. We are justified. We are made righteous before God (and in a sense consecrated, sanctified) and put on the playing field. The gospel is in our hands. We can’t run without it. We must carry it the entire way. It is the one thing that we cling to. And we are running with all our might. And in our sights is heaven. It is glory. It is the place where sin no longer trips us and tackles us with all of its stench and sweat. It is what we work so hard for. It is being with our Lord.
The end zone we receive the gospel in is justification. The end zone we strive after is glorification. Now the stretch of yards between justification and glorification, is what we call sanctification. It is the process by which we make it from freedom from sin’s slavery to glory with sin’s killer. And so in between we are wrestling with our true enemy, sin.
And if we are honest, sin still reigns in our bodies. When we believed the gospel and announced a commitment to obey the Lord, sin was only crippled. We still find it in us. But the closer we come to the end zone that we long to reach, the more we hate sin. Christianity begins with the killing of sin’s mastery and ends with the killing of sin totally.
My friends, if you are on the playing field you must be exemplifying a level of holiness. You must be killing sin. You may be at the one or two yard line. You may be closer to the fifty, but either way, you are killing sin and becoming holy as Christ is holy. Listen friends, if there is nothing else you do with your life – do this – kill sin.
Again, here is my point … I’m out of time. Here is my point: Sanctification is so closely related to the gospel of Christ that when examining your own salvation you must take into consideration whether you are being made holy or not. Sanctification is not something independent of the gospel but fruit of the living Redeemer who sanctifies the sinning heart.
Let’s close in prayer. And while I’m closing, examine yourself. Ask yourself if you are exemplifying holiness. Do you hate sin? Do you value Christ more than anything else? Is this the way you understand the gospel? Or is this the first time to hear the gospel? The Bible says that we are sinners and desperately wicked. We have violated the ten commandments because we have lied, lusted, stolen. And we deserve every bit of anger that God is restraining against us. His restraint will end some day. And we will face up to our sin.
Are you on the righteous playing field? Let’s make sure that we are not running in vain with another gospel.
Lord, you are holy above all things. We feeble and wicked creatures deserve nothing pleasant from you. But you have given us treasure that is more valuable than anything on this earth. So Lord forgive us. We have placed TV above you; time above you, food above you, people above you; work above you, even family above you. But we desire to run this field with the gospel in hand clinging to it because our lives depend on it and we run towards you seeking holiness. You have begun the good work in us and we are confident that you will bring it to a close. So it is you only that we honor. For it is you who works all things for good. Here we stand empty handed. Save us. Sanctify us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.