The Believer's Testimony, 17 June 2018

The Believer’s Testimony: Growing in Holiness
D6 Series—
Stewards of the Gospel
2 Corinthians 6:1-7:1

Series Overview: Believers are to love God and love their neighbor, being good stewards of the gospel, the good news.

Big Idea: The believer is to be ever growing in holiness.

One of the most memorable ad campaigns of all time appeared in the 1990s by what is now the most valuable company in the world…Apple. There were just two words. Think Different. Television commercials featured a variety of cultural icons such as Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, and MLK who chose to march to the beat of a different drum, men and women unwilling to settle for the status quo. It’s easy to give in to peer pressure and follow the culture, but radicals and revolutionaries change the world.

Followers of Jesus are called to live countercultural lives like the Messiah. You don’t get crucified for blending in! Make no mistake, Jesus is the greatest revolutionary in human history, and he invites us to join him in being in the world but not of the world, instead setting an example for others to follow as we re-present Christ on our planet.

Our series
Stewards of the Gospel is looking at Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, a city in Greece which was invaded by false teachers who were critical of Paul’s character and biblical message. Two thousand years ago, our world continues to feature false teachers who can’t live without $54 million jets, promise never-ending wealth and prosperity, and claim your trials are a lack of faith.

Although Paul is not writing to First Alliance Church Toledo, this letter is certainly for us. Last Sunday we looked at the Believer’s Quest of having an eternal perspective rather than being consumed with this moment and this world. Today’s text is about the Believer’s Testimony, our call to be growing in holiness, distinction from the world. We are to think different…or more grammatically, think—and act—differently. This does not mean we are to go out of our way to act weird, not does it mean to isolate ourselves from unbelievers, but rather we are to live attract, compelling lives that cause people to ask the reason for the hope we have, our faith in Jesus Christ.

As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)

If you recall from last week, false teachers were attacking Paul and his message of grace. Paul and Timothy are pleading with the church in Corinth to shift their focus from a works-based salvation that can never be achieved to a grace-based salvation which comes through faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah who died and rose from the dead for both Jews and Gentiles. Some wanted these Christians to return to Judaistic legalism which would make God’s grace—and Jesus’ sacrifice—a complete waste.

Perhaps the only thing more radical, reckless, incredible, and outrageous than the perfect Son of God dying for sinners like us would be if he died unnecessarily. If there was another way—and Jesus pleaded for Plan B when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane—he would’ve been crazy to not take it. But the truth is we’re all hopeless without Jesus.

This past week at Sports & Arts Camp we were discussing fears. Our group of 23 broke into smaller groups and the three boys I was with all expressed fears related to death and dying. I asked what happens when they die and they all said they’d go to heaven, which made their fear of death a bit easier to handle (though I’m reminded of the famous line “everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die!”). I asked them why they were going to heaven and they said because they’re good. Then I offered them something of a riddle.

I told the boys—and later my entire group—how I’m not good enough to go to heaven. They were very surprised but I explained any sin in our lives is enough to keep us from a holy God. Miss Sue uses the illustration of a brownie with dog poop inside. Nobody wants to take even a bite of a brownie if there’s even a little poop inside, and it’s the same way with God and our sin. Even a little bit spoils all of our so-called goodness. So I explained unless we’re perfect, we’re not good enough. Period.

But then I said although I’m not good enough to go to heaven, I’m certain I’m going to heaven. They gave me a perplexed look and I said, “I’ll explain tomorrow!”

I’m not good enough to go to heaven when I die.
Paul and Timothy weren’t good enough.
The Corinthian church wasn’t good enough.
First Alliance Church isn’t good enough.

But Jesus is!!! Jesus pays for our ticket, takes our punishment, reconciles us to the Father. By following Jesus, we receive abundant life and eternal life. We can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. That’s grace.

Paul is saying this is the day of salvation, the present Age of Grace. Aren’t you glad we live on this side of the cross and the empty tomb?

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:3-10)

Again, Paul and Timothy are defending themselves and their ministry against their critics. It’s an impressive defense! Compare your spiritual resume to theirs! You thought you have endured persecution for your faith? We could do an entire series on this passage. What faith!

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13)

The context is definitely relevant here. Now we come to today’s scripture reading, a text aimed squarely at believers—true followers of Jesus.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
(2 Corinthians 6:14-16)

Earlier (2 Cor. 6:2) Paul quoted Isaiah (49:8). Now he quotes Leviticus 26:11a and 12a with possible references to Exodus 25:8; 29:45a, 1 Kings 6:13, and Ezekiel 37:27a.

But let’s back up. Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. Have you ever heard that? Perhaps the most frequent use involves two people who want to get married, one is a Christian and the other is not. Can you see any potential problems with such a marriage? Or what about two people starting a business together, one a follower of Jesus and the other not. Could conflict arise over values?

But what’s the context? Paul is writing about the false teachers who have invaded the Christians in Corinth. Sure, we can apply this to all relationships, but he’s specifically calling out legalistic, religious people and saying, “Stay away!”

He’s also saying the greatest relationship is that with our heavenly Father. We were not created for religion, but rather to do life with God…forever. Let me try my modern version of verse 16. This is God speaking:

“I will live with First Alliance Church
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
(2 Corinthians 6:16, New Kirk Translation!)

What do you think? Paul continues…


“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”


“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”
(2 Corinthians 6:17-18)

What a perfect text for Father’s Day…and that’s truly a coincidence!

Paul—and God—are saying we are holy—set apart—and we are to live holy lives. We talked about holiness several weeks ago (May 6, 2018) and how God is holy and we are to, likewise, be holy.

Allow me to repeat Scot McKnight’s words from his new book,
Open to the Spirit:
Holiness is first and foremost devotion to God. We could translate the word holy as “devout” and we would be accurate. So we see that separation from the world is the impact or result, not the source, of holiness. Devotion to God doesn’t mean isolation or withdrawal, as one finds among some sects. Rather, holiness means that in this world one listens and dances to the music of the Holy Spirit instead of the music of the world. 
Our devotion and allegiance must always be to Jesus Christ, but that does not mean we are to isolate ourselves from the world. Instead, like an international student who travels to another country to study and retains their diet and fashion and customs, we are to live radical lives in our community, lives marked by the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit…

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23a)

If you are filled with the Holy Spirit, dancing to the music of the Holy Spirit instead of the music of the world, it won’t be long until people notice. We all know this is what our world needs—not more violence, division, fear, injustice. We must let our lights shine, but only when we have a light to shine, and that light is not us and our good works, but Jesus Christ. It’s a human surrendered to the Holy Spirit.

Our text concludes…

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Corinthians 7:1)

This is the believer’s testimony—holiness. It’s not necessarily a testimony of words, but of action, of life, of love. Imagine a world filled with people who are truly devoted to their heavenly Father. Imagine a church filled with people who are truly devoted to their heavenly Father! This is not my vision. This is God’s vision. This is God’s mission for every believer—every true believer—to love Him, to love others, and to make disciples.

So What?

Is yours a life worth following? It is if you’re following Jesus rather than the world.

You don’t have to be a perfect example, but a living example. One thing I’ve discovered is even though we all mess up, we can demonstrate our faith by apologizing, for making restitution, for humbly acknowledging our mistakes and seeking forgiveness. Talk about radical!

I want to add there may be people in your life you
should avoid. If their negative influence on you is greater than your positive influence on them, holiness may mean placing boundaries on your relationship.

Recently in our 9 AM small group someone mentioned how they get invited to parties but decline knowing such gatherings would not be healthy environments for them. Perhaps a solution is to throw a different kind of party and invite them…or bring Christian friends along for accountability and support.

The point is holiness may involve separation, but not isolation. We are neither to withdraw out of the world nor become like the world, instead living as citizens of the Kingdom of God in our community.

The secret to holiness is not trying harder. It’s simply to surrender to the Holy Spirit, to die to yourself and come alive in Christ. Confess your sins and invite the Holy Spirit to fill you with the fruit of the Spirit.

Credits: some ideas from D6.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Jesus is our Sanctifier, 4 February 2018

    Jesus is our Sanctifier
    The Gospel Truth
    John 15:1-8

    Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to distinguish between the biblical gospel and the various misunderstandings of the word, specifically the difference between Jesus as Savior and Lord. We will use the Fourfold Gospel as our outline.

    Big Idea: Jesus is our Sanctifier, making us holy and set apart for God’s glory.


    Last Sunday we began a new series, The Gospel Truth. Our church’s founder, A.B. Simpson, described four unique aspects to Jesus: he is our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. This is known as the Fourfold Gospel. Gospel means “good news” and if I were to describe the gospel in one word, it would be Jesus. In three words, Jesus is LORD. The gospel involves us, but it is first and foremost about Jesus—his life, death, burial, resurrection, appearances, ascension, and promised return.

    Is Jesus your Savior?

    Unlike other religions which teach if you are good enough, you can go to heaven when you die and spend eternity with God, the Bible teaches none of us is worthy of God’s perfect standard which is why He sent Jesus to our planet to live a perfect life and die for us. He took our punishment on the cross if we receive his gift of salvation. As a gift, you can’t earn it, you can’t do enough religious things to work for it, you simply have to believe and receive.

    For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)

    Luke wrote

    Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

    Jesus died for you…and rose from the dead. Is he your Savior? If not, I invite you to simply trust Jesus today. Surrender your life to him. Thank him for his life, death on the cross, and resurrection. He paid for all of your sins—past, present and future—on the cross. He wants more than anything to know you, love you, and spend eternity with you. They way to heaven is simple—believe in Jesus. Here’s a sample prayer:

    Jesus, thank you for your death and resurrection. I believe you love me and died for me and I want to receive you into my life. I want you to be my Savior and LORD. I want to follow you from this moment forward and let you lead my life. Amen.

    There is nothing magical about that prayer, but it can be the beginning of your spiritual journey. However, it’s only the beginning. Tragically, many people stop with Jesus as their Savior and go about their normal lives with the benefit of “fire insurance.” Beginning your faith adventure is much like being born. Actually, Jesus says to be “born again.” A newborn baby has not reached the end of their life, but rather it has just begun. In the same way the life of a new believer is just beginning. They need to grow from infancy to spiritual maturity, with Jesus as the ultimate example.

    Have you been underwhelmed by the change in your life since you were “saved?” Many have done a great disservice to people in “sharing their faith,” communicating false hope that if you just “pray a prayer and receive Jesus,” you’re done. You’re saved…and when you die, you’ll go to heaven. End of story.

    Perhaps you have begun your spiritual journey and you are “saved” but, like the man in the video, you haven’t experienced the abundant life Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.

    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10, ESV)

    Perhaps you know Jesus is your Savior—our topic last Sunday—and you know you’ll go to heaven when you die, but you wonder if there is any value to your faith before you die.

    I’ve got great news for you! Jesus is not only our Savior, he is our Sanctifier.

    Jesus is our Sanctifier

    The word “sanctify” is another one of those often misunderstood words like “gospel.” It simply means to make holy, set apart as sacred, to purify, to consecrate. In a word, sanctification means separation.

    Separation from sin: “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:15-16.

    Separation to God: “(He) has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father…” Revelation 1:6.

    Some believe sanctification occurs the moment we are saved, when we receive Jesus. A baby Christian is made holy and set apart. Others believe sanctification is a lifelong process of growth and maturity, something no newborn can possess. Our understanding as a church and the Alliance movement is it is both.

    The Alliance Statement of Faith says

    It is the will of God that each believer should be filled with the Holy Spirit and be sanctified wholly,(22) being separated from sin and the world and fully dedicated to the will of God, thereby receiving power for holy living and effective service.(23) This is both a crisis and a progressive experience wrought in the life of the believer subsequent to conversion.(24)
    [22] 1 Thessalonians 5:23[23] Acts 1:8[24] Romans 6:1–14,

    Laver—or basin—represents the daily cleansing from sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. To clarify three theological words,

    - I have been saved: Justification
    - I am being saved: Sanctification
    - I will be saved: Glorification

    God’s Will

    Do you want to know God’s will? I hear people often say they are trying to discern God’s will for their lives. After all, Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done.” Paul wrote to the church in Thessaloniki, Greece these words:

    It is God’s will that you should be sanctified:(1 Thessalonians 4:3a)

    It is God’s will for you to be sanctified. That’s pretty clear. He continues to elaborate on what sanctification looks like.

    It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.
    (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6a)

    To stress the importance of sanctification, Paul adds:

    The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4:6b-8)

    It is God’s will for you to be sanctified, to be set apart, to be holy, to become like Jesus.

    We can only become like Jesus if we know him, spend time talking with him in prayer, spend time learning about him through the Bible, and spend time surrendering our lives to God the Holy Spirit. That requires…time! It requires intentionality. It doesn’t just magically happen any more than your body just magically grows muscles or your mind just magically earns college degrees. Growth—except, perhaps, for your belly—requires discipline, training, effort, and dare I say work. All relationships take work. If you’re waiting for me to have you over for dinner, maybe you should invite me over for dinner. If you want me to send you an e-mail, perhaps you should initiate and send me one. And just like it takes time to truly know me or a friend, it takes time—a lifetime—to know Jesus.

    And you are your friends. Over time, it is almost a certainty you will become like your friends. If you hang out with Philadelphia Eagles fans, you’re likely to become an Eagles fan. If you hang out with people who work out or ride bikes or watch movies, it’s likely you’ll be inclined to work out, ride bikes, or watch movies. If you hang out with Jesus, you will become like Jesus.

    When we receive Jesus as our Savior, we also receive the Holy Spirit, the most underrated Member of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit draws us to God and then leads us to mature in our faith. The reason so many people call themselves Christians and act nothing like Jesus is because they are not filled with the Spirit, connected to God, following Jesus our Sanctifier.

    In today’s text, Jesus paints a beautiful picture of what it means to truly be a Christian.

    “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:1-4)

    When I was a young boy, I was fascinated by a large tree in our front yard. I was equally fascinated with the discovery of a hatchet amongst my dad’s tools in the garage. For some reason, I thought it would be great to use the hatchet on the tree!

    I don’t think I ever thought of actually chopping down the tree with the hatchet. I knew that would take hours, but if memory serves correct, I used the blade to carve my name in the trunk of the tree. When my parents saw what I was doing, they were horrified and sent me a not-so-subtle message to stop. Fortunately the tree survived after some treatment, but imagine what would’ve happened to the tree if I had chopped it down. Would it grow? Would branches grow? Would leaves grow? Without a connection to the trunk, the entire tree would die. The trunk and roots supply food to the branches as well as stability in storms. It is impossible for fruit to grow on a dead tree.

    Some people pray a prayer to receive Jesus as Savior and expect to instantly bear fruit, to immediately be changed. Sometimes miracles occur at one’s spiritual birth. Some people trust Christ and instantly lose their desire for alcohol or temptation to be violent, but regardless of the sanctification at the moment of surrendering to Jesus, there is a need for ongoing maturity and sanctification which takes time…a lifetime. I have never met a person who has become perfect. We are all in process, growing one day at a time…if we remain in Jesus, if we follow Jesus, if we confess our sins daily and invite the Holy Spirit to fill us with the fruit of the Spirit.

    …the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)

    One of my favorite questions at the end of the year to ask myself and others is are we more like Jesus than at the beginning of the year. Look at this list. Are you growing in love? What about joy? Are you becoming more peaceful? Would those around you say you are becoming a more patient person? Kind? Good? Faithful? Gentle? Self-controlled?

    Jesus continued in the fifteenth chapter of John:

    “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8)

    If we remain, abide, do life with Jesus, we will bear fruit.

    John 15:7 is a popular verse:

    If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

    This does not mean God is a genie who does whatever we want. On the contrary, when we do what God wants, when we follow Jesus, we will desire only what God wants to give us.

    Many Christians understand Jesus as Savior. They know he died on the cross to save them from the punishment of their sin. But they do not experience the ongoing sanctifying work of Jesus Christ in their lives. God is not in control of their lives.

    The book of Romans has incredible truths about God and his wisdom and power and chapter twelve begins:

    Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)

    Worship is not just singing songs. It’s a lifestyle. It’s surrender, sacrifice, sanctification. That might not sound as fun as a trip to Cedar Point or an evening of binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix, but actually following Jesus, abiding, remaining, doing life with Jesus offers more than a temporary thrill or a momentary distraction from the pains of life.

    Knowing Jesus brings love. I have experienced God’s unconditional love, and it’s amazing. I know I don’t deserve it, but God’s loves me—and you—because he created us and wants more than anything else a relationship with us—forever.

    Knowing Jesus brings joy. Our founding fathers believed in the pursuit of happiness, but joy is so much more. It’s deeper and not so temporary.

    Knowing Jesus brings peace. I sleep well at night knowing God is in control and I’m not.

    Knowing Jesus brings patience. I’m certainly not the most patient person but Jesus has all of the time in the world. I can trust his perfect timing.

    Knowing Jesus brings hope. I know regardless of what happens today, one day I will spend eternity with Jesus in a perfect world.

    I could go on and on.
    Steps To A Spirit-Filled Life

    The path to the Spirit-filled life involves faith-filled risks that always involve change.

    - Surrender: You cannot make yourself holy any more than you can make yourself saved. 
    Romans 6:11Romans 12:1–2

    - Accept: Christ is your Sanctifier in the same way that He is your Savior! 
    Colossians 2:6Galatians 2:20

    - Abide: Maintain a continuous relationship with Jesus through obedience to His Word. 
    John 15:1–11

    Here’s artist and author Lecrae describing what it means to experience Jesus as Savior and Sanctifer.

    So What?

    Jesus is our Sanctifier. He has set us apart to live holy lives. Sanctification is a process of becoming like Christ as we surrender our will to God’s and are filled with the Holy Spirit who produces fruit in our lives.
    It could be said that in contrasting Jesus as Savior and Sanctifier…

    Savior: Deliverance from penalty of sin
    Sanctifier: Deliverance from the power of sin

    Savior: Freedom from death
    Sanctifier: Freedom to live

    Savior: Release from the guilt of the past
    Sanctifier: Equips for the temptations of the future

    Savior: Christ’s righteousness is imputed (credited) to us
    Sanctifier: Christ’s righteousness is manifest in us

    Savior: Jesus lives in us
    Sanctifier: Jesus lives through us

    Is Jesus your Savior? Have you received the gift we celebrate today in communion, his body and blood broken and poured out for you on the cross?

    Is Jesus your Sanctifier? Are you seeking to live your life for the glory of God? None of us is perfect, but true believers are growing, abiding, remaining, doing life with Jesus and looking increasingly like him.

    Jesus said,

    “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. (John 15:9-14)

    Credits: Some ideas from A.B. Simpson and John Soper.

    For further study, listen to Thomas George’s sermon at FAC on January 22, 2017.

    For the Alliance statement regarding Jesus as our Sanctifier:

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Jesus our Sanctifier, The Gospel Truth, 15 March 2015

    Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to distinguish between the biblical gospel and the various misunderstandings of the word, specifically the difference between Jesus as Savior and Lord. We will use the Fourfold Gospel as our outline.

    Big Idea: Jesus is our Sanctifier, making us increasingly holy like Himself.


    This week we continue our series
    The Gospel Truth. We began last week looking at Jesus as Savior. Today we continue our look at the Fourfold Gospel examining Jesus as Sanctifier.

    It’s not uncommon for song lyrics and passages of scripture to contain unusual words. Sanctifier is one of those Christianese words that few outside of the faith understand…and few inside the faith understand! When we say Jesus is our Sanctifier we are expressing that He makes us like Himself. A year ago we said that followers of Jesus are “in Christ.” What can be said of Jesus can be said of us in the eyes of our heavenly Father, not because we are God or perfect like Christ, but because we essentially wear Jesus’ uniform. His blood purifies our sins and we can stand before a holy God who cannot tolerate sin, not because of what we’ve done but because Jesus is our Savior which we studied last week.

    Sanctification then is that God wants to make us in reality what we’ve already been declared to be in Christ. In other words, following Jesus is more than praying a prayer to ask Jesus into your heart so you’ll go to heaven when you die. Following Jesus is just that—following Him. Jesus is perfect. We are to be perfect. Jesus is holy. We are to be holy. Jesus has power and authority. We are to have power and authority.

    To be sanctified is to be holy, set apart. In one sense it occurs when we surrender our lives to God, yet it is a progressive process in which we become increasingly like Him—separated from sin and evil.

    Right about now you may be asking, “Why don’t I look like Jesus?” or “How is it possible for me to be like Christ?” That’s our topic today: sanctification, becoming holy and set apart like Jesus.


    What is your favorite food? Although my favorite dessert is ice cream, my favorite food is fruit. I love fruit! I’m not sure if it’s because most fruits are sweet or colorful or uniquely shaped or the texture but I love fruit. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a fruit I didn’t enjoy…unless it was bad fruit!

    Where does fruit come from? Meijer! Believe it or not, it does not just appear in the produce section!

    The Bible is filled with organic metaphors. God created our world, so it should come as no surprise He would use physical things to help us understand spiritual realities.

    Gardening is a powerful way to understand life. I’m an expert gardener…in growing weeds! I admire people who understand soil and plants and who can grow things
    other than weeds!

    Last week I listened to a brilliant podcast interview with Christine Sine in which she described the numerous parallels between the cultivation of her garden and the cultivation of her soul. Producing beautiful fruit requires preparation of the soil, generous fertilizer and water, enough sunlight, protection from hungry creatures, and the eradication of weeds that can choke the plants.

    Likewise if we want our lives to bear fruit we must confess our sins, flee temptation, fill our minds with the Word of God, feed upon Jesus, the Bread of Life, receive support from godly brothers and sisters, and pursue a deeper relationship with God and others. Jesus said it plainly in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel of John.

    “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:1-4)

    How do we become like Jesus? We know Him.
    How do we know Jesus? We spend time with Him.
    How do we spend time with Jesus? We pray. We study the Bible. We spend time with people who know Jesus.

    They say many old couples look alike after years of marriage. They can finish each other’s sentences. They know what the other is thinking. That’s what happens when two people do life together, spend time with one another, know each other, and grow together. That’s what happens when we do life with Jesus—we begin to resemble Him!

    It takes time. It requires intentionality. It involves effort.

    When I placed a wedding ring on my bride’s finger nearly 25 years ago that wasn’t the end of our relationship. It was a tremendously significant moment, yet it was just the beginning. More than two decades later we’ve both invested in our relationship, and it has produced fruit (including three amazing children!). I didn’t just say vows and then tell her, “Have a nice life!” Over the years I have grown to be like her, and she has grown to be like me. We are both works in process, becoming like one another, but most of all both seeking to be like Jesus.

    “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

    It’s great to ask What Would Jesus Do? It’s far better to know Jesus so intimately and be so filled with the Holy Spirit that you don’t stop and ask—you instinctively do it! It’s natural. That’s sanctification. Jesus is our Sanctifier means He wants us to become like Him. He wants us to become Christians—little Christs. He wants us to love Him and love others, re-presenting Him to our desperate world.

    Are you connected to the vine? Do know know what God is saying to you? Are you obediently following Him?

    If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:6-8)

    If you know anything at all about plants, you know every branch must be connected to the trunk which must be connected to the roots. Any disconnect will result in poor or no fruit.

    When I was a kid I remember enjoying a pretty substantial tree in our front yard. One day I had the brilliant idea of taking a hatchet and carving my name into the tree. When my parents realized what I had done, they weren’t very pleased! Fortunately I did no permanent damage to the tree, but I could’ve killed it!

    Like many of you, I witnessed first-hand the destruction of trees by a very small bug known as the emerald ash borer. The nasty beetle from Asia was first formally identified in Canton, Michigan in 2002, believed to be introduced by overseas shipping materials. They attack ash trees through larval feeding that disrupts the flow of nutrients and water. This small bug is responsible for the destruction of literally tens of millions of ash trees and threatens to kill most of the 8.7 billion ash trees throughout North America.

    What a perfect metaphor for sin! Small, unsuspected sins invade our life, slowly disconnecting us from our source of life, Jesus. Sure, robbing a bank or killing your neighbor will damage your relationship with God—and keep you away from others as you sit in prison—but most often it’s small temptations that cause us to drift from our nourishment. We get too busy to pray, too busy to study the Bible, too busy to attend worship and Life Groups, too busy to share Jesus with others. We get greedy, buying things we don’t need until we can no longer be generous and serve those in desperate need. We compromise in small things like taxes, speed limits, truth-telling, and pride until we are able to rationalize the most blatant of sins.

    A Healthy Tree

    The first words of the Psalms paint an entirely different picture.

    Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)

    That’s what I want my life to depict!

    What kind of fruit are you bearing? It could be no fruit, the result of disconnect from Jesus. It could be bad fruit such as

    sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. (Mark 7:21-22)

    Or it could be the fruit of the Spirit:

    love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a)

    If we abide in Jesus, if we devote ourselves to Him, we will bear much, good fruit.

    The Alliance website says it like this:

    Many Christians understand God’s promise of salvation but do not experience the ongoing sanctifying work of Jesus Christ in their lives. For those who neither understand nor allow the Holy Spirit's control in their lives, the results have a profound effect.

    Unsuccessful struggle against sin and a lack of power in life and ministry frustrate those who have asked Jesus to be their Savior but not their Sanctifier, resulting in a lack of joy in their walk with Christ. At the point when we are born again, we become members of God’s family. We believe He paid the price for our sin and that his followers are—set apart from those are not born again—and are seen as holy because of what Christ has done.

    The Bible is filled with biological metaphors. We are a family—brothers and sisters. We are dead in our sins and resurrected with Christ as beautifully illustrated through baptism. In the book of Romans we read these powerful words:

    In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14)

    Some mistakenly think Christianity is a morality-based religion in which we are supposed to do good and be good. They see Jesus as someone who makes bad people good. Friends, the reality is Jesus came to make dead people come alive! Following Jesus is not merely an exercise in doing the right things. It is a vibrant, joy-filled journey in which possess—and are possessed by—the Holy Spirit. How?

    1. We thirst. We desire God, or at least want to want God.
    2. We ask. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you. Daily. Maybe hourly!
    3. We surrender. In essence, let go and let God. This means letting go of your time, talents and treasures. It means placing everything on the altar. Open your hands!
    4. Abide. Love is spelled T-I-M-E. There are no shortcuts.


    Most of us live busy lives. God created us to work, but also to rest. Most people work hard during the week and crash on the weekend. We are designed to work from a place of rest, not rest from work.

    Semi-circle copy

    The semi-circle depicts a pendulum moving from rest to work and back. There are daily, weekly, monthly and annual rhythms of rest and work. When Jesus speaks in John 15 of remaining or abiding, He’s speaking of resting in Him. We need times of rest and recreation with Jesus and our our families. If we ignore Sabbath and rest with God, we will eventually crash. If we allow Him to prune us and renew us as we abide with Him during times of rest, we will bear much fruit when we work.

    Are you abiding in Christ? Are you resting with Him? Are you spending quality time with Jesus, letting Him invite you into a deeper life of intimacy and faith while challenging you to greater levels of obedience and trust?

    When we talk about Jesus as fully God yet fully man, it’s easy to think since Jesus was God He was never really tempted. Sure, Hebrews 4:15 says He was tempted in every way like us, but didn’t He brush it away like a mosquito and then do all of His magic tricks, healing the sick and opening the eyes of the blind and raising the dead?

    Jesus said no to temptation and did supernatural works because He was filled with the Holy Spirit…the same Holy Spirit available to you and me. If we abide with Jesus, if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will change. We will grow. We will bear fruit. We will look increasingly like Jesus.

    Paul wrote these words to the Church in Corinth:

    Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

    That’s remarkable!


    Dallas Willard famously referred to those seeking salvation apart from sanctification and lordship as “vampire Christians” who only want a little blood but have no interest in following Jesus now. It’s one thing for Jesus to be our Savior and another to be truly LORD.

    A few weeks ago we said one of our family rules is the Make Disciples. Disciples are students or imitators of their discipler. We are to be students and followers and imitators of Jesus.

    It’s a life-long process, but if we hunger after God, if we ask the Holy Spirit to fill us, if we confess our sins and surrender our will, and if we abide, He will make us new. He will transform us into new creations like Jesus. He is able to take whatever mess we offer Him and make it beautiful. That’s our Sanctifier!


    Some material taken from
    The Fourfold Gospel, a C&MA/DNA publication.

    Semi-circle LifeShape from Mike Breen and

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.