Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Local Church & Your Sanctification

The Local Church & Your Sanctification

We should all be well aware that the Christian life is to be one of continual sanctification (Matthew 3:8).  Christ has, by His sovereign grace, purchased us to be a people for His own possession.  The beauty of grace is seen, in part, in the fact that Christ pulls us out of the mire and death of our sin and makes us a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13).  Being that “new creation” implies change in our life.  To be clear, the Gospel is not about life-change as so many like to portray it these days.  The Gospel is about our desperate need for forgiveness of our numerous transgressions against a Holy God and the incredible sacrifice that has been made on our behalf by Jesus Christ so that that sin debt can be settled once and for all(Romans 3:21-26).  Even so, the pardoning of our sin sets us free from more than just God’s wrath for those sins, it also frees us to serve the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:1-8).  The product of our salvation is change.  When Christ saves us we receive a new heart and new desires (Ezekiel 36:26).  The Holy Spirit works in us to change the old man into the one that God has created us to be (Ephesians 4:22-24).

While it is true that we are all individually responsible for our own sanctification, meaning that if I fail to pursue holiness as I’ve been called to do it is on me for that failure and no one else, but God has not left us alone in this quest.  Let me elaborate,  Just as we are saved by grace, we are sanctified by grace as well.  But God has not called us to merely sit stagnant in our sanctification.  As He works in us, grows us and conforms us more to Christ we are called to respond.  Even our desire to respond and obey and all our striving is given by the Spirit working in us.  To unfold this part of His plan God has placed the local church in our life as a means of our sanctification.  I would like us to consider 3 ways that the local church plays a vital role in our sanctification.
God sanctifies us by His power working in us through His Holy Spirit that we receive solely because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

1.) The church is God's method for the formative and corrective discipline of the body.
The failure of the individual affects the whole body.  1 Corinthians 12:1-30 teaches us that the church functions best when it functions as a single unit.  Each person exercising their spiritual gifts for the benefit for the other person and through that God is glorified in the unity of the Body.  Just as no part of the human body is without purpose, so it is with each part of the Body of Christ.  Each person in the local church plays a significant role in the sanctification of the other members.  One person’s sanctification is helped as other members exercise their gifts in service towards that person to help them grow in vast areas of their walk with Christ.  Conversely, that person’s gifts being exercised help them to sharpen themselves and they grow through their useful service to their brethren. As we serve others in the Body of Christ and are served by them as well, we grow spiritually to look more like Christ.

2.) The church is God's method for the watch care for the soul – Hebrews 13:17

God has ordained Elders and Deacons to watch over their flocks not for the purpose of commanding them or ruling with an iron fist as though a regime.  Rather, they are there for your benefit.  They are there to unfold God’s Word for you and lead you towards conformity to Christ.  Paul said in Romans 12 that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds; our minds are renewed by the Holy Spirit through engaging them with God’s Word, and faithful Pastors are one of the means God uses of applying the Word to your mind. So we are to be plugged in to a local church and we are to be submissive to our leaders, as they submit to the Lord, for they are caring for us and watching over us.  Rightly engaged this relationship will bring joy to both parties.  As the Pastor leads a believer away from sin’s dangerous snares that person is more sanctified and as the person submits to their Pastor’s leadership that Pastor’s joy is refreshed.  A Pastor with joy for his ministry will be a Pastor who lovingly guides his flock towards Christ.

3.) The church is God's method for the practical sanctification of His children. -  Hebrews 10:24-25

The church is God's method for the practical sanctification of His children.  The way believers grow in the practical ins and outs of Christianity is through the local church.  One purpose of our gathering for corporate worship and Biblical fellowship is so that we can “consider how to stir one another up to love and good works”.  Are not those two things directly connected to Christ conformity?  We learn to fulfill the greatest commandments by knowing how to both love and serve the Lord our God and our neighbor in a Biblical and Christ-like manner (Psalm 27:8,11) As we grow as a body and an individual and are thereby further sanctified, we display Christ to the world.  They see us reacting to success with humility, worship with reverence, temptations with resolves for righteousness over fleshly indulgence, persecution with an increased zeal for Gospel proclamation, and trials with unshakable trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is the heart of what is meant by shining our light in such a way that men see our good works and glorify our Lord (Matthew 5:16).