“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
How do we live in true freedom? That is our question for today. How can we live holy lives fully for Christ?
To sanctify is, literally, to set apart, and in the biblical context it means set apart to God. In the Old Testament this setting apart was both moral and ritual. An object such as a bowl could be set apart from common use for exclusive use in the temple ritual. It was then considered holy (from the same root as sanctify). But of deeper and more enduring significance was, on the one hand, a personal separation from sin, and on the other hand, his or her consecration to God. One who is set apart from sin (sanctified) is rightly called a saint (from the same root as sanctify or holy). This moral and theological sense of sanctification is the one I invite you to consider.
To be sanctified is of utmost importance, because “without holiness, no one will see God “ (Hebrews 12:14). That is, until the sin problem is cared for, no one is qualified to associate with a holy God, one who is Himself completely without sin and who, moreover, cannot countenance sin in any form.
God is not only holy, however; He is supremely a God of love, and therefore His ultimate desire for human beings is for them to be restored to full, loving fellowship with Himself. But there is a barrier: sin. For complete unity of heart, two persons must be compatible, in harmony of spirit. They must have the same purposes, outlook, and way of life. If one is sinful and the other holy, what oneness can there be? Their total mind-set is in conflict. So in order to accomplish the ultimate purpose of our existence, namely, to live in loving oneness with God, the sin barrier must be removed.
Today we consider the way in which we are set apart from our sin for the purpose of becoming God’s own possession. We are set apart from sin in three ways.
First, we are forgiven, so that the result of sin, eternal punishment, is cancelled.
Second, we are justified, so that our guilt is removed, our guilty record is expunged – cleared. God sees us no longer as weak, stubborn, and failing but now as one who is as clean and pure as His holy son, Jesus. These declare us forgiven and made right with God.
Third, we are set free from the control of a sinful disposition. The change is so radical as to be comparable to the change that a person experiences at birth (John 3) or death (Romans 6). Though there is continuity with the same human personality, as in the case of birth or death, in regeneration also there is passage into a totally different dimension of human life, with totally different characteristics of personal being. Sin is the prevailing characteristic of persons who live apart from God. They do not have the desire or power to choose consistently the right or to change their condition. Once we become a believer, a new life-force has been introduced that has power to prevail against our disposition that chooses wrong. Some of us may not behave this way, but this is our potential.
In these three ways, every believer has been sanctified through the atoning death of Christ (Heb. 10:10), we have been made holy (Eph. 4:24), and is thus legitimately called a saint (I Cor. 1:2, 6:11). Not all believers are saintly, as we shall see, but all true believers are saints, officially released from the condemnation due their sins, the guilty record, and the tyranny of a sinful disposition. Take a few minutes today and consider, “ Do I know I am released from condemnation? Am I living free or do I live under the oppression of habitual sin? We can live consistently choosing right. May we do so!