Let’s say we leave Knoxville, and we drive up to Lexington. Hop on I-75, about a couple hours we’d be there. We drive onto the campus of The University of Kentucky. We look for this large building with probably the biggest parking lot on campus. We make our way through the front door, pass through a couple turnstiles, around the concession stand, up a flight of stairs, and there we are looking out over the basketball court in Rupp Arena. What do you suppose would be the first thing you would notice about 99% of the people there? They would probably be wearing blue. So you would be looking out over this big sea of blue. But here’s the thing. You're not a Kentucky fan. You're a Tennessee fan. And you're looking for other Tennessee fans. Do you think you could spot a Tennessee fan in the middle of a crowd of Kentucky fans? What do you think you're going to look for? You’ll be looking for somebody wearing orange. Do you think that somebody wearing orange will stand out in a crowd of people who are wearing blue? It’s easy to tell the difference between a Tennessee fan and a Kentucky fan.
But is it easy to look out over that crowd and pick out which of those fans are saved? All flesh looks the same to us. We may be different colors, height, weight. But there’s one thing we all have in common. We are covered by flesh, and when we are born, this flesh is our master. And we spend many years doing everything we can to satisfy this flesh. But when God gets ahold of us, breathes His spirit into us, and brings our dead spirit to life, we die to that flesh. In other words, we put to death the desires that had control over our lives—we are to ignore this flesh when it decides it wants to do what it wants to do. When our flesh—that is, our old ways of thinking and acting—when that flesh says, “Hey, remember when…Come on! Just this once!” It’s kinda hard to ignore our flesh because we’re stuck in it. We can't get rid of it. And because to us one person doesn’t look any different from another, how are we supposed to tell whether they are saved or not? How are we supposed to tell the difference between a lost and a saved person? We can't do like we did at Rupp Arena and look for an orange shirt in a sea of blue.
We should act differently. We should talk differently. We should examine things more carefully. I'll give you an example. Suppose we know someone that can probably get through about every other sentence without using a four-letter word. You find out he goes to church. Some people would be very happy that he goes to church. But we really can't be, because we know him. And we know that if someone acts and talks like this, the cause of Christ would be better off if he did not name the name of our Lord. Today’s lesson is on sanctification. Another word we use that means the same thing is holiness. We’re going to talk about how God commands us to be different from the world. If you asked 100 people to name the 5 most “holy” people in the world today, who would they be most likely to name? The Pope. The Dalai Lama. But these are not holy men. They are religious men. And there is a difference between religion and holiness.
In Matthew 23:25-28, Jesus is giving it to the Pharisees. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
When the world thinks of “holiness” they think of ritual. They think of elaborate ceremonies. Being holy has nothing to do with rituals. Has nothing to do with fancy robes and incense and candles and so on and so forth. Those things are religious. That’s the outside of the cup. Those things do not make a person holy. And I'll confess—in the past, on Christmas Eve, I used to love to watch Midnight Mass. Used to love to watch the procession, and the ornate workmanship in the basilica, and the chanting and the dominus ominus—and I don’t even know what that means!—and all the religion that is the Roman Catholic system. It looks holy. On the outside. But that’s not what makes for true holiness. So, let’s go ahead and start with The Comprehension of Sanctification. The word “holy” means the same as the word “sanctified.” It means “Set apart for a sacred purpose.” And if one is sanctified they are a saint. Time out! How many miracles does a person have to do in order to be a saint? ZERO!!!!!
The word “saint” or “saints” is used 62 times in the NT. And not once does it refer to someone who was called a saint because they performed some miracle. They were called saints because they were saved by the grace of God, and the blood of Jesus Christ. They were “sanctified,” set apart by God. There is Past Sanctification. Hebrews 10:10—By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. This is when God saves a person—and when God has done it, it’s done. There are people who say a little prayer, ask Jesus into their heart, and walk out the door and are no different than they were before. But when it is God who does a work in the person’s life, He has taken that person out of the family of Adam, and has set them apart unto Himself. 1st Corinthians 6:19-20—Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which belong to God. We don’t belong to ourselves anymore. We belong to God. He took us out of the darkness we were living in, set us off to the side, opened our eyes, flipped on the light, and set us in the kingdom of His Son. Colossians 1:9-13 (NASB)—We have not ceased to pray for you…so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects…joyously giving thanks to the Father…For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. Past Sanctification.
Then there is Present Sanctification. Hebrews 10:14—For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. That word “perfected.” It means “completed.” “Finished.” “Accomplished.” The Greek is “teteleiwken.” Anybody know when Christ used the word “tetelestai?” John 19:30. “It is finished!” We have been finished. We have been completed. And now, we are being set apart every day from darkness. But even as God sets us apart, we are to set a boundary between ourselves and the world—not that we don’t ever have anything to do with the world. But we do not indulge in the things of the world. 1st Thessalonians 4:3-7 (NASB)—For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. We are to be different. God has set us apart from the rest of the world. On our trip to Lexington, we could tell one side from the other by the color of the shirt. We may not be able to spot a Christian by the way they look on the outside. But we should be able to spot a brother by how they act. And how they don’t act.
1st Peter 4:1-4 says that we should no longer live the rest of our time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. See, this is why the world looks at some in the church and says they don’t want any part of it because we’re all a bunch of…what? That’s why, getting back to that example I gave a few minutes ago, it would be better if he never said he went to church because somebody will look at him as a model of what a Christian can be, and fall into that same excess. Past Sanctification. Present Sanctification.
Future Sanctification. “At a point in the future (our death/Christ’s return/the rapture), there will be a setting apart from the presence of sin forever.” Philippians 1:6—He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. A few minutes ago we looked at the word “perfected.” “Accomplished.” “Completed.” The Greek “teteleiwken.” He who has begun a good work in you will complete—“epiteleo”—same root word—complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. He sanctified us when He saved us. He continues to sanctify us every day. He will completely sanctify us when that day comes. 1st Corinthians 15:51-54—We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. When we are walking in that final glory, we will NEVER have to worry about sin ever again. It will be done away with. Future Sanctification.
We’ll finish up with The Cultivation of Sanctification. In other words, how do we sanctify ourselves from the world? By the word and by prayer. First, The Word. We need to do 3 things with the word, and we find them in Revelation 1:3—Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. The first thing we need to do is Read the word. 2nd Timothy 2:15-16—Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. We are not to believe everything somebody says about the word of God without checking it first.
There are a lot of preachers who go around reading from this same Bible—but what they say does not line up with what the Bible actually says. But don’t you dare question them. Or they will come back with a Scripture of their own—“Touch not mine anointed!” If you try and show someone why these prosperity heretics are wrong, that’s what they come back with. “Touch not mine anointed! Do my prophet no harm!” So we shouldn’t question what they say, right? WRONG! Acts 17:10-11—Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea…These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. These men dared question the apostle Paul! I speak as a fool. Yet these “anointed” clowns get up there and say nobody should question them. 1st John 4:1—Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Read the word.
Hear the word. That’s why we have church on Sunday. Romans 10:14—How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 2nd Timothy 4:1-4—I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Finally, we need to Keep the word. Luke 11:28—“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Luke 8:11-15—“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God…the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” We can hear the word and read the word every day from now until the end of the age. But if we are not doing what it says, it’s no use. In fact, listen to what Christ says about people who read the truth and hear the truth and know the truth—but they do not do it. Matthew 11:20-24—Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” Think about that! If a person reads the truth, hears the truth, knows the truth, they will be judged more harshly than even Sodom and Gomorrah! Two of the most wicked cities that have ever existed—outside of Las Vegas. That person who knows the truth and does not do it will be wishing they could be with those from Sodom and Gomorrah. Read. Hear. Keep.
Let’s finish up with Pray. What can we do apart from God? Nothing. What can we do if God is with us? Anything. Luke 18:27. It can be Scheduled. Daniel 6:10 (NASB)—Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. We need to set aside a time to talk to God. I love this old wuote from Corrie Ten Boom: “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” We need to ask God for His guidance, to know how to please Him.
It can be Spontaneous. Do we have to go through ritual to talk to God? We can pray right on the spot. 1st Thessalonians 5:17—pray without ceasing. It should be Steadfast. How often should we pray for something or someone? As often as it takes. Luke 18:1-6—Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God… there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘…because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?”
Prayer sets our hearts on God, helps strengthen our faith so that we do not desire the things of the world, so that we can live a life sanctified to God. We can, as it says in 1st Peter 1:16, be holy for He is holy. We can be separate from the world and we can, as Peter exhorts us, we can be strange!