We Believe: Sanctification & Perseverance of the Saints
This is a preview of a sermon in the “We Believe: Back to Basics” series. To watch the recording of any of the sermons in this sermon series, visit our website.
"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”
- From 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
- From Romans 8:14-17; 31-39
"We believe that sanctification is the process by which according to the will of God, we
are made partakers of his holiness"
-New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith 1833, Article X. Of Sanctification
"We believe... a special providence watches over their [the believer's] welfare, and that they are kept by
the power of God through faith unto salvation."
- NHCF 1833, Article XI. Of Perseverance of the Saints
The last of the questions asked of the actors on the television program "Inside the Actor's Studio" is this:
"If heaven exists, what would God say to you when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?"
I've borrowed this question to ask it of people from time to time myself. It can be revealing about one's assumptions or ideas about God and who gets to be in his presence.
One common answer is from people who say something like, "I'll be surprised if I make it." One person said, "I hope God says something like, "Even you! Come in!"
What it reveals is that there is a presumption that the common person cannot expect a very sympathetic audience with the Almighty. As much as our culture recoils at any form of religious talk of "judgment," we seem to carry with us ways of looking at the world which presume anything but the powerful favor of the Lord on our behalf.
Even many faithful Christians wonder if they will stack up, make it through, and continue on to the end.
The late Pastor and Spiritual writer, Eugene Peterson, talks directly to the anxieties of many believers in his book "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society."
Referencing Psalm 125*, in Chapter 7, he addresses the issue of security.
"My feelings are important for many things. They are essential and valuable. They keep me aware of much that is true and real. But they tell me next to nothing about God or my relation to God. My security comes from who God is, not from how I feel. Discipleship is a decision to live by what I know about God, not by what I feel about him or myself or my neighbors. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people. The image that announces the dependable, unchanging, safe, secure existence of God's people comes from geology, not psychology."
Later on, he reminds us that discipleship is following Jesus, but it's not as if we are Christians on probation - in a precarious situation where our future as Christians holding salvation is dependent on our performance. It is NOT that we are saved by grace but sustained by works. Instead, we believe Grace sees us all the way through, and that includes our sanctification (that is, our being made holy).
"All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us. The opening phrase of the psalm is 'those who trust in GOD' -- not those who trust in their performance, in their morals, in their righteousness, in their health, in their pastor, in their doctor, in their president, in their economy, in their nation -- ' those who trust in GOD.' Those who decide that God is for us and will make us whole eternally."
Read Psalm 125 and reflect on what it means that God holds us secure, from the beginnings of our salvation (justification) to the end (being made holy in sanctification). Notice how the Lord is the one performing the actions in the Psalm. Pray to God that we, his people, might remember his promises.
A song of ascents.
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.
The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.
Lord, do good to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart. But those who turn to crooked ways the Lord will banish with the evildoers.