Issue: God’s Will-Your Sanctification

In our continuing study of God’s will for North Minneapolis (and really His will for each of us who are His), we move from a general position of all creation under Christ’s Lordship into a personal process of sanctification. Let me put it another way so walk with me for a second. Everything is under the authority of God because He is the Creator and Lord of everything He has made. He has authority because it is His. But we see that God the Father has created and sustained everything in order to put it under the authority of Jesus Christ.[1] Jesus is now Lord over everything to the glory of God and every knee will bow and tongue confess Him as such.[2] Even the enemies of God like Satan, Death, Hades, and all who continue in rebellion against God are under His Lordship. We see that in the reality that He judges and sends them to their eternal dwelling at Judgment Day. They obey and go where He sends, like it or not. But there is a special will for those who put their faith in Him, those that are His, and it has an aim: Sanctification that will result in glorification. I’m going to focus a bit on the sanctification part.

Let me give you a couple of general descriptions that I believe can be summarized by the specific will of sanctification:

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.[3]

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.[4]

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.[5]

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.[6]

Here’s my argument. All four of these passages are dealing with life in the world. The world is the general creation. It can mean amongst believers or unbelievers or simply amongst unbelievers. Hebrews is addressing the supremacy of Christ in light of the affliction and suffering believers are feeling. A major problem the letter addresses is the pull of the world to leave the believers and turn into persecutors in some cases. That passage above summarizes and points to the truths the believers are called to trust in for a particular purpose: endure with hope. Another way to say it is to look at its warning: Don’t be conformed (molded into) the image the world is putting pressure on you to take on. Stand firm in the faith and you will be molded into the image God is working in you.

The second passage above deals with protecting the mind in the world. We get hit with so many arguments for conforming to an image that is not Christ. But no idea or way that is not good and acceptable and perfect is God’s way. In order to be conformed to God’s image you will have to fight conformity that comes in the form of pressure called testing. The way you fight is by renewing your mind. You renew your mind by knowing the truth of God’s words, not manipulations or distortions of it. The primary distortion in Romans is acceptance or non-acceptance based on your familial line or taking on conformity to the Law of Moses. Instead, we are all, Jew and every other people, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone. This is the truth of all Scripture. Such conformity calls for knowing the mind of Christ in Scripture and being renewed (transformed from our old worldly way of thinking to believing God’s word) in our mind. The mind is changed as pressure is applied and we cling to God by faith instead of fearing men or acting in accordance with false teaching.

The third passage is also in a letter meant to strengthen and direct believers who are suffering persecution for their faith. It is a straightforward truth. God wants us to be thankful in all circumstances. This thankfulness flows out by “giving thanks”. Praise God whether you are suffering, at peace, or in any mixture of both. Why? It is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. God wants you to be truly thankful, not trying to act thankful though that may be how it starts, in whatever situation you face including times of persecution. I think this passage works in concert with the fourth. Our genuine god produced thankfulness and the faith which produces it does not simply act thankful, but overflows in good for those who attack us. These good works are unexplainable to our enemies and attackers. When this occurs under intense pressure it points to the object of our faith, Jesus Christ, as completely sufficient. Christ’s worthiness as displayed in our unexplainable lives causes silence in our enemies.  They can’t explain, defend, or truly stand against Jesus. 

Romans 8 outlines the gift of the Holy Spirit in the midst of our turmoil with sin. The Holy Spirit is a down payment, a valuable gift left as proof that a greater payment is coming. It’s like a safety deposit for an apartment or car, but so much more valuable. The greater payment is the inheritance of all things for eternity as sons of Christ. God outlines His promise in the later portion of Romans 8 and it includes moving to glorification. The process of getting to glorification is sanctification. Sanctification is a word that means we are set apart and being made holy. We are being shaped into the image of Christ. This process of being made holy is also a process of being separated from all that is not holy. God does this from Genesis 1 on. He separates light from darkness as He creates. Jesus separates the sheep from the goats. Israel is separated from the other nations. Likewise and all a part of that is God’s work to separate each of us who make up His body, the church, from those that in varying degrees look like us, but are not of us. This includes those who claim Christ as Lord, but do not endure and thus prove they were never really His. How does He do this? Through obedience in testing. His sheep obey His voice and they follow Him. Those who love Him obey His word, not the world’s. It’s a hard process, but the payoff is out of this world! And in the meantime, His grace is sufficient to truly produce peace, joy, love, and all of the fruit of the Spirit.

Ephesians 5 takes us through the same process, but clearly says we cannot be participants in sin, nor in the act of staying in and around it. How do we do that? We stand against it in word and deed. We expose sin by shining the light on them. We call each other to wake up. Why? We should understand the Lord’s will for us. We are to be filled with the Holy Spirit, nothing else, and overflow in worship and good fruit. 1 Thessalonians 4:3a says it clearly: “God’s will is for you to be holy…” In Ephesians 5 its wine, in 1 Thessalonians it's sexual sin. In all cases its sin. Sin is not holy. It is not good and acceptable and perfect. It’s the opposite. It is evil and unacceptable and broken. God is making us good and acceptable and perfect.

Clarification: The finished work of Christ is the only place of our hope. We don’t get good enough, acceptable enough, or perfect enough. Far from it in light of the person Christ. We have no way to measure up against Him as the standard. No. We have been saved by grace through faith in Christ and God has proclaimed we will be made into His image. Our baptism is in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In naming ceremonies or covenants with God, God produces what is needed in those whom He has already decided to work on. He does this not based on merit, but on the basis of His goodness, mercy, kindness, and for His glory. He saves wretches, heals the sick (not the righteous), and makes people who are broken, sinful, and evil (like me) and changes them so when they are tested it proves true that Jesus is supreme, nothing will be able to pull them away from Him. His hold is unrelenting. The presence of faith in the midst of persecution when you could so simply reject Him, follow in sin, or trust (fear) someone or something else testifies to this and condemns His enemies. It purifies the faithful.

Our prayer today is for God’s will to be done in North Minneapolis and each of His children’s lives (as well as yours). We want to see people trust in Christ and joyfully endure as God purifies them. He is the Potter, we are the clay, and no other potter can make us what God has not called us to be. We will be made holy. And we will be changed in such a way that joy and peace and love are present. Our hope is not in this world or its people and treasures, but in the ultimate treasure: Jesus Christ. Please pray that be a testimony that is increasingly and clearly true here.

Thanks for your prayers,


[1] There is a lot of nuance I am jumping over right now that can be dangerous. Let me put a quick caveat. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all worked to create all that exists. They are all present and active in creation. The New Testament clarifies Jesus as Creator and Sustainer. That’s a much larger blog worth addressing in the future, not here and now though.

[2] Philippians 2:9-11

[3] Hebrews 13:20-21

[4] Romans 12:2

[5] 1 Thessalonians 5:18

[6] 1 Peter 2:15