Went to the zoo the other day and saw a gorilla holding a Bible in one hand and Darwin’s Origin of the Species in the other and he was sort of looking puzzled. I said, “You look sort of confused, what’s up?”
And he replied, “I’m not sure if I am supposed to be my brother’s keeper or my keeper’s brother.”
I titled today’s message ‘Safe and Sound’ because it is the will of God that when we land on the shores of heaven we arrive both ‘Safe and Sound;’ where ‘Safe’ implies the biblical term ‘justification’ and ‘Sound’ the biblical word ‘sanctification.’
As to arriving in heaven safe . . . Jesus has taken care of that. When we became Christians by our faith in Christ’s sacrificial death, the Bible says we were justified, that is, made right with God through our faith. In that sense we will arrive home ‘safe.’
But we have been made safe to also become ‘sound.’ That is, to live lives that please God . . . enabled by the Holy Spirit. Not just safe; God desires that we reach home ‘safe and sound.’
Gail put an illustration on today’s program of a fruit-bearing tree. It roots are symbolic of ‘justification by faith;’ being made right with God which makes us safe. And the fruit hanging on the tree is symbolic of our sanctification.
The point of departure for today’s and the next several week’s messages has to do with landing on God’s golden shores ‘sound.’ That is, we are talking about sanctification which, according to scripture, comes about through the ministry of God’s Spirit.
Sanctification is a fancy theological term for describing the process involved in becoming more and more Christ-like.
Being sanctified is synonymous with being holy. In fact those two words ‘sanctified’ and ‘holy’ come from the same Greek word, which literally means ‘set apart.’ When something is sanctified or made holy, it is set apart or separated from something else for special use.
I remember when my grandparents were going to pick me up to take me to church
my mom would tell me to put on my ‘Sunday clothes;’ which were for me a black blazer, a white shirt, and a red bow tie. Now, did I wear my Sunday clothes to school? No. Did I wear my Sunday clothes to play in the yard? No. Did I wear my Sunday clothes to play to play football or baseball in? No. My Sunday clothes were separated from the rest of my clothes. They were set apart for certain occasions. In other words they were sanctified or holy clothes.
We have been made holy in Christ, that is, set apart for His use; when God the Father sees us through the blood of Christ He sees us as clean, holy. In the first part of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he describes what we ARE he writes, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (Ephesians 1:4). SAFE
And then in the latter half of the letter where he describes what we are to BE: “let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” (Ephesians 4:23-24) SOUND.
Get this now . . . holiness is both a gift and a command. We have been made holy in God’s eyes . . . and now that we have, His desire for His children is to live up to our namesake, that is, to become holy.
What is being holy look like? Listen to J. I Packer’s definition of holiness in his fine book, Keep in Step with the Spirit:
Holiness is the fruit of the Spirit, displayed as the Christian walks by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 22, 25). Holiness is consecrated closeness to God. Holiness is in essence obeying God, living to God and for God, imitating God, keeping His law, taking His side against sin, doing righteousness, performing good works, following Christ’s teaching and example, worshipping God in the Spirit, loving and serving God and men out of reverence for Christ. In relation to God, holiness takes the form of a single-minded passion to please by love and loyalty, devotion and praise. In relation to sin, it takes the form of a resistance movement, a discipline of not gratifying the pleasures of the flesh, but of putting to death the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13, Gal. 5:16). Holiness is, in a word, God-taught, Spirit-wrought Christlikeness, the sum and substance of committed discipleship, the demonstration of faith working by love, the responsive outflow in righteousness of supernatural life from the hearts of those who are born again. 1
Holiness or becoming sanctified is a high calling, is it not?
Don’t despair, I have two principles today and three or four more next week about sanctification that will encourage us all to seek to become more Christ-like; that is, SOUND.
First, and most encouraging we are not alone in this endeavor to live better lives.
The good news is that anyone and everyone who has ever accepted Christ and thereby become safe also has the Holy Spirit of God to help us become sound.
Charles Colson once said, “Psychiatry, properly administered, can turn a schizophrenic bank robber into a mentally healthy bank robber. A good teacher can turn an illiterate criminal into an educated criminal. But they are still bank robbers and criminals.” 2
What he was saying was, it takes more than psychiatry and education to change a person;
it takes the work of the Holy Spirit.
Paul writes the Philippians: “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (2:12-13).
Our Daily Bread ran a story about a young woman who accepted Christ as her Savior and applied for membership in a local church. “Were you a sinner before you received the Lord Jesus into your Life?” inquired an old deacon.
“Yes, sir,” she replied.
“Well, are you still a sinner?”
“To tell you the truth, I feel I’m a greater sinner than ever.”
“Then what real change have you experienced?”
“I don’t quite know how to explain it,” she said, “except I used to be a sinner running after sin, but now that I am saved. I’m a sinner running from sin!” 3
It was the work of the Holy Spirit in her life that brought to her attention how she had been living her life and giving her motivation to want to live a better life.
Second; whereas, justification (safe) happens in the blink of an eye, sanctification (sound) is a PROCESS that will continue until the day we die.
To be sure, at times it seems, that we take two steps forward, then one step back, but even
so, over the long-haul we are or should be moving forward, becoming more and more
like Christ with time.
I take two steps back every time I get behind the wheel. I am so easily frustrated when I am sitting behind someone when the light turns green and I can see them looking at their cell phone while they sit there. Or when someone coming the opposite direction is weaving left of center and I see them with cell phone in hand as they pass by.
Alan Redpath: “The conversion of a soul is the miracle of a moment, but the manufacture of a saint is the task of a lifetime.” 4
Pastor and author, Stuart Briscoe explains that as a young man he joined the Marines. “Their magnificent dress uniform attracted me, and I thought that I would get one of those uniforms immediately. But they didn’t give me one for months. When he asked about it, they told him, ‘You are a Marine. The moment you walked through the gates, you became a Marine. You are a Marine to stay.’
He said ‘Give me the dress uniform then.’
They replied, ‘You are not fit to wear one yet. We’ll have to teach you how to march, how to walk, how to look like a Marine, and how to behave like a Marine. Then you can wear the uniform.’
“I was a Marine the moment I was sworn into that position, but it took me a long, long time to wear the uniform.” 5
John Newton, the converted slave trader and author of Amazing Grace, said, “I am not what I might be, I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be. But I thank God I am not what I once was.” 6
We are justified the minute that we trusted Christ, but it will take us the rest of our lives to learn how to behave in a sanctified way. Even so, you know it is worth it.
I was reading about a man who enjoyed restoring old cars.
One of them was a 1949 Cadillac that when his wife and daughter saw agreed that it was “nothing but a wreck.” The man wasn’t discouraged by their assessment of his purchase.
“Just wait until I get done with it,” he said, “You’ll see.”
Over the next several months this man worked many hours on his car. He ordered the exact cashmere fabric that had been on the original seats. He replaced the windshield and found original tires. He tore the engine apart and completely rebuilt it. He had to wait weeks, and even months, for some of the parts he had ordered; but gradually he rebuilt, resurfaced and refinished the whole car. Finally, he had it repainted in its original color.
When it came time for his wife and daughter to see the finished project, they could sense his excitement. And they couldn’t believe it was the same car. There is sat gleaming in the sunlight, looking showroom. He had done an amazing job of restoration, and the finished product was a beautiful sight to behold. He had every reason to feel proud of his accomplishment.
After he purchased that car, that man had a choice. He could have covered that old, badly worn car with a tarp to hide its ugliness. But he chose, instead, to see its value and to do the long and arduous task of cleansing and restoration. Something that had become very ugly had now been restored to its original glory. 7
God saw us in our broken-down, ruined condition, and He bought us with a price, as Peter says in his first letter “with the precious blood of Christ.” (I Peter 1:19) Now it is His great pleasure to by the power of His Holy Spirit to restore us to showroom condition. Paul tells the Ephesians that “We are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to walk in the way He prepared long ago” (2:10).
Norman Macleod used to sum up his Christian faith in these words: “There is a Father in heaven who loves us, a Savior who died for us, a Spirit who helps us to be good, and a home where we shall all meet at last.” 8
And we would add, “Safe and . . . sound.
1 Packer, J. I. Keep in Step with the Spirit, Finding Fullness in our Walk with God.
[Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, © 2005 2nd Edition], page 81.
7 Bagwell, Tim. When I See the Blood. [Hagerstown, Md: McDougal Publishing,
© 1998] pages 123-124.