The Enemies of Our Sanctification

Jeremiah paints a bleak picture for those who trust in themselves and depend on their own strength and resources (see Jeremiah 17:5). Before Christ, our hearts were deceitful and beyond human cure (see verse 9). But if we trust in the Lord, who searches our hearts, then we shall “be like a tree planted by the water” (verse 8). The consistent message in Scripture is that we must depend upon the Lord for salvation and sanctification (see verse 14).

Children of God are like diamonds in the rough. They begin their Christian walk looking like a lump of coal. They may look pretty bad and be messy to work with, but given enough time and pressure, every lump of coal has the potential to become a brilliant diamond. If you remove coal from the pressures of the earth and introduce impurities into its chemical composition, it will never reach its potential. Staying pure and remaining under pressure is what makes a diamond out of coal.

Unlike a lump of coal, we have a part to play in the sanctifying process. We cannot just “let go and let God” be the One who perfects us. We should rest in the finished work of Christ, we should abide in Christ and live by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit. However, we don’t have a passive role in the sanctifying process. We have to assume our responsibility to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. Therefore, we “continue to work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in [us] to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). We don’t work for our salvation-we work it out. Paul describes this working out as a struggle, or literally, a “wrestling” (Ephesians 6:12). The Greek word implies a hand-to-hand fight, and Paul admonishes us to “fight the battle well” (1 Timothy 1:18). “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith” (6:11-12).

Our ultimate victory is certain, but that doesn’t eliminate the present battle, which often intensifies when we start bearing fruit. The power of sin is most evident when we seriously challenge it. Temptation is no struggle if we continuously give in to it. A professional counselor said he had never encountered any demonic spirits in fifteen years of counseling. After attending a Discipleship Counseling conference he said, “I soon discovered that every one of my clients was being deceived and so was I.” Why didn’t he see it before? For the same reason many pastors and bible teachers don’t see it. We will not encounter much opposition if all we are doing is listening, explaining and offering advice. The opposition comes only when we seek to resolve personal and spiritual conflicts through genuine repentance and faith in God. A well-known Christian psychiatrist was asked, “What is your cure rate? He said, “We don’t cure anyone, we help them cope.” Some say, “God cures the soul, we only care for it.” It is good to acknowledge our limitations, but if God wants to cure the soul and has chosen to work through godly people within the church to accomplish that, why are we lowering the bar?

Dr. Neil

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