As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
– 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
I picked this Scripture because I did a search for the word ‘sanctification’ in the NIV, and this was the only reference. If I had used the word ‘sanctified’, as seen in this text, I would have gotten a few other references. But getting past how I got here, this passage has a lot of practical suggestions on the process toward complete sanctification.
1. Follow instructions sent by Jesus.
2. Do not partake in sexual immorality.
3. Going further, control our bodies to be holy and honorable.
4. Do not harm or take advantage of anyone.
5. Live a holy life.
6. Love one another.
7. Have an ambition to lead a quiet life.
8. Mind your own business.
9. Work with your hands.
10. Do not become dependent upon others.
In this Scripture, we have ten ways of doing what others might say in a few short words, “Be like Jesus.” Since most people who say that only talk about loving one another, this list of ten things gives the idea of ‘be like Jesus’ some substance.
When I look over the list, I think that I don’t quite add up to the list. Of course, the first one on the list is the one that is so hard. We look at what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1 – 7:27). If we are honest, we have difficulty in measuring up to that standard. When that becomes shaky, living a holy life becomes difficult as well. To be holy, we must live a life that is foreign to this world. After all, this world is the Devil’s playground. He’s the one with the ball, and when the Devil sees us not playing by his rules, he takes his ball and goes home. That’s when that ambition for a quiet life becomes a locked room, like you are trapped in a padded cell. You at least wish the walls were padded.
Okay, I went down a metaphorical rabbit hole. But I hope that you got the point. Holiness is of God’s realm. We can act like we are holy on our own for a very short time, but we start getting proud of the fact that we’ve lasted more than a few seconds. At that point, it is all about us, and not at all about God. But, if we can rely on God and through God’s power, we can remain ‘holy’ for much longer. As long as the world does not intrude. That is when it takes a lot of faith to remain ‘holy.’
The bottom line is that we need to mind our own business, love one another and not harm or take advantage of one another. As we open God’s instruction book, the Bible, we start seeing ways of getting better at the bottom line items.
In reading Oswald Chambers last month, I came across some references to sanctification that got me to thinking. I have heard R. C. Sproul say similar things. I have read similar ideas in A. W. Tozer’s books and a little in C. S. Lewis, Billy Graham, Mark Batterson, and Lee Strobel, just to name a few. They all suggest that the point of conversion to Christianity is the starting point. From that point until we die, God reveals something that isn’t quite right in our lives. If we were hit with all of it at once, we’d give up. But as we develop a greater and greater desire to please Jesus, we find that giving up this one harmful habit is not really an imposition. What follows is that another habit or behavior becomes the thing that we realize is holding us back. It doesn’t take long to find a constructive way to move beyond that issue and leave it behind.
For me to visualize in my mind what is happening, I see the Holy Spirit as a Sculptor. When we accept Jesus as our savior and commit our lives to Him, the Holy Spirit takes a hunk of rock and chisels our name on the bottom. The rock is pretty much formless. It is just an ordinary rock, that simply sits there. As we learn more about what is expected of us as a Christian, he starts to chisel little pieces from the rock.
This is different than how sculptors usually work. In 1996, my wife and I, with the older of our two sons along, went to Mount Rushmore. Around the bend and south of Mount Rushmore, there was a new statue being constructed out of a mountain, Crazy Horse. When we were there, they had small statues to show what the mountain would one day look like. We have a hunk of the mountain around the house somewhere. But at this early stage, the work wasn’t done with a chisel. They drilled holes and planted explosives. They blasted large chunks of mountain away. The chisels came into play late in the game, when the mountain was the rough finished shape and the rock simply needed smoothing out, so that the image would be clear.
Maybe that’s how God creates the initial hunk of rock when we are saved, but the Holy Spirit starts with a chisel. He lets us give up something that is against what Jesus would want, but we really weren’t attached to it anyway. As we learn that other things that we really liked are holding us back, they become less likeable. The reason for that is that we want to live so that Jesus won’t be upset as He walks along with us. That’s when the Holy Spirit, as Counselor and Spiritual Guide, takes a heavier swing with the hammer upon the chisel.
If we haven’t made major mistakes, by trying to pick up the broken pieces of rock and glue them back on, we should be almost recognizable when we are ready to cross over the river. At that point is when the Holy Spirit aims the chisel carefully and takes His mightiest swing of the hammer. The sculptor’s statue will then become our new body.
I hope the sun is just right as I cross over the river. I want to look over the side of the boat and see my reflection.
If we are completely sanctified in God’s sight when we gaze at our reflection, who will we see in the water of the river?
Our reflection will look like Jesus.