Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology

Where Is God: A Study On Sanctification

by Mark Peterson

"Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling!" (Job 23:3) NRSV

An old man was traveling on an ocean liner, when a huge storm blew up without warning. One woman lost her balance and fell overboard. People stood frozen with horror. Suddenly, a man plunged into the waves, grabbed her, and held her until a rescue boat came. When they were pulled out, everyone was astonished and embarrassed to discover that the hero was the oldest man on the boat - a man in his eighties.

That evening they held a party to honor him. When they called on him to make a speech, the old man rose slowly. He looked around at the people, then said, "I would like to know just one thing." There was an embarrassed silence. "Who pushed me?"

Sometimes that is the only way we start moving. The Lord will keep pushing us out of our complacency, and into a fresh, vital experience of walking with the Lord Jesus.

Job found himself in the midst of a struggle, he had lost everything dear to him and everything he had spent so long in attaining. His heart was heavy, his friends were a burden rather than a joy, and his God was silent. Despite all of his "groaning" God made no response. Instead the trial went on, the sores on his body continued to burn and itch, and the waging tongues of those who would be his instrustors could not be silenced even in their foolishness. Job was being broken, he was lonely, and he wanted his God, yet his God could not be found.

It is the appropriate response in times of distress to seek out God. His sovereignty over all things should convince us that He is the one to turn to when all things seem to go against us. Yet it is that same sovereignty that leads some to ask: "Why is this happening to me, have I sinned, am I in the wrong, or does God just hate me. For if these things can not happen without God's knowledge and will then the one I must turn to is the very same one who has let this happen to me." Let us never be so arrogant to assume that we deserve better than what God has allowed in our lives, we do not. We deserve nothing but death, and yet he gives us life.

It is our part to remember, in fact, that many times the trials which God allows us to experience are meant for our own growth. This is a process known as sanctification. Holman defines it as "the process of being made holy resulting in a changed life-style for the believer." Note the term believer. Sanctification is something which takes place in the lives of those who belong to Christ and have His Spirit dwelling in them. It is a process by which one is made holy, set apart for God and made perfect. As a dynamic part of our sanctification God has included the sense of emptiness and brokeness that is so often experienced by His children. These things are a necessary part of our becoming perfect in Christ. Yet if approached without a clear understanding of God's omnipresence, faithfulness, and approachfulness they can also be our doom.

It is not uncommon for a believer to experience a period where there is the sense that God is not around. Usually we attempt to find a failure in the part of the believer in order to explain such a circumstance. We site the maxim, "It is not God that has moved, but rather it is the believer who has moved." We believe that any time God is silent in our lives, that His silence is a result of our disobedience. I will not argue with the fact that disobedience places an unnecessary barrier between the Child and his Father. However I will argue that disobedience is not always the cause. You will recall that Job's faithfulness was being tested. His was not a circumstance of punishment. It all started as an attempt to prove to Satan that God's children can not be loosed from the foundation upon which they stand. And it became an experience through which God made Job an even greater man, for through his brokeness Job was sanctified. And so my argument is that sometimes God allows us and may even cause us to fear His departure in order that we might be Sanctified.

In I Corinthians chapter 6 Paul relates to us that without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ there would be no hope for us that we would ever enter the kingdom of heaven. He writes ". . . you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor 6:11) NRSV. It is in this manner that we are made secure in our hope of eternal life. By the washing of our spirits God makes room for His Spirit through whom we are sealed guaranteeing our entrance into heaven. Notice that this washing is equated with sanctification. The sanctification of a believers Spirit, the setting apart of, the making Holy of, is done at the time Christ enters into that persons central being, their heart. And while the work of saving the soul is done, the temporal victory of sin and attaining to Holiness in the flesh is far from accomplished. And that is where the other part of sanctification occurs. God's goal is to wash not only our spirit so that he can live in us. He also desires to wash our entire being. And the result of this is that we would have victory over the flesh.

Paul was very clear in his teaching concerning our desire for the flesh's welfare. He wrote

"For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, {4} so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. {5} For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. {6} To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. {7} For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law--indeed it cannot, {8} and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. {9} But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." (Rom 8:3-9) NRSV

Paul does not want to deceive you with the hope that if you just work hard and do what you think is best then you will be saved. That is not true. He is very clear in stating that such an attitude makes you an enemy of God. Jesus warned about the untrustworthiness of the flesh when he wrote: "Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."" (Mark 14:38) NRSV (italics added)

There is no sense in trusting in our flesh, and further more there is no wisdom in allowing it to have any say in determining our actions. The flesh like a child must be put into subordination to its parent, which in this case is the Spirit. Adam's sin threw all this out of kilter and made the spirit and soul subordinate to the desires of the flesh, thus robbing God of His sovereignty. And so Paul informs us that while the flesh should not be destroyed it's authority in our lives should be crucified "For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; {20} and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:19-20) NRSV

And that my friend is the end to which God sometimes works in our lives through the emptiness and brokeness that he allows to occur when we fear he has left us. Space does not allow me to continue and so I will leave you with this warning. We must never seek trials or try to create our own periods of sanctification. Emptiness and Brokeness can cause us to sin if they are not from the hand of God and for God's purpose. Zechariah wrote "It is he that shall build the temple of the LORD; he shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. There shall be a priest by his throne, with peaceful understanding between the two of them." (Zec 6:13) And in response to this Spurgeon tells us that sanctification "is Christ's own work. Each individual believer is being prepared, and polished, and made ready for his place in the temple; but Christ's own hand performs the preparation work. Afflictions cannot sanctify, except as they are used by Him to this end."

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