Tag Archives: Sanctification

Transformational Treasure.

It is impossible to overstate the value of studying God’s Word and the benefits accrued to those who do. For evidence of this we need look no further than the first verse of John’s account of the gospel where he tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, NKJV). That doctrinally significant verse informs us that Jesus is both the Word and God.

Consequently, when we study Scripture we study the mind of Christ and the heart of God. We learn not only of God’s character, attributes, and ways, we encounter Him in a dynamic, meaningful, and personal manner. That encounter, in turn, changes lives and establishes transformational faith in the hearts of those who believe.

During His ministry Jesus linked immersion in God’s Word with authentic faith, telling His followers, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31, NKJV). To fully appreciate Jesus’ statement we need to understand that abide indicates permanence and residence, and therefore means much more than an occasional or casual reading of God’s Word. Jesus is essentially telling His followers that those who reside and remain in His word truly believe.

Perhaps the most powerful description of Scripture is found in Hebrews. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NKJV).

We could discuss that verse for hours but let’s focus on that last clause for the moment. God’s Word detects and reveals the secret motivations and desires of our hearts. The importance of that truth becomes clear when we recall the insight of Jeremiah 17:9, which declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?

The heart constantly deceives. It convinces us our motives are pure when they are not. It insists we believe when we do not. It persuades us to view some Scripture through a selfish and worldly lens instead of under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Over and over it betrays us, peddling lies as truth and foolishness as wisdom. The antidote to such deception is found in God’s Word alone.

The psalmist identifies another benefit of scrutinizing Scripture when he proclaims, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you”(Psalm 119:11, NLT). As we plant and nurture God’s Word in our hearts we become more like Christ and quicken the process of sanctification.

The Lord weighs in on the matter with these words, spoken through Joshua, “Study this book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do” (Joshua 1:8, NLT). Notice the conditional statement. A meaningful and successful life does not exist without reading and reflecting on Scripture regularly – day and night.

How often do you study and meditate on Scripture? If you do not abide in God’s Word on a regular basis why not begin establishing that habit today? Outside of committing your life to Christ, no decision will change your life more or give it more meaning.

Discerning God’s Will.

Throughout life we face a constant barrage of decisions. From life-altering choices like where we work, who we marry, and where we live, to ongoing ones like how to discipline our children, how to invest our time, and where to spend our money, decisions are an integral part of life. Significant choices like these – unlike minor day-to-day decisions we make with little thought – often spur us to solicit God’s counsel in hopes of learning His will before moving forward.

And while the desire to learn and follow God’s design on major decisions is always a good idea, waiting until we confront such inflection points before seeking His will is not ideal. That practice suffers a serious flaw in its foundation. It incorrectly assumes God’s will is a series of unrelated binary decisions we navigate throughout life. Absent the presence of a metaphorical fork in the road, we can cruise through life with little focus on God’s plan for us.

That thinking often leads to a dangerous habit: choosing when to seek (and follow) God’s plan and when to go it alone. For choices deemed manageable, we may decide to move forward on our own strength, reserving God’s guidance for those situations we find overwhelming or daunting.

What that perspective fails to recognize, however, is that God’s plan exists in the midst of the mundane, not just in milestone moments. Further, God’s will involves much more than making right decisions; it includes the adoption of behaviors, attributes, and habits that reflect Christ at work in our lives. Let’s examine a couple verses that crystallize this point.

The apostle Paul encourages us to: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NKJV). These verses demonstrate that the will of God is a lifestyle that envelops us, not a collection of isolated decisions made over the course of one’ life.

Notice that all three activities ought to be done incessantly. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in everything. In essence, Paul instructs us to cultivate a lifestyle that radiates joy, prayer, and gratitude. In doing so we fulfill God’s purpose.

If your life does not reflect sustained emphasis on these attributes, is it reasonable to expect God to reveal His will on monumental decisions? Shouldn’t we obey Him in ways He has explicitly labeled His will if we want His revelation in situations unique to our lives?

Paul also reminds us, “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, NKJV). Sanctification is not a one-time decision that occurs in a brief moment. It is the ongoing lifelong process of becoming more like Christ. Sanctification produces the growing presence of Christ in our lives until He eventually permeates every aspect of who we are.

God’s will, then, involves placing our identity in Jesus, pursuing His presence regularly, and modeling ourselves after Him. If we’re unwilling to live like Christ on a daily basis then any attempt to understand His will on consequential matters seems a bit paradoxical. If our actions, thoughts, and lifestyle do not reveal a growing familiarity with Jesus we ought to ask God for that desire.

That is of critical importance. When we limit God’s will to a handful of big decisions we never develop an intimacy with God that sharpens our ability to hear His small, still voice – which is a product of sanctification. Consequently, we’re easily distracted by worldly influences and voices, making it difficult to discern God’s plan when confronting critical choices.

Paul describes it like this, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you” (Romans 12:2, NLT). We must resist the temptation to conform to this world, choosing instead to allow God to transform us by changing how we think. As that transformation occurs, our ability to discern God’s will improves dramatically.

So what can we say about God’s will? First, it extends beyond making the right decisions at crucial crossroads in life – which is a limited and insufficient definition. A proper understanding of God’s will embraces the idea that it impacts every area of life. It yields a spirit of joy, produces a posture of prayer, and fuels a passion for our sanctification. Most of all, it transforms us into passionate followers of His Son so we reflect His love and truth.