Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1998
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 4: Disciplinary Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 4: Kingdom Ended: The Discipline of Exile
Lesson 88 – Sanctification and Chastening, Lessons from the Declining Kingdom
23 Apr 1998
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Next week we’ll start moving into the next great event in the sequence that we are studying, which will be the exile. At that point things will change a little bit, because all these other events that we’ve studied, the era of Solomon, the decline of the kingdom, the rupture of the civil war in the nation Israel, kingdom in decline, all that had to do with stuff going on inside the nation Israel’s political boundaries; it was all internal. When we get into the exile, we’re back in the world system again; we’re back into the nations, into paganism. The Jews will be turned out into this world system. Beginning with the exile we’re going to kind of revert back to the theme that we left back in the days of Abraham when God called Abraham out from paganism. We’ll learn a lot about our own heritage, why the world is shaping up the way it is, the political forces that are active even now in our own generation, why international communities act like they do, some of the themes behind the scenes, etc. It all started with the foreign minister of Iraq and Iran, who was Daniel. He was one of the few men who have been foreign minister of two different countries. God revealed to him, as a high government official what was going on in history; it was very unusual to have a divine viewpoint historical analysis.
That’s what’s coming up in the exile. I urge you to read particularly Daniel 2 because we’ll be talking about it next week, to get a little of the cultural flavor of what life was like in the exile. One of the classic books in the Scripture is the book of Esther. Look at the first part of Ezekiel and watch for his vision of the removal of the spirit from the temple. That’s a critical portion of the Old Testament text. Most people don’t even know it exists, yet you’ll see that it plays a fundamental role in the way history starts to unfold beginning in the 5th century BC.
We want to pull together some of the doctrinal truths that we have learned through this last event. We spent a long time on the kingdoms in decline, the role of the prophets, etc. But looking at the big picture so we don’t lose the forest for the trees here, all these areas of history, from Solomon down to the divided kingdom, on down to the decline of both the north and southern kingdom, all this period of history, some 400 years, is basically concerned with the doctrine of sanctification. In other words, this is what’s going on inside the kingdom of God. Why is this important? What ties together all these stories? We’re not going into the details; we’re going into the big theme. So when you read these stories about what went on in Elijah’s day, in Nahum’s day, in Jonah’s day, etc. plug it into this big picture. The big picture is what does the kingdom of God look like, how does God reign over His kingdom and how God reigns over His kingdom teaches us more about His character, and teaches us what pleases Him and what displeases Him as far as living today in a relationship with Him. That’s why all this history was preserved, story after story after story, to give hundreds and hundreds of different facets of how God reigns. This is what the kingdom of God looks like.
We said that there are two basic models that the prophets critiqued. All men inside this kingdom were sinners; all men were fallen. Some men were born again and some men weren’t in ancient Israel. There are two models, using the leaders as examples, of how to live. One of them was David. David was a sinner, David got out of line, David was disciplined, David was a believer, but what characterized David’s model is that he didn’t have to get hit on the head with a 2 × 4 to realize that he’d sinned. He was sensitive to his own personal sin and what to do about it. The issue to review, how to handle that process and how David handled it was he became convinced, because the word “convict” can be substituted with the word “convinced,” same meaning. He became convinced of his sin, and he wasn’t convinced because of peer pressure. You can’t confess sin because of peer pressure. You can’t confess sin because you think that if you don’t somebody is going to get you. You have to do it by faith, and if you do it by faith you have to be convinced it’s sin. How do you get convinced it’s sin? By referencing the Word of God.
David knew the Word of God, he had it delivered to him in a special applied form by the prophet Nathan, he confessed his sin and he was restored to fellowship, a very simple model. In contrast to that, in the rest of the kingdom you had an extra step added in. What happened as the kingdom began to decline was that people either did not believe in what was known of the gospel, so you have an increasing percent of people that unregenerate, or the people who did believe were getting very sloppy about handling themselves spiritually? They lived in prolonged carnality, and the longer they lived in carnality the more screwed up their soul became and the more screwed up their soul became the harder it was for them to be convinced of their sin. And there can’t be any restoration until that step occurs.
What we have seen in these four or five centuries is just how severely God would chasten His people. We said that it’s the destruction of mental strongholds of demonic idolatries to clear the vision of who God really is. That’s the story of all the suffering that was going on in these centuries. It’s there for a purpose. It’s not there because God gets a big thrill out of doing it, it’s because God wants His people to come into fellowship with Him and He is serious enough about that to put us through some suffering to wake us up in order that it take place. That’s how God reigns in His kingdom.
Also note from this time period, one of the problems these people had as the kingdom began to decline, you see it a lot in the leadership, the thinking of the men, is that they always trusted some human gimmick. It was always a foreign policy solution, it was always an economic solution, it was always some human based gimmick that would ultimately solve their problems. The prophets tried again and again, every time you try a human solution to the problem you’re going to get yourself all bound up because God doesn’t allow you to solve the problem that way. He wants you to solve the problem by coming to Him and walking by faith. So if you’ve got some gimmick, be assured that it’s going to be frustrating because He is not going to let us solve problems with gimmick solutions. That was the whole story of those three or four centuries, one gimmick after another. We’re going to do it this way; we’re going to do it that way.
What have we have come to is we’re going to summarize on the next few pages the doctrine of sanctification, we’ve learned it before, we studied it a little in the conquest and settlement period, we studied it in connection with David, but we’re going to do it under the same topic, if you notice on page 50 we have the phases of sanctification, on page 51 we have the aim of sanctification, page 52 we have the means of sanctification, also the dimensions of sanctification, and on page 53 the enemies of sanctification. I’ve lumped them together into those five areas because each one of those involves slightly different concepts.
We’ll start with the phases of sanctification. We’ll review that and add new information to that understanding from the last four or five centuries of Israel’s history. We said before there were two kinds of sanctification, positional sanctification and experiential sanctification. Positional sanctification basically is that God puts me in a certain position with respect to Him and His plan. We don’t feel our way into that position, we don’t earn our way into our position, the position is given to us by God’s grace through Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament Christ wasn’t yet fully revealed, so the position came in through the Davidic Covenant.
Positional sanctification, by way of position, is not related to our personal experience in the sense that it’s derived from our experience. No experience we have walking with the Lord could cause us the position. The position causes the experience. It’s not the other way around. This is what’s wrong when we try to use therapy and other kinds of solutions for personal problems, because if it’s our position before God that explains details of our life, then this is the thing that we need to go back to. It’s this position that gives meaning to the experience. That’s the sequence, you can’t go from experience back to position; you have to always go from position to experience.
Example: Israel’s history. Think what we’ve learned. What was the great covenant that controlled the outlines of every event that ever happened to Israel? The Abrahamic Covenant, it promised a land, a seed, and a blessing. Was the seed involved during those eight centuries of time; were there any historical evidences or passages of Scripture or dramatic events that took place that had something to do with the seed? Of course, from the book of Ruth, what is a Gentile woman, a short story stuck in the middle of the Bible for? She’s in the seed; she’s part of the Messianic seed. In that little book, that woman’s life is defined, not by Ruth, not by her mother, not by Boaz, it’s defined by the Abrahamic Covenant. That’s the controlling document. So always remember that positional sanctification controls experience, experience doesn’t control position.
Then we went to experiential sanctification. When we talk about experience proper, we’re talking about the place where we obey or we disobey God, and now comes the will of God for us. The Sinaitic Covenant gave some people say 610 plus commands of how to do, what to do, when to do, where to do. That outlined the will of God for the people. So in experiential sanctification we have the issue of personal obedience and logging time in obedience versus logging time in status disobedience. It’s the number of hours logged in obedience mode that strengthens, that builds, that sanctifies. That’s the experience side. But always remember the experience is defined by the position. Abraham defines Moses; Moses doesn’t define Abraham.
A third phase of sanctification was introduced by the prophets because they understood that their history, their position …, like we have our position “in Christ,” we have the experience of the filling of the Holy Spirit, but we still live, as Romans 8 says, “with groanings that cannot be uttered.” The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us, and we experience pain, sorrow, and we look forward to the day of redemption; it’s unfinished. We live in tension; we know this is our position; we look down at our experience, always finding something short, always find failure some place, always find discouragement and the experience is never totally fulfilling in the Christian life. So where’s the resolution. The prophets said there will be such a thing as ultimate or final sanctification. Ultimate sanctification refers to things like the resurrection of the body, doing away with all sorrow, sickness, death, suffering, etc. and that’s the grand finale, that’s the conclusion.
The prophets in eschatology and prophecy speak of the fact that this position and experience will simultaneously occur together and they will both be perfectly in harmony. When experience is in harmony with position, that is ultimate sanctification, and it’s never to be repeated again. It’s over; history is over at that point. That’s the great hope that grows out of the Old Testament, and it grew out of the Old Testament because of failure. It grew out of the Old Testament because of discouragement, it grew because of pain, so God would send the ministering prophets and they begin to point down the road. Jeremiah made that dramatic announcement of the New Covenant.
Let’s go back to the table where we summarized the covenants, page 47. The New Covenant is a phase of ultimate sanctification for the nation. We had the Noahic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Sinaitic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, then we had the New Covenant. The New Covenant was given to Israel and the legal terms of the New Covenant as Jeremiah spoke them was that there would be national regeneration. What did he mean by that? It means that 100% of the people in the nation of Israel would be believers in the future, 100%. In Elijah’s time how many were there. God gave a number, He knew, He had a census; He knew how many people had trusted the Lord and how many didn’t, who were the real believers and who were the phonies. There were 7,000, it was a number count. So God said to Elijah, 7,000 people in the northern kingdom have believed. Many, many more thousands haven’t believed, but I tell you… then He looked forward to the future through the other prophets and said there will come a time, O Israel, when everyone in the nation will be a believer. That’s ultimate sanctification. When that takes place, the Messiah will return, and it’s the whole kingdom of God, etc.
So there are three phases of sanctification. We don’t live in ultimate sanctification, in case you haven’t noticed. It’s a future hope. This is the role of the prophetic books. Many people look upon prophecy, where’s the U.S. in the book of Daniel or something. That’s not the point. The point of prophecy is to help us endure the present by knowing how the drama finally ends. You know what’s going to happen in the story because you read the last chapter. That’s why the prophetic books are given, to give this as a whole. Always remember that experience is sandwiched in between the position that God outlined from eternity past, God had a plan for you, for me, for the nation Israel, for the church, for the Lord Jesus Christ, and He knew that forever and ever, backwards. He revealed that in the Abrahamic Covenant and of course through Christ.
So we have a position, a position that’s nailed down from eternity past to eternity future. That’s out stability. Our experience derives from that and is anchored to that position, but nothing in our lives can take away that position. That’s what Paul argues in Romans 8, we cannot be separated from the love of Christ by anything, come hell or high water, nothing can separate us from that position. That’s the power of knowing about our position in Christ. The New Covenant on the other hand looks forward to the future, to ultimate sanctification.
Those are the three phases of sanctification, and just remember those three phases so when you talk about a Bible passage, here’s three questions you can ask of the text. When you’re in a New Testament passage or an Old Testament passage, if it’s talking about some area of the Christian life, ask yourself, what phase of sanctification is it talking about here? A little test. Look at Ephesians, here’s an example of what I’m talking about to get these categories right. It helps you understand why things are the way they are in some of these epistles. When you start out in Eph. 1, back in the days when people used to diagram sentences, Christians used to have a neat exercise. I knew a Christian teacher that taught diagramming sentences, subject, predicate, verb, etc. She would to go to Ephesians 1 and give an assignment to find out where the sentence ends that starts in verse 3. That’s one humdinger of a sentence to outline. If you do it right it’ll take about three sheets of 8½ × 11” paper, all skewed off to the right before you get to the end of the sentence. What that shows you is what, in many ways a convoluted guy Paul was when he went to teach. Talk about a guy that may be hard to follow, this guy was so bubbling over with the depth of the knowledge that he had of God that it just came out all over the plate, and when he started a sentence he didn’t even finish it, he just kept on going.
As you look at this sentence that starts in Ephesians 1:3, ask yourself a simple question of the text. Train yourself to observe the text. This is how you get food out of the text of Scripture; it’s by bombarding the text with questions, because you’re really dialoguing with the Lord. He wrote the text, the Holy Spirit indwells you, the Holy Spirit wrote the text, so if He indwells you He ought to be able to show you insights into the text, but you have to dialogue with Him. The Holy Spirit is going to have a problem with TV minds, because TV minds are looking for some wham bang bells and whistles and all kinds of things going on. The Holy Spirit didn’t put the Bible on television, He wrote it and that means that it takes a certain quietness, a certain reflectivity, and an active mind… an active mind, not passive. If you do a temperature on your own thinking processes, do you ever notice, when is it that you want to go see television, it’s when you’re tired mentally. That tells you it doesn’t require much energy to sit there and to receive light and sound.
The problem is you’re not receiving content, and the Word of God is full of content, and we as Christians today are struggling to maintain literacy. I don’t mean formal literacy; everybody can read signs and billboards. I’m talking about comprehending what we read. That is a battle, and we have to pray for our children because they are not being encouraged to delve into content and be active mentally. They’re encouraged to be passive, fuzzy math, what did three birds sitting on a fence do when two went away, how did they feel? This is the new math that we are approaching. Don’t bother to think about the fact that there are three and two, worry about what went on in the bird brain when one of them flew away. With all that background, oh by the way, come to the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:3 and understand the sentence. There’s a big gap here. This is why we have a lot of weakness in our own Christian circles; we haven’t even come to grips with the text because we aren’t mentally equipped to come to grip with the text.
In this text, think of these questions: three phases of sanctification, positional, experiential or ultimate. Start in verse 3, skim verses 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and ask yourself, which phase of sanctification is Paul talking about in those verses? “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love  He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” What’s the emphasis here? Position, it’s all position. Isn’t that interesting that when you start going through the text further, chapters 2, 3, he talks about one body, one spirit, then he begins to say in 4:21, “if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,  that in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self,” now what is he talking about? Experience. Which comes first in the text? Position first, then experience.
Do you see why psychotherapy has it backwards? Psychotherapy today is trying to analyze experience in light of some model, whatever was taught by Dr. So and So in the latest graduate school course. Then you’re always analyzing experience in light of this model. Where did the model come from? This is the model, so we as Christians have to go back to the Scripture and find THE model, the background and the position.
You’ll also note that Paul speaks of the future in chapter 1. Notice how he says  “He made known to us the mystery of His will,” etc., verses 11 and 12, “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,  to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.” See where it says “should be to the praise of His glory,” that’s the end of the plan. What’s that? Ultimate, positional, or experiential? It’s ultimate. So here’s how to take those three phases of sanctification and use them as devices and tools to analyze the text as you read it.
Going back to the notes, page 51, we come to the second major area of sanctification, the “aim of sanctification.” These are all related, you can’t separate them, they’re not airtight one from another. In God’s sight it’s the glorification of Him, but when we talk about aim in this context we’re talking about as far as we as creatures. I drew a diagram, and look carefully at the diagram and visualize Adam on the left side where it says “before the fall.”
|BEFORE THE FALL||AFTER THE FALL|
|Aim of loyalty||Aim of loyalty|
|Impediments of sin|
There’s a point here that we want to remember. Sanctification preceded the fall. This requires a little bit of analysis, so let’s go back to our diagram about good and evil. We want to notice something here. What did God tell the first man He made? He gave him duties, have dominion over the earth, rule it wisely, take care of the Garden of Eden. He had all these different things that he had to do. Was that obedience or disobedience? It was obedience. Where was that? It was back prior to the fall. Was there an issue of experiential sanctification prior to the fall? Yes there was. What was it? It was to develop historical loyalty to God. Adam and Eve did not come made with historical loyalty to God. They came with a potential for loyalty to God, they were sinless people, but just because they were sinless people did not mean they did not have to go through a process of choosing, of exercising their chooser in history. And that was what the test was. The test was given prior to the fall.
When we come into the New Testament, turn to Hebrews 2:10, to the Second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, and notice a peculiar verse. This is talking about a sinless person, no evil, no sin nature, He hasn’t sinned, but in verse 10 it says, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” “To perfect,” does that mean that Jesus had to be perfected? Yes. Does that mean He was imperfect in the sense that He was a sinner? NO, it means that He was in a sort of state like Adam and Eve were, they were potentially righteous, but they had to exercise choosers in actual real history, and Jesus had to. Jesus grew spiritually by His obedience. Hebrews 5:8, notice this one. Even though He is sinless, “although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” “Learned,” but He’s God and man, why does He have to learn? He has to learn because the destiny of man is to generate historic obedience to God. The aim is always to develop loyalty and loyalty doesn’t come instinctively, it comes by exercise.
The point is that in this aim of sanctification we have the ultimate goal is for us to develop this loyalty to God. We’ll call that obedience, whatever you want; I just use the word loyalty because it fits the Old Testament a little bit better: loyalty to God, which equals righteousness. That’s what the word righteousness means. This is why we are going to be judged. Believers will be judged in the Bema seat, unbelievers will be judged, the Great White Throne, but every person will be judged. Why is there a judgment in the future for all of us? And why is the judgment about our works? The judgment is to produce value, to assign value to the righteousness that we showed in history. There is a judgment and it is based on works, works borne of faith, and also for the non-Christian the works borne of unbelief. But you look at the text and it’s talking about being judged. What’s the judgment all about? Again, the judgment is to put a value on loyalty to God.
God thinks enough of this that He assigns a value to it, and that’s what the judging is all about. He would have done that to Adam and Eve and He did that to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ’s righteousness that He generated was exchanged and applied to us. That’s where we get our position from, His righteousness. If Jesus had disobeyed there wouldn’t have been any righteousness to impute to us. The righteousness that is imputed to us comes about only because the Lord Jesus Christ used His chooser correctly throughout all of His life. So He generated a perfect righteousness and proved the point that a member of the human race can meet the destiny originally created in Genesis 1. Jesus, as it were, is a test pilot, He took all the modus operandi that God had for man, put it through the wringer, faced Satan himself, and proved out God’s program. That’s why the Lord Jesus Christ is the Captain of our salvation. He is the test pilot that pushed the envelope and proved that it works. So no man from that point forward can say that God’s assets don’t work. Jesus proved it does work. He made the case that the human race was not a bad creation. He made the case that the Father knew what He was doing when He created man to do what He wanted man to do.
That’s the ultimate. The diagram shows that after the fall, sanctification is harder because of impediments of sin, but the process is no different. There’s still a need for testing, for trials, for opportunities to disobey or opportunities to obey. It doesn’t go away after the fall. It becomes harder after the fall, but it is not something that was created by the fall. The aim of sanctification: and I give some verses, Psalm 8 is a great passage in the Old Testament to show you that idea.
On page 52 I made the point, what do we learn that is new from this past period of history? What has this helped us understand more about the aim of sanctification? What did we pick up? What imagery do our minds, our hearts have of the Old Testament history that we’ve gone through over the past several months? “When the Old Testament prophets revealed the New Covenant in the kingdom period, they opened up powerful energy sources for developing a loyalty to God. The fact that God would not only save the nation from Egypt but also save the nation from itself showed clearly God’s fantastic love. The fact that after the Sinaitic Covenant had been conclusively shown to be broken, God would pursue His people for a final restoration revealing His incomprehensible grace.” That’s what’s new out of this portion of the Old Testament. You would not know that if you did not have Kings, Samuel, Nahum, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc., etc., etc.
What those books give us is an added revelation of God’s character so that we’ll be motivated out of thankfulness, now out of fear. Love and thankfulness are far more potent motivators than fear of the stick. That’s what these prophets are giving us. The motivation comes about, not from the Sinaitic Covenant where cursing, cursing, cursing, cursing if you disobey, but the motivation is Israel I love you, you are like a woman who has gone out and committed adultery, I welcome you back to my home and to my bed. That’s the God of the Old Testament. That’s how He feels at this period of time in history. So it gives this powerful thing and I’ve summarized it with the word gratitude; gratitude grows as revelation grows. You cannot look at how God operates in history without increased gratitude, and that gratitude itself becomes a mode of power to live the Christian life. “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” It’s hard to give thanks, and that’s the quickest barometer to know where you stand spiritually.
My wife has done a lot of counseling with people in all kinds of problems, and one of the first questions she always asks is, have you given thanks. Duh! If you get that answer, that’s like taking the temperature, just like the doctor sticks the thing in your mouth and checks it out. Have you given thanks? That’s the spiritual thermometer, because that tells you right away what’s going on in your spirit. You don’t have to go into a profound analysis, don’t have to have a PhD, just do that simple test.
Next on page 52 we come to the tools that God uses in sanctification. We want to understand these tools, because in the history of the church, these tools have been covered up, and Satan loves to confuse Christians about these tools. He loves to divert attention away from these tools or have us think that these tools are insufficient and we always need something else in addition to these tools. What are the tools: the Word of God and the Spirit of God. The means of sanctification, one was law in the sense of revelation, and the other was God’s grace. “No one can believe apart from the Word of God or revealed law.” No matter how hard you try, you cannot work up faith.
I’m sure you’ve all struggled, I have in my family, with unbelievers in your immediate family, you sit there and do your best to witness and you get so discouraged after a while. What does it take? Peer pressure won’t do it, nagging won’t do it, arranging all kinds of little deals won’t do it. The only guy that’s good at arranging deals is God, and He has some whoppers, totally unexpected moves on the chess board, and we have to let Him have that, because until a heart is opened to content and truth, you cannot believe. You can’t believe, it’s a revelatory thing that has to happen and it’s a supernatural thing that has to happen. The best thing we can do is live a life that brings some glory to God in the vicinity of a testimony, and the other thing is whenever we do speak the gospel try to be as clear as you possibly can and avoid false issues. Try to major on the center of the gospel because that’s what has to be understood. The rest will come, but until the gospel crashes in—“faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” and nothing else, not the word of men, not a lot of sermonettes, not book reviews, it’s going to be the Word of God that gives people clarity.
That’s the number one thing, and I point out in that paragraph, “Thus the Old Testament prophets again and again critiqued the nation on the basis of Moses’ words.” Underline that, we’ve watched four centuries of the prophets. How did they operate when they came to a military crisis, did they say gee, what was course 101 in military tactics at West Point? They didn’t go to that. That was important but that wasn’t what was happening. Gee, we forgot Milton Friedman’s course on Capitalism, or gee, we forgot our history. What they emphasized was the words of Moses, and by the words of Moses we mean all five books, not just the law of Sinai. They critiqued on the basis of the Word of God.
Let’s think about something. If the prophets critiqued on the basis of Moses’ words, how should we approach our problems? When we critique our lives and we try to see what is going on in this situation, where do we go? We go to the same source, the Word of God. You may say gee, I don’t know that much about the Word. Well, use what you do know. The amazing thing is, the more you use it, the better you know it. You can’t use ignorance as an excuse, everybody knows something. You couldn’t be here and be saved and not know something of the Word of God. So you start there and you just keep building and building. That’s number one and I quote 2 Timothy 3:16-17. In our day it’s a big debate that’s going on, it’s going on in seminaries right now. Certain classes that are training men for the ministry do not operationally believe this. In theory they say so, but in practice they don’t. [blank spot: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”]
… people have a very diminished view of this. I know why they do, because number one they probably never read it, you can tell that by looking at the book, if you blow dust off of it on the shelf you know they’ve never read it, but they’re full of opinions about how crummy this book is, and all the errors in it. I get so tired or hearing all the errors in the Bible, you always hear that. What are they? Well, I read somewhere … yea, right, try reading this first. The first problem is nobody reads it, and the second problem is we have TV minds that can’t understand it when they do read it. So with all that going for us that’s why the Bible appears to be an impotent peripheral piece of literature. It’s peripheral because we’re the ones that are peripheral, the human race.
The second thing that God uses in sanctification is the concept of grace. This is a hard one and it tends to be harder in our own circles, because after a while you get so hard-nosed about the Scripture that you begin to drift into a kind of legalism that says I can obey the Scripture with the energy of the flesh. One of the things that Jesus was trying to do in the Beatitudes was to take the text of the Old Testament and explain it, because by the time of Jesus these Pharisees were walking around, and these guys thought they knew the text, but they didn’t know the text. They had a very trivial view of the depravity of man. They had this arrogant attitude that they knew more than anybody else, that they were so good and everybody else was down there. Legalism always does that. Martin Luther had a great quote in his epistle to the Romans about legalism and grace. He said that “the godly people that are the real godly people are more interested in their shortcomings than their neighbor’s shortcomings.” That’s the mark of grace.
It’s very easy to get an attitude where you compare your area of strength against Joe’s area of weakness; I always come out on top because I don’t get into the area where he’s stronger than I am. Legalism violates the grace principle. We saw that, as we point out in the paragraph. “Again and again the Old Testament prophets went back behind the Sinaitic Covenant to the Abrahamic Covenant to find their confidence in God.” I mentioned the tension that went on in the prophets; I kept saying tension, tension, tension. What tension? Tension between Moses saying Israel if you don’t obey this you’re going to suffer, with the fact that they were disobeying it, and yet God was promising a positive destiny for the country and it was full of disobedient people. Tension!
What did the prophets do? The prophets came back and said Israel, the only reason why you’re still walking around is because of the promises to the fathers. When they said that, what did they mean? The promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They didn’t go back to the Mosaic Law because remember we went through the rib proceeding, the lawsuit proceeding. Why did we do that? To show that on the basis of the law they had sinned and the law was convicting them. They had no appeal in God’s courtroom on the basis of that law code. They had to go behind the law code to the grace of the Lawgiver. That was the lesson learned, not just for New Testament times, that was learned in the Old Testament. Old Testament saints realized they were sinners in God’s sight. Last week we went over this, I gave quotes out of the Old Testament, Psalm 143, where they knew very well that standing in God’s courtroom they never could claim righteousness on the basis of obeyed law. When they faced God they had to realize that no man, including me, is justifiable in God’s sight on the basis of obedience to the law. We’ve all “come short of the glory of God.” So they had to cast themselves upon God’s grace.
These are the means of sanctification. If you chart your own Christian experience you will see, if you had the time and could log in a journal everything going on in your life, and then looked back on that journal, you would see a kind of swaying motion going on. For a while we would absorb the Word of God and things are going great. Then we’d start to get a little arrogant and say I know this, etc., and the boom, we’d have a big disaster or something. Then we’d pick ourselves up and we’d come over and walk on grace. Then we’d wander around out here for a while and get involved in silly stuff because we didn’t know what the Word told us to do. So the Christian life is kind of going between these two means and we have to protect ourselves. These are the two key tools: grace and the Word of God. A local church that honors those will be blessed.
The last one we want to talk about is the dimensions of sanctification. We said life has two dimensions. We have to look again because the Scripture talks about these, it doesn’t put a label on them so you can read and get off track a little bit. The best way I know of describing it is to think of growth. You can plot the height of a child as he grows verses time. There are spurts. You have growth with time. You look at that curve with a microscope you perhaps could see where there was some declining health, periods of decline (not in the height situation, just in the general health situation). It doesn’t stay level, it goes up or it goes down, and that’s the same spiritually. So we have to distinguish between the general trend, which is maturity, growth, versus what is happening in the moment, am I obeying today or disobeying today. That’s why the Lord Jesus Christ in the Lord’s Prayer said, “Give us this day our daily bread,” it doesn’t say give us tomorrows. I always want tomorrows, Fridays, Saturdays, two weeks from now, but all He ever gives me is today. That’s because He wants the emphasis on now. I can’t decide what’s going to happen two weeks from now; I can only decide what’s happening right now.
A woman in our congregation has a neat way of expressing this, an idea that is very picturesque. She says you walk into the moment, and I don’t know what that does for you in your imagination, what it conjures up in my mind’s eye is a room; I think of a series of rooms, and you walk into the moment, you walk into this room. That’s the present tense, and as we walk into the moment, that idea that we’ve walked from a room into another one, the next one, the next one and the next one, what that does is if you think about time as a series of these rooms, present moments, and you’re walking from one to the next one to the next one to the next one, what did we say is the attribute of God that corresponds to time? The one that corresponds to time is that God is eternal. What does that mean? It means He dwells in all moments of time. So we’re in this moment; God already is here, in the next moment. He already has all kinds of assets there at that moment; He has the Word of God ready for us. He has His grace ready for us; He has some problems in there for testing in that room. He’s got all the furniture in that room before we walk into it. He’s been there, He’s arranged the furniture; He has the scene all set up. Just like in a play, there is each individual act and the actors walk into the moment, they walk into the scene. If we can visualize our lives the same way, God sets the stage before we get there. If we can just remember that when the stuff starts flying, wait a minute, that’s part of the scenery, that’s part of what He has all set up in this room that I’m going to right now, and it isn’t an accident because He thought about this moment before. In fact God had all eternity to think about this moment.
We were so busy back here, our minds were going like this all over the place, and He has very calmly set up this moment. His promises are true, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” All of that’s setting up as stable assets sitting in that room. Then boom, we walk into it, and we see the stuff flying all over the place, and we don’t stop and see the furniture. The furniture is all the stuff He’s provided for that one moment. Not for the next moment. When you go to the next act in the drama, remember the stage, they change everything, all the different stuff was being changed. The room changes, we go to the next moment, maybe it’s a whole new set of furniture. But it’s the same God who is the playwright. He’s the same God who set that scene, who wrote it into place and we walked into it, after He wrote it. So it’s kind of a neat idea of bringing out the dimensions of sanctification.
On page 53 we want to introduce what we learned new about this. We learned a little about it when we talked about the conquest and settlement. I want to go to some sobering passages of Scripture in the New Testament that are analogous to the passages that we studied in the prophets, where Israel was getting clobbered. I’ve listed them in order and it starts with Acts 5:1-10, we’ll just highlight some of these verses. All these verses pertain to believers, not to unbelievers. Acts 5:3, here we have a man and his wife who were in disobedience, evidently influenced by their peers, worried about how they might look among the group, not doing their giving or whatever they were doing as unto the Lord, but worried about what society thinks, what my peers thing, what my parents, children or what somebody else thinks, and they faked it, they were trying to produce a phony work. It was a gimmick situation. “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit,” think about what is implied here. The word “filled” is the same word used in Ephesians 5:18, filled with the Spirit. Wow! Do you see what this is saying, how far Satan can control a Christian. Powerful stuff here! Satan has filled the heart of a believer to lie to the Holy Spirit.
Then verse 5, “And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last,” that is God killing a believer in discipline. That can happen. Is this strange? No, it isn’t strange. Think of what we just got through studying for 400 years in Israel’s history—destruction, military invasion, ravishing of the population, killing the men, raping the women, taking prisoners of war, all this horrible stuff, people dying of starvation. Those were all God’s people, and who was responsible for letting that happen? God was. Go back to position over experience. What do you do? You don’t go from experience to position, you don’t argue well God’s clobbering me, therefore I’m not saved. That’s going from experience to position. You go from position back to experience; I’m getting clobbered, why? Because I am a Christian and He expects certain things of me and I’m feeling the Father’s rod, therefore that immediately suggests what the solution might possibly be. It’s altogether different than going from experience back to position. We go from experience; we hop over to the position then come back to experience.
Let’s go to 1 Corinthians 5:1, another Christian in the New Testament text. What we’re looking at is the New Testament analogue to the Old Testament severity of God. Our God is severe. Here was a case of fornication, incest. This was going on openly and the whole congregation knew about it, and in verse 5 Paul says, “deliver such a one to Satan,” look at that, that’s a believer, “deliver such a one to Satan, for the destruction of his flesh, that,” purpose clause, “his spirit may be saved,” wow, that’s the ultimate discipline upon a Christian. God doesn’t mess around.
Let’s go to 1 Corinthians 11:28-32, we read this every communion service but it’s sobering stuff here because it applies to all of us. Look what it says in the communion passage. Verse 30, “For this reason many among you are weak and sick,” weak can be mental as well as physical, “sick, and a number sleep,” a number have died. So can God be nasty in His discipline. Yes, here is how God disciplines. I bet a lot of this occurs and we kiss it off as medical. I’m not saying that every medical problem is God’s discipline. I’ll show you why not, there are reasons for suffering other than direct. But for now, just notice the severity of God.
We could go to other verses; I list them for you in that paragraph, but turn to one I don’t have listed, 1 Timothy 1:19. This is a different situation, we’ve seen Ananias and Sapphira in a situation kind of putting on a phony front, we saw a case where you have incest and all kinds of flagrant immorality, now here’s a cute on, in verses 19-20 you have a false teacher. “Keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” So they’re believers.  “Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.” Their problem was false doctrine. Once again we have Christians, as believers turned over to suffering including sickness and all the way to death. This should not surprise us, knowing the God of the Old Testament kingdom, because this is exactly how He treated His people then.
We want to conclude referring to the chart on page 30, lest people draw wrong conclusions. I want to remind you that there are many reasons for suffering, and you can’t always go from suffering to thinking there’s a problem. What happens, however, is a simple test, if there is suffering just do what 1 Corinthians 11 says, check our hearts, ask God to reveal to us if there’s any wicked way in us. That’s a legitimate prayer, that’s what Paul means when he says examine yourself, “let every man examine himself,” do a check out, and if there’s nothing that the Holy Spirit puts on our minds, then it’s not a disciplinary issue. There are other reasons for suffering.
The chart on page 30 is just to remind us there are eleven different reasons why people suffer in the Bible, at least. The left column is all because of us, we’re directly involved in those six kinds of suffering. Notice number five and six: suffering pattern number five is the Fatherly chastening of believers, and we’ve just seen some very severe examples of that. We didn’t have time to go into 1 Corinthians 3 but there would be suffering pattern number six, denial of rewards. The rewards can be denied and that affects our eternal status in the kingdom of God. That is a disciplinary function. That’s also for screwing up spiritually. So God treats us as big boys and girls. We’re “in Christ” and there’s such a thing as responsibility. We’re held accountable.
On the right side, there are five different reasons why you can suffer; it has nothing whatsoever to do with what you did. That’s what makes life hard because all of a sudden you get blasted off your feet and you wonder what did I do to deserve this? Nothing necessarily, in fact, it very well might be that you got blasted off your feet because God thinks you can bounce pretty well, that you are ready to take it and that He’s dumping on you for a very important reason, other things in His kingdom. Look at the other things in those five reasons. First one, an evangelistic wake-up call. That would be applying to unbelievers. Unbelievers walk along happy, you know, dumb and happy, and all of a sudden everything goes to [can’t understand word] and some of us have come to Christ that way. Something happened and, you know, it’s great to look up when you’re lying flat on your back. That’s what that’s talking about.
Number eight, a nudge to advance spiritually, get us out of our comfort zone to a point where gee, maybe we should trust the Lord in this situation and we grow. Number nine, evidence to non-Christian who may be observing you and you don’t know they’re observing you. Maybe people in your family, maybe relatives, maybe neighbors, people at work, that can see how you respond to a pressure situation and they’re thinking to themselves, hey, wait a minute, I don’t think I could do that, and they’ll come and say gee, what’s the deal; a witnessing opportunity.
Number ten, another reason for suffering, evidence for edifying believers. How one believer will suffer and the rest of us will look at that and we’ll say gee, God was faithful in her case or his case, therefore I might get into a situation like that and I know God’s history here, I’ve seen it, I’ve seen God bless So and So in the middle of that, so that encourages me. That’s another reason, evidence for edifying believers.
And finally the spooky one, number eleven, that’s also mentioned in the New Testament, and that is because other eyes are watching, the unseen principalities and powers are watching. They’re strange ones, there’s a passage in the Bible that says when you meet together there are unseen eyes watching us, walking around for some reason. The angels are learning from us. You wonder, what can they learn from us? Apparently they’re learning how God works; probably learning His sense of humor, and how He deals with us in all the different areas of life. But that can also be a reason for suffering.
When you put all these eleven reasons together you really can’t unravel it all, you have to revert in practice to the Lord, is there something here for me to confess, is this the rod of discipline, the rod of chastisement, or is it some other reason. What we have to conclude from these eleven reasons is we know enough, not exactly what each microscopic part is but we know that God has sufficient reasons for allowing this to happen in our life, and there’s eleven possibilities. So when we think, well God, what are you doing here, think of the eleven, check them all out. If it can’t be one of these eleven then He might be possibly working in the situation, of course. So God is a reasonable God who loves us, but He also is the God of the Old Testament kingdom who means business and He wants us to be loyal to Him and He wants that worse than our personal comfort in the moment.