God’s (Revealed) Will for My Life = Sanctification = Growing in My Trust in God’s Words

3 Nov

So often, it seems as though we are searching for “God’s will for my life.” Voddie Baucham, in this extremely important message, helped to clarify (among other things) that when people say that, they’re usually talking about God’s secret, decretive will. It’s called “secret” for a reason – because, we have no right to know what God has decreed or foreordai rened to come to pass.

But two other aspects of God’s will that is revealed and that we do have access to is (1) God’s preceptive will and (2) God’s will of disposition. The former refers to “God’s revealed law or commandments, which we have the power – but not the right – to break.” And the latter refers to “God’s attitude or disposition. It reveals what is pleasing to Him.”

In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Paul tells us precisely what God’s revealed will (or at least, one of them) for our lives are – namely, “[our] sanctification.”

Okay, so one aspect of God’s will for my life (that is revealed) is that I become sanctified and become more and more like Jesus. But, I wonder if this is increasingly becoming an unhelpful way to put it. That is, have words like “sanctification” and “becoming more and more like Jesus,” though true, become a bit too cliche and fairly unspecific, and therefore, without meaning to most Christians who hear it?

I mean, what does it mean to become sanctified? What does it mean to become more and more like Jesus? At least, in my experience, when I heard (or continue) to hear phrases like “we need to become more and more like Jesus,” I hear a call to merely act like Jesus; merely do ethics like Jesus; merely to do what Jesus did.

Now, again, is this wrong? Absolutely not. My point is is that though it is not less than that, it is much more than that, as well. John Frame, in his book, The Doctrine of the Word of God, writes the following regarding sanctification:

… the Christian life is a journey, a movement from faith to more faith (with, to be sure, ups and downs along the way).

This is a journey both toward better understanding and toward overcoming our unbelief (Mark 9:24). The latter process (overcoming our unbelief) is called sanctification. The former process (understanding) is also related to sanctification: our understanding is related to our level of trust and obedience. But our lack of understanding is also related to our finitude, our inability to resolve all the questions that the phenomena of Scripture pose to us.

So, in light of what Frame says, how then are we to understand sanctification? And becoming more and more like Jesus? It’s “overcoming our unbelief” – or to put it another way, trusting God by ultimately trusting His personal words to us (i.e., the Bible). When this happens, namely growing in our trust in God’s personal words to us (“faith to more faith”), then the actions will follow.

And so, for example, God wants me to trust Him when He promises that “[He] has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” (1 Thess. 5:9-10).

Also, God wants me to trust Him when He warns me to “abstain from sexual immorality [and] know how to control [my] body, etc.” (1 Thess. 4:3-8). When I increasingly learn to trust God and what He says, then I will increasingly respond appropriately behaviorally (e.g., joy, worship, obedience, etc.).

So then, if we are to understand sanctification as growing in our trust in God (ultimately, by trusting His words), then not only does that become less cliche and general, but it also becomes less attainableapart from utter dependence on the Holy Spirit.

I get the sneaking suspicion that when people hear the words “sanctification” and “the need to become more and more like Jesus,” they are not hit with the force of how impossible it is to attain sanctification by our own strenght.

And so, as a result, there is no humble dependence on the Holy Spirit in our sanctification, because, if sanctification is merely construed as doing what Jesus did, then there is a sense in which this un-biblical, self-reliant notion that we can, somehow, attain and achieve our own sanctification remains.

But, if sanctification is growing in our trust in God (by ultimately trusting His words), then, the weight of how impossible it is to be sanctified by our own strength comes barreling down at us like a 40-ton big rig. Why? Because, our rebellious hearts/minds don’t want to trust God (and especially, His words!).

Perhaps that’s why Paul prayed the following at the end pf his first letter to the Thessalonian church:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. HE WHO CALLS YOU IS FAITHFUL; HE WILL SURELY DO IT. – 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Truly, may God grant that we increasingly trust Him (ultimately, through His words). He is faithful and He will surely do it.

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