Desert Hills Bible Church | 2024: A Year of Sanctification Through God's Word

2024: A Year of Sanctification Through God’s Word

The new year is upon us, and I hope we have plans to immerse ourselves in God’s Word in 2024. Throughout church history, Christians who have been mighty in the Scriptures have systematically read Scripture year after year. A new year is a great opportunity for a fresh start, which is why we all should be encouraged to be diligent and disciplined in our Bible reading.

We should first consider two wrong motivations for reading God’s Word. We must not read the Bible simply to amass information. There are millions of unregenerate people in Bible studies, churches, universities, and seminaries, who do not know God and have never been transformed in the slightest from their studies. We also should not read the Bible simply as another task on our daily task list.

It is vital that, as we consider Bible study and reading in 2024, we realize the real possibility to check off every day’s reading but not to benefit from our time in the Word. This is why we must come to the Bible, not as if we are doing something for God by reading His Word, but as people who are hungry for Him to do something in us. The point of Bible reading is sanctification, transformation, and growing in holiness.

Jesus’ words in John 17:17 help to solidify these truths in our mind. Here Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” This is a marvelous request Jesus makes of the Father. He asks the Father to sanctify all believers in the truth, which He equates with the Word of God. There are three things to think about as we consider this petition of our Lord.

First, consider the meaning of sanctification.

At the most basic level, sanctification is being set apart and made holy. For example, the sabbath day in the Old Testament was to be holy. People also could be holy, as we see in Jeremiah 1:5, where we read, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” The word translated ‘consecrated’ means sanctified, and it has the idea of being set apart. Jeremiah was set apart for service to God as a prophet to the nations before he was ever born.

The meaning of sanctification makes it clear that it is both a positional reality and a progressive process. A person might be said to be sanctified, while at the same time it is true that he is being sanctified. God sets people apart for His own use, and those people gradually grow in their usefulness to God as they learn to imitate His character, manifesting that they belong to God by faith that expresses itself in obedience motivated by love. As we study the Scriptures, we find that this is how sanctification is described.

Sanctification is not something that is merely external, nor just a change in our behavior. People who are not set apart for God – unbelievers – fulfill the lusts of the flesh and live for their own selfish desires. Believers, however, do not have the same desires dominating their lives. They still battle ungodly lusts, which we are commanded to deny. The difference is, however, that in the believer new desires emerge and grow, which are to please God, to do the will of God, to seek glory for our Lord Jesus Christ, and to live for the good of others and to magnify the grace of our God.

Second, understand the process of sanctification.

Sanctification is God’s gracious work in our lives. No one deserves to be sanctified by God. We have no claim on God in ourselves whereby we can come to Him and demand that He sanctify us.

The reality of sanctification being a work of God is emphasized throughout the New Testament in addition to its attribution to all three Persons within the Triune God. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 reads, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”Sanctification is also ascribed to Jesus Christ in Ephesians 5:26, which states, “So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” Further, we see in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 that the Holy Spirit sanctifies us. Paul wrote, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” The Triune God is at work in our sanctification.

That’s not to say that we don’t have a part to play in our sanctification. Scripture is full of commands to obey, to purify ourselves, to abstain from iniquity, to flee from immorality, to deny ungodly lusts, to pursue righteousness and godliness. We are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. However, we must always remember that even if we labor more than all others and attain holiness that surpasses all other sinners, it is only due to the grace and power of God in our lives, and not to our strength, power, or effort.

How does God sanctify us? Sanctification has two senses, one that happens at conversion and is a once-for-all event; and one that is progressive throughout our lives. Both senses of the term happen through the truth of God’s Word. God initially sets us apart for Himself through the truth of His Word. We know that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. Or as James put it in James 1:18, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” Peter makes the same point in 1 Peter 1:23, writing, “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.”

Progressive sanctification happens in the same way as our conversion, through God’s Word – and the Spirit of God uses the Word to make us more holy. Besides John 17:17, one of the clearest statements to this effect is Acts 20:32, where Paul, as he left the Ephesian elders for the final time, said, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Paul was assured that the Ephesians had all they needed in the Word of God to finish the race strong.

Some of the most beloved verses on this subject are found in the 119th Psalm, where we are given wonderful testimony to the power of the Word in sanctification. In verse 104, the Psalmist says, “From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.” Notice that the person who comes to God’s Word with faith acquires understanding about truth, righteousness, justice, wisdom, holiness, sin, and salvation. The Word draws us to itself by revealing the truth to us, and the Spirit works in our hearts. We don’t want lies, philosophies of the world, or counsel of the ungodly; we only want the truth.

Finally, we must apply the process of sanctification.

How do we read so that God’s power transforms us through His Word?

First, treasure the word of God. If we want to be changed by God’s word, we need to love and delight in it. It is a wonder that the eternal God should reveal anything to us at all, let alone such a complete and full revelation of Himself in His Word!

Second, read God’s Word prayerfully. As we read, we should be in a spirit of prayer, asking the Spirit to examine our hearts, to expose our sin, and to comfort us in our discouragements and afflictions.

Third, read it with faith. The promises of God are all ours in Christ Jesus, so we can believe, trust, and rest in His words.

Fourth, read the Word humbly. We cannot change God’s Word to make it say what we want, but we must receive what it says regardless of our own preconceived ideas.

Fifth, read the word with a desire to obey it. We do not come to the word merely to gain information, but to be transformed! We must read the Word with a heart to keep it.

As we read the Word with these principles in mind, God will be faithful to work in us and sanctify us by His Word. Will we be faithful to come humbly and faithfully to God’s Word each day with a heart that desires holiness? I pray that this is our heart’s desire as we begin another year that the Lord has so graciously given us. Happy New Year!

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