August 14, 1281 C.E. Kublai Khan, Emperor of Japan rules the vast Mongol Empire- The largest empire at the time which extends 9 million square miles; the largest contiguous empire in world history. For reference, the United states is 3.8 million square miles. But Kublai Khan wanted more. He wasn’t satisfied. Khan’s Empire stretched from the Black Sea all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Khan’s army is massive- invading with 4,400 ships coming off the coasts of China and Korea. Japan didn’t stand a chance. They were helpless, on their way to destruction. Miraculously, on August 14, a typhoon wiped out the Mongol invasion and Japan thrives till this day.
Just like the miraculous typhoon in feudal Japan’s history, God’s love saves us. It isn’t anything we asked for. It comes to us. We were on our way to destruction and eternal death. Japan would have been wiped out from existence forever. But, in God’s great mercy, he provided a way out. We were certainly on our way to destruction but the figurative typhoon of Jesus and His death on the cross saved us from hell and provided salvation.
Sanctification starts with God’s love. This is the most miraculous part of sanctification. We were dead in our sins. But God, in his great mercy, saved us from our sins and brought us to life. Sanctification isn’t possible without God’s love. God’s love initiates sanctification and is monogerstic. Everything else stems and draws from God’s great love.. These are all great things. But they all draw from the cistern of God’s great love. God provided an everlasting cistern that we can draw from on a daily basis. He provided fresh water every day that never runs out. Conforming to Christ is drawing from the cisterns of fresh water, never being thirsty again. This is true sanctification- realizing who we were in sin, knowing that God provided a redeemer through his great love, and drawing from the everlasting cistern of Christ and what He has done. Sanctification is God working through us as we draw from the everlasting Cistern that never runs out. God’s cistern always satisfies, sanctifies, and propels us to live for His Kingdom. God’s love makes possible the fruits of the Spirit, our desire for repentance, faith, hope, desire to be in the Word, affection for Christ, purpose, fellowship, prayer, and worship.
God’s love initiates Salvation
God’s love initiates salvation. John 3:16 says that “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Going on, John continues by saying that God first loved us- “we love, because He first loved us.” God first loved us by sending his Son to die for our sins on the cross. We were predestined according to his love- “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love.” (Ephesians 1:4). God, in his great love and mercy, provided a way out for sinners to be reconciled to a Holy God. The Bible is about reconciling the fallen nature of Humanity to a Holy God. And this is the greatest love story ever told. Paradise was lost when Adam sinned and took a bite of the apple. However, very early on, God provided a way out. Genesis 3:15 says that “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” God will be victorious over Satan and the world system in the end. When God, in his great love, changes a believer’s heart, a radical transformation occurs. Paul states that “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” He is our God and we are His people. The Prophet Ezekiel prophesied of God’s great love to remove our heart of stone and create a heart of flesh-”Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26). Our relationship with God was broken. But we have moved from being in Adam to in Christ- (For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were appointed sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be appointed righteous.” (Romans 5:19.) And this is the start of the greatest love story ever told. Our progressive sanctification starts with our positional sanctification in Christ and God’s great love that makes new desires and obedience possible because we have a new heart that desires to follow him and his precepts. The story continues.
God’s Love results in Christ in Us.
We just took a look at how God’s great love makes salvation possible. God’s great love makes progressive sanctification possible because without justification, there are no new desires or no new heart. We would still be in our sins pursuing the World, the flesh, and the devil. What is sanctification? Sanctification, is being set apart for holiness. We are continually trying to conform to Christ by his grace. Christ is in us as a result of God’s great love. Paul states in Galatians that “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” Paul is stating here that Christ is in Him as a result of His great love. His desires have been radically changed. He is being controlled by Christ and lives for Him.
Going on, we are in Christ Jesus who is sanctification. Paul states in Corinthians that “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that , just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Christ is our sanctification.” It is Christ who prays in his High Priestly prayer- “For their sake I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” Christ is our sanctification and is interceding for us to the Father on our behalf!
God’s love results in Obedience
Because God loved us, we desire to obey Him. John states that “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” Our desire to love God is from a fear of God that is reverential. We are so thankful for what He has done and want to live lives conformed to His will and His purposes.
God’s Love results in Faith working through love
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. Because of God’s love, he predestined us for good works- “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) The spirit is in us and results in the fruit of the spirit- “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22).
God’s love results in Faith and Repentance
In addition, our fruit bears repentance- “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Mark 1:15- “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Faith and repentance are of the same coin. If one has faith, the believer will repent. True repentance produces genuine change but worldly repentance results in being sorry for being caught. Paul talks about the difference in 2 Corinthians 7:10- “For godly sorrow produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world brings about death.”
God’s love results in being in the Word
Once saved, a child of God desires to be in the Word of God. One mark of a disciple is being in the Word and pursuing the Word. John exclaims this clearly by saying- “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly My disciples.” (John 8:31). God’s Word is sanctifying and produces repentance, conforming to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Psalmist in Psalm 119 exclaims- “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to your word.” The fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom and delighting in the Word of God. The Psalmist also starts off the book by stating a connection between the way of the Righteous and the law of God- “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of Yahweh, and in His law he meditates day and nights. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruits in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Psalm:1-Psalm:3). Delighting in the law of the lord has a sanctifying effect in which the blessed man does not walk in the way of sinners. In addition, Paul points out the importance of the mind in Romans- “For even though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans: 1:21). The unbeliever’s sin was propelled by a futile mind. As believers, we need to be transformed by the Word and the renewing of our minds. Paul goes on to say- “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may approve what the will of God is, that which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans:12:1-2). Our minds are vital to sanctification and being transformed by the Word of God. We seek her as silver. Peter states that “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the full knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Clearly, there is a profound connection between the Word, having full knowledge of Him, and godliness.
God’s Love propels a new hope that results in Obedience
God’s love gives us much hope in this life because we can look forward to the great day of Bema seat judgments. A day when we will receive rewards and give them back to Christ. Paul explains this great day in Corinthians- “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” The day is coming and the world will be burned up culminating in a New Heaven and a New Earth- “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense hear, and the earth and its works will be found out. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens burning will be destroyed, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for New Heavens and a New Earth, in which righteousness dwells. Our everlasting hope propels obedience for the future. We can look forward to that day and be prepared in this life. Nothing that happens in this life can take away our sure hope of being with Christ one day!
God’s love results in assurance of Salvation, obedience, and fruitfulness
If we are truly pursuing righteousness and the Word, we will be fruitful for the Kingdom of God. God’s love enables us to be fruitful for His Kingdom. Peter talks about this is 1 Peter:5- “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these things are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For in whom these things are not present, that one is blind, being nearsighted, having forgotten the purification from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and choosing sure; for in doing these things, you will never stumble. Going on, it is the Holy Spirit that ensures we are children of God. Paul states in Romans that “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, also heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:17).
God’s love results in the outworking of our faith
The outworking of our faith won’t happen unless we proactively pursue Godly disciplines. God gives us the grace to obey and enables us. Obeying is a synergistic work. Paul states this clearly in Philippians- “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Sanctification is ultimately a synergistic work. The believer is 100% responsible to put in effort but he is also 100% dependent upon God’s grace. This is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith. As believers, we are called to work but can only do so by his grace. Faith works through love and God loves. We love because God is love and it is a communicable attribute that we can emulate to represent Him, His Kingdom, and His Glory.
God’s love results in us loving- He is love
God’s love results in positional sanctification and makes progressive sanctification possible. God is love. The Apostle John states this clearly by saying that- “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. Fellowship and loving other is part of sanctification. Relationships can be used as a catalyst for transforming our lives. As believers, we are to build each other up and use our gifts for the maturity of the saints. Paul mentions this in Ephesians- “And He Himself gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians:4) In addition, Paul is clear in Corinthians that “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians:15). In order to continually be sanctified in Christ, we need to be building each other up into maturity of Christ that stems from the love God first had for us. We love because he first loved us.