How do we practically walk out sanctification? Though the source of a holy life is God’s enlightening and empowering grace, there are three things we must do to be co-laborers with God in our sanctification.
“So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
First, we must believe that through the death of Jesus Christ we have died to sin, and through his resurrection we now live to God. This is not something we have to obtain by our own power or holiness, it is something we must believe by faith. If we don’t believe that Christ has already won the victory we will quickly quit the race. We will despair as we look upon our own weakness. But if we look to what Christ has done for us and believe that he has saved us from the power of sin by this death and resurrection we will be moved to pray and act accordingly.
Jesus Christ is the foundation of our hope, not only for forgiveness and eternal life, but also for a life of victory over sin. We must believe that he has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). God’s grace in Christ is the source, and this grace is apprehended and applied to our lives by a living and active faith. Faith motivates us to press into the inheritance God has for us.
1 Corinthians 10:13
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.”
We must believe that victory over sin is possible or we will give up on a holy life before we even start!
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens — Jesus the Son of God — let us hold fast to the confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.”
Secondly, we must pray. Jesus instructed his followers to daily pray to the Father, “Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). And he warned his apostles on the night he was betrayed, “Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). God has provided us everything we need to live godly lives, but we do not receive these things automatically, but through continual relational dependence on God through Jesus Christ.
If we don’t believe that God has graciously granted us all that we need to live holy we will never ask Him to work it in us by faith. We might beg Him, but we will have no real expectation of receiving. And if we don’t ask expecting, James 1:6-7 tells us we will not receive:
“But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.”
And Hebrews 11:6 tells us:
“Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.”
Without believing we will not receive, and without receiving we will soon give up asking altogether. But if we do believe, we will ask in faith, and we will receive what we have asked for. Our honesty about our weakness will drive us to the throne of grace to ask for the mercy and grace that we need to overcome temptation. And our faith in the victorious work of Jesus Christ and the gracious heart of our Father in heaven will cause us to ask in faith for the help we need to live holy.
“So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.”
Thirdly, we must act. By faith we believe that God has delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His dear son (Colossians 1:3). By this same faith we come to God at His invitation to receive the power we need to live a holy life, and by God’s grace we receive that power. But without walking out what God has put into us we will not experience a holy life.
God will not live for us. By His grace through the Holy Spirit He gives us the desire and ability to obey His will. But He will not obey for us. Without grace we could not obey. Without grace we could not even desire to obey. Our hearts have been so corrupted by sin that the only thing that comes natural to us is rebellion. But God has not left us in our sin but has delivered us through His holy Son. This is a wonderful salvation! Truly we have been given everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). But, God will not go any further! We must work out the salvation from sin that He has worked in us. He will not make us obey.
The old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.” This is not exactly parallel with what we are discussing because God has not only led us to water, but he has even given us a deep thirst for water! And though we cannot make a horse drink water, God can indeed make us live holy, but He has chosen to leave that in our hands. Without him we are incapable of holiness, or even thirsting after holiness, but God has graciously given us the ability and desire. But we have to walk it out. We must obey! We must act!
A life of holiness is humanly impossible. It is comparable to a man walking on water. In the episode of Peter walking on the water we can see the above principles illustrated.
“When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost!’ they said, and cried out in fear. Immediately Jesus spoke to them. ‘Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s You,’ Peter answered Him, ‘command me to come to You on the water.’ ‘Come!’ He said. And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. ‘Come!’ He said. And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.”
In this narrative we see Peter step out of a boat and walk on water. He was an experienced fisherman who knew people can’t walk on water, and yet he not only tried it but did it!
We are like Peter. We know from our experience that we are not holy people. We have tried to change and more often than not failed. And when we did manage to change some things on the outside, we are now aware that the corruption of pride and self-satisfaction still remained on the inside. We know that we cannot live holy lives from the heart without divine assistance.
First we see that Peter had a desire to walk on the water with Jesus. Without this desire he would not have stepped out of the boat. In the same way, we must first desire to live a holy life. Philippians 2:13 says this desire in our hearts is the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the grace of God.
After Peter cried out to the Lord with desire, the Lord gave him a command, “Come!” This command was also a promise. What the Lord commands us He also enables us to do. This also is the grace of God mentioned in Philippians 2:13. Not only the desire, but also the ability to live holy is a gift of God.
But upon hearing this Peter believed. He trusted that what Christ commanded could be accomplished. In the same way, we must believe the word of God which tells us that we have been set free from sin by Christ and can now live a holy life. The Bible makes it clear that we must live holy. And the Bible makes it clear that we can live holy. We must believe!
Peter’s faith was not a dead faith, it moved him to action. He actually stepped out of the boat onto a stormy sea. Though he knew full well he had never walked on water before, his faith in the word and power of Jesus moved him to action. Once the command came from Christ he knew that he no longer had the option of sitting in the boat. His master had given him a command and he must obey. And by faith he did! Peter walked on the water. We also must obey!
Soon his eyes got off of Jesus and back onto the impossibility of the situation. His faith began to fail. Though his spirit was willing his flesh was weak. He knew what to do, he called out to the Lord in prayer. And the Lord heard his cry and lifted him back up onto the water. He sought grace through prayer and he received it from his gracious Master. In the same way, we must pray!
We are obligated to live holy and by God’s grace we can live holy. We must trust the promises of God in His word. We must pray for the grace to walk them out. And we must actively obey.