Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
What comes next? Sanctification is the process by which God prepares us to be in His presence, but there is a moment in time at which that process is completed – death. This seems a morbid topic to speak of, but death is part of the sanctification process for a Christian, not punishment. Though we die because of sin, death is a positive thing for the believer.
Our experience of death completes our union with Christ. He died and to be like Him we must also die. He conquered death and therefore when we experience death we become closer to Him and begin the final aspect of salvation – glorification. We leave this body and join the Lord in our real home (2 Corinthians 5:8), where there will be no more sorrow and no more tears (Revelation 21:4). We’ll become who we were really meant to be, in the bodies we were really meant to have. And we’ll never know death again.
Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Isn’t it great to know that you are not left on your own after you become a believer in Christ? God does a work in you to bring you to Himself, but He doesn’t just abandon you after that, expecting you to endure all on your own until the day of glory. No, He continues to work in you until that day.
Once you belong to God’s family, you are promised an inheritance and the Holy Spirit is given to you as a guarantee of that inheritance. Upon the completion of this life, you will inherit eternal life and everything that comes with it. This can only be achieved if you remain a child of God and maintain your salvation. But isn’t it wonderful to know that you don’t have to do that on your own?
It was God that began the work in you to enable you to believe and it is He who will continue to work in you until the end of this life on earth. He will never leave you nor forsake you and no one can snatch you out of your Father’s hand. Nothing can separate you from His love. Nothing. He will finish what He started. Your future doesn’t solely rest on you.
Hebrews 2:10-11 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers
He who calls you and causes you to be born again, who justifies you and forgives you, who adopts you as His own, will not stop at merely getting you. He’ll keep working in you to make you more like Christ until the day of glory. The process of spiritual maturing is sanctification, becoming holy.
To sanctify really means “to set apart”, so when you consider what God does for you in His act of salvation you can see that He sets you apart for something. Justification, the declaration of the sinner as righteous, is not done as an end unto itself. This verdict of “not guilty” is for the purpose of empowering us to do God’s work. We are saved for His purposes, for His own good pleasure.
While were were still sinners, He made us alive in Christ to do good works (Ephesians 2:5) and He will continue working in us to bring us into maturity. This means we grow in character, in faith, in works, and in love. God does this in us both by the work of the Holy Spirit within and by our own actions and choices that lead us to holiness. It’s only through Christ’s shed blood that we are capable of this growth, however. None of this is ours to claim credit.
Romans 8:14-15 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
The work of the Holy Spirit in us does not end at conversion, nor does our relationship with God end at being justified in Christ through His sacrifice for our sins. We gain treasures far beyond what we can even imagine, and none of it is earned or deserved. One of the greatest gifts of all is adoption into God’s family.
Whereas once we were enemies of God because of our sin, in Christ we not only receive reconciliation with the Father, but adoption as one of His own. It’s often said that everyone is a child of God, but biblically speaking only those who are in Christ are truly children of God because we have entered into the family through adoption. We get to become coheirs with Jesus and one day we will share in His glory (Romans 8:17).
God’s use of family terms in His Word to picture His work of redemption is beautiful and meaningful. We may not always grasp the most theological of word pictures, but we can understand what it means to be children with a daddy who loves us. Not just intellectually, but emotionally, as we grow in love for our Father in Christ and fellowship with Him (1 Corinthians 1:9).
Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Conversion is both an event and a process. It occurs, but it continues occurring throughout the life of a Christian. It had divine action as well as human response. Conversion is a sign of, but not the condition of, our justification. We have to be given grace in order to repent and be converted. We can’t obtain our own salvation just through choosing to believe. The power to believe is given through the grace of God and regeneration takes place before we can have faith.
Of all the aspects to the salvation process, this is the first that requires any action of the person; all work up to this point has been done (mostly in secret) by the Holy Spirit in the heart of the regenerate person. Now comes the time to respond to the call. Just to be clear, we must respond but we are not responsible for our own salvation or conversion. Only after we have had a work done in us by God can we even conceive of making the move to respond.
This is the part you may know as “accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior”. The important part here is the acceptance of Him as Lord. An acknowledgement of the need for a Savior is not the same as turning your life over to Christ. Responding to the call of God with repentance and surrender is the beginning of the life-long process of sanctification.
Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Have you been born again? What happened the first time you were born? Did you have anything to do with it? When your mother and father conceived you, were you in control of the decision to be born? What about in your spiritual rebirth? Did you have any control of the decision to be reborn?
It’s worth viewing the words chosen by the Holy Spirit as He inspired the writers of the Bible as intentional and meaningful. Even the more metaphorical phrases have deep meaning. It’s no coincidence that the Bible speaks of someone who is saved as being “born again”. Just as we couldn’t choose to be born, we can’t choose to be reborn. God made us alive spiritually by giving us a new life (Ephesians 2:5). He gives us a new heart. He gives us the right to be adopted as His children by being born again (John 1:12-13). It’s a gift, and we had nothing to do with it. We didn’t earn it and we sure didn’t deserve it.
Regeneration is a secret act of God in which He gives us new spiritual life. Whereas once the Gospel was foolishness to us (1 Corinthians 1:18), through His work in us it begins to make sense and we are drawn to it (Romans 1:16). This is because we have been given a new understanding and a new heart that longs for God. Regeneration brings us from spiritual death to life. Now we have the ability to possess the saving faith required to respond to the Gospel by accepting Christ. This is all a gift of God as He pours out His grace on us.
Romans 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
How does God call one to a saving faith in Jesus? What is our part in this? How do we know when we’ve received an effectual call?
God uses two key things to call people to Himself: The Holy Spirit works in the person and the Gospel is proclaimed. We use terminology to describe what we’re feeling when the Holy Spirit is working in us like “tugging at our heart” or “stirring our soul”. Things like this are just our human way of describing what we know to be true; that the Holy Spirit is doing something. We might not know what is happening inside of us, but we feel the need to respond to it. Then we hear the Gospel.
A clear presentation of the Gospel will leave us with an understanding that we’re sinners and that we need a Savior, that the penalties for our sin is death, and that Jesus Christ died to pay that penalty. Hearing this news proclaimed, paired with the work of the Holy Spirit to make us understand it, we can then respond in repentance and faith. Those two things must be present. God has to have initiated a calling within us for the possibility of faith to even exist, and we need to hear the Gospel (Romans 10:14) in order to respond to it. Then, we can be saved.
Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
“How can I know I’m saved?” The first way to answer that would be to ask if you’re a changed person. Are you becoming more like Jesus? Would you say you’re being conformed into His image through the changing of your character? Assess your answers to those questions and reflect on what you “did” to be saved. At what point in time did it happen? In what order did it happen?
Most of us don’t think about an order of salvation much at all. We just think, “I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior…I’m saved” and then we move on. But when we take a deeper look at the theology of salvation and what God’s work in us is before we’re even aware of it, the more we can really appreciate the grace we’ve received.
If you’ve been saved, it means you’ve been called, for no one can come to Jesus that has not been drawn to Him by the Father (John 6:44). Now, whether or not everyone receives this call or whether God chooses only certain people can be a debate for another day, but the biblical truth is that no one can reach out to God in faith on their own. He plants the seed of faith in us to even believe the Gospel. We can’t even have that faith until He gives it to us as a gift. His grace goes beyond what we even realize.