Charles Stanley - Sanctification, God's Grand Plan
Do you feel special, or do you feel rather insignificant? Do you feel like God takes a personal interest in you or do you just feel like you're one of those whole creation of souls out there somewhere that doesn't really make a lot of difference? Do you believe that God has a plan for your life? Or do you feel like He's just sorta left you here to do your own thing? Well, in the twenty-ninth chapter of Jeremiah, he makes it very clear that He has a plan for our life, and here's what he says in the eleventh verse, "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'"
Probably most people are gonna live their lives, they're gonna come to the end of their life, and they're not even really gonna realize why they were here. They'll never think about the fact that God had a plan for them, that He had the best possible plan anyone could even begin to imagine. And yet they will have lived their life, it'll all be over, and they'll miss the whole point for which they were living. Well, God has a very grand plan, I mean, an awesome, grand plan. He has a grand plan for every single person.
Most people are gonna miss it, but He still has a grand plan. In fact, that whole entire grand plan could be summed up in one word, probably in a word that most people have never even heard a sermon on. They read it in the Bible once in a while and they'll think, "Well, what does that mean? Well, I'm not quite sure". And they skip over it and keep going. But there is one word that sums up God's great plan because of the different facets of that word and what it means. That word is "sanctification". And the title of this message is "Sanctification: God's Grand Plan".
I want us to read only one verse, but we'll see lots of verses here. I want you to turn, if you will, to First Thessalonians chapter 5. And Paul, who had been answering some questions about Jesus's second coming and so forth, lots of questions He was answering. And He comes down toward the end of this epistle, and here's what he says in verse 23 of chapter five, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved, complete, and without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ". Sanctify you, he says, entirely.
Now, I want to clarify what we mean when the Bible says sanctification. The word sanctification means holy, or in a verb form, it would mean to make holy or to separate. And so, when we think in terms of sanctification, we're thinking in terms of something being separated. That is, the term really means to separate something from a common use to a sacred use. And in the Bible, God certainly did that. And just one simple example of things that, for example, that He sanctified. If you'll go back to Genesis and this chapter two, you'll recall what He said in verse three. He created the earth, and He says, "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it," He set it apart. He made it holy.
There was something special about it. And then you'll recall in the twentieth chapter of Exodus when the Lord was giving us the Ten Commandments, what He said about that particular day. He said, "For in six days," He said, "the LORD has made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore, the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy". He sanctified it. He set it apart as a special day for Him. So that He sanctified days, He sanctified things, He sanctified places, He sanctified people. And if you'll think about it, He sanctified days, the Sabbath day. He sanctified places, the Holy of Holies, making it a holy place. He sanctified things like the Ark of the Covenant. He sanctified people, that is, He set apart the priests to lead in worship in the tabernacle then in the temple.
And so, God is in the process of sanctifying. In fact, the truth is, when you trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, He sanctified you. He set you apart as a child of God unto Himself for a very sacred purpose, which means we're not here to live our lives as we please, do as we please, spend our life like we please. We're here to bring glory and honor to God. We're here as those who have been sanctified, set apart by God for the purposes, the holy purposes of God. Now, most people gonna live their life and never even think about the fact that God has a plan, God has a purpose. Certainly, they don't think about God's grand plan for everyone. They're gonna live their lives and wonder what it's all about and never stop to think about the fact that they are very special in the eyes of God.
There's no such thing as an insignificant anybody. Everybody is special in the eyes of God. He has a plan for everybody's life, and therefore you can't be insignificant when God has a plan for your life. So the very word means to separate, and that is to set apart that which is common for some sacred purpose or use. But there's also another word that comes from that root meaning, the root meaning in the Greek is "hagios," holy. And the Greek term, as we said, the verb term would be like to make holy, to separate, to sanctify. The next word that comes from that is the word saint, because a saint is a person who is indeed holy in the eyes of God. They have been set apart for God's purposes. And so, the truth is every single believer is a saint.
Now, that I want to say this, and I'm gonna say this two or three times so you won't miss this. A saint is not necessarily someone who lives a very, very saintly life. In fact, you may go to work tomorrow and somebody say, "Well," you start talking about spiritual things and they'll say, "Well, you must think you're a saint". And when they do, you say, "Well, I don't think so, I know I am". And they'll say, "Well now, I know you're the most egotistical, prideful person I've ever seen". Because their idea of a saint is totally unscriptural. Their idea of a saint is someone who is absolutely sinless or someone who has been venerated and recognized and acknowledged and praised by the church. And they've been set apart and, you know, Saint Andrew and Saint Christopher and Saint John and Saint Charles and saint... you know I got that one in there.
And so that's their idea of sainthood. None of that is scriptural. The truth is every single believer is a saint. Now, the idea of scripture is this, that you and I have been made saints. Now, watch this. This is an accomplished fact, when you were saved, the moment you were saved, you became a saint in the eyes of God. He set you apart for Himself unto Himself for His honor and His glory. So, when you think about it, let's think about it in this way. Some people have ideas about what a saint is that's certainly not scriptural. For example, there are three things that are not implied in sainthood. For example, when the Bible says, when Jesus says He sanctifies Himself, that does not mean that He ceased to be something that He was and that now He's made improvements. That doesn't... in other words, when he speaks of God or the Lord Jesus Christ, that's not what that means.
Secondly, saint does not mean one who is sinless, or sanctification doesn't mean one who is sinless or somebody who has reached some stage. It does not mean, when the Bible speaks or when people talk about entire sanctification, that cannot mean that you finally reach some stage in this life where you no longer sin. So, you are sinless at this point. You cannot be because in First John chapter one, he says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us".
So we're not talking about being sinless. We're not talking about a person who reaches, in this life, some stage where they no longer sin, no longer are tempted and absolutely perfect. We're talking about God taking sinners, saving us from our sins, setting us apart unto Himself, for Himself, for His purposes. And he says He has made us a saint. That is, He set us apart. We're those who have been set apart and we're holy in the eyes of God because we are His chosen vessels, called to be His sons and His daughters. God has set apart believers for Himself. Listen, positionally, He set us apart at salvation. Progressively, this sanctification process goes on all the rest of our life. And ultimately, listen, ultimately it is finished at death.
So, the truth is that sanctification is a point in time. It is a progression in our life and another point in time. That is, we are saved in one single act, like a period. Our progression in the Christian life is like a line, it's something that keeps going on. When we die, ultimately another period at the end of our life. So, we're talking about, when we talk about sanctification, we're talking about the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer whereby He continually is in the process of freeing us from the power of sin in our life. And we are becoming, as a result, more and more in character, conversation, and conduct like the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, I'll ask you this question. Would you say that, over these years, that you've made progress? Or would you have to say, "Well, I got saved, and you know what, there's not a lot of change in my life". Then there's something going on in your life that should not be going on, and we're gonna explain that in a moment. So, sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit whereby having, listen, having brought about conviction of sin in our life, bringing us to saving faith, setting us apart unto God for God, and then in the process of doing what? Bringing us to victory after victory, even though there are times of great defeat, bringing us to the place in our life whereby our relationship to the Lord is getting stronger and stronger.
Sin is having less and less effect in our life. And we're becoming more like Jesus in character, conversation, and conduct, and it'll be evident to those who are about us. Sanctification, listen, is God's grand plan for every single one of us. Now, there are stages to God's grand plan. So, I hope you'll listen carefully, and you'll get these down because I want you to find out where you are in this plan. God's grand plan is wrapped up in one word, sanctification. Set apart by God for God, listen, to radiate the character of God and the person of Jesus Christ.
So, there are three stages. Now, here's the first stage in God's grand plan. The first stage is the sanctification stage of salvation. That is, God in one moment of time saves us from our sins through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and our trust in His shed blood at Calvary. And at that moment, at that moment, that's the first step and the first stage in our sanctifying process. Now, what happens at that moment? What happens at that moment is that we change positions. We have a different position. The moment you were saved, you had a different position.
Turn to Ephesians chapter two for a moment, just back a couple of books or so there. And what I want you to notice is what our position was before we were sanctified, that is, before we were saved. What was your position? That is, in your, shall we say, spiritual, legal standing between you and Almighty God, what was your position? Well, here's what your position was. Chapter two of Ephesians, he says, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among these we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest".
That is, before you and I became sanctified, before we assumed the position of being sanctified by God, we were in a position of being, listen, dead in our trespasses and sins with no relationship to Him, and living under, listen, living daily under the threat of the wrath of God. But I want you to turn to another passage. Go back, if you will, to Romans. And I want you to look, if you will, in Romans chapter five. We're talking about what your position was. And let me just say this to you. If you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, this is the way God sees you.
Now, you may say, "Well, I see myself as a creation of God and I see myself as loved of God". And yet you have denied the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior. You have shunned the Word of God. You have shunned His call to repentance in your life. And the way you think you see God's one way, but the way God sees you is another. Every lost person, He says, is dead in trespasses and sin. Secondly, He says living under the wrath of God, and listen to this, chapter five of Romans says before we were saved for, listen, verse ten, "If while we were enemies," enemies of God, "we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life".
That is, before we trusted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, we were enemies. And so our position previously was an enemy of God, under the wrath of God, and dead in our trespasses and sins and having no personal, intimate relationship with God because our sinfulness and our wickedness was such that our sins had separated us from God. So that was our position before we trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior, before we, listen, before we became in this first stage. The first stage of sanctification is that moment when you and I trust the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Now, what happened? What happened was when we took upon ourselves the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, something happened to that position. What happened to that position is the Bible says we were born again. When we were born again, our sins were forgiven, cleansed. We were then at that moment adopted into the family of God. So now we have a personal relationship with Him. We're not dead in trespasses and sins. Now we're living under the grace of God, not the wrath of God. Now we're no longer enemies, we're His children. And we have been called, we have been, listen, given the position of being a saint. Having been removed from that position to a new position, listen, dead in trespasses and sins, under the wrath of God, enemies of God.
Now the children of the living God, living under the canopy of the grace of God and the goodness of God and the love of God and the mercy of God. What an awesome change in our position! That's what sanctification does because the moment you were saved, God took you, listen, made you a holy possession of His, set you apart for Himself, unto Himself, to live for the purpose of living a godly life. Now, my friend, here's what I want you to see. Somebody says, "Well, how in the world could you possibly call yourself a Christian"? Because you're a saint doesn't mean you're always gonna live a godly life. Because we're talking about a position.
Now, that's the first stage. That is, the first stage of the sanctified life is certainly a position. But there's a second stage. Now, the first stage, listen, the first stage is something God does for us. Totally of God. He convicted you of your sins. He gave you the faith. He showed you that you needed to be saved and He's the one who saved you. That act is an act of God. The second stage is a different stage. The second stage is a stage, listen, a stage of progress. First stage, listen, we said, the first stage is a period, He saved us.
The second stage now is a line, something that goes on and on and on for the rest of our lives here on this earth. And that is that second stage is our progressive walk, our progressive walk in growth toward the Lord Jesus Christ. So, today every single believer, every single person who is a believer is in the second stage of sanctification. Stage one, an act. Stage two, a line, progressive, something's going on. And the truth is all of us should being progressive in our Christ-likeness, in our attitude, in our conduct, and our behavior. Now, it began at the moment of salvation and it continues, progressive sanctification continues throughout our lifetime.
And so, oftentimes somebody will say, "Well," I say, "Have you ever been saved"? "Well, I've been saved several times". "No, no, no, no, no! You've only been..." "Oh no, I've been saved several times". Now, I'm not being critical because that's what they've been taught or that's what they believe. Now, what they mean is this: I got saved, I blew it so bad, I felt so guilty, I knew I couldn't be saved acting like that, and so I got saved again. Well, later on in life, I blew it again and I just got living in sin and it was, I got saved again. Well, let me just relieve you of something. You only get saved once. Just one time. You may act like the devil.
And you say, "Well now, you mean to tell me that if I act like the devil, I'm still a saint"? Notice that we're talking about position. Positionally, yes, you are. Conduct, you may be acting like the devil. Your conduct may be like the devil and everything else. You think you're gonna get away with that? No, you aren't gonna get away with it. But we're in the second stage, and the second stage is progressiveness. That is, we're moving along in our Christian life. Now, this stage we entered into the moment we're saved. This stage we're gonna continue in until the moment you breathe your last breath, then you head into that third stage.
Now, when Jesus Christ went to the cross, laid down His life at Calvary, and shed His blood for our sin-debt, He paid forever in His atoning death our sin-debt. He paid it in full. So that you and I now are walking in the light. Every once in a while, we may step over here into some dark conduct or attitude or whatever it might be. What does He do? He brings us back. Am I forgiven? Listen, the grace of God is our cure for sin. That is, His shed blood at Calvary. When we confess and repent of our sins, we experience His forgiveness and move on. How do we grow in the Christian life? How does a child grow? Child stumbles and falls. You pick them up and they walk. They stumble and fall. You pick them up and they walk.
And you know what? As a Christian, there'll be times when you'll stumble and fall, but this much I know: he more of the truth you understand, the more of the truth you apply to your heart, the more of the truth you are working out in your life, the less stumbling you're gonna have. The more joy and peace and contentment you're gonna have in your life. It's a matter of a choice. This is the stage in which I and you, we must cooperate with God to make this stage successful. Salvation, something He did. The last stage, something He does. This middle stage is something that He and I, that is, I have to cooperate with Him in the process or we get ourselves in deep trouble.
Now, let's come to the third stage. First stage of our sanctification is our salvation moment when He sets us apart at that moment as a saint. Second stage is our trip from sainthood, as we would call it, all the way to death. Because in the third stage, here's what happens. The third stage is our ultimate perfection. Our ultimate perfection. Now, what are we talking about when we talk about our ultimate perfection? You remember what he said in this fifth chapter? He said, "Now, may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely, completely, ultimately. And may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ".
Now, we said this stage is like the first stage. This is what God does. When you and I die, something happens. And that is our soul, our spirit perfected forever at death in the presence of God. These bodies of ours are perfected at the Great Resurrection. Look back, if you will, in First Philippians chapter three. Philippians chapter three, and I want you to notice what Paul said in this twenty-first verse. He said beginning in verse twenty, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state," that is, these bodies of ours, "into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He Himself, or He has even to subject all things to Himself".
That is, when He comes, these bodies are going to experience their perfection, resurrected bodies. When you and I die, listen, these sinful bodies of ours, I mean these sinful, sinful soul of ours no longer sinful, absolutely perfected. He's been in the process of transforming us and conforming us to His image all this time. And so now what's happened? He's in the process of conforming us. That is, we're going to be faultless and spotless even as Jesus was while He walked on the earth, we shall be. Because the Bible says there's not gonna be anything evil or sinful's gonna enter the kingdom of God, enter heaven, nothing whatsoever.
So, when you and I die and we walk in the presence of God, absolutely spotless, absolutely perfect. These imperfect bodies of ours at the resurrection, they're gonna be resurrected, transformed like the body of Christ, absolutely perfected, so that the final stage of sanctification comes at death, and at the resurrection in which we... what happens? At which time we, listen, we are absolutely conformed to the perfect likeness of the Son of God in character, conversation, conduct, our total being. That's the work of the Holy Spirit, and that is the work of sanctification. God knows exactly what He's doing.
Listen, this is God's grand plan. He knows exactly what He's doing. Step number one, that plan, salvation. Step number two, progression. Step number three, finality, absolutely conformed to the likeness of His Son, ultimately sanctified. So, what do we have? We have a position of sanctification at salvation, a progressiveness of sanctification throughout our life. And then, ultimately, the possession of absolute sanctification, perfect when it comes to this issue of death.
Now, let me ask you a couple of questions. If that's God's grand plan, are you in the plan? Have you ever, listen, have you ever signed up for the kingdom of God? Have you ever signed up for heaven? Have you ever said to the Lord Jesus Christ, "I do accept You as my personal Savior, and I do believe that Your death at Calvary paid my sin-debt in full. And I am accepting You and Your forgiveness of my sin. I'm accepting You as my Savior, my Lord, and my Master". You ever done that? If not, you're not even in the plan. No wonder your life's in such a mess. And no wonder you can't live a good life.
You say, "Well, I live a pretty good life". That's not the issue. That is good life from your perspective. How can you call it good when you deny the Son of God His rightful place as Savior, Master and Lord in your life? How can you call it a good life when you refuse to obey the living God? How can you call it a good life when you rebel against the principles of scripture? It's not a good life. It looks good to you, but it doesn't look good to God. And the issue is, have you ever got in the plan? You get in the plan by trusting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.
Now, but what about all of us who are in the plan? Where are we in our walk? The Christian life is having trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and, at that moment, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and daily allowing the Holy Spirit to exercise the life of Jesus, His attitude, His conversation, His kind of conduct out of us, through us, among other people. Will we be sinless? No. Perfect in this life? No. Have to confess and repent? Yes. But you know what? Listen to this, if a type of sin is a person's lifestyle, they just keep on doing it over and over and over again, seemingly, with little or no guilt and no decision to make anything, a change about it. But if a person is a believer, they may commit the same sin, but there is guilt, confession, repentance, and moving on until God is able to help them understand how to be totally victorious over that sin. He's patient, loving, kind, forgiving, but He is a disciplining Father, and He will do whatever is necessary to make our life what He wants it to be.
So, some of us are in stage one, just got saved. Many of us in stage two, we're on our way. And some have already gone to stage three and nobody knows how close any one of us is to stage three. So, I simply want to ask you this. Are you ready to meet the Lord Jesus Christ just like you are? Well, if not, maybe you should look at what kind of progress you're making in your walk with God. Because you see, here's what it's all about. It's walking in the light, walking in the truth, walking in love, walking in joy all the way till we take the final step. An easy walk? No. Difficulty, hardship, pain, trouble, defeat? Yes! Forgiveness, a thousand times yes. But is it possible to have joy and peace and contentment and an intimate relationship with our Lord through all those times? Yes! Is it worth the walk? Yes!
If you and I could only get a glimpse of what the third stage is like, we would never complain or moan or groan or act in such a way that would bring our Heavenly Father grief and displeasure. And so, I simply want to ask you to consider this. Sanctification, being made holy, set apart for God and His purposes, is God's grand plan for you. There are three stages. If you've never stepped into that first stage of salvation, I want to plead with you to do it. If you're in that second stage, I want to ask you to check out your life and ask yourself this question: Where's the proof that I'm making progress?
In stage number three, you want to be ready for it because it's coming one of these days at some point in some time, nobody knows when, it's coming. We want to be ready. We want to so live that when it comes, we won't have to regret stepping out of this life into the next one. Because that's what He's been doing all these years, shaping us up, getting us ready, listen, getting us ready to meet Him face to face. Amen?
Father, in Jesus's name, we pray the Holy Spirit would sink this message so deep that not a single person could escape it, that it'd be so clear that every single person would understand it, so penetrating that we all would be willing to evaluate our lives afresh and anew, look at our conduct, listen to our conversation, examine our character, and see what kind of progress we are making. And we pray this in Jesus's name, amen.