Sanctification, Part 5: Victorious Christian Living
Copyright © 1995, P. G. Mathew
Let me conclude this subject of "Victorious Christian Living,” otherwise known as sanctification. I want to deal with the means of grace. You know, what we need is grace. Isn’t that true? We need grace to live a holy life. We need grace every day, because every day we face conflict. The sin in us tells us to sin, and the Holy Spirit in us tells us exactly the opposite. We need grace in order to obey, not the flesh, but the desires of the Holy Spirit that register in our consciousness. So God in his mercy has given us means by which we may receive grace that will enable us to say "No” to ungodliness and to say "Yes” to the Holy Spirit of God.
The first means of grace is prayer. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the fullness of deity, became perfect man and he practiced prayer on a daily basis. He prayed and prayed and prayed. He always prayed, and he received the grace of God. How much more must we, who are sinners saved by grace, pray! I praise God for you who come here at 6:30 in the morning and pray. Don’t ever think that is a useless effort. It is a wonderful effort, because through prayer we receive what? Grace. Jesus Christ received grace, and every man and woman of God who ever lived in this world received grace. Martin Luther, in that great conflict during the time of Reformation, prayed for many hours that he may receive grace to engage in the real and serious battle for truth. And he was given grace. He was upheld by God. In Luke 22:40, Jesus Christ himself spoke about this as he taught his disciples. "On reaching the place he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’” Notice, "that you will not fall into temptation.” We all are going to be tempted every day, but the issue here is what? Pray that you will not fall into temptation, that you will not yield to temptation, that you will not be defeated. You know what happened to Peter. He didn’t pray. He was sleeping. And Peter and all the disciples went away from Jesus Christ. Peter particularly, as a representative for the rest of us, denied Jesus Christ three times. The reason was that he did not pray.
How many battles could you and I have won if only we had engaged in serious prayer! Why? Because prayer is a means of grace. When we commit sin, we do this because we are graceless. That doesn’t mean you are without charm. That is not the meaning of that word. Grace means divine ability given to us who are nothing. It is divine ability.
So why did we commit that sin? Why did we yield to that temptation? We were what? graceless. We were paupers in grace. We were without grace. We were not rich in grace, because we refused to pray. We slept.
Prayer means communing with the living, infinite, personal, almighty God. It is conversation, like a child conversing with the father. There is an exchange of ideas and abilities. And we give him all our weaknesses, and he gives us all his strength. We give him all our ignorance and he gives us all his enlightenment. That’s what prayer is. When you really pray in faith, you come out built up in your inner man, able to endure hardship and face trials and temptations. That’s the excitement of Christianity. It is an arena of battle.
So I urge that we engage in serious and focused prayer, that we wrestle with God, as Jesus Christ himself wrestled in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. He prayed and prayed and prayed, and God sustained him, we are told. In that strength he was able to go to the cross and die for us, thus obeying God the Father totally and completely.
The second means of grace is Bible study. We ought to know what the will of God is all about. And where do you find the will of God articulated? Not in the daily paper. Not in any other book. There is only one book that records the will of God infallibly and that is the Holy Scriptures - the Old and New Testaments. Everyone who wages battle and wins victory in this conflict is a person who prays and also reads the Holy Scriptures, that he or she may know the will of God.
In the high priestly prayer of Jesus Christ in John 17, verse 17, we read, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” God’s word is truth. It is that which cleanses our spirits and our minds. We must spend much time in real study and meditation of the word of God, until we understand what the will of God is. Then we can speak clearly as to what God is saying and as to what the world is saying. We need the ability to discriminate. Unless we know truth, we cannot discriminate between all kinds of ideas that are popping into our minds.
Psalm 1 addresses this issue. It says, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Because of his mediation upon the word of God day and night, this man is able not to walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. Because he delights in the will of God, he is able to live a clean, righteous, holy life. He knows the way of the world is the way of death, wickedness, and destruction. The way of the Scripture is the way of life, righteousness, peace and joy.
Look at Deuteronomy 11:18: "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds.” You know, I don’t even watch the news anymore. Sometimes it makes me so frustrated, I have to turn it off. What you get is the way of the world. But here we are told, "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you get up.”
So the mind and heart of a child of God is completely focused, not upon the nonsense that is dished out every day on television or in the papers and magazines. A child of God focuses himself upon the very word of God, which is spirit and life, and which has the power to sanctify us and gives us the power to do his will.
The third means of grace is fellowship. We need to fellowship with the people of God. The greatest relationship we can ever have in this world is fellowship with the people of God, which is a greater fellowship than fellowship with our own unbelieving relatives, who mock Jesus Christ and treat him with contempt. We need to understand the importance of daily and weekly fellowship with the people of God, because they have received grace from God for you, and you have received grace from God for them. When we come together we are receiving and giving the grace of God, and our life is built up. Read the book of Acts and notice how the believers, in love and unity, lived in fellowship, joy, caring and sharing. And their spirits were being built up, and they were enabled to engage in the battles of the world.
Fellowship is important. It does not mean that you just come to church and then go home without speaking to anybody. If you do that, you don’t know what is going on. Relate to the people of God. Receive from people of God. Counsel them in the way of God. Rebuke them, if needs be, when they are wandering and say, "Brother, that is not the way to go.” It’s important to have such connectedness with God’s people who receive grace from God.
The fourth means of grace is Christian service. We need to engage in Christian service. We need to proclaim the gospel. Whether or not that person to whom you shared the gospel is saved, you receive grace when you engage yourself in disseminating the gospel of Christ. God saves all those whom he has chosen from the foundation of the world, and he saves them through your preaching and witnessing of the gospel. You and I are agents, rendering service to bring to pass God’s eternal purpose. You must minister. You must witness.
Included in Christian service is generosity. We ought to be able to be generous toward people. You are supposed to share, and that is part of the means of grace also. It’s a grace to part with a dime or a dollar to assist somebody else in trouble or difficulty. In this church I am very happy to say that we do that without being told. That tells something about the vitality of this church. But we need to engage in evangelism and generosity toward others, because that activity is also a means of grace for you.
The fifth means of grace is recognizing the second coming. We need to focus our attention upon the second coming of Jesus Christ. There are people who would say, "Let us build three tents and let’s dwell here,” and "It is so nice and wonderful here.” Oh, no. Here was not what the early Christians thought about. They focused their attention on the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 1 John 3:2 says, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” And now he says in verse 3, "Everyone who has this hope” that is, the hope of the second coming of Jesus Christ, when Christ will destroy all rebellion and Christ will save his people - "Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure.”
In other words, it is a means of grace to focus our attention in the eternal kingdom of God, not on the things of this world. We must understand this world is going to be burned up. We should not be like Mrs. Lot, who put all her hope in things temporal. I don’t think she was a born again person. She trusted God for temporal things. How many people today in the Christian church believe in God for temporal blessings? They have no clue as to what eternal reality is all about, what the kingdom of God is all about.
But if you are truly born of God, then you are focusing your attention on Jesus Christ, who is seated on the right hand of God the Father, and who is going to come again. So our prayer is, "Maranatha, Lord come!” That’s what we understand as we study the New Testament, because this faith in the second coming of Christ has a way of purifying ourselves and keeping ourselves from being entangled with all the affairs of this world. We are able to discriminate and say, "Not that, not this, not that, not this! I want to engage my energy and attention upon that which promotes the interest of the kingdom of God alone.”
The sixth means of grace is to practice Christian confession. What is the Christian confession? That Jesus Christ is Lord. That is the Christian confession. There are people today who would say, "Well, don’t worry about this idea that Jesus Christ is Lord, that he is sovereign and wants to rule your mind, your thought and your will. That is what ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ means. It means he is sovereign, that he has absolute and total control of your mind and your thoughts, and that he must rule you. Well, you know, that seems pretty hard, so why don’t you just receive him as Savior?” This lowers biblical standards to keep them in harmony with the experience that we put up with. We would prefer to say, "Jesus Christ is Savior but he allows me to live in my sin. Isn’t that wonderful?” No! If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. We are not saved because we said "Jesus is Savior.” We are saved because we acknowledge Jesus as Lord of our lives, and with all our being we believe that he was raised from the dead.
In other words, practicing this confession means we must daily allow ourselves to be ruled by Jesus Christ in our thoughts, in our speech, in our actions, in our expenditures of money, in our work and in every way. We say, "I am a Christian, and I am to please Jesus Christ who is my Lord.”
Now, I want to tell you this: No temptation is irresistible. Every temptation a Christian faces can be resisted successfully by you as you are enabled by the Holy Spirit of God. God never leads you into a situation which is overwhelming for you. Read 1 Corinthians 10:13. In every temptation God gives you an exit, a way out, in order that you may abide and endure that temptation successfully.
Now, that doesn’t mean men won’t kill you. Job was tempted. God put limits, and the limit was, "Don’t kill him.” But let me assure you, in our case, God may say, "Go ahead - kill him too.” Paul was killed. Peter was killed. Stephen was killed. But if we are killed, God will give us a way out, which will be the sufficiency of his grace to die. By the sufficiency of his grace you are able to suffer even martyrdom while confessing Jesus Christ is Lord. Understand that!
Finally, we need to be be filled with the Spirit. You know, Acts 5:32 tells us the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey him and St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18, Be being filled with the Spirit. What does that mean? It means to be under the complete control of the Holy Spirit of God. Isn’t it wonderful that when we go to God and say, "O God, fill me with the Holy Spirit,” he does fill us with the Holy Spirit. And then you can resist every temptation successfully.
Every temptation is an opportunity for you to demonstrate to the world that you belong to Jesus Christ. It is an opportunity for you to show to God your love for him by obeying him rather than Satan. May God help us to live victorious Christian lives in this world, as we look for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
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Copyright © 1995, P. G. Mathew
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