I Am Delivered!
by Jack Wald | December 8th, 2019

Various

In this season of Advent, as we remember waiting for the birth of Jesus and wait ourselves for his promised return, we are focusing on how God is working in us to prepare us, the church, the bride of Christ, to be a pure bride on our wedding day when we will be taken into our eternal home.

Last week I talked about the first stage of salvation, we have been saved. This is what theologians call justification. When we first accept the offer of life from Jesus and submit to him, we are given his righteousness so that when God see us, he sees us as pure and spotless.

There is an image on the internet that shows a pet cat looking into a mirror and what the cat sees is a lion. This is a great image for us as followers of Christ. We are pet cats but God sees us as great lions.

This morning we will focus on the second stage of salvation, we are being saved. This is what theologians call sanctification. Over time, because of the work of the Holy Spirit in us and because of our cooperation with the Holy Spirit, we become the lion we see in the mirror.

A great image of this second stage of salvation, we are being saved, is found in Don Quixote, a novel written by Miguel de Cervantes during the Spanish Golden Age in the early 1600s. In this novel, Don Quixote is a member of Spanish nobility who does not own any property. He decides to bring the culture of chivalry back and sets out as a knight in shining armor on his quest. An old farm horse becomes his steed and he picks a simple farmer, Sancho Panza, and makes him his squire. And then because all knights need a lady, he finds his true love, Dulcinea.

Don Quixote describes her as a princess of great beauty and grace. But Sancho Panza, his squire, knows Dulcinea well. Her real name is Aldonza Lorenzo, and Sancho describes her as a rough, course woman.

In the many stage and film productions of the book, Dulcinea is a prostitute and has no self-worth and when Don Quixote treats her as if she is a graceful and beautiful princess, she thinks he is mocking her. But over time she begins to believe that how Don Quixote views her is who she is and eventually she takes the name of Dulcinea for herself. She becomes who Don Quixote sees her to be.

This is a picture of the first two stages of salvation in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. Justification, we have been saved, and sanctification, we are being saved.

Don Quixote picked Dulcinea up and saved her and then she began to be transformed by seeing herself through his eyes. She was saved and then she continued to be saved.

This is not a perfect picture but helps us to see what God has done and is doing for us. When we surrender to Jesus and accept his gift of salvation, we receive his perfect righteousness. God no longer sees our sin, he sees the perfection of Jesus. We are still sinners but God sees us as pure and holy. We have been saved. This is what I talked about last week.

But then God begins to work in us to transform us into being who he sees us to be through Jesus. When we are saved he sees us as his holy and perfect creation. Then over time, as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit who indwells us, we actually become more and more like the person God sees us to be. We are saved and then we continue to be saved. This is what I want to talk about this morning.

I understand that it is confusing to use theological words like justification and sanctification and it can be confusing what the difference is between them. When you hear justification, think of how you format a document. In the menu of your word processing program, one of the items is justification. This gives you the choice of shifting a line or paragraph or page to the left, right or center. To justify in word processing is to bring the document into order, as it should be.

When we are justified by Christ, our lives are brought into order and God sees us as we ought to be.

When you hear sanctification, think about the room in a church where you worship. That room is often called a sanctuary. This is a place that has been sanctified, set aside as holy. In the Old Testament, cities were set aside as sanctuaries. These were cities to which you could flee and be safe if you accidentally killed someone and did not want those seeking revenge for the death to kill you. To sanctify is to set aside and make holy.

When we first surrender to Jesus and become his followers, we are justified. We are made right in the eyes of God. And then begins the process in which we gradually are transformed to be the holy and righteous person God sees us to be through Jesus. We are being sanctified.

Let me read something John Piper wrote that will help you understand what sanctification is:
Suppose you’ve always concealed private sources of income when filling out your tax returns. Then you come to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and begin to tell the truth on your tax returns—that’s sanctification. Suppose you’re always on your husband’s case, and then the Word of God pricks your conscience and you begin to preach less and look for ways to show respect—that’s sanctification. Suppose you’re sleeping with your girlfriend, and you meet Jesus Christ and get the courage to move out—that’s sanctification…

Here is an example of this from my own life. I used to play the board game, Monopoly, with my younger sister and I always won. I was the banker and as the game was played, I kept slipping myself some extra money. The first time I played Monopoly with my sister after I became a follower of Jesus, I was still the banker, but I no longer slipped myself extra money – and I lost. That is an interesting lesson, much deeper than it appears at first glance.

When we are justified, when we are saved, the work is complete in that moment of surrender. But our sanctification, the process of being made holy, is a life-long process that will never end.

Let me share with you four “C”s of sanctification: a critical difference, a cooperative relationship, a chest of tools, and finally a challenge.

The critical difference between justification and sanctification is that in justification, Jesus did all the work for me when he saved me. My efforts were not at all necessary or helpful in the process. Salvation is a gift. I did not earn the money to buy the gift. I did not choose the gift. I did not wrap the gift. I did not deliver the gift. All I did was accept the gift that was given to me. When I was lost with no hope, I was rescued.

But now that I have been rescued, I have to work if I want to become more like Jesus. Sanctification, being made holy, will not happen without my efforts. But any of us who have been followers of Jesus for any length of time know how difficult that work is. Paul wrote about this in his letter to the church in Rome. (Romans 7:14–25 – The Message)
14–16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
17–20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
21–23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

Can you identify with this? I certainly can. I have been so frustrated with myself at times that I have wondered why God continues to put up with me. I know what I should do but find myself stuck struggling with the same old sins: pride, selfishness, coveting, being judgmental, holding on to worldly comforts.

Isn’t it fascinating that we are not unique in this? Paul, two thousand years ago, had the same struggle we have. So much has changed in two thousand years but not our human nature. We continue to have the same struggle.

Fortunately, this effort to become more like Jesus is not up to us alone. Paul asks in this letter who can help us and the next verse tells us:
25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Jesus knows the difficulties we encounter when we try to be obedient and live lives pleasing to God and can empathize with us. This leads to the cooperative relationship of sanctification.

Because God loves us and wants us to grow to become more like Jesus, he did not leave us alone when he rescued us and brought us into his kingdom. Jesus told his disciples that after he ascended, the Father would send the Holy Spirit in his name.

When we are saved, when we accept the gift of salvation, when we surrender to Jesus and begin to live for him, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us and work in us. We become his temple, his sanctuary. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:16
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us when we surrender our lives to Jesus and begins to work to clean up the mess of our lives, to begin the process of transforming us to be more like Jesus.

This is such good news and whenever we despair and feel like giving up because we don’t do what we want to do and what we want to do we do not do (Romans 6) we need to remember who is working with us and in us.

We have the Holy Spirit who helps to transform us and now it is up to us to cooperate with his work. There are two ways we do this: we have to exercise spiritual discipline and we have to abide in Christ.

In Romans 6 Paul writes that when we become followers of Jesus, we die to sin and become alive in Jesus. This is a section of scripture I read whenever we have a beach baptism. Paul writes: (Romans 6:1–14 The Message)
3–5 That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.
6–11 Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call!
From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.

We have been delivered from the power of sin over us. This does not mean we will no longer continue to sin, but we have the power to be victorious over sin. This is where we battle. This is where we have to exercise self-control. This is where we need to exercise self-discipline, to teach our body and desires that they are no longer our master.

We become slaves to our desires. We become slaves to sin, our addiction to sin is like an addiction to cocaine. Our sin draws us in and then demands more and more of us until we are no longer in control. Cocaine becomes the master of the one who uses it. The same is true of anger, lust, gluttony. Let me tell a story that illustrates the power of sin over us.

Thomas Costain’s history, The Three Edwards, described the life of Raynald III, a fourteenth-century duke in what is now Belgium. Grossly overweight, Raynald was commonly called by his Latin nickname, Crassus, which means “fat.”

After a violent quarrel, Raynald’s younger brother Edward led a successful revolt against him. Edward captured Raynald but did not kill him. Instead, he built a room around Raynald in the Nieuwkerk castle and promised him he could regain his title and property as soon as he was able to leave the room.

This would not have been difficult for most people since the room had several windows and a door of near-normal size, and none was locked or barred. The problem was Raynald’s size. To regain his freedom, he needed to lose weight. But Edward knew his older brother, and each day he sent a variety of delicious foods. Instead of dieting his way out of prison, Raynald grew fatter.

When Duke Edward was accused of cruelty, he had a ready answer: “My brother is not a prisoner. He may leave when he so wills.”

Raynald stayed in that room for ten years and wasn’t released until after Edward died in battle. By then his health was so ruined he died within a year … a prisoner of his own appetite.

All that Raynald had to do to be set free from his imprisonment was to not eat the foods that were brought to him each day. Did someone put a knife to his throat and tell him he had to eat or he would be killed? The only knife that went near his throat was his own and that was used to bring more food to his mouth.

Every day Raynald had a choice. All he had to do was choose a short-term loss for a long-term gain and he was unable to resist. He was a slave to the sin of gluttony.

The Holy Spirit will not remove the temptation of food from us. The Holy Spirit will not put a knife to our throat so we do not eat more than we should. The Holy Spirit will not force us to make good choices. We have to choose.

Too many people claim to be victims and say they are not responsible for their behavior. But we are responsible for our actions. We have choices. We can always choose. We always have choices.

We can choose to break the habits that keep us enslaved to sin and when we do, the Holy Spirit will be there to help us. We do not have to do it alone, but we do have to choose to be disciplined.

I don’t have time in this overview of sanctification to go into detail about how to discipline our fleshly desires, but let me quickly say three things. First, when you are aware of an area where you are tempted, get away from the temptation. Don’t put yourself in the position of being tempted. If you are unable to physically move away from the temptation, decide what you will do before you get to the temptation. If you have trouble with what you watch on your computer, decide what you will do before you turn on the computer.

Second, the spiritual discipline of fasting is very effective in resisting temptation. When I am aware that my desire for food is controlling me, I fast for a day or two or three days. When I come out of the fast, I discover that I am once again in control and I can eat a little and push the rest away. I can resist the treats that once had such power over me. With time they reassert their desire to control me and I may have to fast again. But this helps me.

You may need to fast from your computer and put it aside for a day or two. If you have to use it for work, use only the word processor, spreadsheets and email. Reassert control over your life.

Third, you need accountability. God did not create you to live in isolation from your brothers and sisters in Christ. You need them and they need you. Get two or three people you trust and share your struggle with them. Ask them to hold you accountable for your behavior. You will find strength from them that will help you resist.

The second way we cooperate with the Holy Spirit as we are transformed is that we have to abide in Christ. This image is taken from John 15 where Jesus taught: (John 15:3-4)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

What fruit comes from abiding in Christ? Paul wrote in Galatians about the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22–23)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

If we are going to resist our sinful nature, we will need these fruit.

How does an apple tree produce apples? Does it think about fruit until it appears? No. The roots of an apple tree seek water in the ground and the network of roots send nourishment to the branches. The leaves take the rays of the sun and transform then into energy. The fruit is a consequence of the work of the roots and leaves. The tree does not decide to produce fruit. It seeks water and sun and then the fruit happens.

In the same way, when you remain attached to Jesus, depending on him, praying, reading Scripture, reflecting on what you have read, you will begin to be transformed. As you abide in Christ, the fruit of the Spirit will be come more evident in your life.

It is possible for you to set out to work on your own to try to be more patient, kind, gentle and loving. You can make a list of your actions each day and reward yourself when you exhibit these qualities. But this is an external exercise. What is needed is that you are changed from within. Deep in the roots of your being you need to feel loved so you can love. You need to be aware of all God’s kindness and gentleness with you so you can begin to be more kind and gentle to others. When you are loved and cared for and are experiencing the life of God deep in your soul, mind and heart, then you will discover the fruit of the Spirit growing in your life.

The great news of sanctification is that you are not alone in working to be more like Jesus, the Holy Spirit is working with you as you cooperate by abiding in Christ and exercising spiritual disciplines.

When you get discouraged about yourself, remember that the power of God is working from within yourself. The Holy Spirit is steadily working to transform you and you will be transformed if you cooperate. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, what you are today is not who you will be tomorrow.

What is found in God’s chest of tools to help us be made more holy?

One very powerful tool is relationships. Tim Keller has a great series of sermons on marriage which have been put together in a book, The Meaning of Marriage. One of the points he makes is that marriage is a tool for sanctification. This is obvious to anyone who is or has been married. People start off thinking marriage will be one perpetual honeymoon and then discover that the relationship has some rough edges.

The honeymooners think it is cute that one of them puts clothes away in the hamper and the other drapes them on a chair. One of them wants to be on time for events and the other is indifferent if they show up a little bit late. One of them gobbles up food while the other eats slowly and savors the meal. The cuteness does not last and evolves into a slight irritation which over time becomes a disagreeable habit and the source of great arguments. (The good news is that over time these disagreeable habits can once again become endearing, but that takes years of marriage.)

A marriage relationship challenges my selfishness, my will, my rights. If the marriage is going to work, I have to begin to think more about the needs of my spouse and less about my own needs. This does not mean I have to become a doormat, but I need to take into consideration what my spouse needs and accommodate to those needs. In the process God teaches me about myself and shows me the ways in which I need to be changed.

The more intimate the relationship, the greater tool it is for God to use, but all relationships are used by God for the purpose of making us more holy. For this reason, we need to persevere in relationships and not get out as soon as they become difficult. Roommates need to learn to get along. People in a small group that shares needs and prays for each other need to persevere when someone in the group is irritating.

This does not mean that we need to put up with abuse. Anyone in an abusive relationship, emotional or physical, needs to get out of the relationship. Whether you are married or not, if you are being abused, get out of the relationship. God does not call us to persevere in those situations.

But when my desire to get out of the relationship is because I have to deal with my own selfish preferences and my will, then it is an excellent place to be. God will work through that relationship to make me more like Jesus.

A second powerful tool God uses for our sanctification is trials and tribulations. James began his letter by writing: (James 1:2–5)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

2010 with the deportation of the parents at the Village of Hope was a miserable year for me – but one of the best for my spiritual growth. I had to deal with a crushing blow to my faith in God, with grief at the loss of friends and the forced abandonment of the children at VOH, and with the anxiety that I too would be deported.

At the end of that year I sent a prayer update to friends and several responded saying that it seemed I had grown in faith. I wrote back telling them that if I had grown in faith, it was not intentional. All I did was cling to Jesus and in the process my faith grew.

I wish it were otherwise. I wish I could grow in sanctification while sipping ice tea on my hammock, but it does not work that way. It is in trials and tribulations that God can work more effectively to transform us.

It should be clear that sanctification is not an easy process. We have to struggle against our sinful nature and choose well. We have to persevere in relationships that make us uncomfortable. We have to endure trials and tribulations. But this is how God shapes us. We are being prepared now for a heavenly existence and that is when we will receive the grand reward for our perseverance and endurance.

Let me end with a challenge. In your pursuit of being transformed you need to be wholehearted.

I heard a story of a man who came year after year to a summer camp where people would stand up and give a testimony about their faith in Jesus. And year after year one old man would stand up and say something like, “34 years ago Jesus came into my life. He saved me and set me on the path to righteousness. I belong to him. Hallelujah?” The next year his testimony would be the same except that 34 would become 35. Year after year he gave the same testimony, just adding a year.

If you cannot share with someone how God has changed you in the last year, you need to question if you are really attached to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.

I had a poster in my room when I first became a follower of Jesus. I kept it on my wall, wherever I moved, for many years. It was a picture of some wildflowers and a quote of the 19th century English priest, John Henry Newman. “Growth is the only evidence of life.”

It is impossible to have the Holy Spirit living in you, to be abiding in Christ, and not be experiencing transformation in your life. A follower of Jesus is either growing or his or her faith is dead.

We are all sinners. We all have character flaws. We are all capable of irritating others and acting inappropriately. We all need to grow. But if your desire is to be more like Jesus and you are pursuing a more intimate relationship with God, then you will be transformed over time. You will become more holy. You will change.

This is so encouraging. In our struggle to do what we know is right, because the Holy Spirit is at work in us, what we are today is not what we will be tomorrow. We are being transformed. We will never be perfect, but we will be more like Jesus.

As followers of Jesus we stand on a firm foundation and we need to declare on a regular basis what it is we believe. Richard Lovelace was my church history professor at seminary and I worked with him for six months as an aide before he became ill and I left to work in business with my father.

In his books, Spiritual Dynamics and Renewal as a Way of Life, he talks about four foundations upon which we stand as followers of Jesus. In your bulletin this morning there is an insert with these four foundations. I have carried a copy of this in my Bible for the past thirty-five years and have often declared these truths to set my feet firmly on the rock of faith in Jesus.

I have talked about the first two last Sunday and this morning. The third focuses on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the fourth on our authority over fallen spirits.

Stand with me and let’s read these together. These truths are not to be whispered. They are to be shouted out to the world. When I was a young pastor I went out one day and ran a 10 kilometer loop that had a steep one kilometer hill half way through the run. I sprinted up that hill, shouting out these four foundations on which we stand.

Let’s read these with conviction.

  1. I AM ACCEPTED! (justification)
    Because of my relationship with Christ, when God sees me, he sees me not as a sinner but as his perfect and holy child. The blood of Christ covers my sin.
    I can trust God. He will not reject me. His love is not dependent on my behavior. Nothing I do today will make him love me more or less tomorrow. I am his special child, loved and accepted with no strings attached.
  2. I AM DELIVERED! (sanctification)
    Sin has no power over me. The power of sin to rule my life has been destroyed in the cross of Christ. The Holy Spirit is working with me to transform me into the holy child God sees me to be.
    By faith I claim the power of God at work in me, transforming me from sinner to saint.
    I have hope! What I am today is not what I will be tomorrow.
  3. I AM NOT ALONE! (indwelling of the Holy Spirit)
    The Holy Spirit lives within me. Each day I need to open myself to the Spirit, sharing all my thoughts and plans. I need to spend time in silence, allowing the Spirit to speak to me, to guide my thoughts. I need to continue to be open to the Holy Spirit throughout the day in a relationship of communication and communion, checking my thoughts with my knowledge of the Word.
  4. I HAVE AUTHORITY! (spiritual warfare)
    The forces of darkness are so chained by the victory of Christ that they are unable to do anything which does ultimate damage to his glory and kingdom.
    The devil is on a short chain. He can growl and threaten, but in Christ, I cannot be harmed.
    Satan is my accuser but I do not have to listen to his accusations.
    Stand firm in Christ and rebuke Satan’s power over you each day.
    When you are fearful and anxious, fast to focus your attention on God. Remind yourself of what it is you believe. Remember how God has worked in your life.

I am accepted by God as righteous!
I am delivered from the power of sin!
I am not alone for I have the Holy Spirit as my counselor!
I have authority over fallen spirits!

Amen!