Could your Will be in Conflict with God’s Will?
God’s will for all believers is unmistakable: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3). This is priority number two in God’s eternal agenda (his first priority being his own glory).
Again and again in the New Testament this great priority is impressed on God’s people. It is the omega point of our election: ‘he chose us in him (Christ)… that we should be holy and blameless before him’ (Ephesians 1:4). It is the agreed and resolved purpose of God the Trinity. Peter writes, ‘To those who are elect exiles…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for the sprinkling of his blood’ (1 Peter 1:1-2). The Triune God covenanted in eternity not only to save a world of lost sinners but to sanctify them to himself. If, then, this is God’s will for all his children, is it your will? Each Person of the Trinity has cast his vote in favour of your sanctification. Is your sanctification the great priority of your life, under the supreme priority of glorifying God (and the two are not unrelated!).
To sanctify means to set apart. In biblical terms it means to set apart from common and ordinary use to sacred use. In the Old Testament, utensils and clothes, as well as people, were sanctified, set apart for God’s exclusive use. This idea is at the heart of the Bible’s call for God’s people to be holy: ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:16, quoting Leviticus 11:44). In making us holy, or like himself, God first separates us from our sin, washing us clean and delivering us from its ruling power, through the saving work of our Lord Jesus. But this is not the end of our sanctification. It is, of course, the radical moment of our sanctification, the foundation and source of our sanctification. But throughout the whole of our lives the Lord pursues our moral conformity to himself. His predestined purpose is to conform us to the image of his Son ‘that he might be the firstborn among many brothers’ (Romans 8:29).
This progressive sanctification does not happen all at once, nor are we passive bystanders. In Romans 8:13, Paul calls us to ‘put to death, by the Spirit, the deeds of the body’. Peter summons us to ‘make every effort to supplement (our) faith with virtue…and knowledge…and self control…and steadfastness…and godliness…and brotherly affection…and love.’ He also calls us to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 1:5-8; 3:18). ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification.’
So, let me ask you again: Is your will in conformity with God’s will? What priority do you give to your sanctification? Perhaps a check-list of questions will help you answer:
– What priority do you give to the Lord’s worship on his Sabbath day?
– What is the measure of your commitment to the fellowship of the saints?
– Are prayer and Scripture reading woven into the fabric of your daily life?
– Does your sin trouble you, first because it grieves and dishonours the Lord?
– Is the aim of your life ‘to please him?’ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:9)
– Are you in public before men what you are in private before God?
– Do you go about ‘doing good?’ (cf. Acts 10:38)
This is no infallible check-list, but it may help you (and me) to be honest about the priority we give to our sanctification. It is an awful thing to be at cross purposes with God. His will is good, acceptable and perfect. If your sanctification is his will, and it is, then you can be sure that your happiness is intimately bound up with your holiness.
‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification.’
Ian Hamilton is Pastor of the Cambridge Presbyterian Church.
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