What does true belief look like? Many people claim to believe in Christ but, is just the head knowledge enough? What happens to a person when he or she believes in Christ, not just the head knowledge, but total dedication based on that head knowledge? Is a statement made as a child enough? Is there any evidence, tangible evidence that proves that a person has really believed?
Throughout my years in the ministry, I have met and known a lot of very religious, “Church going” people. I have discovered that the problem with many of them is that they do not study the Word of God and because of that, usually end up not obeying the Word of God because they do not have a Biblical worldview and do not know how to make decisions based on God’s Word. If you were to ask them if they were saved, they quickly respond with a yes. I usually end up asking a person like this when they got saved and you can probably guess the answer, “I was Baptized when I was 8 years old”. I then ask how their lives have been changed and the response is usually, “I was 8. How could I change very much?”. What does true salvation look like according to the Word of God? Let’s find out for ourselves.
In this article I would like to take a look at two theological terms, give a working definition of them, and then using the Scriptures, show how they (these two theological terms) impact our daily lives. The two words are justification and sanctification.
The root of the word justification is “just”. Just literally means “straight”. Sin means missing the mark of perfection. It means being bent. Therefore, justification means being brought back straight. One of the first things that happens to us when we believe in Christ and accept Him as our Lord and Savior is the fact that we are justified. Before this happens, we are crooked, missing God’s mark when it comes to daily living. We need to be straightened out and God does that for us through this process, justification. The Greek word “Dikaiosis” which is translated justification literally means, in a legal sense, declared free of guilt. A person who is crooked is guilty. In order to straighten back out, the guilt must be taken care of and Jesus Christ did that when He died on the cross. God is a just “straight” God and as any good judge, He must punish the guilty. He does so in Christ so that we can be released and straightened out.
Once justification takes place upon faith and repentance, a person is born again and the process of sanctification begins. Sanctification has its roots in several words in the Bible. Sanctification, in the Greek, is the word “Hagiasmos”. The root of this word is “Hagios” and it is also the root of the words holy and saint. In fact, they are all one and the same. Sanctification is the process of making a person holy, a saint. Contrary to popular belief, the Vatican does not choose who is holy and who is not. In other words, the Vatican does not make a person a saint. God is the One who does it and this is for every person who is a born again believer, no matter what your denominational background is. This is a process that begins with the new birth and continues on until either Jesus Christ returns to take His Church or we go to meet Him via death. This is not a short term process. This is ongoing. Even the great Apostle Paul declared, “I am not there yet, although I want to be. I will continue on striving for it until the end” (see Philippians 3). If the writer of 75% of the New Testament, a man who spoke to Jesus and was taught directly by Jesus, a man who could heal people just by them touching his handkerchief claimed not to be there yet, then I do not think there is a man alive today who could claim, “I am there already”.
Why do we need to be made right with God?
Romans 3:23 and Romans 5:12 teach us that no one is right with God because we are born sinners and are enemies with God. The proof that someone has sinned and is a sinner is the fact that all of us will die. Death is a consequence of sin. There has yet to be an immortal person on this earth. All who have ever been born, except for the current living generations, have also died. The exception to this is Jesus Christ. He did not lose His life to death. He had to give up His life or He would never have died because He never sinned. All of us need to be made right with God because we are all crooked, messed up. Many try to dull the pain of this state by turning to drugs, sexual immorality, gossip, overeating, cutting, tattoos, drowning ourselves in work, meaningless relationships etc. The list just goes on and on. The only thing that will fill that God sized hole in your life is God Himself. What you need is a relationship with Him and you can have one through faith in Christ because you will be justified and made right with God for the first time in your life.
Things that do not make us right with God.
I have included this category because there are many who think that it is too easy to do it God’s way and they want to come up with their own way of pleasing Him. This is the culmination of pride. You believe that you know better than God. You want to receive all the glory because you picked yourself up by your own bootstraps. This is why we have so many religions all over the world. The word religion comes from Latin and means “reconnection”. Religion means trying to reconnect with God. Religion is not bad because God is the author of religion. He invented the way for us to reconnect with Him. The problem with the religions of the world is that they are man’s religions, invented by him to try and reconnect with God his own way. That is not acceptable to God and you can never reconnect with God via your own way. There is only one true religion, the one God invented through the person of Jesus Christ. If you try to get to God any other way, you fall short or attain your own version of who you think God is. Religion gets a bad rapport in many circles today. I hear things like, “you don’t like religion? Neither does God!” This is partly true. God does not like false religions made by man but He does like religion. He likes the one He invented to allow man to reconnect with Him. If you are trying things to make yourself right with God then you will never succeed. You have to come to God on His terms through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
What makes us able to be sanctified?
Romans 8 tells us that the reason we are able to be sanctified (holy, set apart, different) is because of the Holy Spirit that indwells us upon justification. The Spirit is our teacher, who has come to teach us the Word of God and remind us of what we have already learned, during our moments of need. We are able to live a life that is pleasing to God and continue on this process of sanctification when we are students of the Word of God with the help of the Holy Spirit. When we obey the Spirit’s leading, we stop obeying the desires of our sin nature. We obeyed our sin nature until we were justified. That is why we were crooked and enemies of God. Now that we have been straightened out, we receive a Helper to keep us on the right path. I have to choose obedience moment by moment which is a manifestation of my relationship with Christ.
What is a sanctified person’s relationship to Christ?
I will make several Biblical references that all point to the same truth. A person who is being sanctified is in a personal relationship with Jesus and that relationship is manifested through obedience. Jesus is the Master and I am the servant/friend. He commands and I obey.
5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, (Romans 1)
32 “And we are witnesses of these things ; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5)
9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, (Hebrews 5)
14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, (I Peter 1)
22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, (I Peter 1)
And the final reference:
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7)
There is a direct connection between hearing the Words of Christ (the Bible) and obedience. The two cannot be separated.
This brings me to the last point. There is a phrase that Paul uses over and over in his epistles, “do not be deceived or do not let anyone deceive you”. I believe that this is a relevant message that every person who goes to church needs to hear because Paul wrote to church members, not the nonbeliever when he said, “do not be deceived or do not let anyone deceive you”. I am afraid that there are many nominal Christians who are church goers and have not heard or paid attention to Paul’s words.
Is it possible to be deceived even if I go to church?
In order to answer this question, I would once again like to look at some passages about obedience/disobedience to see if a person is being sanctified or not. Sanctification is not optional. It is a process that every person who has been born again/justified/saved enters in to. What does the Bible teach about those who are disobedient to the truth of the Word of God? (even if they are in the church every time the doors open).
7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe ; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,” 8 and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE “; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. (I Peter 2)
Do you believe that there are people who attend churches who do not believe and obey the Word of God? What does that tells us about churches that openly accept homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle and not a sin? What about good church goers who cohabitate? (this is called fornication in the Bible and is condemned).
26 “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. (Matthew 7)
What is your relationship to the Word of God? Is it the air that you breathe, the food that you survive on, the water that quenches your thirst? If not then you are not going to be able to obey God even if you want to because you have not been born again (justified) and cannot walk in the process of sanctification.
My question to you is, do you believe in Christ or is Christianity just another part of your life like your job and family, hobbies and friends etc.? If that is the case then you have just joined a civics club are do not have a genuine relationship with God. That is the bad news. The good news is that you can be changed through the power of God. It all begins with accepting Christ as your Lord. He becomes the boss. He takes the wheel of your life and directs you where He wants you to go. It is a decision that each one of us has to make.