17 May 2015

Sanctified in Christ Jesus

To be sanctified is to be given completely over to God; which is really to return to the One from whom your whole being and life derive.  To be holy is to belong entirely to Him, to be a child of the Holy Father, who is holy in Himself with the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Not just a part of you.  Not a portion of your life.  Not a piece of your time, nor a percentage of your stuff.  And not that you make a place for God in your life, but if you would have a life at all, you must find your place in Him.  To be sanctified is to be given to Him altogether, body, soul, and spirit, heart and mind.  So that everything you are, all that you have, and all that you think and say and do, is offered as a sacrifice of praise to the glory of His Name and belongs completely to Him.

Even in general, that is a daunting and scary prospect.  For you do not trust God to take care of you.  You do not believe that He will provide all that you need, and you are even less confident that He will give you everything you want.  You prefer to hedge your bets and cover all the bases, to diversify your assets, and to invest significantly in yourself.

But if sanctifiction is scary in general, it is far more challenging and difficult when it comes down to the nitty-gritty details of your day-to-day life.  For to be sanctified — to be given entirely over to God — means that you will trust Him, love Him and serve Him, precisely in that particular place where He has put you, and right there you will gladly carry out and fulfill your vocations and stations in life according to His Word.  That means receiving and loving the family and neighbors that He has actually given you, with all their flaws and weaknesses, their neediness, quirks, and idiosyncracies, and being content and satisfied with whatever else the Lord your God has given you, instead of bitterly resenting what you have and jealously desiring what you don’t.

To be holy is to be perfectly at peace with God and faithful in loving your neighbor, regardless of the ups and downs of your life in the world, in the knowledge that you and your life are not your own, but God’s, and that He will faithfully accomplish His purposes for you and through you.

It is not for you to sanctify yourself by your behavior, by your good attitude or effort.  For holiness is not achieved or accomplished by your works, nor does holiness consist of your good works.

No, you are sanctified by God, the Holy One, and your holiness is your fellowship with Him, that is, with the Father in Christ Jesus.  It is in Christ that you are brought to God the Father and given to Him.  It is in Christ that you belong to Him and abide with Him.  That is your sanctification, which is your rescue and salvation from sin and death.  And that is your holiness, which is your eternal life and everlasting joy.  It is not something you get for yourself.  It is given to you by God.

Then again, those who are sanctified by the grace of God in Christ, who are the holy children of the Holy Father, they do lead holy lives and do good works according to His Word.  And so are you called to lead a holy life within your own place in the world, and in all of your relationships; which is to extend your fellowship with God in godly friendship with your neighbors.

Your fellowship with the one true God begins and continues within the fellowship of His Church, in communion with your brothers and sisters in Christ, your fellow Christians.  Disciples of the Lord Jesus, who are baptized and catechized in His Name, are gathered together in His Name in the fellowship of His Word and prayer.  They are gathered by and for the preaching of His Word, to hear and receive the Ministry of His Gospel, and to worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, that is, to receive His gifts in faith and with thanksgiving, and to call upon the Name of the Lord.

That Christian fellowship of the Church in the Apostolic preaching of Christ, in the Breaking of the Bread, and in prayer, extends from the Altar, and from the Divine Service, in a fellowship of care and concern, compassion and charity for your neighbor.  What begins with the Body of Christ, within the household and family of God, moves into the community in which the Church and each of her members live.  For in the holiness of faith, in the fellowship of God, you are perfectly free, alive, and able to exercise the holiness of love, to be for your neighbor as Christ Jesus is for you.

The foundation for all of this, the structure that upholds it, and the content that fills it with faith and love, with joy and peace, with righteousness and holiness, is Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, His Cross and Resurrection, His Body and His Blood, given and poured out for your salvation.

Although He is holy in Himself from all eternity, in communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever, Christ Jesus has also now been sanctified in human flesh and blood just like yours, so that mankind is sanctified in Him.  That is what He has accomplished for you and for all people, first of all by His Incarnation (by His becoming flesh), and by His truly human life, and then by His Cross, His Resurrection and Ascension.

He comes into the world in order to bring God to man in Himself.  And He comes to the Father in the flesh, in order to bring man to God — in His Body — in righteousness and holiness forever.

What was the Son of God’s from all eternity by nature, He has thus received from His Father in human flesh on your behalf: From His conception and holy Nativity by the Blessed Virgin Mary, from His Baptism by St. John in the Jordan River, from His Cross and Passion under Pontius Pilate, unto His Resurrection and Ascension, when He was taken up in glory.

In all of this, as the true and perfect Man, He lives by faith in His God and Father, and He receives the promised Spirit from the Father in His own Body — as at His Baptism in the Jordan River, so also in His Resurrection from the dead.  So has He been sanctified in human flesh and blood, and so are you sanctified in Him by the preaching of His Word in the world.

The holiness of His fellowship with the Father in the Holy Spirit is manifested in the holiness of His love for you and all the world in His sacrifice upon the Cross.  In offering up Himself, His Body, and His Life unto God, He has laid down His life for you, to atone for all your sins, and to redeem you from sin and death.  Therefore, in His rising, you are raised and justified; and in His Ascension, you are sanctified by His Spirit and seated with Him at the right hand of His Father.

That is where you now live with Him, because He Himself lives with you here in peace and joy.  You live with Him in holiness, because in Him you have fellowship with God, now and forever.

For He has given you His Name — He has named you with His own divine Name — in your Holy Baptism.  Therefore, you belong entirely to God, who is your own dear Father in Christ Jesus.

As the same Lord Jesus Christ kept the Apostles in His Name, and guarded them while He was with them on the Way of the Cross, so does He guard and keep you in His Name, in His Word and Truth.  Not less so, but all the more so, as He has gone by way of the Cross to the Father on your behalf, as your merciful and great High Priest.  With His Word and Spirit, by His Ministry of the Gospel, He is with you forever and always, as surely as He is with the Father in heaven; so that your life, also, is hidden with Christ in God, and you are seated with Him in the heavenly places.

On the one hand, He ever lives to pray and intercede for you — as He does in this Holy Gospel — not only with His Word of Truth, with the Testimony of His Righteousness credited to you, but with His own Life, His Body, and His Blood.  As He rises and ascends in human flesh, He Himself is your Prayer in the ears of your Father.  So are you heard and received in peace.  And He is the Incense that ascends as a sweet-smelling aroma, with which you are favored and accepted by God.

At the same time, even as Christ ascends to the Father on your behalf, He also remains with you, and He is near you, closer than a brother, in the speaking of His Word, in the Holy Ministry of those whom He sends into the world in His Name.  This Ministry of the Gospel is holy because it participates in the fellowship of God, and because it sanctifies you with that fellowship.  It is holy, therefore, because Christ is not absent from it, but He Himself is actively present in it.  He is deeply and intimately present.  As surely as He has given you His Name in Holy Baptism, so surely does He sanctify you in the Truth with His Holy Absolution.  And with His Word, He guards and keeps you with His Word-made-Flesh in the Holy Communion.

He does not take you out of the world.  Not yet.  For as the Father has sent Him into the world, to live by faith, to live in love — and as He has sent His Apostles into the world to preach and teach in His Name, to write the Holy Scriptures, to baptize and absolve, and to commune His disciples — so does He send His Church into the world, to live by faith, and to live in love.

And so does He call you to live in the world by faith in His Name and in love for your neighbor, so that your neighbor might also know and receive the fellowship of God through the fellowship of your love, and so be sanctified in the Truth of the Gospel.

Take it to heart, therefore, that your life has divine meaning and significance.  For your fellowship, even here and now, is with the Father and His Son; not by your own effort, but by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Triune God is surely with you in all of your vocations, in all of your relationships, and in all of your dealings.  Not only to accomplish His purposes in you for others, but at the same time to preserve you in and with His holiness, to guard your life — even through death, unto the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting — and to keep you safe from the evil one.

To be sure, the devil hates you and is constantly seeking to devour and destroy you.  And the world hates you, too, as it hates the Lord Jesus.  The dangers to your mortal body and life are many and great, though even these are not as perilous as the temptations to sin, the lust of the eyes and of the flesh, the love of money, and then the wicked accusations of Satan who would drive you to despair through guilt and shame and the fear of death.  But fear not him who hates you.  Fear God, who loves you; repent of your sins; and trust Christ your Savior, in whom you are not guilty but holy.

Fear, love, and trust in this one true God, and do not be afraid to live and serve wherever in the world He has called you to be, wherever you are sent.  Whether you go to death upon a cross, or you live to a ripe old age caring for your neighbor, abide in the fellowship of Christ.  Remain in the Temple of His Church, calling upon His Name.  Be gathered together with His disciples in the Upper Room, where He still washes your feet with Holy Absolution and feeds you at His Table with His Holy Communion.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not abandon Him, but find your place in Him, your true home in the fellowship of His Body and His Blood.

And as you receive from Him, so give.  You will not be left with nothing.  As you hear, speak.  For as you have the testimony of God in the testimony of men — in the Scriptures of the Apostles, and in the preaching of your pastors — so do you have this testimony in yourself.  The Word is near you, in your ears, in your heart, and on your lips.  Confess it to your neighbor, in the confidence that you thus speak the Word of God: that you speak Christ.  Confess His holy Name, which you now also bear as a child of His own God and Father.  And call upon His Name in prayer, knowing that your Father in heaven hears and answers in love.  Truly, your lips speak Christ, not only to your neighbor, but to your Father, who hears and answers His Son Jesus in your prayer.

This Jesus is your confidence, your certainty, your righteousness before God, your sanctification and sufficiency in the face of sin, death, and hell.  For you are holy in Christ Jesus, as the Lord your God is holy.  And in Him you are raised from death to life, and anointed by His Spirit in body and soul, to abide in the fellowship of the Father here in time and hereafter in eternity.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


John J. Flanagan said...

Sanctification is indeed present in the believer in Christ, and it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Few pastors give sermons referring to the special role of the Holy Spirit in witnessing to our spirit, teaching, admonishing, encouraging and convicting. In my own experience, I have felt the promptings of the Holy Spirit in bringing me to truth, and in many cases, I have willfully ignored or "grieved" the Holy Spirit of God in going my own way in matters in which I needed to follow God. The triune God is to be revered in all His omnipotence, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thank you for your comments, John. It is certainly the case that all three Persons of the Holy Trinity are essential and actively at work in sanctifying us. The Person and work of the Holy Spirit should not be denied or ignored. It is also important to "test the spirits," as St. John instructs, by comparison to the Word of the Lord and, in particular, the confession of Christ, that He is the incarnate Son of God. The Holy Spirit works by and through and in and with the Word of Christ, and He will never prompt us to live in opposition to that Word. But by the Word of the Gospel, He lays Christ upon our heart, and brings us to Christ in body and soul, in word and deed, to live and abide in Him by faith and in love. All Glory be to God on high, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forevermore.