Posted by: Moses | December 27, 2006

Gracious Sanctification

I just heard an interesting analogy used by John Piper in a sermon. I’ve edited and expanded it. So often the gospel of grace is perverted into a sort of fire insurance from Hell. Say a prayer here, make sure I don’t burn for all eternity and then go and burn in hell for the rest of life. Most people—especially within evangelical and fundamental circles—present salvation as either a ticket into heaven or a ticket out of Hell. ‘Cause that’s what a “saved,” “born-again believer” is right? What a tragedy! What an awful thing to even allude to in preaching.

Justification and Sanctification are inextricably linked. If justification truly happens; sanctification must follow. Are you saved by faith and justified by the law? Paul’s epistle to the Galatians scorns such a thought. The same God of unmerited grace who saves is the same God who sanctifies through the Spirit so that no man can boast in his own flesh. Paul refers to the whole deal, from new birth to actualized old death, as Salvation.

To illustrate, imagine that a huge symphony is coming to Carnegie Hall; everyone who is anyone will be there. Now looking at salvation in a heretical, legalistic sort of way—“I said my prayer, God, so you get me out of Hell”—it might be comparable to getting a ticket to the concert several months in advance. You have your ticket in your pocket and you’re confident that eventually you’ll go. The only problem is that you don’t even like classical music. You just keep listening to Weird Al and never think twice about the artistic excellence you have been blessed to go attend. The concert of the century, you have a ticket and yet you don’t even like classical music? How bogus is that? I mean what’s the point of the ticket if you don’t even enjoy the music?

Now imagine instead that a huge symphony is coming to Carnegie Hall; everyone who is anyone will be there. Looking at salvation in a grace glorifying, God-honoring sort of way—“God I have done nothing; you have done everything. I bask in your now and future grace”—it might be comparable to finding out that the concert-master has named you as his principal violinist. For the next months you immerse yourself in the original composer’s works, you follow the conductor’s every move, following his lead in an effort to become a superior interpreter of the music. You empty yourself of any pretensions you might have had about the music before; you study the theory; you practice the technique; you revel in the glorious creativity of the composer. When the night comes for the huge performance you sit confidently beneath the conductor, following His lead. You begin to play, resonating glory throughout the hall, living the music, attuned to every nuance of beauty that is being shown to you anew that very night. It seems like the moment of all that teaching and being prepared has finally arrived; it seems like the moment could last for all eternity. Movement one… Movement two… During a break between the second and third movements you notice a young man in the second row who looks very uncomfortable, even pained. Then something very odd happens. You see him take out an MP3 player, stuff the plugs in his ears, close his eyes, and slowly bob his head to the music. Between the fifth and sixth movements you’re pretty sure you can hear “Amish Paradise” as he walks out of the hall.

Sanctification is the process of conformity into Christ’s likeness. Christ was the perfect man, to be conformed to who He was is to be made whole, to be made into what we were designed to be, to be made into image bearers of God. But what if we do not like that image, if we love everything but that image and strive to do everything but become like that image? If we despise the savior and everything He was, then why do we think that Heaven will be enjoyable at all? If here on earth we do not enjoy God, than in heaven we will be perfectly miserable; God permeates all of Heaven, where we will joyfully cast all our crowns at the feet of our Savior, utterly dependent, utterly conformed, utterly joyful because we are finally united with the desires of our hearts. But if what we hope for in the next life is not something that we love, delight in, or even mildly enjoy… then maybe the physical agonies of Hell would be preferable to the Spiritual bitterness of Heaven. Our ticket to Heaven would only admit us to Hell.



  1. What a blessing. Thanks for sharing, Daniel.

  2. can i post this on your facebook for you?

  3. You may if you like.

  4. Good point. Salvation is not simply “fire insurance” and to think of God’s gift in such a way is a tragedy.

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