The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
This is the time of the year when we look back and look ahead. We look back over the year that is coming to a close and remember all those blessings. There are special blessings from God that have lifted our spirits and there have been challenges and even times of grieving that caused me to examine my life in Christ.
We look ahead to the New Year and make commitments to set goals and objectives in life. We’ve been told that if we don’t set goals, we’re assured of not meeting any! We set career goals and personal goals that concern our lifestyle and financial security. Yet, rarely do Christians think in terms of ultimate goals, goals that witness their position before God in Christ. Goals that testify to an eternal perspective.
I know that through all of the challenges and blessings God continues to change me and grow me up in Christ and I give Him thanks for it. Every year, my main resolution is the same. I resolve to persevere looking to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith, Hebrews 12:2. My ultimate goal, my resolution is that my entire life be used to glorify God and lift high the Name of Jesus.
This resolution is not unique to me. It is certain for everyone who is in Christ. It’s a resolution motivated by God in the heart of a believer. Using a theological term, this resolution is called sanctification. Sanctification is God’s work of free grace to make one whom He has justified more like Christ. This work of God is not optional. God will change everyone who is in Christ from the inside to make him holy. Holiness, sanctification, is God’s work to progressively make the one in Christ more and more like Him.
Those in Christ are chosen by God! “… He (God the Father) chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” Ephesians 1:4 Notice that God the Father acted by choosing men and women before He laid the foundation of the world. He chose them to be in Christ. This is all by the sovereign will and action of God. This truth revealed by God is called Unconditional Election.
So then, those who are in Christ are there solely by the grace of God, Ephesians 2:8-9. God makes Christians! It is necessary to be clear on what it means to be a Christian. A genuine Christian is a sinner chosen by God to be holy in Christ. God does this through the gospel. The gospel is God’s power to save, Romans 1:16. God raises a dead sinner to life and through God’s gift of faith the sinner places his trust in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.
Salvation doesn’t end there. The ultimate resolution that will be kept is that Christians will be made holy. The Bible makes this statement, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.” 2Timothy 2:13 Further, God has said, “… He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
God’s will for those who are in Christ is holiness, 1Thessalonians 4:3. God will complete what He starts but those who are in Christ are not robots. Christians are exhorted to work out their salvation because God is at work in them, Philippians 2:12-13. I have been made a Christian by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. He causes me to pursue holiness. I have assurance that I am in Christ by my desire to obey Him. God confirms that I belong to Him by His Spirit speaking to my spirit, Romans 8:16.
It is a tremendous joy to know that you belong to God. He accepts us as we are and loves us so much that He will not let us stay that way. He causes His children to both make the resolution to pursue holiness and keep it. The Bible teaches that we will not be perfect this side of heaven. But, when we leave this life and enter the next, we will be absolutely pure, perfect and our holiness will be brought to completion.
May you by God’s grace make the resolution to pursue holiness this year and all that follows knowing that God is working in you!