Some believe they are "justified" for salvation because of their belief or "acceptance" of Jesus' death. They are taught to believe that God has provided Jesus as atonement for every sin they would ever commit, making them righteous at the cost of Jesus' life. Furthermore, their only duty is to "believe and accept" this wonderful mercy bestowed on them. They are to accept the fact that they are sinners, and God has fixed everything. They have no power to ensure their salvation because ". . . all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). This doctrine may provide these believers a warm, comfortable, and secure environment. Yet, inevitably, a wise mind knowledgeable in God's word will have questions. For instance, is salvation really complete with one's mental and "heartfelt" acceptance of this doctrine? Why would our "righteousnesses" be filthy rags to God? Doesn't this doctrine make it easy for many to have salvation? If this doctrine is true, then why is the gate narrow and the path difficult that leads to eternal life? Why will there be only "a few who are saved" (Mt. 7:14)? Also, does not the Bible tell us that we must be sanctified by the Spirit for salvation (2 Th. 2:13)? God's word, in the context as He meant it, will answer these questions and clear up any misconceptions. The following is enlightenment on justification and sanctification.
The second aspect of justification, man's justification, is the basis or grounds which affects the way we live our lives. Our faith establishes this aspect of justification (Ro. 5:2). Faith is having belief, trust, and confidence in something. Our faith is our beliefs in the gospel of Christ, particularly the teachings of Jesus, His death and resurrection, and the eternal reward for those who live by the gospel. We "accept" the gospel through faith because we were not witnesses during the time of Jesus. Jesus foretold this when He said - "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (Jn. 20:29). We accept the opportunity to receive forgiveness of sins and the resurrection to life. Still, the gospel teaches us we must do more than just "accept." We must change our hearts, put on a new nature, and endure until the end. When we believe in something, we obey and act upon our beliefs. If we claim we believe Christ's gospel, we will thoroughly set our minds on His gospel and change our hearts to live as it requires - "for with the heart one believes unto righteousness" (Ro. 10:10). We will conform our lives to the will of God, trusting His word to be completed as He has spoken. In short, our belief in the gospel is the root of our faith. Our faith gives birth to a new way of life - living according to the word of God. Therefore, our faith justifies us and initiates the process of sanctification.
God's will is for our sanctification (1 Th. 4:3) and perfection (Mt. 5:48). From His word we know God is light and in Him there is no darkness (1 Jn. 1:5). This means there is no evil or evil intent in God, only goodness, righteousness, and truth. This is how God wants us to be. We are to walk as "children of the light" and have no fellowship with the works of darkness (Eph. 5:8,11). God requires that we change and become holy - "Pursue peace with all and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (He. 12:14). Furthermore, in upholding the will of God, we must not become complacent, embarrassed, or give in under pressure before men. This is a lifelong commitment. If we reject the instruction and will of God, we reject Him - "For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who also gives us His Holy Spirit" (1 Th. 4:7,8). Denying Jesus before men (Mt. 10:33), forsaking righteousness under pressure or in tribulation (Mt. 10:22) and lukewarmness about our duty to God (Re. 3:16) prevents sanctification and has "grave" consequences. Remember, only "he who does the will of the Father shall enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 7:21).
Two sources exist that will help us become sanctified. The first is God's word. The word of God is the thought and expression of God and makes up the very essence of God (Jn. 1:1). The Bible is the recorded word of God. To find out what is acceptable to the Lord (Eph. 5:10) and to be wise and understand His will (Eph. 5:17), we must read and study the Bible. Obtaining knowledge through God's word will give us direction by which to live. The word of God cuts through darkness, exposing and separating it, bringing truth that convicts and gives us direction. "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of the soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb. 4:12). Applying the information and instruction found in the Bible to our lives will bring us spiritual maturity and righteousness. The Bible is not our only source of help to fulfill that "perfect and acceptable will of God" (Ro. 12:2). Our second source is the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that a Helper would come, the Holy Spirit, who would bring "all things into remembrance" (Jn. 14:26). Furthermore, God said He would teach us Himself and put His law (or word) in our hearts and minds (He. 8:10,11). Therefore, the Holy Spirit is really God - guiding, teaching and convicting us. Through prayer, we are to call on Him for help. His Spirit will prod our conscience (Ro. 9:1) and convict our hearts. He will show us the good, the righteous, and the truth so we can make proper choices in every aspect of our lives. As we grow in knowledge of God's word and mature through life's trials and tribulations, we will recognize when God speaks to us.
God's word and His Spirit are one in our sanctification. God's Spirit will always lead us in agreement to His word. We can understand this relationship from certain verses in the Bible. In John 17:17, Jesus prays that God would sanctify us by His truth. He said God's word is truth. Therefore, God's word sanctifies us. In 1 Peter 1:2 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13 we learn that God's Spirit also sanctifies us. "Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit," and "God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth." In Ephesians 6:17, we learn that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. God's word is the weapon which the Spirit uses to subdue the darkness that enters us. Therefore, God's Spirit sanctifies us through His word. By God's Spirit and word prodding our hearts and minds, we have a light for direction. We will remember His word we have received and, if willing to obey His will, we will walk the narrow path of righteousness which leads to eternal life.
The path of righteousness is narrow because there is only one way to travel it - God's way. God's way is obeying His will, living according to His standards, and seeking His guidance in every aspect of our lives. The paths of the world are many, composed of standards and traditions set and justified according to man's wisdom. In these, God's standards and will are totally disregarded or manipulated to fit man's desires. At times, the righteous path is difficult because of spiritual war - our own and that from the world around us. The lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 Jn. 2:16) along with the rationalization, the ridicule, and the oppression from those around us war against our souls. Remember, Satan walks around like a roaring lion seeking whom He may devour (1 Pe. 5:8). Nevertheless, temptation and tribulation must be over-come through prayer, God's word, and His Spirit. Those who endure to the end (Mt.10:22), remain steadfast in the faith (1 Pe.5:9), and forsake the ways of the world will abide forever (1 Jn. 2:17). We may fail at times, but the blood of Jesus will cover the sin of the one who seeks forgiveness with a humble, sincere heart and Godly sorrow (sorrow toward God).
God's justification and our faith does not complete our salvation. God
has justified us for acceptance into His kingdom and our faith justifies
us to live by His word. Thereafter, it takes an enduring desire within
our heart to seek and live by the word of God. It will be a life long battle
against sin, temptation, and tribulation. These, we must overcome and seek
forgiveness when we fail. In the end, God (who knows all things) will judge
our hearts. He will judge our desire for sanctification - our desire to
change our ways from uncleanness and darkness to those which glorify Him.
Only by obeying the will of God and applying His word to our lives can
we become righteous (which is sanctification). Through our sanctification,
we will find that the Lord's yoke is easy and His burden light (Mt.
11:30). Doing things His way, with a gentle and lowly heart, will prevent
confrontations, dissent, and vengeance in us toward others. We will also
discover the narrow gate and travel the path of righteousness which leads
to eternal life. Best of all, we will know the peace which surpasses all
understanding that guards our hearts and minds (Ph. 4:7).