Sanctification Involves a Crown
For our sermon this morning, we are going to break down our big idea—sanctification involves both a crown and a cross—into two smaller ideas to form our two points of the sermon. The first point of the sermon is this—“sanctification involves a crown.”
Now to explain what I mean here I need to explain what I mean by a crown. A crown is a symbol of glory, victory, power, and authority. Crowns are good. The Bible says when we go to heaven, we will have crowns. When I say crown think of victory, glory, power, encouragement, etc. Associate the term “crown” with positive experiences. During sanctification we will experience joyful, glorious, grand experiences of God’s grace towards us. We will experience victory over sin. Sanctification involves a crown.
The Power of His Resurrection
I get the point that sanctification involves a crown from Paul’s comment: “the power of his resurrection.” What does this statement mean? Let’s break it down. First let’s deal with the word “power.” The word here for power is the Greek word δύναμις. Other than “power,” this word can also mean, “might,” “strength,” “force,” “capability.”
There are many tremendous “powers” in this world. Just yesterday our family celebrated the freedoms we have in this country in light of the July 4th with some fireworks. My kids love fireworks. I love fireworks. It’s a lot of fun to blow stuff up, doing it safely of course. There’s great power in these fireworks.
But these powerful fireworks have no real relevance in my life. It’s fun to shoot them off, but so what? What does this power do for me? Not much. What we need is more than just a power. Power is great and all, but how is it relevant? What we need is not just power, but we need a power that is relevant to our lives. Do you understand what I am saying, dear friends? Power is unimportant unless it is relevant, unless it actually makes a difference in your life. Do you hear me? We need more than just power in this life. We need a power that can work miracles for us.
What we have in the Bible, in sanctification, and the Christian life because of Christ is not just a power (powers are everywhere. So what?) but a power than can make a difference in my life. The power that we have here in this Bible is a power that works wonders.
How do I know that? I know that from this text based upon Paul’s qualifier of what follows his statement “the power.” It’s not just that Christians in sanctification are acquainted with a general power. This is the power that was active in Jesus’ resurrection. When Paul says, “the power of his resurrection,” Paul is saying this, “the power that was at work in, was active in Jesus’ resurrection.”
Central to our Christian confession is the belief that Jesus rose from the dead bodily. You cannot be a Christian and deny that. During this event of Jesus resurrection, God the Father and God the Spirit exercised tremendous power in raising Christ from the dead. God flexed his muscles to show that his power is great than the power of death and sin. Think about the power of death and sin. Think about how tremendous of a power that is. God’s power is great. God’s power overcame sin and death. And now, as Christians who are being sanctified, we have that resurrection power living in us. The same power that raised Christ from the dead now resides in the Christian.
Power in Sanctification
The way the power works itself out in our sanctification is manifold. God grants us many tremendous blessings through sanctification. He works many great miracles in the life of a believer as he sanctifies them. Anything as small being thankful for the time spent with your family on the 4th of July to something as great as leading a family member to Christ. It’s all a sign of the resurrection power in our lives.
Specifically, though, I want to hone in on one way this resurrection power manifests itself in sanctification. And that is through victory over sin. One of the main ways that Christ resurrection power manifests itself in the Christian in sanctification is in giving the Christian victory over sin. When we come to Christ, God, by his Spirit, changes us. This change is deep and abiding. God moves us away from the sins that we once loved and delighted in and gives us different desires so that we despise our former sins and instead love righteousness. This change is necessary for the Christian faith. If you claim to be a Christian, but there is no real impact of Christ in your life, you are not in a good place. This resurrection power moves us away from sin and death and to righteousness and holiness.
Chris Tomlin has a song that illustrates this resurrection power. Do you know who Chris Tomlin is? He is a very popular contemporary Christian artist. Several songs he produces I really like. He has this song called, “Resurrection Power.” It’s a powerful song. And it very much compliments what Paul says here. Listen to what the lyrics are:
You called me from the grave by name/ You called me out of all my shame/ I see the old has passed away/ The new has come/ Now I have resurrection power/ Living on the inside Jesus/ You have given us freedom/ No longer bound by sin and darkness/ Living in the light of Your goodness/ You have given us freedom/
Amen! In sanctification, in the process of being saved, Christians are freed from their sin. They wear a crown of deliverance from sin. They experience victory over sin. We are no longer bound by sin and darkness. Praise the LORD!
The way I want to apply this truth is this way. Some people who claim the name of Christ, who come to church and who have been baptized, are complacent in their walks with Christ. Some people who claim the name of Christ seem to make no progress in their faith. They say that they’re a Christian but as far as showing forth fruit in their lives, there’s not much. If you were to
look at their lives over the period of the last ten years and you were to chart their spiritual growth, the chart might be a plateau. They just kind of live and make no difference in the world for Christ.
So, let’s say, you are a good friend of this complacent Christian. You are a good friend. And you’ve known them for a long time and you decide to share with them something in your life where the Lord has been growing you. That’s a good idea. You should do that. So you share. You share about how Christ has been convicting you of something and taking great efforts to change your behavior. And then you kind turn the conversation away from yourself and you begin mentioning some things in your friend’s life that you think need to change. There are some areas where they need to grow. Once again, this is a beautiful thing. You should do this.
Now once you finish mentioning these things, this is how your friend responds, “Well, you know, no one is perfect.” “You know, no one is perfect.”
Now, dear friends, there is some truth to the statement, “No one is perfect.” That is true. It is true that so long as we are in these physical bodies we will sin. However, However. (I was talking to a Christian brother recently about a specific issue. After sharing my thoughts, the brother affirmed what I said and then said, “however.” That’s what I’m doing here. I’m saying that sin is real is real but that’s not the whole story). But. That statement can be used as an excuse. And in this context, it is being used as an excuse. It can be used as an excuse towards no being transformed by the gospel.
Further, as it pertains to our passage this morning, it can and is used to deny what Paul is teaching here. How does “Well no one is perfect” alight with “knowing the power of Christ’s resurrection?” Dear friend, there’s no agreement here. There’s no consistency between these two ideas.
There is no room for complacency in the Christian faith. There is no room for this type of excuse—“Well, no one is perfect”—in the Christian life. Why not? Because Paul teaches here that in the process of sanctification that Christians have the very power working in them that raised Christ from the dead!?!?! We must repent of our excuse making in the Christian life. We must repent with our sanctification about where we are at in our Christian life. We must repent of our decade’s long indifference to godliness and holiness. We must repent of our satisfaction as to where we are at in our Christian lives. This power confronts us and demands something from you, dear friend. Repent of complacency. Sanctification involves a crown. And this crown entails your growth in Christ. It entails victory in the Christian life. Do not settle for continual and perpetual defeat. If you do, you’re not experiencing sanctification.
Sanctification Involves a Cross
Our first point was that sanctification involves a crown. As Christians we have, by the Spirit of God, working in us the same power that raised Christ from the dead. This is the common possession of all Christians. Therefore, we must not despair. We must have hope. That was our first point. The second point is this. Write this down. Sanctification involves a cross. First point. Sanctification involves a crown. Second point. Sanctification involves a cross.
A crown is a symbol of victory and power. A cross is a symbol of the opposite. It is a symbol of struggle and defeat. It is a burden to bear a cross. It is difficult. The cross is a symbol of loss and pain. This symbol of a cross represents the struggle that is a part of sanctification. Sanctification is a struggle. It is hard. It involves suffering and difficulty.
May Share His Sufferings
Once again looking at the text of Scripture. Paul says in v. 10.
and may share his sufferings
Here the topic of difficult and suffering is introduced. The process of sanctification is one in which you will experience suffering. Now how does this passage describe these sufferings? Notice the “his” here. Paul describes sanctification not like this, “and may share sufferings.” It says, “and may share his sufferings.” That inclusion of the “his” is very important. It indicates to us that Paul is talking about an intimate relationship between the believe and Christ’s sufferings. Christians do not just experience sufferings. We experience Christ’s sufferings.
To experience Christ’s sufferings means we go through similar difficult events that Jesus went through. Jesus was lonely. Are you lonely, dear Christian? Jesus was discouraged. Are you discouraged, dear Christian? Jesus suffered loss. Are you suffering loss, dear Christian? Jesus suffered for righteousness sake. Are you suffering for righteousness sake, dear Christian? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you share with Christ in the sufferings that he underwent.
This English word “share” is a translation of the Greek word κοινωνία, which means, “sharing, participating.” Think of a family who eats a meal together at the end of the day. They are “sharing” a meal together. But they’re not just sharing they meal together; they’re also participating in it together. This suggest an intimate fellowship within the family. They are engaged in the same activity in a deep and intimate way.
Bring the verb “sharing” together with “his sufferings,” what does this mean? It means that sanctification involves the experience of Christians undergoing the same difficulties and challenges that Jesus experienced, all the while in experiencing these difficulties we commune with Christ in them. Let me say that again. Sanctification involves undergoing the same difficulties and challenges that Jesus experienced, all the while in experiencing these difficulties we commune with Christ in them.
To be a Christian, to be sanctified, is to be conformed to the image of Christ. Right? Right. That’s what it means. The goal of the Christian life is to become more like Jesus. Now in Jesus’ life, did he have trouble and suffering? Yes. He did. Lots of it. So in sanctification what we experience is we experience loss and suffering like Jesus did (this passage says we experience it to the degree that we “share in his sufferings”) for the purpose of becoming more like Jesus. Sanctification, the process of becoming like Christ, involves fellowshipping with Christ in the sufferings that he himself experienced. Sanctification involves knowing Christ through what he himself suffered.
Becoming Like Him in His Death
And this point is again reiterated at the end of v. 10. Look there. Paul says,
becoming like him in his death
This statement can refer to several different truths. Good interpreters disagree as to what it means. I want to interpret this statement broadly. To be sanctified means to be like Christ. We’ve covered that. What did Christ experience? Suffering and death. When we are sanctified we become like Christ and experience the suffering and death that he experienced. The Spirit, through the power that he raised Christ with the dead from, unites us with Christ in a mystical relationship. His sufferings become our sufferings, his death become our death, his resurrection (as we will see next week) becomes our resurrection. Death and suffering are painful, dear friend. But, nevertheless, it is what Christ experienced and therefore in the process of sanctification, it is what we too will experience.
What Paul is referring to here is a mystical union between Christ and believer in which Christians fellowship with Christ through the sufferings that Christ underwent. This is mystical. That is, it’s spiritual. You can’t see it. It’s something that happens in your heart. It’s something that happens to you.
To illustrate this point to you, let me share a story with you. Let me share a story with you from my life when this fellowship with Christ through his sufferings happened with me.
Let’s go back to my freshman year of college. This was a terribly difficult year for me. It was very difficult. It was the first year I was away from home. I went away to college in a town about 3 hours away from where I grew up. I went to this school for athletics, to play soccer. Before I left for college, I became a Christian. I was resolved to live for Christ that year. I didn’t know how difficult it would be. It was very difficult. Due to my Christian confession, I was a outlier on the soccer team. Didn’t make any friends. I was very, very lonely.
One night specifically I remember. It was a Friday or Saturday night. It was late. Maybe like 12 or so. Midnight. I was asleep in bed. My roommate, who was an upper classman, and I had bunk beds. I slept on the bottom. He slept on the top. At about 12, he came into our with inebriated with a female. Him and this woman went on the top bunk, right above me, and proceeded to do what drunk people do in a situation like this. As this was going on, one of the woman’s articles of clothing fell onto my bed. And this article of clothing was an intimate article of clothing. I was not as bold then as I was now so I said nothing as all of this transpired above me. I was humiliated. Here I was trying to live for the Lord, trying to stand against the tide of unrighteousness, and then this happens. A humiliating event.
That’s one story among many. I was very sad, lonely, and discouraged. I experienced many of the same feelings that Jesus experienced.
That’s not the whole story, though. My freshman year of college was when I experienced some of the deepest intimacy with Christ that I have ever experienced. Through these experiences of loneliness and loss, Christ became more precious to me. I would go on long walks around campus and just pray and bear my heart to the Lord. During this times of fellowship with Christ, I felt in my heart a strong sense of his love, comfort, and acceptance of me. I felt that my sins were forgiven and that my life was hidden with Christ in God. Was life difficult for me then?
Yes. But through the difficult I fellowshipped with Christ. I came to know Christ better through the difficulties that he himself went through in his own life. I shared with Christ in his sufferings, and I was conformed
Finishing up here, this is how I want to apply this message. We often think of suffering and death as problems to run from like the plague. Our natural tendency is to see trials and difficulty as curses from God. That’s not what this portion of Phil 3:10 is teaching, though. Sanctification involves victories, yes, but it also involves defeat. Sanctification involves a cross to bear.
What does this mean for your suffering? It means this. God uses suffering to conform you to the image of Christ. By the Spirit, Christians share with Christ in the sufferings that he himself experienced. In this suffering, we come to know Christ more. We come to know his love, his mercy, and his grace. It is in his sufferings where we experience intimacy with him.
Are you lonely, dear friend? Are you sick? Are you poor? Are you discouraged? Are you tired? Exhausted? Ready to give up and throw in the towel? Jesus was, too, dear friend. He understands. He gets it. He wants you to lay these burdens at his feet and to feast upon him. He wants you to fellowship with him in these difficulties. Commune with him, dear friend. Feast upon his goodness as you experience the difficulties that he went through.