In the last few days, we have walked through the story of sin and then the redemption God gave us over sin through His son, Jesus. It is a beautiful story. It is full of grace and love. But the story is not quite finished. Jesus called us to live differently than the world does. He called us to be holy like He is holy. There is a raging debate in the evangelical community regarding the doctrine of eternal security. People often nickname this doctrine “once saved, always saved.” My Dad likes to phrase it a tad differently. He says, “Once changed, always changed.” The eternal security debate is not one that I will cover here today. I might get to it later, but I have a story to finish telling you. I will, however, use the concept of change that occurs after you throw yourself at the foot of the cross and lean on God’s grace.
Paul said in Galatians 5, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (verse 1, NIV). Jesus came to earth in the middle of a long legacy of sin and obliterated it on the cross. Sin still exists and we all fall into it, but we are called to freedom from sin. We are directed throughout Scripture to be different, to run from sin. How can we possibly do this?
As Jesus was preparing for His purchase of our sin on the cross, He warned His disciples that He would be leaving. This story is told in John 14. In it, the disciples were freaking out about Jesus leaving, wondering and asking how they can keep The Way. Judas (not the traitor) asked Jesus why He taught them so much, but not the rest of the world. He replied that we do not have to see Him to follow Him. Verse 23 says, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Well how are we supposed to this with our own limited strength? The answer is that you cannot.
A couple verses later, Jesus tells us how to keep following Him.
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you,” John 14:26.
The Greek word used to describe the Holy Spirit in this passage is ‘parakaleo’. This word, in English, means paraclete. Our definition of this word means an intercessor. The literal meaning of the word in the Greek, however, means “to come alongside of” or “to speak to.” What Jesus was saying here was that He was leaving the Holy Spirit here for us to come alongside of us and to help us walk in the things Jesus taught. The Holy Spirit would be our helper, our comforter, our intercessor, and He would not leave our side.
This paraclete that we have been given will produce change. The Word says that when we enter salvation, the Holy Spirit comes on us. If we are really walking with the Holy Spirit, there is no way that we will not begin to change. The way we see things will change, the way we act will change. God uses the Holy Spirit to begin to sanctify us so that we can be holy like Jesus.
We have all heard the testimonies of men and women who fell at the foot of the cross and were immediately and suddenly were delivered from addictions and sins. I do not doubt these experiences and this power. But for the vast majority of us, the process of sanctification and repentance is a slow one. Many of us will struggle with certain sins for years. If we interact with the Holy Spirit, our paraclete, we will progress towards righteousness. And this righteousness will set us free. But for most, it is a slow process. It is a grueling process. It is a beautiful process.
When you spend a ton of time with someone, you kind of start to like the same things. For example, before I met my fiancee, I did not cook much. We started to cook things together, just for fun, shortly after we started dating. Now, almost two years later, I love to cook. I even watch the Food Network. My interests changed as I spent more time with Carmen. The same principle is true for us. The more time we spend with the Holy Spirit and with Jesus, the more our lives will start to look a little bit more like theirs. We will love the same things, hate the same sins, and strive for a closer relationship with the God of the universe.
The technical phrase for the doctrine I so sloppily tried to teach just now is “Progressive Sanctification.” All it means is that once we are changed by the power of the cross and God’s grace, we will begin to (usually slowly) look more and more like Him. We will struggle to live a righteous life, for freedom and for the glory of God.
This may hurt, but it is true: Salvation always produces change, because when we are saved, we receive the Holy Spirit. If no change has taken place, there has probably been no salvation. I’m just saying.