When I was a kid, I always enjoyed going to the playground and playing on the seesaw. If you’re not familiar with this childhood joy, a seesaw is essentially a flat board with a handle on each side connected to something that makes it go up and down. You get on one end while your friend gets on the other. Up and down, up and down, and so on. Now, all ten year old boys have done the same thing at some point. You wait until your friend is up in the air, you jump off, and your friend slams to the ground in pain. What happened? The seesaw got out of balance and it caused a crash.
In every sermon, there are two basic components that keep us balanced in preaching sanctification. These two are guided by an overall understanding of sanctification. Sanctification is closing the gap between your identity and your behavior. When our behavior lines up with our identity, we look more and more like Jesus. In many churches, the sermons usually lean to one end, resulting in a spiritual crash for people in pursuit of becoming more like Jesus.
We need look no further than Paul’s word to the Ephesian church. It is a beautiful picture of both components as he is pushing these Ephesian believers towards Christlikeness. In the first three chapters, Paul speaks in deep, rich theological language that powerfully exhibits the identity of the believer. In the last three chapters, he deals very specifically on matters of their behavior and what it practically looks like to follow Jesus. Paul preaching both gave a healthy perspective of what sanctification looks like.
Many times we have a tendency to only give the identity side of following Jesus. Pastors are usually people who have been to seminary, studied the Bible, and understand the absolute importance of embracing your identity in Christ. So, we preach the identity of the believer. The danger in only preaching on our identity is that it could easily produce a big head but a cold heart. We may be able to learn a lot in a sermon on Sunday but how is this affecting Monday?
The danger in only preaching on behavior is that we easily slide into a moralistic gospel. This gospel believes if I can continue to improve myself, then God will continue to love me. This type of preaching doesn’t produce cold hearts, but usually tired hearts. Preaching behavior without identity is a hopeless endeavor that leaves the people of God exhausted.
What we need is a maintaining of the biblical shape of sanctification, preaching that goes with the grain of the Scriptures' teaching.
Preaching sanctification biblically means that we lift high the identity of the believer and the change that Christ has produced. Preaching sanctification also means that we lift high the call of Jesus to deny ourselves and follow Him in every aspect of our behavior. When both are preached faithfully from the Scriptures, we exude that we are serving Christ from our identity, not for our identity. We clearly proclaim that because Jesus has changed the very core of who I am, I begin to follow Him in every area of my life. Preaching both produces the people of God a with clear path towards Christlikeness. May our goal be to produce a congregation full of hot hearts ready to change the world for God who completely rest in the work of Christ.