When each of us first came to Christ, we were new to the faith and depended on others to help us in our journey to become more Christlike. This is called “positional” sanctification because we started on the path of learning about Jesus and, hopefully, during our life on earth, becoming more like Him. As we grow in our faith, and study the ways of Jesus, we enter a phase called “progressive” sanctification and the longer we are in relationship with Christ, the more like Him we are expected to become. The final stage is called “perfect” sanctification and happens when we leave this earth and are actually in the presence of God Himself.
The process of sanctification is very important to the growth of our faith and almost every one of us has had someone in our lives who was instrumental in our walk toward a deeper relationship with Jesus. But let’s be clear – none of us have ever “saved” anyone else – that is up to God. God does the work of salvation – the most we can do is to present the Gospel message and wait for God to soften the hearts of those who can, and maybe will, eventually receive Christ as Lord and Savior. That means that we can sow seeds but we may not ever see the harvest – their acceptance of the offer of eternal life with God.
Normally, when someone accepts Christ, they really jump into study and trying to learn everything they can about the messages of the Bible. The younger someone is when they do this, the more likely they are to become strong in their faith as they age. Statistically, older folks will typically be on fire for the Lord initially as well, but will then cool off in their interest of the Gospel message. The key to a strong faith is to have mentors and others who walk beside a new believer and help him/her as they progress in the faith.
Most of us who are strong in our faith can name people who have been instrumental in helping us stay the course and not lose momentum as we become more Christlike. In my case, it was my cousin, David; and a neighbor who encouraged me by modeling a Christlike life. Undoubtedly, the biggest influence on my life has been Janet, who has always been a person of faith and has never wavered in her commitment to a Christ centered life. Having been married to her for almost 49 years has shown me every possible situation she has experienced and no matter the circumstance, her complete trust in God.
Many of us realize that we have been recipients of someone else’s commitment to our faith walk. But sometimes, we forget or neglect to consciously pour ourselves into others as we grow in our own faith. It seems to me that we each have a responsibility to help others along as we have been helped. That can be through teaching Bible studies, mentoring someone, taking an active interest in someone’s faith walk or just listening to others as they share parts of their journey with us.
Our verse tonight highlights the growth of the church in Thessaloniki, a church that Paul had started. In Paul’s second letter to the church, he lets them know that he recognizes that they are growing in their faith. Paul commends the church, and tells us, in 2 Thessalonians 1:3, “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.”
That love that Paul references is the natural outcome of becoming more like Jesus. My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants each of us to love one another more – a key benchmark in our progressive sanctification. My prayer is that we will all remember to show our faith to others and to make sure that we can “up our game” and announce the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…