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Doctrine of Sanctification: Progressive & Self Examination

April 3, 2022 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Romans 13

Quote: Rev. Benjamin Needler

We trouble ourselves about other men's sins, (magistrates' sins, ministers' sins,) as the Pharisee: "Lord, I thank thee, I am not as other men are, an extortioner, an adultere," &c., "or as this publican."

And in the meantime, where is the man that considers his own iniquity, his right-eye sin, or his right-hand sin?

There are great outcries amongst us,

"What have others done?"

But who smites upon his thigh, and says,

"What have I done?"

We search everywhere, save where our Rachel sits upon her idol.

- Rev. Benjamin Needler

- “Be Discovered and Mortified”
from The Morning Exercises at Cripplegate

Review/ Scripture (Romans 13)

Last week we continued discussing sanctification – specifically progressive sanctification

Progressive Sanctification was defined as that gracious and continuous operation of the Holy Spirit by which He

  • purifies the sinner from pollution of sin
  • renews his whole nature in the image of God
  • enables him to perform good works by the power of the Spirit.
  • separates the sinner unto an ethical and lawful walk unto God.

The first Characteristics of Sanctification we discussed was:

Man is not entirely passive but cooperates with God in the process of his ongoing sanctification.

The focus of progressive sanctification is that of dealing with the problem of indwelling sin.

Through the Holy Spirit, he does this through the putting off the old man and putting on the new man – with respect to behavior.

Mortification – The Negative Side of Sanctification (Col 3:1-7)

The term mortification, to mortify, is translated from the Greek word “nekro”

  • to put off
  • to put an end to the life of something
  • to stop utterly ó to kill
  • to put to death

Put on the new man – The Positive Side of Sanctification

The new man

  • is a new creation of man through regenerating work of the Spirit of God.
  • is renewed in the knowledge after the image of him that created him.

The Two Sides Together

They who are in Christ Jesus

  • are to emulate the same kind of covenant kindness and characteristics God has shown unto us

The Characteristics of Sanctification

Sanctification is a revelation of the mind of God and the way that He thinks, revealing His expectations

We are being renewed to put on that same mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5-8, 1 John 2:6, Romans 12:2)

We are to emulate

  • the love of Christ
  • the person of Christ
  • the humility of Christ
  • the meekness of Christ
  • the longsuffering of Christ's

We gain the knowledge that is necessary to help us further our understanding

  • of how we are to live in a way that is pleasing to God.
  • of how we are to walk in a way that is pleasing to God.

Why are we redeemed?

  • I remember being taught it was to avoid hell
  • There would be sermons of fire and brimstone
  • But we are not redeemed so that we avoid hell

We are redeemed (Ephesians1)

  • by God to be holy
  • by God to be his beloved without spot and without blemish.

We are called into his covenant through Christ

  • That we might be like Christ Himself.
  • That we might be His bride in faith.
  • That we might honor Him and be a glory unto Him

Therefore, to know how we are live, to know how we are to pursue our sanctification, to better understand the mind of God in revelation:

  • We are to bathe ourselves in Scripture

It is here that we gain the necessary knowledge from God on how to live a sanctified life.

  • We are to put off the old and put on the new
  • We are to put off the old way of the world and put on the new man that has been renewed in the knowledge of truth

Sanctification is a moral and recreative process

The sinner is renewed conform to the true image of God.

This is a lifelong process in the life of a true believer.

The sinner is saved by grace but never reaches total perfection in this life.

  • It is a constant up and down.
  • Some days we fail
  • Some days we improve

But over time, we come to a greater realization and a greater activity in our sanctification.

Thus, we begin to see our life conform more and more to the image of Jesus Christ.

The sinner’s sanctification is completed at death (or it is completed at least immediately thereafter)


Characteristics of sanctification we’ve discussed

  • Man must work to mortify the deeds of the flesh
  • God reveals His expectations for His children
  • It is a moral and recreative process

As part of walking in sanctification, and the putting on and taking off…we must rightly understand the role self-examination plays in this.

Genesis 4:1-6

The Lord in this passage may be personifying sin.

  • He shows it as crouchinglying, or lurking at the door, as an ever-present threat
  • If Cain opens the door to that greater danger
    • his rebellion against God will lead to further difficulty and further sinning.
    • Cain is instructed that there is danger
    • Cain is instructed that he is putting his soul in danger
    • Cain is instructed that what he ought to do rather than doing evil is to do well
    • And that doing so, he might rule over the sin that lurks at the door, rather than being ruled by it.

The Lord knows what the end of this situation is already.

  • He knows that Cain is going to be cast out
    • That Cain will be known as the father of the race of humanists of his day.
  • And yet, the Lord condescends to speak to him in kind instruction
    • as to how to master that evil that has risen up in him.
  • Does that not just amaze you at the Lord's kindness even to reprobate children?
    • To all those in the visible church
    • This is important as we think about such things.

The Lord appears kindly to him

  • To teach him the way of acceptance and repentance by asking him questions.
  • “Why art thou wroth?” and “Why is they countenance fallen?”
    • What is the Lord asking Cain to do here?
    • What is the Lord directing Cain?
    • What direction is the Lord giving here?
  • What is he asking him to do?
    • He's asking him to examine himself.

Self-examination is one of the 1st steps in avoiding sin.

  • It is one of the first steps
    • those habits that we've developed over the years that lead us into all kinds of mischief and wickedness.
    • in moving away from that behavior
    • in moving away from the habit of the old man

2 Corinthians 13:5

  • We live in an age where even among churches there is a disrespect for the ordinance of self-examination.
  • We know the Scriptures tell us that we are to examine ourselves.
  • Examine ourselves.
    • Whether you are in the faith.
    • Prove yourselves.

This particular kind of self-examination to which the Apostle Paul calls us is a deep and searching evaluation.

  • Looking at our faith, see what kind of faith it is.
  • Remember what the Lord said to his wayward people → your faith, your obedience is like the morning cloud, it soon goes away. (Hosea)
    • It's not enduring.
  • He has offered in faithless disobedience. (1 John 3:12)
    • When corrected, he becomes rebellious
    • This is another difficult sin that we see even in ourselves.
  • Instead of him taking that as, “what must I do to be accepted?”
    • Cain goes farther in his sin; he becomes angry and rebellious and kills his brother.

Psalm 119:59

If we would follow the Lord's instruction here

  • we also would NOT indulge ourselves in rebellion or sullenness or pride
  • we would indulge in self examination
  • we would indulge in examining our beliefs and behavior as the Word of God demands

Lamentations 3:40

Notice that searching is in order to turning, searching in order to turning self-examination

  • Self-examination was a was a hallmark of our forefathers.
  • And yet now we have what is call sanctified navel gazing
  • We bow our heads in piety but not in real examination
  • We revel in our knowledge and our conscience and what we want to believe
  • We hold that we are our own masters and claim to love the Lord yet we betray our claim by our rebellion

The Bible sets forth self-examination

  • as an ordinance for all those who would learn
    • how not to sin against the Lord
    • how not to turn from His commandments

Lord’s Supper & Self-Examination

As we approach the Lord's Supper today, we remember

  • that self-examination is a part of that ordinance
  • that the apostle Paul commands us that we ought to examine ourselves

1 Corinthians 11:24-29

It's very clear that in this section of Scripture that self-examination is required.

  • It is a required component of coming to the table of the Lord.
    • Let a man examine himself, and in this way, let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup
  • So, we come examining ourselves →
  • Self-examination
    • is a means of learning how not to sin against God
    • is learning how more and more to walk in new obedience

Westminster Larger Confession     Q.171

Did you hear all of those things about which the divines said that we're supposed to examine ourselves?

  • We are to examine ourselves
    • of our being in Christ
    • of all of our sins and wants
    • of the truth and measure of our knowledge
    • of the truth and measure of our faith
    • of the truth and measure of our repentance
    • of the truth and measure of our love to God
    • of the truth and measure unto the brethren and charity to all men
    • of the truth and measure of our forgiving those who have done us wrong
    • of the truth and measure of our desires after Christ and new obedience.

That's a lot of work.

  • And yet this kind of self-examination the Westminster teaches is essential for coming to the supper of the Lord.

Westminster Larger Confession     Q.174

Self-examination is a is a great way to start building that hedge against sinning against God.

 Over and again in Scripture we see the need for self-examination

Psalm 139

  • The psalmist will say to the Lord, examine me.
    • The Lord has no need to examine us.
    • He knows our thoughts from afar, before we know them.
  • The Psalmist begins
    • oh Lord, thou hast searched and known me
  • The Psalmist ends
    • Search me, O God, and know my heart.

Whenever we hear about the Lord, examining someone that is simply a condescension by the Lord

  • that He is revealing to us His findings
  • that they are being made known to us.
  • Jeremiah 17:10
    • I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doing

Psalm 26

David says

  • Lord, for I have walked in my integrity I've trusted also in the Lord.
  • Therefore, I shall not slide (stagger)
  • Examine me, oh Lord and prove me
  • Try my reigns and heart

David speaks of his own integrity

  • this is an integrity that he owns by the grace of God
  • But notice that is not enough
  • David desires that the Lord would
    • go even farther
    • go even deeper than David can go
    • and reveal all of those things that He finds
    • so that David may learn how to examine himself and how to pursue his sanctification


These are all examples of what it means

  • to examine yourself
  • to pursue sanctification
  • to live by faith

What does faith desire?

Faith desires, the right form, and the right heart

  • If faith does not desire the right form
    • “I believe in God, but I can worship him any way I choose.”
    • That's not faith
    • “If I just have the right form, that's all I need.”
      • That's not faith either.
    • then we question the faith, don't we?
    • Then that faith looks a little bit more like rebellion than it looks like faith
    • If faith only has the right form but not the right heart

What does the Bible require of us when we worship God?

  • A heart that is bowed down before Him humbly receiving His commands
  • That we come with the right form before Him as He has commanded
  • That we come with the right heart before Him as He has commanded

And we are to do this every Sabbath Day

  • And every day we live, we live unto the Lord

Every day we are to examine ourselves and stop rebelling and disobeying God---stop following after our own desires and submit to the His laws and ordinances and powers that God has instituted.


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