As we begin a new year I am reminded that we are a people blessed by God – think of the simple things first. This morning we choose if we would eat breakfast, then we choose what we would eat. We choose when to go to bed last night and if to get up this morning. We choose many things, and we choose because God has blessed us with prosperity. But God has also blessed us with the greatest choice of all – whether to believe and trust on Jesus Christ or not. Salvation or hell, freedom from sin or turning back. The choice is yours – what choice will you make? Some of us have made the choice a long time ago and the remembrance is there but is the fruit? For each of us is tempted to live on past experiences and not current spiritual victories, which is why God’s Word for us today is so very important. 2 Peter 2:20-22 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” This passage is speaking to the wordily “Christian” – the one who has turned back to sin. The one who is not following the call to be holy – 1 Peter 1:15-16 “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” Note that it says “Be Holy” “Not Do Holy.” I make this distinction knowing that there are many things that we will do if we are holy, especially in view of John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” However, there are too many times that people will do what is right without being what is right. Many people will do what is right only because they must – for they are trying to earn heaven, but most often with compromise, dare I even mention the Sabbath and keeping it holy, or giving to God what is God’s (tithe), or….. But God calls us to love Him and to Love Him means… 1 John 5:3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And His commands are not burdensome. The problem is that we tend to move from loving God to just doing for God. Scriptures tell us that humanity falls to this temptation in their relationship with God. Mark 7:6-7 Jesus replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”’ Or simply put, you no longer love Him. You do the right things to appease Him – but you do not love God. It has been reported that 95% of what occurs in any given worship service is learned response. We know what we are to do and when to do it. We can even receive the same tingle with a certain song. We do the same things over and over again – to the point that they are meaningless. Yet, we expect God to be pleased with us and bless us. This also begs the question: How can god bless us if there is sin in our life? This may seem like a bold movement to equate empty works and monotonous worship to sin. But the fact is that if you are not on fire for God you are lukewarm and God will spit you out. Why? Because sin is what causes you to be lukewarm. You are lukewarm because you have allowed certain sins into your life: Pride, Lust, discontentedness, Selfishness, Contempt, Robing God. Your sin makes you slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; [you] invent ways of doing evil; [you] disobey their parents; [you] are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Romans 1:30-31 Your sin makes you … lovers of [yourselves], lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power…. 2 Timothy 3:2-5 With this in mind let us ask the question again – how can God bless us if there is sin in our life? God does not bless you when you have sin in your life. God is not under any obligation to answer your prayers when there is sin in your life, regardless of what the sin is. Sin breaks our connection with God. The problem is that it is easy to become addicted to sin. Addiction to sin and the overwhelming temptation that you often face may due to a spiritual stronghold in your life brought on by sin. A stronghold occurs when you have given yourself over to the power of Satan and He rules in that area of your life making it seem as though you are powerless to stop the addiction cycle. The good news is, that while you may be powerless, God is not. You must allow God to break that stronghold. Furthermore, you must decide to be done with sin and PUT GOD FIRST IN ALL THINGS. To accomplish this you must be sanctified wholly. This is why God demands sanctification. Hebrews 12:14 “…without holiness no one will see the Lord.” God knows that we need sanctification. That is why there are 12 times more passages of Scripture that relate to this 2nd work of grace than relate to salvation (Passages that deal with sanctification, purity, circumcision of the heart, Holy Spirit baptism, etc.). God knows that we need this, but sanctification is hard for us to obtain. Not hard for God to accomplish, but hard for us to obtain because of the stronghold of sin in our life, sin that we want to keep. So we start with five things that are needed. One, is prayer. Pray that God will work through His Holy Spirit to help you desire more of Him, to be set apart holy for Him to be wholly committed to Him. Which brings us to the second thing, obedience. When you pray God will use prayer to change YOU if you are obedient to what He shows you. Third, you must be seeking truth. Truth sets us free, truth found in God’s Word. You must be reading your Bible to learn the truth and ask God to search you with His truth. Fourth, you must have faith, for without faith we cannot come to God, and we do not allow God to work in us. Here it is good to remember that God wants to do this work in us. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NASB). Which brings us to number five, anointing. It is the Holy Spirit who draws us to Christ, it is the Holy Spirit who does the saving and sanctifying. What is required of us is to say “Yes” to God and the Holy Spirit and allow Him to do the work. As we begin this new year we all need to be sanctified, and continually so. So may we ask ourselves a few questions concerning our sanctification? 1. 1 John 2:5 – Do you love God’s Word and do what it says? 2. 1 John 4:12 – Do you Love God’s People – Do You love others as God Loves You? 3. 1 John 4:18 – Has Perfect Love cast out all fear? a. What would others think of me if they knew me completely – like God sees me? b. Or if God were to call me to stand before Him in judgement this very moment – would I rejoice or be fearful? Remember that this is not the day of judgement, so if we fall short in any area, let the Holy Spirit do a work in you to bring it in line with the will of God. May this new year, 2017, be the year of holiness, as we allow the Holy Spirit to continue, or maybe even begin the sanctifying work in us.