We’ve been talking about sanctification these past few weeks. I’ve explained what sanctification is and isn’t, and I’ve shared what some misconceptions many have about the process of sanctification. Today’s post will most likely be the shortest of the posts in this series as I will attempt to show how we become sanctified.
It’s Not Your Job
I start out by making this statement first. As I explained last week, why we did works before God justified us was to attempt to earn God’s favor or earn our salvation through our good deeds. It was then that you (hopefully) realized that you can do no good apart from Christ and are totally depraved. So then now, after justification, God expects you…to…do…good…deeds? What?
Sanctification isn’t your job. It’s God’s. God is the one who will do the changing in your life through the power of His Holy Spirit. He will progressively pull you closer to Him, closer to the Christian community, and tug at your heart in ways you would never have imagined. C.S. Lewis says it so perfectly in his book, Mere Christianity:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
God’s the one remodeling and sanctifying you. Don’t beat yourself up that you’re not moving as fast as you’d like or that you simply cannot control. Change is sometimes really painful. Sometimes you will actively fight against changes in your life, but trust that God is making it happen for you, and you must submit your will to His.
I have a friend that when she vents to our other friends and me about arguments she’ll have with someone else, she’s not hoping to get advice on how to handle the situation in the future. What she really wants is for us to agree with her and tell her that she was right. When we sometimes don’t, she gets mad. They just don’t understand the true situation. They just don’t get me. They’re wrong and I’m right.
We as humans have a horrible habit of rationalizing all of our sin away. Maybe you assumed that you were justified in taking too much change from the cashier because it’s his fault for messing up his count? Maybe because your wife isn’t intimate with you anymore it sort of excuses your affair?
Listen to the urgings of the Holy Spirit and pay attention to the dialogue you have in your head when going over sin. Are you rationalizing your sin away to ease your guilt? Or are you addressing this issue head on refusing to make excuses for your sin and allowing God to transform your heart?
2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us a lot about excuse making. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Essentially, in our judgement, it doesn’t matter to God how much the other person “deserved it.” What matters is how you reacted and how you took responsibility for your actions.
People are oddly antagonistic to corporate structures, government hierarchy and, especially, the church as an institution. While I will concede that there have been and are some problems with religious institutions, one of the best things about the church as an institution and about denominations is it’s accountability. If a church is solely independent (typically under the non-denominational label) and there are issues with the pastor, the church itself, or any corruption elsewhere, there’s nowhere to turn for help. No one is there holding the pastor or church leader accountable for his/her actions.
No one likes accountability. Why can’t I just do what God wants me to do without all the extra human intervention? But you see, accountability helps believers help each other stick to their sanctification goals and encourages them to move forward. Never underestimate the power of friends to help keep you on the straight and narrow. (But you do have to surround yourself with friends that actually care about sanctification!)
This goes along hand in hand with accountability. If it’s doing its job correctly, the church is the place you should feel comfortable confessing your sin and seeking repentance. It’s the Proverbs 28:13 gift that God offers us. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
When we confess our sins before others and remain absolutely transparent in our lives, we end the dichotomy of the public and personal life. We no longer struggle with private sin. We no longer suffer from trying to hide our sin, and we feel a greater acceptance in the church when we confess our sin.
Ultimately, sanctification isn’t something to be taken lightly. God doesn’t want us to just stay in our sin and stay broken until our deaths. God wants us to move forward in holiness. He wants to remodel our houses. He wants us to be completely transformed by His Grace changing from the broken sinners we once were to the new creations in Christ that He desires us to be.
I pray that God would speak into our lives and continue to point out our sin and brokenness that we might repent and turn toward His Grace.