Sanctification is not just a theologican term, but should be the daily guide for the Christian life. Let’s look at what it is and why it makes all the difference.
The Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “sanctify” with the following: to cleanse, purify, set apart, separate, prepare for divine service, ordain and appoint to the work of redemption, cleanse from corruption, purify from sin, render productive of holiness or piety, make free from guilt, and secure from violation.
We may have differing perspectives on which of these meanings is most important or most relevant, but they all have one thing in common. Salvation through Jesus is the thread through all. Jesus came to complete the work of sanctification. Jesus as Savior includes Jesus as Sanctifier. Salvation of the human soul comes through sanctification. The path into God’s presence is through sanctification.
Each of us needs a Savior because the first man God created (Adam) turned away from God. When we believe in Jesus, is when we activate salvation and sanctification. Theologians talk about sanctification from three angles; past, present, future. That is, “ I am saved,” ”I am being saved,” and “I will be saved.” In legal terms, God has pronounced a judgment of “requirements fulfilled,” “requirements being fulfilled,” and “requirements yet to be fulfilled.” Belief in Jesus is our initiation into a new covenant with God (see Luke 22:20; Hebrews 8). Requirements for our salvation are complete, they are in process, and they include a promise of future completion, all at the same time.
If that seems like too much to wrap your brain around, it’s okay. It is for me too. But this I know. God is good, so I can trust the future to him, and I’m sure that part of sanctification will be glorious. I see that as heaven, and I’m looking foward to it. As far as the past, Jesus accomplished all that is needed, so by believing in Jesus, I am saying “yes, I’m in” to this sanctification thing. Now that just leaves the middle part of “being saved.” This is the part that plays out the rest of my life on earth. The “process” part (in the present) is the part that begins with my conversion experience and continues until the day I die. Let’s consider some more things about this process.
The ongoing work of sanctification in life creates a real battleground. The battle for our soul is not finished with a conversion experience. The real battle for our soul intensifies at conversion. The battle for a completely sanctified soul is won by continually surrendering yourself over to the work of sanctification (as described in the definition above). The sancifying life is about significant change in the direction of glorifying God (see Romans 5).
Failing to understand this can lead to false hopes and expectations about what the “Christian life” should look like. Inner life change is at the center of the battlefield. The struggles of life are real. The struggles are not meant to defeat us, but to sharpen out skills to become a better spiritual warrior. Many examples of this are written in the Bible for our encouragement.
A model for us is the ancient Israelites who were given a “promised land” by God upon exiting Egypt. They had to invade, conquer, and possess that land in order to enforce the “promise.” Egypt represents the life of sin we are exiting when we convert to following Christ. Christ Jesus is the promised Messiah as the “promised land” for our existence. We must get past the resistance, fight the good fight, and rest in the completed work of Jesus, in order to inherit Father’s promise to us of the sanctified life.
Are you living a sanctifying life? Which of these areas might God have you focus on for change?
1. Cleansing - (Psalm 51) To make room for the new, sometimes the old must be cleaned out. Old belief systems, thought patterns, habits, etc. may need to be cleansed for the new beliefs, commitments, and surrender to take a firmer hold. Too much electronic media, video games, movies, or activities like lying, cheating, flirting, or exposing your mind to internet sites that exploit human sexuality (porn). Cleansing of thoughts and activities are part of sanctification. What needs cleansing in your life? Are there friendships you need to let go because they are having too much negative influence in your life? Do you give too much time or attention to TV, facebook, alcohol or something else?
2. Purifying - (Psalm 12:6) A precious metal like gold is valued by its degree of purification. The less impurities, the greater the value. Truth purifies. The Bible is the authoritative Word of God. That means it is the supreme source of Truth. Wisdom is gained from instruction in God’s Word (Proverbs 1). Our hearts and minds need purifying. We live in a world of information overload. Purifying may mean giving more attention to the real source of Truth. Are you reading your Bible to relate to God and get to know Him better? Is the Bible worth more to you, and respected more by you, than any other book or influence? Do the things you allow to influence your mind, need stricter filters?
3. Set apart - (Psalm 4:3) “Fitting in” should not be our goal. Fulfilling our unique God-given purpose for being should be our goal. Comparing ourselves to other people or “normal” standards, can keep a us from growing in the skills, talents, relationships, and environment we need to flourish in the call on our lives. Are you comparing yourself to others too much? Does it bother you that others appear more capable, more good looking, or stronger than you think you can become? Is your concept of self based more on what you do than who your God created you to be on the inside?
4. Separate - (2 Corinthians 10:2-6) We are in the world, but we should not allow the world to dictate how we think and act. As we grow in being a Christ-follower, we develop an ability to discern right from wrong. Good must be separated from evil. Evil is real and it needs to be uprooted from all aspects of our life. We must be aware of enemy schemes to deceive us into believing lies. Refrain from dabbling in “questionable” practices. Stick to what can be confirmed true to Bible standards. Do you “play around” with things you know are wrong? Are you growing in your ability to “distance yourself” from things you know are wrong? What might you fear the most about taking a stand for truth?
5. Prepare for divine service - (Leviticus 20:24; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20) We are to demonstrate how much we value Jesus and the salvation he purchased for us with his own life blood. We do this by surrendering our entire being to his service (see Romans 12:1-2). Life is not about us. It is about God’s Kingdom, ie. His rule and reign as a sovereign King. We are to be at His service, and not the reverse. What is most important in your life? Is God no. 1? What is in the way of God being no. 1 at all times? Is pleasing God more of a passion than pleasing people? Why, or why not?
There are six more aspects of the dictionary definition of “sanctify” to consider. Stay tuned for the next blog to consider those.
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry