The Christian Life. We know those words and we know that as believers in Christ, we should be some version of changed, transformed, renewed, etc. Since there is no common roadmap or path, we tend to ignore our progress and the joy that comes from progress in our Christian life. We often think of salvation in two distinct events. We are “justified” at a point in time or what we know as being saved when we place our faith in trust as Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We then look forward to the day when we will be “glorified” or forever united in heaven with our family, God our Father, Christ our eldest brother, and the saints as brothers and sisters. Justification and glorification are monumental and foundational aspects of our faith. However, we live in between those two points. If you are a believer in Christ, then you stand firm as “saved”, but not yet “glorified”.
The days in between our salvation and glorification are days of “sanctification.” To be sanctified means that we have been set apart for God’s holy purposes. Imagine that. We know we have nothing to offer God in exchange for our salvation and He has provided all we need to be saved. The only thing we bring to the table is our need for salvation because of our sin. Think about the wholesale change that happens when we are saved. We go from having nothing to offer an infinite God to being set apart specifically to be used by Him. We find our great purpose through the work of Christ. So, a lowly sinner (a “wretched man” as Paul so well states in Romans 7:24!) is now a special possession of God’s, put on display for a special purpose just for God! This is the process of sanctification.
Sanctification exists in two ways at the same time. We have been sanctified, having been set apart for God. We are also being sanctified and actively being perfected by the power of the Spirit working in us. The act of being sanctified is both beautiful and painful. We are being made into the very image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18) and that is an amazing gift. However, this transformation requires that we lay down the old man and take on the new. We do not enjoy the laying down of the old and we constantly seem to pick it back up. The old ways of life, the former sins and pleasures, the past activities all seem to find their ways back into our life. The Holy Spirit seeks to remind us of who are now in Christ and convicts us of these behaviors. This is a constant and ongoing battle, but we must engage and fight. Peter tells us that we have the privilege to “participate with the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). While the process may not be pleasant and is likened to being refined through fire, we do know that being sanctified is a very real gift from God to us and is one of his many graces that He gives to us.
Paul states that he loses the battle many days and that he cannot always reconcile the human nature with the divine nature (Romans 7:14-25), yet we press on. We fight to win because the prize is our glorification, an eternal hope made reality in heaven. We press on towards the goal even when the work is hard (Philippians 3:12-14). Like an athlete training and pressing the limits of their physical body every day, we strain the limits of our spiritual body so that we may declare victory in Jesus.
Our victory is not ours, but rather Christ’s victory in us. Our sanctification is a necessary outcome of this victory. If sin has been defeated, then it has also been defeated in our lives. If sin has been defeated in our lives, then we must not pretend we are captive to it. We must acknowledge that we are being changed to also allow ourselves to be changed. Romans 12:1-2 declares that in response to God’s mercy (the work of Christ) then we must respond by being a living sacrifice to God. This requires that we be changed, transformed. Being transformed is not merely a change in behaviors but is actually a change in thought driving a change in action. Our mind is renewed as we take on the very mind of Christ, living our lives in a way that is pleasing to God and keeping in step with His perfect will.
As a believer in Christ, what part of your life needs to be renewed? What aspects of your life need to be changed? Where are you being called to participate in the divine nature that is at work within you? I pray that you may be saved and I anxiously await the day of glorification with you However, may we also take hold of the present action of sanctification. I pray that even when it is painful and seemingly impossible to release the sins of our past that we fight the good fight and know that the victory has already been won. May we be changed in ways we never thought possible and in ways that would never be realized without the help of the Spirit in us. Enjoy the gift of transformation and live the life you have been set apart to live!