God’s gift of salvation is something worth marveling at our whole lives. What an amazing moment it is when we grasp even a bit of how much God loves us and all he has done to reconcile us to himself. We have been given the chance to believe in Christ as a gift by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. From that moment on, we are no longer creatures of wrath, God’s enemies, but forgiven children of God! God declares us righteous, and he also works in us to make us increasingly righteous in our day-to-day living. This ongoing process is called sanctification, and it’s both wonderful and challenging.
What exactly does sanctification look like, we might wonder? Do we just enter an assembly line and emerge the perfect Christian somehow? Unfortunately, no. There is no one-size-fits-all sanctification. Every person is unique and has experienced life in our fallen world differently. God knows each of us better than we know ourselves, and expertly shows us what needs to change and when. As we spend time reading the Bible, God uses it as a mirror, reflecting who we really are right now. We come to understand more and more how in line we are with our real identity as forgiven, loved, holy children of God in Christ.
When God convicts us through the Holy Spirit, we are humbled by Him. As we humble ourselves, God grows us into people of God by the grace of God. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Sanctification reminds me a lot of our need to regularly see a doctor to keep our physical bodies healthy. We know we need regular doctor appointments because our bodies are complex and aging. We want our doctors to catch problems early and help us deal with them. Yet, many of us avoid seeing the doctor all together until it may be too late, myself included. We often prefer to gamble that everything’s ,okay over hearing and facing the truth. Mature people care about their physical health and take the time and effort to check in with their doctors and follow their advice. We may be disappointed when we have to change our lifestyle, or the way we eat, or how much we exercise, yet we will obey doctor’s orders if we care about living a longer, healthier life.
Likewise, a maturing Christian will regularly come to God for help in keeping his body, mind, soul, and spirit healthy through the Word of God. If we are wise, we will gladly ask for his help and follow our doctor’s orders. He should have “carte blanche” as they say, with our lives.
What if I don’t like God’s plans? Will he force them upon me? It is God’s will for us, his plan, that we submit to this process of sanctification and grow up in Him. He is very persistent and encourages us to love what he loves, but we find he doesn’t force us to do so. God wants our submission and love to be freely given to him, as it should. That has always been the case. Sure, we can say no to him; we can fight him and refuse to walk his way. I did this for a period of my life and entered a long, unhappy stretch where God patiently waited for me to realize my way was not the best. Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer and humbled myself before God. I asked him for help. Soon after, I once again knew his peace and knew I wanted to obey him no matter what. God is the perfect teacher and friend, absolutely good and unnervingly persistent. What I love most is that he walks with us every step of the way.
It’s hard to say how far along we are on this journey of sanctification. Maybe that is a good thing because pride is such a stumbling block to all of us. God, through the Holy Spirit, will continue to address issues in our lives, but we need not despair. God loves us right now, in our weakness. In fact, in our weakness, God’s power is best seen by others and ourselves. 2 Corinthians 12:10 says, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I’m glad that God is interested in making me more righteous day by day. He isn’t the perfectionistic parent that seems to love us more the better we are. He declares us righteous and holy from the get-go at conversion, then he helps us live that out increasingly with his grace and love. As we submit to Him, we find the process of sanctification a good one, regardless of whether today is a restful, peaceful day or one full of difficulty. God is a kind Father and Master through it all, and as we submit to him, we will learn to love him more each day.