Let’s Talk About Sanctification, Shall We?
As we begin our journey to answer the “Yes, But How?” questions in our Christian life, we are compelled to start with an understanding of the difference between justification and sanctification. Or, simply put, the things in our spiritual life that are His responsibility (justification), and the things He requires us to do (sanctification). In other words, since salvation, start to finish, is all of God, it would stand to reason He would get the most glory if those He redeemed chose to voluntarily live according to the gift of grace He gave them and not like they did before He entered into their lives.
And this act of living according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh is called sanctification. But it’s actually more involved than that. Let’s try to define these two dual aspects of salvation in a bit more detail.
The Dual Aspect of Sanctification
Within the process of salvation, there are two significant aspects: justification and sanctification. While these terms are closely related, they are not identical. Justification is entirely the work of God, whereas sanctification involves a partnership between God and the believer. And it is in this collaborative aspect of salvation, called sanctification, where God receives the most glory.
Justification: The Work of God
Justification is a judicial term and refers to the act of God declaring a sinner righteous in His sight, based on faith in Jesus Christ alone. In other words, justification is the legal declaration that a person is no longer guilty of sin and is therefore in right standing with God. This is possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, where He paid the penalty for our sins and satisfied God’s requirement for justice. Justification is a one-time event that occurs at the moment of faith in Christ and is based solely on God’s grace and mercy. It is God’s choice and action alone, and is accomplished because it pleased God to do so, or because of “His good pleasure” (Eph. 1:5, 9).
In Romans 8:29-30, we are presented with an outline of the various acts of God in the process of salvation, including foreknowledge, predestination (pre-determining the outcome), calling, justification, and glorification. These are things that God does, independent of the believer’s efforts.
For whom (1) He foreknew, (2) He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these (3) He also called; whom He called, these (4) He also justified; and whom He justified, these (5) He also glorified – Romans 8:29-30.
The foundation of justification lies in the grace and mercy of God. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross paid the penalty for humanity’s sins, and His resurrection offers the certainty of eternal life. When an individual places their faith in Christ, God imputes the righteousness of Jesus to them, meaning that they are seen as righteous in the eyes of God (2 Cor. 5:21). This declaration of righteousness is not based on the believer’s works or merits, but solely on the finished work of Christ on the cross. For as it says in Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”
Sanctification: A Collaborative Process
Sanctification, on the other hand, refers to the ongoing process by which believers are made holy and conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). It is the process of spiritual growth and transformation that occurs after justification, as the Holy Spirit works in us to produce good works, spiritual fruit, and Godly character. And it is a gradual process that takes place over the course of a believer’s life and requires the cooperation of the believer with the work of the Holy Spirit in a collaborative effort to bring forth spiritual growth and maturity.
But sanctification is not solely the work of God, nor is it solely the work of the believer. Rather, it is a collaborative process between God and the individual. The Holy Spirit plays a crucial role in sanctification, empowering and guiding the believer as they grow in their faith and relationship with Christ. The believer, in turn, is responsible for actively participating in the process by submitting to the work of the Holy Spirit, by actively pursuing holiness by putting off the old self and putting on the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24). It takes both the desire and effort of the believer and the empowering of the Holy Spirit for sanctification to take place.
The journey of sanctification is marked by progress, not perfection. While the ultimate goal is to become like Christ, believers will still face challenges, temptations, and moments of weakness. However, the sanctification process allows them to grow in grace, humility, and dependence on God, as they continually strive to become more Christ-like by surrendering themselves to the Lord (Rom. 12:1).
So Now What?
And this brings us back to the “Yes, But How?” questions. We know sanctification occurs when we say “no” to our desires and “yes” to Him. And we know the Lord has given us a myriad of commands and admonitions for us to do, as believers in Christ, that will help us reflect the life and image of Jesus. But how do we do these things? And how do we get started? Are there certain steps for us to take to begin this journey? And if so, where do we begin?
Over the next couple of days, we will look at several specific “Yes, But How?” commands in Scripture and unpack some practical steps that will help us in our journey to becoming more like Jesus. But first, let me close by sharing with you just a few of the things Scripture commands us to do or to become.
Remember, don’t get overwhelmed by what you read. We have the Holy Spirit, God Himself, abiding in us to encourage and empower us on this journey to sanctification. So we are not in this alone. We know what to do. We just need the Holy Spirit to tell us how to do what we know we should do. And together, I’m sure He will provide our answer.
The “You” Sanctification Verses in Scripture
As you read these passages, be sure to look for the specific “you” or the “implied you” to see what our side of the collaborative effort of our salvation entails. And be encouraged and blessed as we grow more like Him in the process. Note: We will dig deeper into these in the days to come.
Here is a list of things we as a believer are supposed to do to bring glory to Him:
• Be Holy as God is Holy – 1 Peter 1:16.
• Love the Lord with Everything You Are – Mark 12:30.
• Love One Another – John 13:34-35.
• Overcome Evil with Good – Romans 12:21.
• Pray Continually – 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
• Rejoice Always – Philippians 4:4.
• Abstain from Every Form of Evil – 1 Thessalonians 5:22.
• Forgive Others – Matthew 6:14-15.
• Share the Gospel – Matthew 28:19-20.
• Seek Wisdom – Proverbs 2:1-5.
• Practice Humility – Philippians 2:3-4.
• Worship God Always – Psalm 100.
• Obey God’s Commandments – John 14:15.
• Serve Others – Galatians 5:13.
• Be Joyful in Hope – Romans 12:12.
• Practice Hospitality – 1 Peter 4:9.
• Encourage One Another – 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
• Put on the Armor of God – Ephesians 6:10-18.
• Be Content in Everything – Philippians 4:11-13.
• Abstain from Sinful Desires – 1 Peter 2:11.
• Don’t Worry About Anything – Philippians 4:6.
• Bear One Another’s Burdens – Galatians 6:2.
• Be a Good Steward – 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
• Be Peacemakers – Matthew 5:9.
• Rejoice When You are Treated Badly – Matthew 5:11-12.
• Renew Your Mind – Romans 12:2.
• Develop the Fruits of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23.
And this is just the beginning.
All of these (and the many not listed), are things we know we should do to become more like Christ. And we probably would do each of these if we knew exactly how. So continue with us as we unpack many of these to try to discover the “hows” in the Christian life as we move forward in our journey towards sanctification and a life that brings our Lord glory.