Wednesday, September 01, 2010
What is Sanctification?
Sanctification is the process whereby God changes sinful human beings into the image and likeness of Christ (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:17-18; Col. 2:9-10). I suppose the real question is, How does he do this?
God loves to do things through means. He makes the grass grow by the means of watering it. He saved us from our sins by means of Jesus’ death on the cross. And on and on. He makes us like Christ by bringing people into our lives and situations into our paths that cause us to choose him and his way over ourselves and our shortsighted ways.
The difference between us and Jesus is that Jesus was totally reliant on the Father for every facet of his life. We shun that reliance and continually want to go our own way and do our own thing. This is sin. But God continually causes us to see that we aren’t really smart enough, or smooth enough, or wise enough to rule our own hearts and so he brings us to the point of commitment over and over again.
Through running to God, often after we go our own way, God not only restores the broken fellowship, he also changes us just a little bit. Then the next time the temptation arises and we remember who we serve, we cry out to God for strength, and scripture fills our minds and we obey that Scripture. When we obey we grow in grace and in the image of Jesus. And that growth is what we call sanctification.
You can read about this in a lot of places in the Bible. In fact if you read anywhere you’ll see the same message over and over again. Jesus is Lord, and God is God. But here are a couple of passages that explain it directly: Romans 5:1-5; James 1:2-4; 2 Peter 1:2-8.
Lately I’ve really liked Psalm 119 when it says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word” (v. 9). But this isn’t a works righteous kind of thing. We can see that in the very next verse the psalmist says, “with my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments.” We see from this, and the whole rest of the psalm, that it isn’t the doing of the law that the psalmist wants, it is God himself and the relationship that God has created for him in Christ. Keeping the law is how the psalmist relates to God and thus because he loves God, he delights in doing God’s law.
And as he delights in God and therefore in His law, God transforms the Psalmist’s heart (cf. v. 32).
By way of summary, then, we are sanctified as we, out of a warm personal relationship with God, do what he requires of us. And as we live in the presence of God, he transforms us into the image of his son and makes us holy (holy and sanctify translate the same Greek word).