Why Christians Should Know About Sanctification

by - March 11, 2019

There are plenty of self-improvement books and books about what you can do to live a better and more purposeful life. Health gurus or life coaches will say how positive changes will make you into a better person.

But there's a kind of "self-improvement" that is the most important kind: Sanctification. And like most things in the Christian walk, it isn't something we do on our own.

What is Sanctification

As Christians, we understand that we are wretched sinners who are saved by the grace of God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And we are to do two things: repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15).

Once we receive the faith, we pursue and strive to be more and more like Christ and less and less sinful. This is essentially the process of sanctification.

Specifically, it is the act or process of becoming holy. It is a gift given through the power of God to a person who is then considered sacred or set apart. 

So the key elements to remember when it comes to sanctification are:

1. It is a life-long process
2. We become more sanctified through the power of God, not on our own strength.
3. We MUST work on sanctification if we are Christians, because we are sacred and set apart for God.

Why is the Doctrine of Sanctification Important

1: Makes Up the Majority of Our Christian Walk:
As Dr. John MacArthur points out, "sanctification is the applicable doctrine to our entire life as believers on earth."

Something that concerns the vast majority of our lives should be something we consider important - right? Yet, how often do we think about it? Not enough, would be my guess.

2: It is a Sign of True Conversion:
When someone becomes a believer, there is a change in that person. Sometimes it is a radical 180 degree change, like the apostle Paul, and other times it is a slower growth.

What causes this change? It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that gives us a new heart, a new nature and we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The moment, the instance, of a believer's "re-birth" is when justification happens. The change that happens after is the process of sanctification.

If someone claims to be a Christian but does not demonstrate a process of growing more Christ-like and dying more and more to selfish and worldly desires, you have to question whether this person is truly saved.

After all, sanctification cannot take place if someone has not been regenerated and received the justification of Christ.

3: Holiness is a Commandment
Sanctification is the process of becoming more 'holy' or 'set apart'. It is integrated with the command from God to behave in a way that the world can see we are of God, through our good works (Ephesians 2:9). So growing in sanctification is not optional.

Good works is widely taught in churches. Of course Christians should be expressing their faith through action. However, it is VERY easy to shift our focus on works alone, which involves being "in" the world, and neglect the commandment to not be "OF" the world.

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." - 1 Peter 2:9

A massive trend of the last couple of decades in churches is to try to attract the world; to play worldly music, have worldly conveniences, worldly entertainment, etc. Why? To make the Christian faith 'attractive', 'relatable' and 'current'. This couldn't be a more contrary to the call to be 'set apart'.

Ultimately our main goal should be to worship and glorify the Holy and Mighty God of the Universe. This is the purpose of being set apart.

4. It Draws Us Nearer to God
The holier we become the closer we grow to God, spiritually. In order to get CLOSER to God, He has to get closer to US. Will a Holy God draw near a pretender who still loves the world and sin more than they love Him? No.

And as described in the diagram above, sanctification is complete when we receive our glorified bodies in Heaven, which is where we finally be in the presence of God.

How Do I Know I'm Being Sanctified?

So how do we know we are being sanctified? How do we know we are true believers? Christ points it out when he speaks of the Fruit of the Spirit. “By their fruits you shall know them.” 

Don't forget that sanctification is a life-long process, and everyone grows at different rates. We see even those in the Hall of Faith stumble at different points in their lives. Simply look at King David.

Another key thing to notice if you have truly come to submit your life to the Lordship of Christ, is quite simply your attitude towards sin. We have plenty of sins we commit regularly, and we may not feel bad about all of them at once, but there will be a shift in how you feel when, for example, you suddenly lose your temper, or tell a lie. It weighs on your mind or immediately pierces your heart. You probably think to yourself: I need to change! I can't do that anymore, it's wrong. Why do I love doing this? It disgusts me! Why? Because now the Holy Spirit in living in you and holiness is not compatible with ungodliness.

MacArthur puts is beautifully:
"As the believer is being sanctified, the seductions of the world, the desires of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, the pride of life are replaced by love for God, love for Christ, love for the Word of God, love for obedience, longing for holiness, aspirations to give glory and honor only to the Lord with your life. This is, as justification is and glorification is, a mark of true Christians."

So if our desire is to grow in sanctification in order to glorify God and reach others for Christ, how do we do this?

How to Grow in Sanctification

Remember: GOD is ultimately behind your process of sanctification. He will grow you as slow or fast as He chooses. There is a part we play, of course, which comes down to the greatest commandment: Love your God with all your heart, mind and strength.

How do we do that in a practical sense? Through these foundational commands:

1. Reading the Word
All instruction and wisdom comes from God's Word, and as we study and read it, the Holy Spirit reveals clear and deeper meanings and how to apply truth to our lives. 

2. Obedience
We cannot become more holy if we keep sinning. No, we won't be perfect until we reach Heaven, but it should be a priority to slay sins in our lives, and to change how we view sin, rather than be comfortable or permissible,

3. Prayer
There are many strong leaders and preachers of the faith who believe that one's personal prayer life is a huge indication of their spiritual walk. The more you commune with God through prayer, chances are the stronger you are growing in sanctification. Jesus is the ultimate example, who prayed daily and often with his Heavenly Father.

4. Membership
Be connected to Christ through a community of believers. When you are connected to the body of Christ in a solid church, you are in the reach of caring, encouraging and hopefully iron-like people. "As iron sharpens iron, so friend sharpens a friend." Church discipline is also an important part of growing up in our faith, just as parents discipline their growing children.

You Will Fail - But Keep Going

News flash. You will stumble. You might even have a season in which you become stagnant. You might even back-track a bit. Don't ever be discouraged when you go through trials or growing pains or if you fail a test. They are all for your "good" (Romans 8:28).

Be encouraged by the examples of the prophets and apostles, who clearly had moments of weakness and failure, because ultimately God never fails, and "I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). 

We won't ever be fully sanctified, perfect or holy until we reach glorification in heaven. So until then, keep running the race! 

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