The life we were meant to live is in God’s Kingdom. A life without a focus on celebrity, worldly wealth or glamor. Following our acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, our salvation, many followers of Christ will seek to become more like Jesus as they seek to obey 1 Peter 1:14-16 which states, “…You must be holy because I am holy.”’ In our journey to become more like Christ it is helpful to have an understanding, even if only a basic one, of what the Bible calls sanctification.
My goal here is not to give an in depth study on the topic or process of sanctification. My hope is to provide enough information to help those seeking to grow in their walk with Christ. The balance is a delicate one and I hope to do it justice.
A Practical Explanation
Sanctification and its definition varies widely depending on what you read or who you talk to. Like many things in Christian living, sanctification does not have merely one interpretation or one definition for that matter. There are some which will argue that sanctification is solely about, justification, our eternal position before God. While others will argue that it is about our justification and our spiritual maturity, the process of becoming more like Christ.
Where Most Agree
Most will agree on where sanctification starts. Sanctification starts by a realization of how badly we need a savior, Jesus Christ. Our only reasonable response to this realization is complete surrender and awe to Jesus. Through our acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives, we are made right with God through the blood which Jesus innocently shed on the cross. This is our starting point in our Journey with sanctification.
“For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.”
Our eternal destiny has been drastically altered by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. All of our sins have been wiped clean by the perfect sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. This is what many theologians will refer to as positional sanctification or justification. God now sees us in an entirely different light. After salvation, when God looks upon believers, He sees them according to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. He no longer sees our sin-filled past, our current sin, or our future sin. Our life, our position before God, has forever been changed by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.
“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight”
While positional sanctification is where most theologians agree, there are many who believe in what I will refer to as progressive sanctification. This occurs after salvation and most agree that this leads up to our last days on earth. This is the idea that sanctification, besides being positional, is also a process of becoming more like Jesus. Scripture tells us in Philippians 2:13 that God is workin in you. The Holy Spirit is working within us to help us better reflect the life and character of Jesus.
“But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.”
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in [union with] Him [reflecting His character in the things you do and say—living lives that lead others away from sin],”
God Wants More For His Children
I cannot express the level of gratitude I have for salvation and the justification which is only possible by what Jesus did by dying on a cross for our sins. I, in no way want to diminish the importance of salvation. First and foremost sanctification is about our eternal position before God. Without God sending Jesus to die on the cross there is no reason for progressive sanctification. Do not miss that!
But I am so glad that God did not stop there. God has more in store and He does not leave us the way He found us. Romans 12:2 paints a beautiful picture of the process He desires for all his children.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
There Is A Choice To Be Made
God distinctly calls his children to a life of holiness. One does not have to look far in the Bible to find God’s call for his children. See 1 Peter 1:14-16, Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7. The problem is our old way of living is in direct conflict(Galatians 5:16-17) with the life we are called to live as followers of Jesus Christ. There is a choice to be made following our salvation, see Romans 6:1-2. We can continue to live according to our sinful nature, our flesh, or choose to embrace the new freedom in Christ, living by the Spirit.
‘But if you refuse to serve the Lord , then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord .”’
‘Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? ‘
‘So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”’
So How Do We Get There?
First off, I believe it is important to set the proper perspective. The goal is to become more and more like Christ. The purpose is not achievement, but complete surrender to God’s purpose. It is not about hanging a plaque on the wall or putting letters after your name saying you have achieved holiness. Achievement is largely about getting or receiving, and we must not confuse becoming like Christ with worldly achievement. Let me be clear, sanctification is about giving.
The practical application of this idea of “getting there” is to view sanctification as more of a lifestyle and less like a destination. Perhaps understanding the why behind sanctification would serve as better motivation than our own selfish desire for achievement. First let us start with Christ’s love. As we see in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Christ’s love compels us to live for God’s Kingdom. If we follow this perspective with understanding that sanctification prepares us to serve in God’s Kingdom and opens up opportunities to be used by God (2 Timothy 2:20-22).
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
Now that we have a better understanding of the “why” of sanctification and the many blessing which come with a Kingdom Life, how do we actually go about becoming more like Christ?
4 Ways To Become More Like Christ
- Spend Time Daily In God’s Word, The Bible
- Seek God In Prayer
- Surround Yourself With Other Like-minded Believers
- Serve The Church and Your Neighbors
So What’s In It For Me?
For those of you who are still questioning whether this pursuit of Kingdom Life is worth it, I want to share just a few verses about the richness of a Kingdom Life. I realize this title sounds completely out of place considering we do not follow Christ simply because we are expecting something for ourselves. Still I think it is worth addressing. We quickly forget the richness of a life dedicated to God’s Kingdom. So what does scripture tell us about those who choose Kingdom Life?
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”
“Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
““But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”
“Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example], Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of scoffers (ridiculers). But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season; Its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity].”
“The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them.”
“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”
“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.””
“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”
“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Additional Inspirational Scripture References:
“Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?”
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NLT
‘For I am the Lord your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. So do not defile yourselves with any of these small animals that scurry along the ground. For I, the Lord , am the one who brought you up from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. Therefore, you must be holy because I am holy.’
‘“Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.’
‘So set yourselves apart to be holy, for I am the Lord your God. ‘
‘I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.’
‘In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work. Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.’
2 Timothy 2:20-22