Last night we had some friends over for dinner and a word was spoken, that today has been my direction of study. I have heard this word before, I believe this word is happening in my life today, as well as from the moment I became a Christian. It is a word that will continue to affect my body, my soul, and my mind until the day of Jesus Christ. What is the word, you ask? The word is “Sanctification”. As Christians we have heard this topic discussed, preached and some of us have probably even read books about “Sanctification”. Today, I decided to dig a little deeper into the word and see what the Lord wanted to teach me.
I put on my digging gear, put on my ready heart and found myself in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Paul is ending his letter to them and in closing he says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Sanctified, Justified and glorified!” I have said that (in my most southern North Carolina accent) to myself and others to encourage them and lift them up. But sanctification, what exactly is that all about? I know it is a process, I know the Lord Jesus Christ prayed in John 17 that we as believers would be sanctified by His Word, I also know that Paul and Peter write about sanctification, but what exactly does it mean?
Sanctify means “to be declared sacred, holy.” One definition states that it means “to purify internally by reformation of soul through the knowledge of the truth and in the fellowship of Christ.” When we became Christians, when we accepted Jesus Christ into our hearts, God began a process within our inner man that we do not always see the fruit of in the outward man. But God, who is faithful, will finish what He started- that is a promise we can stand on.
When I gave my life to Jesus Christ, I was a drug addict, alcoholic, adulterer, liar, blasphemer, ignorant, and full of all kinds of wickedness. (Read my testimony if you don’t believe me) But the Lord God, when He called me out of that sin, He started to do something in my heart, He started to show me through His word the areas of my life that He needed to clean up. The more I read His word and fellowshipped with Jesus Christ, the more I began to let go of the sins that I fell so easily into. (I forgot to mention that I cursed like a sailor too!)
I didn’t always understand what was going on in me, I knew the Lord God wanted me to be His and His alone, I knew that He needed to clean me up, but I didn’t realize that it was an ongoing process, something He had to do for me every day. Sanctification is not something that happens once in our lives, such as being justified and righteous through Christ- sanctification is an ongoing, every day part of our walk with Jesus.
A pastor of mine once described sin and the process of sanctification as sand that gets stuck to your feet. When you are at the beach, you get sand all over your feet. You wash them off in the ocean, put your flip flops on and start heading back to your car. What happens to your feet? They get more sand on them. No matter how hard you try to not track sand back to your car, you always end up with dirty feet. Sin is the same. No matter how hard we try to not sin, we do, every day. We rinse off the sin as we confess it and He forgives us, but without sanctification, the sin would attach itself again to our beings. The Lord God cleansed me of my sailor’s mouth through sanctification. He convicted me; I confessed it and He cleansed me of it. I haven’t said a curse word in a very long time.
Our sanctification cannot be transferred, God cannot impute it to us, it is not a gift, but a process. “It is an individual possession, built up, little by little, as a result of obedience to the Word of God, and of the following example of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Vines Expository Dictionary). We are unable to wash the “sand” from our feet- it is only through God’s Word, through the washing of the water of His Spirit that we are able to live the holy life that He has called us to. We want to change, we want to be “better people” but without sanctification, there is no change. We may change for a week or two, but it does not last long. Sanctification washes all that sand from us, and it goes down the drain, it does not come back.
We are sacred, specifically designed by a Holy God to do what He has planned for us, for our lives. But we cannot be holy in our strength. It is impossible for us to live holy apart from God. Why? Because we will always have some sort of sin (or sand) attached to our feet and will need to rinse it off before we track it everywhere. Sanctification is a process. It is a continual and sometimes gradual change that leads you closer to God. Sanctification is not meant to make you complete and perfect overnight. But it is designed to draw you and create in you the holy character God desires to see in you.
Paul tells us that every part of our being is being sanctified. (1Th. 5:23) Our soul, spirit and mind are being washed and rinsed by God, every day, and every minute. How do we know this? Because His Spirit convicts us of the sins we have committed, and through confession of those sins, He is able to forgive us and cleanse us from them- through sanctification.
“Sanctification is God’s will for the believer…it must be learned from God, as He teaches it, by His word; and it must be pursued by the believer, earnestly and undeviatingly.” (Lexicon/ Concordance; Blue Letter Bible) Peter encourages us that we “are God’s chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”(1 Peter 2:9) God has called us to be holy, for He is holy. We can only attain that holy calling through the process of sanctification.
Philippians 1:6 states, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Sanctification is not something that happens over the course of a day or overnight- it is a daily cleansing by God’s word and our obedience to His word that gives us the ability to live and to be the holy generation He desires us to be.
I hope that my words today help you understand the process of sanctification, and that it is something we as believer should seek to have in our lives. To be holy, to live holy is not in our nature, but God, who is faithful will work in us and through us, washing us and sanctifying our hearts, minds and souls so that we can stand before Him complete and perfect in Jesus Christ.
“So now brethren, (sisters), I commend you to God and to the Word of His Grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32.
Sanctification comes only through the Word of God, and only by the Word of God. Man cannot cleanse you, we are not able to cleanse our own selves- but God, in His grace desires to wash you and clean you and sanctify you through His son Jesus Christ. Amen and Amen.