Inspiration – Sanctification and what it can do for us

Terry Goerz,
Lutheran Church.

Sanctification is a lifelong struggle that all Christians participate in that allows them to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit and not the sinful nature.

Sanctification means to make holy; to set apart as sacred or to purify from sin. It is a lifelong journey by which we become more and more Christ-like.

In defining sanctification and this transformation I like to use: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5: 19-23a)

Using these verses then, sanctification is the transforming process in the life of Christians whereby they exhibit less and less acts of the sinful nature and more and more of the fruit of the Spirit. The process of sanctification does not mature the Holy Spirit within us; rather it puts tools into our lives (minds) so the Holy Spirit can communicate with us and lead us. It allows us to better hear his voice.

The object of sanctification is to become more and more Christ-like. We become more and more Christ-like by being led by His Holy Spirit and not by our sinful nature. There is no point at which we can say we have completed the journey while we live in our present body. It is a lifelong journey.

When we think of salvation, of being saved, it was entirely the work of God in our lives; not the result of our desire nor of any action or worthiness on our part. God is also the One who works this transforming process of sanctification in our lives, but we participate with Him in it.

Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. However, we play a vital role in this “perfecting”. God will not impose His will on us. When you bring a horse to the watering trough the horse has to do the drinking. In the same way God provides the means by which we are sanctified, but we have to do the drinking.

In baptism, our sinful nature was crucified.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5: 24)

However, Paul writing to neighbouring Christians who were already baptized indicates they must crucify or put to death this sinful nature. No matter how mature we become as Christians this sinful nature resurrects itself daily and attempts to regain control of our lives.

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3: 5)

So, despite what happened in our baptism we will be engaged in this battle as long as we live on Earth.

Prior to baptism we are described as being slaves to sin. With the spirit in us we are no longer slaves to sin, we have power to overcome our sinful nature. So just how do we go about putting to death our sinful nature, and putting on our new self?

The first and most important step is to participate with God in the maturing of our faith by reading, studying and hearing the Word of God (the Bible). By reading and studying the Bible we put tools in our lives that the Holy Spirit in us uses to guide us.

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.” (John 16: 12)

The Bible, which is one of the main tools we have for sanctification, is not just another book. It has divine power. It works faith and sanctification in your life just by reading it!

Other means of participating with God in our sanctification include participation in the sacrament of communion, dedicated church attendance, confession and absolution of our sins, listening and singing Christian music, and having as many Christians in your fellowship circle as possible.

So then, sanctification is a spiritual battle for control of our minds. God wants us to be transformed in our minds so we demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. As the Holy Spirit gains more and more control over us; our nature will begin to change. We will gradually begin to die to the control of our sinful nature, and begin to do all that the 10 Commandments and the Bible expects of us naturally.

We will not be motivated to do good things or obey the commandments because it is a requirement, because we have to, because the Bible says so; but because the fruit of the Spirit has blossomed in our lives and good things just happen naturally. Our mind is transformed. Our will power plays a role but not a transforming role. It is helpful to understand that because we have this sinful nature in us half the time our own will power is in the enemy’s camp.

Is sanctification of our lives important for Christians? Paul tells us why.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12: 2)


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