Sanctification – The Reshaping of a Life

Sanctification – The Reshaping of a Life

What is Sanctification?

Simply put, sanctification is the process by which we become more like Christ. It is an unending pursuit to put to death our sinful flesh and to walk in our new life as followers of Christ. This process is the outpouring of the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and souls.

Sanctification is the evidence of an inward change. As we spend time with God, growing closer to Him through reading His word and prayer, our lives will change. Old habits are replaced, goals shift, priorities are changed, and the way we see the world shifts. The new lens through which we see the world is one that is God-focused, kingdom-driven, and radically different than the lens through which we used to view the world.

This new worldview will lead us to share with others the radical transformation that has taken place in our lives. This was true for the Apostles, the early church Fathers, and has been true for 2,000 years of church history. What better evidence for the transforming power of the Gospel than to allow people to see you grow in your faith, become less like the world, and become more like Christ!

So, what is sanctification? To write my own definition, sanctification is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, which serves as evidence of a true, saving faith in Christ.

Where is Sanctification in the Bible?

The idea of sanctification is written on every page of Scripture. Sure, it is easier to see in some passages, but, from Genesis to Revelation, the idea is on every page. There are two passages I want to focus on here, though they only scratch the surface. The two passages are Romans 12:1- and Ephesians 2:1-10.

In Romans 12:1-2 Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (emphasis added) What does mean when he says that our bodies should be living sacrifices? Paul is saying that the laying down of our lives, daily dying to the flesh, the sacrifice of our old way of living is the least we can do to worship a God that requires holiness. But Paul doesn’t leave us with just a command, he tells us how to accomplish it.

When Paul tells us not to be conformed to this world, he is saying that, as Christians, there should be something different about us. We should be, according to Paul, transformed by the renewing of our minds. How are our minds renewed? Through time spent with our Heavenly Father. Through the daily study of, meditation on, and memorization of Scripture and through time spent talking with Him in prayer, the Holy Spirit will work in our lives in ways that lead to noticeable changes. In other words, according to Romans 12, sanctification is our duty as believers.

Ephesians 2:1-10 is a lengthy passage, and for brevity, I will summarize it here. Paul begins this passage by reminding believers that they were “dead in the trespasses and sins” of their former way of living. They were, as Voddie Baucham put it, spiritual zombies. They were living but not truly alive. They were ambulatory but hopelessly helpless. As were we. Then, in verse 4 the Paul hits the return when says, “But God”! God worked in their lives, as he has in the life of every believer, through the gift of faith (vs. 8-9). By His grace, the withholding of what we truly deserve (death in hell) and the giving of what we do not deserve (the gift of faith that leads to life in Christ), we have been saved. Saved, not to stay the same. Saved, not to walk as we used to walk. Saved, not to be silent. But rather, saved, to walk in our new life with Christ.

This is where we see sanctification in this passage. Verse 10 calls us to “good works.” This new way of life that stands juxtaposed to our former way of living is the evidence of the sanctification process. The good works we do now highlight the ongoing transformation in our lives. This world is a dark, destitute cesspool of sin and debauchery. So, when the transformative power of the Gospel begins working in our lives, changing us in ways that are inexplicable to others, people notice.

How Does Sanctification Work?

This is the mystery. In some cases people are so quickly, so radically changed that it defies any explanation other than a work of the Almighty. These lives, so miraculously changed, amplify the grace of God in the life of the believer. They are a testament to the life-altering power of the Gospel.

For others, the transformation process is slower. Does that mean the Gospel is less effective? Not in the least. Even for those whose life transformation is not immediate, they still radiate the power of God’s grace. These believers stand as a monument to the unending power of the Holy Spirit.

The process of sanctification is one that is different for every believer. To be sure, there are similarities, but it is not a science. When you think of something being a science, think of cake. Mix a set of ingredients in bowl X with a set of ingredients in bowl Y, pour into a pan, bake for a set time in an oven set at a precise temperature. Complete these steps using the same ingredients and every time you will get the same results.

Now, take two brand new believers, give them the same set of instructions, the same translation of the Bible, the same circle of friends, and their sanctification process will be different. They will mature at different rates. They will grow in their understanding of doctrine a different paces. They will not follow the same trajectory. That is because people and the Gospel are not mere ingredients being mixed. It’s more akin to the process of blacksmithing.

The process of sanctification is more like the making of a knife. A blacksmith heats metal to a critical temperature, making it malleable. He then applies pressure through the use of a press or hammer, shaping the metal into the desired form. In time, the blacksmith, satisfied with where the piece is, quenches the metal in oil, thereby making the blade hard. Once hardened the blacksmith then tempers the piece so that it doesn’t shatter when it strikes something.

No matter how many pieces he forges, the blacksmith knows that each piece of metal is unique. Down to the molecular level, it may be the same type of steel, but no two pieces are the same. If the blacksmith approaches his steel the way a baker approaches the cake-making process, things may go catastrophically wrong.

So it is with sanctification. The Holy Spirit works in the life of each believer at a different pace, because each person is unique. Yes, each person is sanctified, but not at the same rate. So, if you are struggling with how long the process seems to be taking, give yourself grace. Do not compare yourself to anyone else. Sanctification is not a race. It’s a lifelong pursuit of Christlikeness.

What Do I Do Now?

Two things are paramount in the life of the believer, time spent in the Bible and time spent in prayer. If I wanted to throw a football like Joe Burrow I would study how he trains, how he grips the ball, the mechanics of his throw, his follow-through, and anything else I could find out about how he plays the game of football. If I could talk to him, that would be even better.

By now you see where I am going. If you want to be more like Jesus, study Jesus. If you want to know more about Jesus, talk to Him. These are the key pieces that drive the sanctification process. So, the first thing you need to do is spend time with God!

Second, I want you to find someone more mature than you are in the faith, and then I want you to find someone less mature than you. As the more mature believer pours into you, the overflow will make it to the believer less mature. This is the process of discipleship, which we will talk more about next week, so check back. And make sure to follow us on social media at the links on the website.

Helpful Resources

Below you will find affiliate links to some helpful resources on sanctification. All books are linked to Amazon, and I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you purchase any of these resources it helps in a great way.

How Does Sanctification Work? by Dave Powlison

Pleasing God: Discovering the Meaning and Importance of Sanctification by R.C. Sproul

Five Views on Sanctification

Sanctification: God’s Passion for His People by John MacArthur

The Doctrine of Sanctification by A.W. Pink

Holiness: For the Will of God Is Your Sanctification – 1 Thessalonians 4:3 by J.C. Ryle

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