Monday, March 21, 2011

The Importance of Sanctification

image So here it goes, my journey has brought me to the point where I broach the subject (again) regarding the fine lines between sanctification vs. justification and conviction vs. condemnation.

We all know change isn’t easy – in fact it’s resisted. And it isn’t a big surprise  that when a person (particularly a believer) begins to examine their heart and the direction of their life that the Enemy is right there to condemn, accuse and shame them. As I’ve began to work through all that God has brought to light in my heart I have certainly been on the receiving end of the enemy’s lies, and to be real honest, sometimes it was more than I had within me to resist – and there were times I had to rely on the help and prayers of my man to get me through it. And while I know that the New Testament preaches very clearly that we have freedom, and no condemnation in Christ, I also know that it would be even more damaging to allow the condemnation (meant as a distraction) to dampen or distract me from the issues of sin and idols that God is pin-pricking in my heart.

Through this whole process God’s work has been deep, and it’s forced me to ask some tough questions of myself to get to some of the heart issues that lie at the roots of my (tolerated) sin.

Why is it I have allowed myself to so easily dismiss the Holy Spirit’s conviction in my life?

and

Why was I desiring sin more than I was desiring God?

As a believer I know that I am dead to sin (Romans 6 & 7), that I am now seen as righteous by the blood of Christ, and because of this I know that I don’t have to be held captive by the bonds of sin. I live by grace alone and I praise God that there is now no condemnation for me (Romans 8:1). And I pray that nothing I ever say, do or experience diminishes that reality in my life or in any other believer’s life. I want to live in that grace and I need it to be my daily portion, my hope and my future.

BUT….

I never want the freedom of the grace I was freely given to prevent me from continuing on in the process of sanctification.

I am fully justified – no doubt about it. But I live in a process of sanctification. These two things are different, both beautiful, both works of God (one from Christ, the other from the Holy Spirit) both are important (though I would argue that justification may be the more important of the two), one is complete, the other is not. And the complicated reality is – they are inseparable.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

This is just one verse, but there are others that refer to us (the Justified believers) working out our salvation, or putting to death our earthly desires (Col. 3:5, Rom 8:13, 7:6); and while we need to be careful not to confuse the process of Justification and Sanctification which produces the false assumption of faith by performance, we cannot ignore the fact that the Holy Spirit works in and through us to bring about God’s will for our lives, and that will includes growth and putting to death our sin.

My act of the will is a God-given will.

“By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10

While we cannot and should not even waste our efforts in attempt to earn God’s grace, we must guard ourselves against the temptation to allow our freedom to result in tolerating sin in our lives.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Romans 6:1-2

I guess what I am learning through all of this is that there is a fine line between trying to work out your salvation in an attempt to justify yourself (which is unbiblical and uselessly painful), and working through the process of sanctification because I am freely justified by the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

God’s design is hardly able to be comprehended by us mortals, and I don’t pretend to understand the ins-and-outs of how everything all works; but I am learning that God loves me and sees me as righteous where I am right now, but He also tells me that if I love Him I will obey His commands. There is a “working out” a “pressing forward” at work within me. It’s proactive, it’s real and it’s sometimes violent.

I love the book of 1 John, it’s beautifully written wrapped entirely in the love of God, but clearly speaks about the obedience and outward signs of a Believer’s life

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  1 John 5:2

but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him 1 John 2:5

Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 1 John 3:24

So here it comes the ugly truth - where the rubber has met the road in my life. As the Lord began to reveal (again) the process of sanctification, the importance of self-examination and my dependence on the Holy Spirit in my life, I saw some areas that I had been ignoring. There were areas in my life that I was living in compromise and the truth is, I didn’t want to deal with them. I was enjoying my sin. I wanted to stay in my sin. The fact is, part of me still wants to live in my sin.

It was at this point that the “fear of the Lord” began to kick in. (And for the record, I’m grateful for this fear). I began to realize what a dangerous place I had allowed myself to come to.

At what point did I decide it was okay to ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit?

Who did I think I was taking advantage of the grace the Jesus gave His life to give to me?

This was not a fun place, okay allow me to be honest, this is not a fun place to (currently) be in. After all this, after knowing all that I know, I still struggle. I still want to return to the pit of sin from which I’m trying to break free from!!

I am more now, than ever aware of my desperate need for the Holy Spirit and how I cannot do this on my own. Even my sanctification, my purification is a result of grace, lest I should boast. Like I said in my original post, “If I go anywhere from here, I will never be able to doubt that it was by His miraculous power and will.”

I praise God for who He is, who He always has been and will forever continue to be. Despite of where I am, despite of pit I’ve allowed myself to reside in for so long, despite the residual sin that remains in my human heart – He is faithful and He is going to complete the work that He has started. I am not abandoned, I am not alone, I am not rejected. I am only a daughter, in need of the gospel as much today as I was the day of my conception. I will never outgrow my need for His grace, the forgiveness of the cross and the Love of my Savior.

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