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Randomness, Year 2
Issue 56


Let me talk for a moment about sanctification. I have a tendency to cram every scrap of knowledge I have about a subject in, and that's just bad structure and focus. I'll try to be succinct and stylistically tight. Let us recall last week. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The penalty for sin is eternal damnation. To atone for sin there must be sacrifice, blood. Jesus came down from Heaven--God made man--and lived the perfect life. He died, taken the sins of the whole world upon himself. He was the perfect, holy, sufficient sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Through him, we were saved from the penalty of sin. All we have to do is accept what he did and invite him into our lives. Not exactly rocket science. Once we have Jesus in our lives, we begin a process. This process is another big important word: sanctification.

Bishop Eddy Marsh says that we are being saved from the power of sin--this is sanctification. Sanctification comes from the Latin word sanctus, "sacred, inviolable; venerable; holy; upright, virtuous," and the verb sanctificare, "to make sanctus." Sanctification, therefore, is making us sanctus by saving us from the power of sin. Once we have accepted Jesus into our lives, we are automatically saved from the penalty of sin. From there, Christ in us begins the process of saving us from the power of sin. Sanctification does not happen automatically. I will not wake up tomorrow and suddenly be sanctified. As mentioned earlier, sanctification is a process. This process can be painful. February 16, 2001, I went through some powerful sanctification in my life dealing with some issues I had. That hurt at the time, but on February 17, I was much closer to God. This process can be joyful. On May 23, 2000, I realised I had backslid a bit in my relationship with God and had been reducing him to intellectualism. I started over that day, and it was a most glorious event, filling me with the greatest joy and pulling me nearer to God, sanctifying me more. So, it is a process both painful and glorious. But how does one define this process?

Sin is nasty. Sin is addictive. It's like heroin: addictive and deadly. Sin holds all of mankind in its vice. According to Justin Martyr, "To yield and give in to our sinful desires is the lowest form of slavery. To rule over such desires is the only true freedom." Without Jesus, in other words, humanity is lorded over by its master--sin. We need Jesus because we need a saviour not just from sin's penalty but sin's power. But even with Jesus in us, we are capable of sin, and very often commit acts against the very one we claim to love most. Jesus does not automatically sanctify us. He comes into, justifies us, but leaves us free. With freedom, we have the freedom to choose . . . poorly. As a result, we can still be like that man in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade who chooses the wrong cup and dies a horrid death. One of the things with freedom is the freedom not only to choose--but also to not choose. Therefore, we can reject Christ, even after we initially choose him.* This is the depth of the freedom God has given us. CS Lewis says that if God were to orchestrate things so that every time we raised a piece of wood in warfare rather than to make a beam for a house it turned into grass, this would be inherently evil. Instead, God leaves us free before and after justification. The difference is Christ in us, moving in our hearts and souls and minds. And Christ in us is sanctifying us.

Jesus promises many things to those who choose to follow him. One of those things he promises us is the Holy Spirit. Once we ask Jesus into our lives, the Holy Spirit lives in us. It is he, the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies us. In 1 Peter 1:2, we read the phrase, "sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit." (I'm not taking it out of context, if you want to check the verse.) It is the work of the Holy Spirit that sanctifies us. By being open to him and the amazing things he can and does do in our lives, we are sanctified. We are made holy by the Holy Spirit. We are saved from the power of sin by the Holy Spirit. In getting to know him better, we become more like him and he sanctifies us. We have a responsibility, therefore, to be open to the Holy Spirit and his work. It is important that we remember that sanctification is not just a process where we do nothing and God works in us. We strive after him, and this, with his work, will sanctify us. But remember--without him to strive after or his work with the striving, or his power to help the striving, we are not sanctified. We may have responsibilities at our end for sanctification, but we are not sanctified by our own work. Only God truly sanctifies.

We are also sanctified by God's holy Word. We remember God's Word from a few issues ago, I think. One of the things the Word of God does in us is sanctify us. John 17:17, where Jesus is praying for the believers, reads, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." I don't know ancient Greek yet, but the note at the bottom of my Bible says that sanctify here is, "Greek hagiazo (set apart for sacred use or make holy)." By God's word, then, we are sanctified; we are set apart for sacred use; we are made holy. Part of sanctification, as well, is being set apart for sacred use--that is, being set aside to do work for God, to follow his will and do as he calls us. And this comes from his word, the truth. We must read the Bible, know it, understand it, digest it, and then we will be sanctified. As well, we must carefully regard everything we hear or read. We must line it up with the Bible, and then discern if it is true or not. If it is true, then it will be an aid in the work of sanctification. This, therefore, implies also a responsibility on our part. We must be responsible with the knowledge and opinions in the world, knowing which are true so that we can live holy lives and be set apart for God and be sanctified by him.

A third aspect of sanctification is surrender. I believe this is the most difficult part of the life of the Christian. With our freedom to not choose Christ, we are called to surrender our will. In surrender, we are sanctified by Jesus. In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers discusses sanctification. He says that we must surrender our whole selves to Jesus. We must be willing to give up this stranglehold we have on life and let Jesus. Sanctification is stepped up to a whole new level when we let go of our lives and just let God work. We must strip ourselves of everything but the mere self. When we have done so, we must allow Jesus to live in us. "Sanctification is not something Jesus Christ puts into me," writes Chambers, "it is himself in me." Chambers, in another passage, says that sanctification is not just the imitation of Christ but the allowance of Jesus' perfections to "manifest themselves in my mortal flesh." Surrender is what often keeps us from God. It is often what keeps unbelievers from accepting Jesus. It is in not surrendering that sanctification is often hindered. But I must say that, if we are to be wholly selfish, being wholly selfless makes life run a whole lot more smoothly anyway. And surrendering to God brings a person nearer to him than ever before. Furthermore, the surrender of a soul brings such glory to God that one feels horrid in not surrendering.

But why does sanctification matter? I mean, isn't justification enough? No. A lot of people these days are so quick to point out that we get to heaven by grace alone. This is true, but we must not forget all that we have been taught. There is more to the Christian life than that, though it is of immense importance. Romans 6:15 reads, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!" And as for sanctification, 1 Peter 1:15-16 informs us, "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

This then, is sanctification. Sanctification is the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in me by the surrendering of my will, the study of the Word, and an openness to the work of the Holy Spirit. If we do this, we are saved from the power of sin and sin less and become more like Jesus. And I think that's pretty cool.

*You who are about to complain, don't. I've investigated the argument, and this is what I believe. You believe in irresistible grace, etc. Fine. I don't. And don't come after me saying that "It doesn't matter, all I believe is the Bible," because I believe the Bible and have found evidence for my position. Therefore, my rejection of TULIP theology is a rejection of one man's interpretation of the Bible, not the Bible itself. Besides, when we go up to glory, we'll realise that theology is amazingly and utterly flawed in its attempts to understand God.

Copyright 2002, Matthew Hoskin