Though sanctification is not an every day word, it is an every day experience for the Christian. Slowly, progressively, Christians are being transformed to become more like Jesus.
Take a moment to consider what was just said.
Sanctification is the process through which sinners become more like their Savior. While justification describes how God saves us from the penalty of sin, sanctification describes how we are being saved from its power.
If you’ve been a Christian for longer than 15 minutes, you know how powerful sin can feel. There is a battle going on within us, between who we once were and who we have become. And yet, this isn’t a fair fight. Christ, through His life, death, and resurrection, has already conquered our sin. Through the cross, we have been set free from its enslaving power. The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead now dwells in us. That’s good news (the gospel). Sadly, it is also what we often fail to believe. At times the power of sin seems much more real than the power of the resurrection.
So how are we to respond to the sin our life? The only way to defeat sin is to, as Jonathan Edwards said, be both “wholly passive and wholly active.” Here’s what we mean:
- Wholly passive: We’re not able to save ourselves. This fight isn’t fought on our own strength, will-power, or ability. If we take that approach, sin will defeat us every time. Instead, our heart can only be changed when God does the changing. As the Bible teaches: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). God doesn’t call us to “self-help” but to utter-dependence. God both provides you with the desire and the means to defeat sin.
- Wholly active: Yet we’re not called to stand outside of the ring either. Paul wouldn’t use words like train, toil, and strive if we were just called to be spectators. God calls us to fight sin through hard work, sweat, and perseverance. Paul says: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Faith is never alone, it is always accompanied by works.
What does this look like in every day life?
Let’s say you find yourself struggling with lust. Maybe you’re addicted to porn. You find yourself committing sexual sin. Or maybe you find your eyes wandering and often fantasizing about others. What would it look like to fight this sin passively and actively?
- Wholly passive: You can’t deal with your actions without first considering your heart. What you do is a result of what you believe. Your heart needs to change but you’re incapable of such change. God needs to do it. Well be encouraged! The fact that you even recognize your sexual sinfulness is because God is graciously bringing it to the surface. He desires to sanctify this area of your life. And now that He has brought this to your attention, ask Him to give you a right, glorious, vision for sex. Ask Him to rid your heart of lies and replace it with truth. Ask Him to show you how God himself is more satisfying than the momentary pleasures that you have sought through sin.
- Wholly active: As God begins to change your heart, do the hard work of obedience. Just like it would be ridiculous for a struggling alcoholic to hang out at the bar, don’t give yourself opportunities to fall into sexual sin. Install a filter on your browser that prevents you from viewing explicit material. Don’t put your computer in the basement away from everyone else. Don’t surf late at night. Keep your sin in the light by regularly being honest and transparent with someone about your struggle. Read books that provide you with a right theology of sex. In other words, train, toil, and strive for purity. That isn’t legalism; it’s a desire for obedience.
Now it’s your turn: where in your life do you need to be wholly passive and wholly active?
Sanctification takes work – God’s and ours. It may be slow, but it is inevitable. He who saved you, is continually saving you, so that you will look more and more like your Savior each day.
Lord, help our fight against sin be wholly passive and wholly active for your glory and our good.
For more teaching on sanctification, visit the following site: Act the Miracle