Sanctification by Faith
In my blog Justification by Faith we learned the incredible good news that, through the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God actually sets our hearts and minds right with His design laws, restoring us back to love and trust in Him!
In this blog, we’ll take the next step in the Christian journey: sanctification. What does it mean practically and spiritually when we view the world through God’s design-law lens?
Sanctification is the growth, development, advancement, and maturing that happens in the lives of those who have been restored to trust in God. It is the battle between the new heart, the new motives, and the old impulses, desires, habits, and conditioned responses developed in our lives before being justified into a right spirit with God.
After we have been won to trust and surrendered our hearts to Christ (justification), sanctification is the daily application of the truths and principles of God’s design law in our lives. It is the growth and development of character that living out the truth in faith results in. This growth and development is an outworking of God’s design laws: the law of worship—by beholding we are changed; and the law of exertion—if you want something to be stronger, then you must exercise it. This outworking of God’s law in our lives transforms us, both neurobiologically and characterologically, as we internalize and apply His principles.
Sanctification is the process of the reborn heart, now motivated by love and trust, directing the mind upon what it watches, reads, admires, and worships. It is the process of the reborn heart directing in what one chooses to put in their body, what schedule one keeps, with whom one associates—essentially, all the activities of life. The reborn individual begins living out the principles (laws) of God and grows in godliness.
This growth builds on itself, just like any other development. We add to our understanding of truth as we study God’s Word and embrace and apply the truth. We add to our faith as we exercise faith. We add to our self-discipline as we discipline ourselves. We add to our wisdom as we seek God for wisdom, study His Word, reason out His revelations, and apply His methods.
This development, this advancement, this sanctification is perpetual—we never stop growing, developing, and advancing in the truth of God’s kingdom, nor in the depths of His love.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5–8 NIV84).
But this growing process is often difficult and is frequently advanced through painful circumstances. As a friend once told me, “Pain is fertilizer for the soul.” It is often through the painful events in our lives that we grow the most—why? Because strong emotions are strong motivators to action and will often trigger us to seek God for answers, which helps develop and mature us further.
Additionally, many of our bad habits, our sinful tendencies, for which we need victory, have strong reinforcing emotions associated with them. Victory often requires some strong emotional motivator to get our hearts to be willing to genuinely transform. Indeed, recovering addicts well know that they had to hit rock bottom before they were truly ready for recovery. In His love, God will allow these events as part of His discipline—He disciplines those He loves.
The apostle Paul describes the process of first having our hearts set right (justified) through faith and then, through that very faith (trust), we receive grace (power) to stand firm in the face of temptation and rejoice in the glory of the restoration of a godly character within. We rejoice specifically in these sufferings because they are part of the healing process—like a patient rejoicing in the pain of doing physical therapy; they know the pain is part of what is strengthening them.
Our difficulties in this life lead us to increase our dependence upon God to deepen the exercise of our faith in Him—and this results in greater growth and development of godly character. Paul put it this way:
Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Romans 5:1–5 NIV84).
Sanctification by faith is the result of a soul who, in trust, has surrendered to Jesus and cooperates with Him, by choosing to apply the truth (design law) to their lives as God reveals it to them. Such a soul does not win the victory in their own strength, but chooses to apply the truth to their lives and, through their trust/faith, receives divine power sufficient for every battle.
“We work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12, 13 NIV84).