As Sanctified as I want to be
In a recent conversation with my wife about something at church, I expressed my disagreement with the way something was being done. It's just not the way I would do it. I found myself blurting out to my wife, "I don't care if they do it as long as they do it my way."
Pastors and anyone who is a leader can be guilty of this thought. But we all are guilty of thinking this way when it comes to our sanctification in Christ.
The Bible is clear that justification, the event by which we are made to be in right standing before God, is a one time event. Jesus accomplished this on the cross, once for all becoming our stand in. We can only be justified once, and that comes when we accept our need for Christ and admit our belief in the life, death, and resurrection as Christ.
While justification is instantaneous, sanctification takes a lifetime to complete. Sanctification is the process by which we are made more holy, bringing out character and habits in line with Christ. This was made clear to me in the book of 1 Thessalonians. As the letter comes to an end, Paul begins to admonish the church on how to live. He tells them to live in peace, to admonish the unruly, to help the weak and be patient with everyone. Then as a close to this list of instructions he tells in the 1 Thess 5:23.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As Paul ends his letter, he want to make sure that the church in Thessalonica knows that it is only God himself that sanctifies. We are not saved by grace only to be made holy by works. Rather it is Christ in us the hope of glory who molds us and shapes us to be more like him. Paul makes clear that it is God who sanctifies us. But if we move on too quickly we will miss the word at the end of that sentence that is of equal importance. We are to be sanctified “entirely.”
I know that God has saved me, and that for the rest of my life He will be sanctifying me. I am thankful for the work he has done in my heart. But there are parts of me that I wish God would just leave alone. There are parts that are “not that bad,” at least in my opinion. I know that God has to shape me and mold me to be like him, and he leads me through his word and spirit to be Christ like.
I'm glad God is doing this work, but I just wish He would do it my way. My way would involve letting me keep some of the "small" sins that I don't think are that big of a deal. I know I need to be more like christ. But at times I feel like I don’t want to be any more sanctified. I’m as sanctified as I want to be.
While there are parts of my life that need to be more like Christ, there are many parts of my life that my flesh is satisfied with. I pray, read my bible, even work as a pastor. So what if I don’t pray as much as I should because I waste time online. Who cares if I struggle with lust, as long as it’s only a little. I read my bible every day, isn't’ that good enough?
There are times and places in our lives that God begins to call us deeper into relationship with Him. Sanctification is a part of that, being made to look more and more like Christ in our habits and attitudes. God is brought into more and more areas of my life and takes over every room of my heart. But if I’m honest there are many places where I am satisfied with only a little of God. As long as it’s more than others then I can justify myself as being better than them. There will be some who turn their whole hearts and minds over to God, and that’s fine for them, but I am as sanctified as I want to be.
God is interested in partial sanctification. Paul says he wants to sanctify us entirely, to bring every area of our heart, soul, mind, and strength into perfect submission to God. There is no part of us that God does not want to sanctify. There is no part of us that God looks at and says “that’s good enough.” Only when we are sanctified “entirely” will we be where God wants us to be. We should never be satisfied with our spiritual lives until we bring “every square inch” of our lives under God’s submission.
Being as sanctified as you want to be might make you feel good about yourself compared to others, but you will miss the plan that God has for your life. The process of sanctification is not easy. But it will be worth it in the end. Only when we have a proper view of God and His holiness will see God as worth anything we go through. To be sanctified “entirely” takes a lifetime. But God in his goodness will give us the grace to make it through.