Sanctification is both a position and a process. “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb 10:14). The word “sanctification” could be translated, “made holy,” “set a part,” or “holy.” The Lord tells us the cross sufficiently sets a part a person as a perfect individual. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Just as the Lord is perfectly holy and set a part, so is the believer. Hebrews emphasizes our change in character, through Christ’s sacrifice, allows us to enter into His presence. For a First Century believer who could never walk into the Holy of Holies, this would communicate our status changed. Believers are sanctified. But wait, the objector always says, “I still sin!” Yes, because we are being sanctified. Our verse Hebrews 10:14 tells us that sanctification is also a present action on going daily. So, sanctification is both a position and a process.
How are we sanctified? This is an important question. Think about it in practical terms. “How do I stop my porn addiction?” “How do I learn to be patient?” “How do I learn to stop being jealous?” “How do I deal with [insert constant struggle]?” What we’re asking here, “How do I get sanctified and grow in holy living?” The most common answer I hear from people dealing with habitual sin, “I just need to read and pray more.” This is partially true, but it neglects the most important action, action. God tells us why someone is mature, “The mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb 5:14). In order to mature and walk in holiness, a person has to put it into action, we have to practice what we learn to be true. Allen Iverson didn’t get it, “practice” is important. There are five essential truths we must put in action and remember when dealing with sin.
First, it is the Lord’s work. This is extremely important both as a child and a disciple maker. “He who began a good work in you, He will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). This is the most important truth to remember. People don’t change people, the Lord changes people. This is the Lord’s work. He causes people to be born again and He causes growth. My growth isn’t my own doing, it’s His gracious work.
When I’m frustrated a person has not matured, I fail to realize this point. Yes, we may have to tell someone the same thing a thousand times. But we must remember, it’s His work. Of course it’s frustrating and doesn’t the Lord know what He’s doing? Why won’t He change this person? Our frustration tells the Lord, “You who created the world and hold it up, don’t you know what you’re doing in this person’s life?” For me personally, this verse is not an excuse to disobey, “If the Lord doesn’t want me to do this, He’ll have to make me not do it.” That’s not how it works, I am culpable and yet, it reminds me change is His work and His glory.
Because God causes the growth, it should compel us to pray that He will grow and mature our church and ourselves. We should pray our friends and neighbors get saved and grow in maturity.
Second, meditate and know God’s Word. “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col 3:1-2). We have positionally been raised with Christ, our minds need to continue to dwell on the things of God. Where is His revelation? Scripture. God wrote sixty-six books, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). We need training in what righteousness looks like and how to follow Him. Actions flow from thinking. Sinful actions flow from wrong thinking (aka the heart). We need to inform our mind with biblical truth. Every issue, problem, subject, and action should be influenced by God’s Word. Right living comes from a transformed heart and right thinking. Marriage, spouse, sex, politics, spending money, entertainment, hobbies, work, church, neighbors, and everything under the sun, God says something about them and we need to live by His thoughts. “Live God’s thoughts after Him.”
Third, understand your position in Christ. Believer, because you are united to Christ, you are dead to sin. I fear the over emphasis on justification by faith has lead to neglecting the great doctrine of Union with Christ. Neglecting this doctrine prevents us from understanding our association with Christ on the cross. “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11). In context, Paul unpacks our we died with Christ [on the cross], were buried with Him, and then raised with Him (Rom 6:1-4). ”
Paul continues, “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order [aka. for this result] that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Rom 6:5-7). I hear all the time, “I want victory over my sin.” The reality is you can never gain victory over your sin. Christ accomplished victory over your sin on the cross. Believer, you are dead to sin. Sin has no mastery over you because God freed you from it and changed your nature.
So, when sin tempts us and disobedience beckons, remind yourself of your position in Christ and freedom from sin.
Fourth, we need to obey. Obedience is essential, even if you don’t feel like it. I love this objection, “But if I obey, and don’t feel like it, then I’m a hypocrite.” Let’s think about this for a second. Is God going to tell us, “I was fine with your disobedience because you didn’t feel like obeying.” That’s ridiculous. Yet our heart always comes up with clever reasons to disobey. We must learn to submit our desires to Christ and follow Him. <– is an important sentence. Learn to submit your desires and feelings to Him and follow Him. Our verse, “The mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb 5:14). That doesn’t say, “who because of more prayer have their senses trained . . .” It says, “because of practice, an actual action.” When God says, “Walk in a manner worthy of the gospel to which you have been called.” He means it. God’s calling is a holy calling, therefore live a holy life.
Fifth, understand the importance of your church family. The Christian walk is not me and Christ. It is Christ and us. God called us into the church (Ephesians 4:1-16). The cited passage tells me I have a gift meant to edify the church. Edification is sanctification. In order to grow, I have to be plugged into the church, serving, growing, loving, and active. I cannot be a sideline participant like I’m at ball game or concert. It is a relationship requiring my work. Growth happens when we serve the church. Failure to serve the church will produce “dull hearing.” We will be sluggish, unsure of our own salvation, and not mature / sanctify. Hebrews 6:9-12 explains the significance in loving Christ by serving the church,
But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
God will not forget our work and love towards Him. How was that work manifested? “having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” Who are the saints? The church. How important is this? “We desire that each one of you show the same diligence.” In other words, maintain this commitment. What is the result? You, “realize the full assurance of hope until the end.” You grow, not sluggish, but imitators of previous believers who finished the race.