It’s one thing to know a theological answer to get a passing grade in seminary, another to be able to work with that answer, turning head knowledge into life-changing reality, working out the path for life out of what God wants in all those theological words from you and me. My own thinking follows the line of: “All these doctrinal concepts come straight from the Bible, so they’re probably worth knowing more than anything else in life—other than God, I mean.” 

To that end, I have explored, studied, and wrestled with these concepts, tried sometimes to force them to fit where they don’t fit—though that last approach never availed much—and in the end have learned that what seems to work best is to tread easier, yet by all means persevere, because God wants this for me even more than I do. And sure enough, He eventually shows me in tangible ways where each concept in turn fits somewhere natural in my soul. It is a good, ongoing process. 

With that in mind, I want to share with you a series on the practical side of what I’ve learned so far about some of these theological, important, God-breathed, and smarty-pants-sounding concepts like justification, redemption, atonement, salvation, grace, and others, including sanctification—for our purposes, the first word in our series:

Sanctification: the experience of being set apart or declared holy.

These days I am a saint at heart (don’t laugh; instead read Rom 1:7 and 1 Cor 1:2 NASB). That I became sanctified (i.e. was turned into a saint) was made a fact the day I said I do to Jesus, when right away I became a brand new creation (2 Cor 5:17). But something was left in me that was full of beans, and I know now what it was, and is. It’s that part of me that God is shaping through the school of hard knocks over a lifespan on good falling planet Earth. 

It seems that in my new spirit, where God’s Spirit joins with mine, I am naturally willing—come what may—to do whatever needs doing, to do the right things in life. On the other hand, in my soul, a.k.a. my personality, where all these decisions get filtered and made, I am only partially willing. Hence the tantrums (Rom 7:15-20). Now, to be fair with myself, in some of the more mature parts of my soul, I am perfectly willing to be clay in the Potter’s hands (Is 64:8; Rom 9:21). But alas, in too many other areas I’m as resistant as a mule and a hundred miles off the path. And back and forth I go between these extremes.

The better parts of me want all the good to happen—to be done with these flaws and become at least what my mom always hoped I’d grow into, on the way to becoming what God plans for me to grow into. Which I take to be my ultimate goal, right? To be the best I can be, not in the world’s terms, but in heavenly ones, until I’m thoroughly proficient in such behaviors as loving others every bit as much as myself, and loving God so much that I don’t want to fall short of His plans for me anymore. Sounds nice. 

But there is a catch. I’m as helpless as a stray puppy to achieve any of this. I only know that Jesus has all my answers. So I run straight to Him, intending never to leave His side again. And I repeat this over and over every time I stray, which is regularly. And the days I stay closest and longest by His side are the ones where I see the things that weigh me down start to lift away like a morning fog. Or better yet, where I finally experience rest as He unclenches my fingers from the flaws and self-indulgences I drag around, because that’s how it all really happens. And every time it does, I am changed a little more into His image (2 Cor 3:18). Importantly, this continues day after day as, by God’s hands, the soulish me increasingly matches the new saintly creation God has made of the deepest me already. This process will be fully completed the day I am in Heaven with Him. Anyway, that’s how I believe it works. This is sanctification. And that is that.

(Useful hint: If that wasn’t clear, reread the last paragraph until it is.)

I hope this encourages you to better understand sanctification today.

Kevin Murray

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