If you’ve been in a house long enough with growing children, chances are you’ve got a door frame somewhere with pencil marks measuring their growth. It’s amazing to see how they grow over time. I’ll admit, about the time my youngest started to catch up to me in height, I just decided to stop measuring, I didn’t what to admit defeat.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some way we could measure our growth in the Lord? What would it be like if we could have a record of measurements on a wall in our home, showing our development in faith, good works, prayer, and love.
Or maybe it wouldn’t.
For some, there would be no sign of growth, or long periods where no change took place whatsoever, or maybe even a few steps were lost.
God’s word calls us to sanctification, to a life of holiness, growing into the likeness of Christ, of maturing in our faith and leaving behind the passions of the world.
1 Th 4:3–5 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God…
1 Pe 1:15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
Eph 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
Heb 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
God has justified and redeemed us as His people in Jesus Christ, so that we may grow in holiness, in sanctification, in Christlikeness. This is, as the Westminster Larger Catechism tells us, “a work of God’s grace, whereby those whom God has, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of His Spirit, applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole person after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin and rise unto newness of life.
Let me condense that: Sanctification is the work of God, where those chosen by God to be holy are, by the Holy Spirit, renewed in the image of God.
The Holy Spirit, vitally uniting us to Christ, applies Jesus’ death and resurrection to our lives, and works grace upon grace within our lives, so that we:
- Continue to repent of our sin
- Learn trust in Christ for salvation more and more
- Develop a love for the Word of God and find in it our only rule for life and faith
- Grow in our love for the Church, for the fellowship of those who have been justified and sanctified by God in Jesus Christ
- Stand ready to say and show the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ to those around us.
The Westminster Confession reminds us that this work of God sanctifying us is imperfect in this life, for there will abide in us some remnant of corruption. And so we are to be at war, the spirit against the flesh, always putting to death the old man wishing, and being renewed in the new life day by day according to God’s Word.
In reading through J.C. Ryle’s, Holiness (get a free copy here), I am encouraged by, and challenged in, his bullet points on the Nature of Sanctification. I’d like to share them here as food for thought, hopefully encouraging you in your life of growth in God’s grace.
- Sanctification is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith gives to a Christian. The branch that bears no fruit is no living branch of the vine.
- Sanctification is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration. He that is born again and made a new creature receives a new nature and a new principle and always lives a new life.
- Sanctification is the only certain evidence of that indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is essential to salvation.
- Sanctification is the only sure mark of God’s election. He that boasts of being one of God’s elect, while he is willfully and habitually living in sin, is only deceiving himself and talking wicked blasphemy
- Sanctification is a reality that will always be seen.
- Sanctification is a reality for which every believer is responsible. A man who professes to be a true Christian, while he sits still, content with a very low degree of sanctification (if indeed he has any at all), and coolly tells you he “can do nothing,” is a very pitiable sight and a very ignorant man.
- Sanctification is a thing which admits of growth and degrees. A man may climb from one step to another in holiness and be far more sanctified at one period of his life than another. More pardoned and more justified than he is when he first believes he cannot be, though he may feel it more. More sanctified he certainly may be, because every grace in his new character may be strengthened, enlarged and deepened.
- Sanctification depends greatly on a diligent use of scriptural means. The “means of grace” are such as Bible reading, private prayer, and regularly worshipping God in Church, wherein one hears the Word taught and participates in the Lord’s Supper.
- Sanctification is a thing which does not prevent a man having a great deal of inward spiritual conflict.
- Sanctification is a thing which cannot justify a man, and yet it pleases God.
- Sanctification is a thing which will be found absolutely necessary as a witness to our character in the great Day of Judgment.
- Sanctification, in the last place, is absolutely necessary in order to train and prepare us for heaven. Most men hope to go to heaven when they die; but few, it may be feared, take the trouble to consider whether they would enjoy heaven if they got there. We must be saints before we die if we are to be saints afterwards in glory.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Th 5:23).
Quotes from: Ryle, J. C. Holiness: It’s Nature, Hinderances, Difficulties and Roots. electronic ed. based on the Evangelical Press reprinting, with new forward, 1995. Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1999. Print.