So – here we are – in this in-between time. For those of us who have trusted in the saving work of Jesus on our behalf, we live between new birth – and earthly death. We live between justification and glorification. Jesus has secured our salvation for us. He is actively saving us, right now, as we live in, and love, and follow after Him.
And some days – it is so hard. And other days, it is more amazing than we ever dreamed possible! What’s going on? Where are we as we labor and wait between new birth and earthly death, between justification and glorification? Why does it feel like this?
In Philippians 2:12, Paul described it like this: he said, “We are working out our salvation with reverence and gravity” or seriousness. What has happened in us, thus far, is serious spiritual business:
- The sin nature is dying – and it does not die easily.
- The old claims that death and hell had on our souls have been broken – and they do not let go without first digging their claws in on their way out.
- Our old weaknesses to temptation do not like to go down without a fight.
But brothers & sisters, they WILL go down. And they do go out of our lives. And they will fully and finally die away.
If we will continue leaning on Jesus, if we will continue to trust in Him with every area of our lives – just as we did with our initial moment of salvation when we were converted, regenerated, and justified – if we will surrender to, and cooperate with, the Spirit that has entered our lives through this (conversion/justification) process,
- then He will graciously enable us to “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12),
- and to be “more than conquerors through Christ who loves us” (Romans 8:37),
- and to “give life & meaning & purpose & victory to our earthly, mortal existence” (Romans 8:11),
- and “to be transformed from glory into ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18),
- and to have both our “will and our conduct” transformed “according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
We Christians have one more big churchy word for all of this: this continual process of dying to our old sinful ways (Galatians 6:14) and of growing in holiness and victory, both inside and outside, as lovers of God and followers of Jesus. This continual process in the life of a believer is known as SANCTIFICATION.
So what is sanctification? What is going on in the life of a Christ-follower between new birth and death? Well, there are two categories of things that are happening in the life of a believer during the sanctification process.
I will state it in multiple different ways, but all these statements are essentially saying the same thing:
- The power of sin is waning(>), and the power of holiness is growing (<).
- The sin nature is dying off(>), and the spirit of adoption is being more fully realized(<).
- The bondage to sin is being broken(<), and our freedom in Christ is growing in strength(<).
Romans 6 says it this way:
So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. –Romans 6:11-14
On the chart, I have chosen to represent our sin nature by the color red, and our growing likeness to Christ as white, because those are the colors the Bible uses: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
This white line here at conversion & justification shows that there is a clear breaking point for the power of sin (Romans 6:11-14). Sin does not lose all its power immediately, but its power does begin diminishing as soon as the believer submits his/her life to the Spirit that is now alive and at work within them, redeeming them, strengthening them, setting them more & more & more free in Jesus.
Here, at this point of conversion & justification, the believer still has a long way to go to be sanctified. But the journey has begun. And it is serious spiritual business.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation; the old things are passing away(>); behold, new things have come(<). –2 Corinthians 5:17
We once had only a sin nature. But now we have been given a new nature, which is being renewed in the knowledge and the image of Christ (Colossians 3:10).
From this moment of conversion & justification, we can boldly proclaim,
I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ that lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. –Galatians 2:20
That verse right there, Galatians 2:20 – that may be the most clear explanation of the process of sanctification that happens in the life of believer after they are converted & justified:
- “I have been crucified with Christ,” (justification)
- “and it is no longer I who lives,
- but Christ that lives in me.
- The life I now live in the body,” (sanctification)
- “I live” (HOW?) “by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Now, if that is the most clear Biblical explanation of the process of sanctification, then John 3:30 is the most concise. It is a short little verse, so I want to read it to you in multiple different translations, so that you can get the full weight of this amazing little verse on the process of sanctification in the life of a believer.
John 3:30 says,
- “He must become greater(<); I must become less(>).” (NIV)
- “He must become increasingly more(<), and I must become decreasingly less(>).” (NLT)
- “He must increase(<), but I must decrease(>).” (ESV)
- “He must grow more prominent(<); I must grow less so(>).” (AMP)
- “He must grow(<), and I must diminish(>).” (WYC)
What is sanctification? It is the cooperative working between you and the Holy Spirit within you, where the power of sin diminishes unto death, and the power of the Spirit flourishes into abundant life.
It’s hard work, but it is what we were made for. And the promise of Jesus is that He will help us do it (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
In the next post, we will look at an analogy of sanctification from everyday life that will help us better understand what is happening in the life of a Christian between New Birth and earthly death – between justification and glorification.