THEREFORE, MY DEAR FRIENDS, AS YOU HAVE ALWAYS OBEYED—NOT ONLY IN MY PRESENCE, BUT NOW MUCH MORE IN MY ABSENCE—CONTINUE TO WORK OUT YOUR SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING, FOR IT IS GOD WHO WORKS IN YOU TO WILL AND TO ACT IN ORDER TO FULFILL HIS GOOD PURPOSE. (PHILIPPIANS 2:12-13)
In the past few centuries humans have made advances in technology that have made work easier, extended life expectancy, and increased our capacity for enjoying life. Yet one of the many detriments of this kind of progress is that it has made us more impatient, prone to expecting “instant gratification” at all times. It only takes 2 minutes to make popcorn in the microwave! It used to take months to get from Europe to America… but we can do that in 8 hours now!
So it is with sanctification. Many Christians fall into the trap of expecting a sort of “instant gratification” conversion—immediate freedom from sin once we put our trust in Jesus. This is not entirely true. We ARE free from sin’s dominion, in that it is no longer our master and we are free from the eternal consequences of our guilt. However, we are still under sin’s influence and will be so as long as we inhabit our fallen bodies.
In the short-term, sanctification can easily be a discouraging process. Sin’s influence in our lives is deeply ingrained and won’t easily be defeated. However, this is where the great hope of the gospel comes into play. Paul tells us in Philippians that God will be faithful to finish the good work he began in us. (Philippians 1:6)
What does this mean for us practically?
Sanctification is something we have to work at. The Holy Spirit is the one who changes our hearts, but we have to be active participants in the process. 1 Peter 1:16 says, “Be holy, as I am holy,” not “You are already holy…” There’s an implicit command to actively pursue holiness.
An illustration might be helpful. Imagine a blacksmith working with a piece of iron. The Holy Spirit is the fire that heats the metal (the sinful heart) and makes it pliable. The part of the Christian is to faithfully swing the hammer and do the hard work to reshape that stubborn piece of iron. By employing the power given to us by the Spirit, we are able to say no to sin and slowly, gradually kill the sin over time.
If you sometimes feel discouraged or overwhelmed in your struggle against sin, this is good news! Our Father cares for us so much that he will not leave us in this broken state. He has not only provided a way for our sins to be forgiven but a way to overcome our sinful nature altogether, to be restored to the fullness of our status as glorious bearers of his own image. One day, in the fullness of time, heaven and earth will join and we will be given new, incorruptible bodies that are no longer under the influence of sin. Hallelujah! What a great hope we have in the Gospel.
How to pray...
- Pray that we all as a church would actively engage the sanctification process, as we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”
- Pray that God would show you sin that you have been unaware of and then give you the grace to defeat that sin.
- Pray that God would make us all lovers of his law, delighting to obey rather than feeling like slaves to it.
- Pray specifically for the next generation of leaders in our church; for elders, deacons, deaconesses, and small group leaders. Pray that God would be preparing them now through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
For the Family
Watch the video about what a blacksmith does, then talk about these questions as a family:
- What is sanctification?
- What parts of the blacksmith’s process can we remember to remind us of how God works in our life?
"Pursuing Holiness" - Joel Pollard
Joel Pollard is the Director of Worship at LBC. He is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary and intends to pursue pastoral ordination in the PCA after graduation. Joel and his wife, Katie, have been married since 2011 and have two children, Sam and Evie.
"For the Family" - Michelle Crouse
Michelle Crouse has served as the director of LBC's children's ministry—SPLASH Kids—since the end of 2011. She and her husband Joshua were married in 2002 and have 2 children. Michelle grew up outside of Boston and graduated from James Madison University in Virginia with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She loves being with kids and loves the opportunity to be a part of teaching children how much they are loved by God, and helping them grow in their understanding of what that means.