I was taught and/or misunderstood the doctrine of “Sanctification” in my childhood. I was sent to a church in my childhood that taught believers must have three “experiences” to be really right with God: 1. Believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness of sin; 2. Pray to have the “root of sin” removed from your heart and become “sanctified”; and 3. Pray to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and you must speak in tongues. After having believed in Jesus at around age 8, with a profound and meaningful calling by God, I sought God hard in my teen years. I really desired to follow Christ. No matter how hard I prayed or tried, I could never get past experience number 2, let alone number 3, because though I would “pray through” deeply with God, I would still sometimes sin practically. And I thought that sin was to have been fully removed from my heart. (I now know that though believers are given a new nature when we believe in Jesus, we also still have a sin nature to struggle against.) I remember reading Ephesians which teaches about the election of believers, that is God chooses those who will be drawn to believe in Him. This is a mysterious and hard to understand doctrine for me even now, but back then, I wrongly took it to mean that this was the reason I could not obtain these “experiences” and why I felt I could not get fully right with God. I thought I must not be chosen or among God’s elect, so felt it was hopeless for me to try to progress with God in personal holiness. Of course, I now know this was a false conclusion. So, partly out of frustration and rebellion and partly out of believing my enemy’s lie that I was not chosen by God and could never be a Christian, I walked away from God at around age 18. At least I tried to.
God kept gradually drawing me back to Himself and I could never really stop believing in or desiring to be right with God. Long story short, at age 29 I read the New Testament for myself, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes, and I finally understood the gospel of salvation by grace through faith, with nothing else added or required. I recommitted my life to Christ and have been following Him since for 31 years. I’ve grown in Bible understanding and maturity over the years. God has given me the desire to become more obedient to Him and more “practically pleasing” to Him, even as I know I am fully positionally justified, sanctified, called, chosen, and I am right with God by grace. I never want my life example to bring dishonor to my beautiful Savior, but it often does, but at least I repent when I fail.
So, as I’ve been maturing, I’ve been puzzling about the “how to” of how to cooperate with God more in obedience so I can become more “practically sanctified” (obedient to God) to line up more with the amazing positional sanctification (being seen as right and holy by God because of Jesus by grace) that I have. I felt I’ve been missing something and that Christianity wasn’t working well enough for me to effect practical change, or at least not fast enough change for me. I’ve learned we believers have overcoming power available by grace and all my sins, past, present and future are covered. If so, then why is my practical progress so slow? What have I been doing wrong? This is why I’ve been studying the doctrine of sanctification and why I’ve chosen to make my focus for 2018 be finding out how to please God and how to execute the same. I have come a long way in my studies. I am not trying to focus too much on my sin and to be too self-deprecating, as someone has suggested. I am trying to examine myself before God and learn how to please Him by grace. I am now feeling much more hopeful for more progress now that I understand the process of practical sanctification and the “how to” of achieving it from my studies, including Jerry Bridges’ outstanding book, Transforming Grace. I hope to write some short blogs about what I’ve been learning. Now I realize I have understood what to do all along, but I have just not applied myself to it consistently enough. The fault is not God’s that my progress is slow. And there isn’t some special “formula” for how to progress practically that I’ve been missing. My cooperation with God needs improvement. (Philippians 2:12 etc.)
God, please help all the believers in my life to be remembering to pray for each other—to really grasp our positional sanctification through Jesus by grace, and to be grateful; help us want to be practically pleasing to You also by grace as we cooperate in obedience as You have called us to do. Help me keep my personal focus with singleness of purpose on following You in obedience as I rely on Your promised grace and strength to do so.
1 John 1:8-10 “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”
Philippians 2:12 “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
If I am erring in my pursuit of personal holiness, I would rather err on the side of working out my salvation with fear and trembling rather than erring on the side of basking in my positional rightness with God to the extent of not being grateful enough to desire to be more practically pleasing to God in my daily life. And I am willing to be transparent and put myself out there that I’m really trying to apply this, even though I will likely fail some. I hang on to these promises quoted above, knowing God will be faithful to complete the good work He has begun in me, though I will never see perfection this side of eternity. I am hopeful to see more progress. Prayers appreciated.