There are two major errors when it comes to the idea of sanctification. The first is to think that after someone has gotten saved, they should return to church all put together and free of every last addiction, foible, sin, and incorrect way of thinking. But this doesn’t happen. Figuring out how to live in the Kingdom of God once you’ve become a citizen there is a major culture shift, and while some of those shifts are going to happen right up front, some of our other mannerisms are going to have to be chiseled out over time. Sanctification, after all, is a process. We do not change into Jesus’s perfect likeness overnight, we metamorphose into it over time as we strip off the flesh of the old human (Adam) and put on the flesh of the new human (Jesus). Full sanctification is something that does not come until the resurrection life—but at the same time, it is already here, happening as we submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit to change us.
And that’s where the other major error comes in. For some, sanctification “later” is all that matters and there’s little we can do about our chaotic lives now. We were born in sin, we’re stuck sinning even under Jesus, and we will hardly get that much better until Jesus returns. To people under this thinking, sanctification is nothing more than a status. “I am saved, therefore I am holy and I can’t get much holier than this. My sin is thrown away and I can sin no more—at least ‘theologically’-speaking.” This thinking has a stark contrast against the Bible’s actual message of holy living and ignores some of the most intense warning passages in the New Testament about what happens if we live however sinfully we want after accepting Christ.
Sanctification takes time. If we don’t invest anything into our sanctification, then we will not be further sanctified. Likewise, if we expect sanctification of new believers, we will become obstacles to them rather than coaches. The Holy Spirit often has a speed at which he works with people on the different topics of their lives and we need to be sensitive to it. There are some who have come to me with a problem and I’ve worked softly with them, despite the fact that they were extravagantly wrong in their actions or thinking. And then there are others that I’ve expected more out of based on their journey with Christ, and have had to lean more into what I’m saying. Every case is different, but if we’re sensitive to the Spirit, he will help us bring about his holiness in ourselves and in one another. Sanctification is, after all, the Spirit’s work—not ours.
My liturgical devotion today is based off of the themes of 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17, found at CommonPrayer.net.