Sanctification. A long word for a long process.

Once, a friend I was discipling asked me, "What does it mean to be sanctified?" I took a deep breath, and said, "Well . . . !"

You can talk about positional sanctification, that the moment you accept Christ as your Savior, you are sanctified: set apart in the family of God. You can go on to experiential sanctification, that is, growing as a Christian to become more and more like Christ in our daily lives. You can finish up with future sanctification, that wondrous moment when "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2, NAS).

I did talk about those things. But when it came to the question of turning orthodoxy into orthopraxy (right teaching into right practice), it seemed to boil down to one thing: God is not afraid of process.

The problem for us as Christians is that sanctification is a frightening word. It conjures images of golden lampstands and the ark of the covenant, set apart as "Holy to the Lord" in the tabernacle and in the Temple. We know that the root of the word is "holy," and that as saints (also derived from the same root in the Greek), we are to be holy, too.

But holiness seems ungraspable. As out of reach as the cherubim who flew before the throne of the Most High, crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty! The whole earth is full of His glory!" (Isaiah 6:3, NAS). We cringe before a holy God, staring in despair at our feeble hold on His Word, at the sins that riddle our lives, at the weakness that drags us down even when we try to do right. We read the simple words, "Be holy, because I am holy" (I Peter 1:16, NAS), and we feel defeated before we have even begun.

The good news is that God is not afraid of process. We stare at the standard of holiness and feel the weight of all our sins. God looks at our sins, and encourages us to work on them - one at a time. We look at the end result, and the journey seems impossible. God looks at the journey, and reminds us that it begins with one small step. We look at the prize and are defeated by our weakness. God looks at our weakness and reminds us that He will supply all our needs.

God is not afraid of process. He is not afraid to take you as you are, and work with you day by day. He knows you will fail. He knows you will fall. What he wants is for you to know that He will always be there to pick you up when you do.

God is a loving Father. He does not ask that we tackle every area of sin and weakness in our lives at once. He gives us one battle at a time, and the strength to conquer.

God is faithful. He is mindful of our frail humanity. He created us. He loves us. When he called us to sanctification, to be holy to him, he did so not to discourage us or to give us an impossible command. He called us to be like him so that we could experience his joy to the fullest, his grace to the utmost, his love for all the ages of eternity.

Where do we begin, then? On our knees, with His Word open in front of us. And with the reminder that God is not afraid of process.

© 2001 Paula Marolewski

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Author's Bio: 

Paula J. Marolewski provides challenging and interactive adult Bible studies for individuals, Bible studies, small groups, and adult Sunday School classes at Sink Your Roots ( Studies include such topics as Debunking the Myths about Knowing God's Will. The site also offers free weekly Seedlings - “Little thoughts that grow big results.”