When I became a Christian, I entered the process we call “sanctification.” For those who may not totally understand the meaning of this word, it refers to the ongoing process of our being made holy. Essentially, this is what Paul was referring to in the 8th chapter of Romans, specifically verse 29. It mentions that we are being changed into the image of His Son. In other words, we are continuously going through a process wherein God is making us like Jesus. Of course, according to Scripture, this is not our doing but God’s. He saves us, and then sets us apart for this process. Throughout this process, I see a continual struggle in my life between the good that God would have me do and the evil that I have a tendency toward (This is also mentioned by Paul. See Romans 7.).
Logically, what this means is that as life goes on we should become more and more holy. It should get easier and easier to turn from sin. It should be more and more of a reflex to shun sin and embrace holiness…right? Now…I don’t know about you…but this is not really the case for me. It has made me wonder about a lot of things…like, “am I really saved?”…or, “is God going to get sick of me?” Once again…maybe you haven’t had these thoughts…maybe it’s just me…if so, then this will be a lonely post.
Here’s what I’ve learned as of today: I think that I don’t hate sin very much. If I did, I wouldn’t engage it quite so often. Instead of hating sin, what I hate instead is the consequence(s) of sin. I don’t despise the fleshly pleasures I get from practicing it…but instead I hate when it causes me any kind of discomfort, difficulty, or penalty. There also is this mental/emotional/spiritual wrestling match in my soul during these times…His Spirit within me leading me away from sin, while I consciously walk right into it…almost numb to the damage it’s doing to relationships, my heart, and the world around me.
I wonder what it would be like if I truly hated sin. What could God do with my life if I was truly given over to Him because I desire His holiness and His love and truly hate those things opposed to Him? I can only imagine the peace of such an existence…the innocence…the beauty. As I wonder about that…I begin once again to wonder if I am truly His child…and I wonder how on earth He could love such a one as myself. How can He want anything to do with me…the one who blatantly rebels…willfully engaging sin on an ongoing basis…never really getting it right…all the while claiming to be one of His children.
Then something occurred to me…God saved me by His own choice…nothing to do with me. God loved me when I was totally unlovable (Romans 5:8). We refer to this by saying God’s love is unconditional. It isn’t based on what or whom we are. It is based solely on Whom He is. God’s love for me comes from His character and identity, not my actions and intentions. Something I had not realized until lately was this…we trust in God to save us by grace, but then we beat ourselves up during the process of our lives afterward…during the time in which He is sanctifying us. The realization is that we trust in His work for salvation, but then in OUR work for sanctification…and then when we mess it up…we feel rotten.
Here’s the deal: you and I will never be able, in our own strength, to get any of this right. I have found that even when I start off in the right direction, maybe even doing the right thing…in my heart lurks an evil desire directly connected with that very direction…and it’s in those moments we should chuckle to ourselves regarding our own impotence…stand in awe of His love for us…and once again come to terms with the fact of His holiness, love, and majesty, as opposed to our state of fallenness, hate, and repugnance.
When we mess up, we need to confess it to Him. Then let it go. I don’t understand why things are the way they are, but I am not the One that created the rules of existence. He knows well what He is doing and what needs to occur. He does not hold sin to our account. He may bring about consequences or maybe I should say He will allow them. Either way, those things will be difficult, and when that occurs, we must remember that it is for our benefit…it is part of whom He is making us each one to be. In His grace and mercy, there is nothing we can do that will separate us from His love. We may, for a short season, be somewhat distant from Him. However, that is our own doing, not His. If we will draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.
We need not be confused about this ongoing struggle in our lives…we need to simply accept that it is part of our journey, realize that He knows full well what we will do before we do, and realize He has chosen to love us and abide with us anyway. Therefore, we must not feel condemned. Instead, we can boldly stand up, shoulders back, chest forward, and proclaim that we are His children. As we come to understand this identity more and more….He will take care of the sanctification…all in His time…and it will be perfect.
Remember…we don’t surprise Him. We don’t disappoint Him. His wrath was poured out on the cross…so relax…He’s not mad at us when we totally mess this thing up. Instead He is using all the events of our lives, be they sins or situations, in order to make us like His Son…and He does it, at least in part, out of adoration for His children.