I was once an uptight perfectionist. Yes, I admit it. My whole self-image depended upon being perfect in grades, piano performance and whatever got me awards for achievement. Yet, my flaws kept getting in the way of getting straight A’s one six weeks so that I missed out on the “straight A’s” award for that school year. I was horrible in athletics so PE was my nemesis. Then, in college, physics knocked me down big time—I just couldn’t see how to get the answers to those problems. My flaws were ever before me, and I sobbed when I couldn’t achieve perfection—which happened a lot. My self-image was tied to a losing cause.
Then, Jesus entered my life and showed me a new way to look at myself—through what He did for me on the cross. When my eyes stopped looking at me and my flaws and started looking at Him and my value in His sight, that burden of performance and perfectionism just rolled off my shoulders. It was the greatest relief I ever felt! And, perfectionism has never controlled my life since then (although that tendency to evaluate myself and what I do with critical eyes remains latent in my personality). Through my faith in Christ, God looks upon me as already perfect, as flawless as the perfect diamond. The Bible calls this Sanctification.
Six terms describe how our relationship with God is changed because of our faith in Jesus Christ—Propitiation, Reconciliation, Redemption, Forgiveness, Justification, and Sanctification. These 6 relationship changes are the direct result of Christ’s finished work on the cross so they are often called “words of the cross.” My recent blogs have covered Word of the Cross #1 Propitiation, #2 Reconciliation, #3 Redemption, #4 Forgiveness, and #5 Justification. This blog will cover the last one, #6 SANCTIFICATION.
What is sanctification?
Like propitiation (word #1), sanctification is a word we don’t use in our daily vocabulary. To be sanctified means to be made holy. To be “holy” means to be “set apart for special use.” Because the two words—sanctified and holy—are so closely connected, they are used interchangeably in our English translations. They mean the same thing, though.
Sanctification represents another important change in our standing with God. Our problem before Christ: Our need to be separated from the world and separated to God. This is accomplished through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as all believers are turned from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:17-18).
God demands that we be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). But, here’s the best news: God makes us holy in His sight by our faith in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:10). His love chooses to do that for us. It absolutely amazes me that God looks upon me and calls me holy in His sight. Doesn’t that amaze you?
But, sanctification is more than just having a different status before God. We have a different purpose as well. Every believer has been set apart as God's special, beloved possession for His exclusive use. To be set apart for special use is similar to using fine china and silverware for special occasions. It is the opposite of ordinary and common. Dear Christian, you are God’s special, beloved possession—called by Him to be dedicated to His service. You have a valuable purpose. How sweet is that!
You place your faith in Jesus; God declares you His saint.
Sanctified ones are called “holy people” and “saints” in the New Testament, depending on the translation. You can see how Paul described the believers in the first couple of verses of most of his letters—i.e., Romans 1:7, 2 Corinthians 1:1, and Ephesians 1:1. Translators use various English words to represent Paul’s intended meaning, usually “saints,” “holy ones” or “holy people.” All of those are translating a derivative of the Greek word hagios, “holy,” meaning separated from sin and dedicated to God.
All believers are called “holy ones” based on their faith in Jesus Christ. You as a saint are identified by position, what God declares to be true about you. Every believer, including you, is one of God’s saints, totally loved and accepted by Him. You are considered a saint of God by His declaration, not because of your behavior. Although some particularly influential Christians have been titled “Saint” through the years as an honor for their service to God, this is no way negates the truth that every believer is a saint in God’s eyes.
Believers are made holy by Christ’s death on the cross in their relational status before God. Remember all those words we have already studied? You have been redeemed, reconciled to God, forgiven, justified and completely accepted by God because of what Jesus has already done for you on the cross. All of that contributes to God declaring you holy as one of His saints by faith in Jesus Christ. That is your status before God. Perfected…no longer flawed in His sight.
But, wait, there’s more…
Believers are also “being made holy” in their thoughts, words, and actions by the work of the Holy Spirit. This is ongoing from the moment of salvation until the Lord comes or the believer dies when our “being made holy” is complete (Philippians 1:6). The goal of the Spirit’s work is to transform us into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18) so that we become in thought and behavior what we are in status—holy as God is holy.
Perfected…no longer flawed
An understanding of Christ's finished work on the cross is the basis for a firm knowledge of your identity in Him—a foundational truth for successful Christian living. It was totally God's work to make you acceptable again in His sight. Your proper response is to trust and rest in His work and to continually offer Him thanks from a grateful heart along with your willing service.
Dwell on the FACT that God declares you holy because of your faith in Christ. You are set apart by Him, for Him. This is your status before God because of your faith. Your behavior matches your position when you submit to the Spirit’s work to intentionally separate you from what God calls sin and then commit yourself to being used for His purposes throughout a typical day as you care for your household, be a parent or grandparent to children, work for an employer, interact with people around you, and spend your leisure time.
As Paul writes in Colossians 3:12, you are dearly loved!
Catch up on the previous blogs: