I grew up in the Christian Reformed Church, attended a Baptist K-12 school, and now serve in the United Methodist Church. When it was time to teach Confirmation, I had some learning and processing to do about the concept of Sanctification.
When’s the last time you used the word Sanctification outside of a confirmation class or a Sunday message? It’s not a typical, everyday conversational word. It’s a word that defines a process but it’s also a goal. It’s a daily investment and a year-end review. Like many things, it’s results are more often seen as we look backwards rather than see clearly forwards.
We have all watched students come to a full acceptance of Christ yet struggle with sin as they learn what it is to live for Christ as a fully devoted obedient follower. This struggle to let go of the “old” and hold onto the “new” is a part of what I believe to be the sanctification process. I have to believe that when Jesus commands us to love God with all our hearts and love others; he knew we could do it through him and his work in us. Why would he give a command that we could never attain? He gave us these to accomplish WITH him.
Sanctify in Greek is hagizao and it means “be holy, dedicated to God, purify”. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:15-16 “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy”’. How can we be holy? Holiness isn’t perfection, it’s set apart, dedicated to God, and that we can do. It is a recognition that being made perfect in love is not humanly possible without faith as a gift of God’s grace. This is not a static state in grace but one that is a becoming because of grace.
John Wesley saw sanctification, or holiness, as a journey towards God’s grace. It was an on-going experience for God’s grace to transform us into whom God intended us to be. It’s a process each day and a desire to become more like Christ as we end a day then when it began. It is the process of alignment and surrender. This is work, this means living on purpose, but it also means blessing and peace knowing that each day is a new step in the process. Wesley said our holiness should make us conspicuous. Have you ever thought of it like that?
Do you live in such a way that it’s obvious that you are pursuing Jesus?
A life fully devoted would be one of perfect love which would naturally lead to living like Christ and not the world. Holiness, as Wesley states, is a becoming of the inner reality of Christ’s love in us. As I write this, I know that I have in no way arrived, but I have discovered two things on my faith journey. I have learned that Spiritual Disciplines play a major role in my desire to become more like Jesus. Scripture, prayer, fasting, worship, and serving are key in keeping my eyes on him. The second, it’s all about grace. The giving and receiving of grace is fundamental in life and in student ministry. If we can’t do it, we’ll soon drown in all the disappointments of kids’ mistakes – and our own.
There’s something comforting about knowing it’s a process, on on-going experience. We don’t arrive at once and neither do our students. We give grace, receive grace, and learn more about grace. Then do it all again. And, as we look backwards, we can see ourselves becoming more loving, kind, grace-filled, open, and connected to Jesus then we were the day before, and the month before that and the year before that.
At its core, holiness is being set apart, dedicated to God
At its core, sanctification is the pursuit of that holiness.
It’s a Total Eclipse of the Heart and we need to be in pursuit all year long.