The Bible talks about sanctification in two ways. One way is, sanctification received by faith in Jesus.¹ The Bible says we are made perfect, holy and righteous when we believe in Jesus, because Jesus’ death took away all our sins.² The Bible uses the words perfect, holy, and righteous to describe someone who obeys God without sinning.² As long as we have faith, we remain perfect in God’s sight, because Jesus’ blood covers us.³ The second way the bible talks about sanctification, is the process of becoming perfect righteous and holy in our thoughts and actions.⁴ The book of Hebrews says, "For by a single offering God has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified."⁵ Although Jesus paid for all our sins, we don’t yet obey God with all our thoughts and actions. This is why the Apostle Paul said, I am not yet perfect, but I press on to make it my own.⁶From here on out, I will be focusing on the process of sanctification that makes us obedient to God, with our thoughts and actions.
The word sanctification literally means to become holy, which means to live a godly life with all our thoughts and actions. Jesus said, “sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth”, he also said, “the truth will set you free”. Paul said it this way, we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.⁷ All humans need a renewed mind, because we are descendants of sinners, and because God gave Satan the power to influence the whole earth and twist the truth.⁸
After we repent and believe, God wants to renew our minds by teaching us more truth.⁹ But according to the bible, the only way we can understand or learn God’s truth, is by the Holy Spirit teaching us.¹⁰ The main way God teaches us about truth is the Bible, but he also uses things like revelations, trials or creation to help us understand the truth.¹¹ God promised to teach us more about his life changing truth if we meet two conditions, we have to put effort into seeking for more truth, and we have to be obeying whatever he already showed us.¹² Jesus said, whoever is faithful with what they have, will be given more, but whoever is faithless, even what they have will be taken.¹³ Jesus also said whoever hears his words and puts them into practice is like a man who built his house on the rock, but whoever hears his words and doesn’t obey them is like a man who built his house on the sand, he will be destroyed.¹⁴
Only the truth can give us a greater desire to please God, than our desire to please ourselves.⁷ The desire to sin is so strong that apart from God, we were enslaved to it.¹⁵ Satan had trapped us with his lies, that sin is more pleasurable than God’s rewards, and the consequences for going against men are more painful than the consequences for going against God.¹⁶ Even though we had a God given conscience, to know when we did wrong, we had no power to stop doing bad things.¹⁷
God originally created all our desires for good purposes, but because we are descendants of Adam and Eve, we were born with selfish desires, and without the knowledge of God. Because we are born from sinners, God allows the enemy to twist the good desire he put in us, so that we do good things for bad reasons.¹⁸ Instead of wanting money to please God, we want it for security or other selfish reasons; and instead of wanting a wife to learn about God’s goodness or how he relates to us, we commit adultery, because we don’t know how God could fulfill our desires; and instead of wanting God’s justice, we want our own revenge, etc.
But for those who are born again, the Bible says there is still a good way to partake of everything God created here on earth.¹⁹ As God fulfills our desires His way, we are filled with thankfulness because of his goodness, and our love for him deepens.²⁰But if we fulfill our God given desires in ways that displease God, we will not be filled with thankfulness, and God will punish us for displeasing him.²¹ The enemy knows this, so he tries to lure us into sin, so we will be punished.²²
For a while I struggled with demonic dreams, in one such dream I had failed sexually but after the enemy’s temptations had faded away, in the dream I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and as I started asking God for forgiveness a voice spoke in my mind saying, “didn’t you think if you had chosen not to sin, I would have rewarded you?”²³ When he spoke these words, it was crystal clear that he was also implying his reward would have been better than the pleasure I just experienced, and his reward would have come in a timely manner, (on this earth). I answered him honestly, “no, I didn’t know that”. Then I woke up. This truth changed my life, because I thought God only made our trials and hardships worthwhile in heaven. I didn’t know he rewards us here on earth in a timely manner, and in a proportion that is greater than the current trial.²⁴ I looked through the scripture and sure enough God clearly confirms what the Holy Spirit told me in the dream.²⁴ It’s amazing how much one truth set me free.
Knowing that God promised to fulfill or change all my deepest desires like loneliness, food, material things, sex or rest and safety, gave me the power to not chase these things in a sinful way.²⁵ God is truth, and every time we learn a little more about him or his promises, we are set free a little more.²⁶God will continue to change us until we get to heaven, where God promised to complete us, giving us a new mind and showing us everything about himself, just as he knows everything about us.²⁷
God’s truths sound easy to learn, but he chose to teach them to us little by little, using trials and hardships to give us practice obeying them.²⁸ Similar to physical exercise, our trust in God’s promises must be built up bit by bit. God promised not to tempt us beyond what we can bear, but he also said he will put us through trials and hardships, in order to expose and remove our sinfulness.²⁹I believe the reason it sometimes feels like God tempted us beyond what we could bear, is because he was showing us an area where our heart was currently sinning. Once God has delivered us from lying or gluttony or selfishness, then he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear in these areas, but if we are currently sinning, in our thoughts or actions, our sin needs to be exposed and delt with.³⁰ The Bible compares our trials to the process of purifying gold. When gold is melted by fire, the impurities float to the top, and can be taken out.³¹ The reason God wants to remove sin from us, is so we can have a more intimate relationship with him.³² He hates sin so much, that unless he removes it, we cannot grow closer to him.³² It’s true that faith in Jesus means our sins are forgiven, and God can overlook them, but it’s also true that each new sin upsets God.³³
The more God corrects and purifies us, the more quickly we recognize sin, and the more we hate even little sins. As we become more perfect and holy, our relationship with God deepens, and we begin to love what he loves and hate what he hates, and he can share more of his heart with us.³² When we are first saved God begins taking the biggest sins out of our life, because they are the greatest hindrances to our relationship, but later he focuses on things like being more generous, or less selfish. We can see that some sins are worse than others, by looking at the various degrees of punishments God gives throughout the bible.
Some Christians argue that we can completely stop sinning with all our thoughts and actions immediately after we are born again, because God said, “be perfect as I am perfect” and, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength”, etc.³⁴ Although perfection is our goal, and the Holy Spirit can give us power to do anything, God also makes it clear that spiritual maturity takes time and effort.³⁵ It’s true that we have the Holy Spirit in us, and often he intervenes and fills us with power, or gives us revelation or words to say.³⁶ But in general, he doesn’t teach us everything at once, instead he shepherds, guides and fathers us to maturity.³⁷
The bible says we will learn to distinguish right and wrong as we practice what God shows us.³⁸ Even though Jesus was born perfect, he also had to learn obedience.³⁹He had to put in effort to increase in the fruits of the Spirit, faith, and acts of obedience.⁴⁰ We are a little different than Jesus, because we have to get rid of sin as we learn to obey God.⁴¹ The bible says getting rid of sin and obeying God are achieved the same way; by learning and obeying truth.⁴²
In summary, we are perfected as we learn the truth about God, which gives us the ability to not sin.⁴³ As God perfects us, our relationship with him will deepen and he will reward us for our obedience.⁴⁴ And after we die, God will resurrect us, completely perfect us and teach us everything about himself.²⁷ In this way God will completely finish what he started in us.⁴⁵
① Acts 26:18 / Hebrews 10:10 / 1 Corinthians 6:11 ② Romans 3:22 / Colossians 1:21 / Hebrews 10:14 ③ Colossians 1:21–23 ④ 1 Peter 1:2 / 1 Thessalonians 4:3–5 / Colossians 3:5 / Hebrews 12:14 / Philippians 3:12 ⑤ Hebrews 10:14 ⑥ Philippians 3:12 ⑦ 2 Thessalonians 2:13 / John 17:17 / John 8:31-32 / 2 Peter 1:3 / Titus 1:1 / Romans 12:2 ⑧ Ephesians 2:1-2 / Romans 5:12-21 / 1 John 5:19 / Ephesians 6:12 / John 8:44 ⑨ 1 Thessalonians 4:3–5 / John 14:26 / Ephesians 1:13 / 1 Corinthians 2:14 / 2 Peter 1:3 / Titus 1:1 / Romans 12:2 ⑩ 1 Corinthians 2:14 / Mark 4:12 / 2 Timothy 3:7 ⑪ John 17:17 / 2 Timothy 3:16-17 / John 8:31-32 / Ephesians 3:3 / Romans 1:19-21 / Hebrews 5:8 ⑫ Matthew 7:7 / Matthew 7:24-27 / Romans 6:16 ⑬ Matthew 13:10-13 / Matthew 25:14-30 / 2 Timothy 3:6-7 ⑭ Matthew 7:24-27 ⑮ Hebrews 11:25 / Romans 6:17 / James 1:14 / Matthew 10:28 ⑯ Ephesians 2:1-2 / Hebrews 11:25 / Matthew 10:28 / John 8:44 ⑰ Romans 2:15/ Romans 1:19 / Ephesians 2:1 ⑱ Romans 5:12 / John 8:44 / Genesis 1:31 ⑲ 1 Timothy 4:5 / Psalm 37:4 / Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 / 2 Corinthians 10:5 ⑳ Colossians 3:16–17 / 1 Corinthians 10:31-32 Psalm 42:2 / Psalm 37:4 / Psalm 84:2 / Genesis 15:1 ㉑ Hebrews 12:10 / Proverbs 11:31 ㉒ 1 Peter 5:8 / John 10:10 / Proverbs 11:21 ㉓ 2 Corinthians 7:10 ㉔ Proverbs 11:31 / Mark 10:30 / Job 42:10-17 / Psalm 90:15-16 God promised to reward our hardships here on earth ㉕ 2 Corinthians 10:5 / Psalm 37:4 / 2 Samuel 12:7-8 ㉖ John 8:31-32 / 2 Peter 1:2–4 / 2 Corinthians 10:5 ㉗ Philippians 1:6 / 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 / 1 Corinthians 15:35-54 / 1 Corinthians 13:12 ㉘ Hebrews 5:14/ James 1:2 / 1 Peter 1:6 ㉙ 1 Corinthians 10:13 / Psalm 66:10-12 / Malachi 3:2-4 ㉚ Malachi 3:2-4 / James 1:2-4 ㉛ Psalm 66:10-12 / Malachi 3:2-4 ㉜ Hebrews 12:14 / James 4:8 ㉝ If I am righteous apart from my own works, why is God upset when I sin? / 2 Samuel 12:13-14 ㉞ Matthew 5:48 / Philippians 4:13 ㉟ Hebrews 5:14 / Philippians 3:12 / Hebrews 5:12-14 ㊱ Luke 8:46 / Luke 12:12 / Ephesians 3:3 ㊲ John 10:11/ Matthew 6:9 / Isaiah 30:21 ㊳ Hebrews 5:14 / Galatians 5:16 ㊴ Hebrews 5:8 ㊵ Luke 2:52 / Philippians 2:7-8 / Hebrews 5:8 ㊶ Romans 3:23 / Hebrews 4:15 ㊷ Galatians 5:16 ㊸ 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ㊹ Hebrews 11:6 / James 4:8 ㊺ Philippians 1:6
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