You know the familiar quote: “the more things change the more they stay the same.” All of us (especially those in ministry leadership) go through change. Change is essential in sustaining life. God’s Word speaks of change as an ongoing necessity. For the believer, change is not only essential — it is to be preferred.
Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians speaks of justification and
sanctification: “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
The word “sanctification” is from the Greek word “hagiazo” which means to consecrate, set apart, to be holy.” To embrace sanctification means we must pursuit holiness. It is in the progressive or active tense, meaning it is an ongoing action. It is also a two-way process initiated by God but acted upon by the initiate. There is a major difference between “justification” and
To be honest, I love to focus on justification. Justification is God’s intervention. It speaks of the victory over sin and death. It speaks of God’s grace extended to sinners. It speaks of salvation through Jesus Christ. As the hymnist states: “I love to tell the story, ‘tis pleasant to repeat” (I Love
to Tell the Story, Katherine Hankey). God’s people never grow tired of singing the “old, old song.”
Sanctification, on the other hand, is a subject that we often neglect. When was the last time your church sang “No, Not Despairingly?” Sanctification is a process, and it involves ongoing change.
It requires confession, restraint, discipline, active engagement with God’s people, prayer, Bible study, sacrificial giving, and constant personal spiritual inventory. At times it can be quite a grind. It is important, however, to realize that sanctification is just as much a gift from God as justification. It stems from the same loving heart that refuses to leave us alone in our security of
salvation. It is manna along the way and meant for our good. Martin Luther states: “This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness; not health, but healing; not being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way; the process is not yet finished, but it has begun; this is not the goal, but it is the road; at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being purified.” (A Defense and Explanation of All Articles, AE 32:24)
The process of change is a reflection of our worship life. We know the familiar passage from Romans 12:1.2. Change or “renewing” is an ongoing process. It embraces a lifestyle practice of worship which is dependent on a constant renewal of one’s mind in order to confront compromise and provide evidence of God’s work in the believer’s life.
Although sanctification is not always a joyous process, it always leads to joy. Though it can be confrontational to our nature, the conflict leads to ultimate peace. As leaders of the songs of salvation, may we challenge ourselves by welcoming sanctification as a gift from above.
Growth cannot happen with constant change. It is to be pursued rather than resisted. The old English evangelical J. C. Ryle once stated: “in justification the word to be addressed is—believe, only believe; in sanctification the word must be ‘watch, pray, and fight.’
Take note of Bonar’s hymn: No, Not Despairingly. May we pursue the challenge.
No, not despairingly Come I to thee,
No, not distrustingly Bend I the knee;
Sin hath gone over me, Yet this is still my plea:
Jesus hath died.
Ah! Mine iniquity Crimson hath been,
Infinite, infinite, sin upon sin:
Sin of not loving thee, sin of not trusting thee,
Faithful and just art thou, Forgiving all;
Loving and kind art thou, When poor ones call:
Lord, let the cleansing blood, Blood of the Lamb of God,
Pass O’er my soul.
Then all is peace and light This soul within,
Thus shall I walk with thee, The loved unseen;
Leaning on thee, my God, Guided along the road,