WRITTEN BY TIM LABRECHE
There are words used often by mature Christians that those younger in their faith may not understand. These words are often confusing and difficult to grasp. The word sanctification would be one of those words. Just hearing it come off someone’s lips, it sounds like it would be a word spoken by a pastor from the pulpit or a seminary professor in a lecture. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The word sanctification (or to sanctify) is a simple process that we, as believers in Christ, go through daily.
To be sanctified means to become holy and set apart from sin. Sanctification is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Greek word for sanctify in this piece of scripture is hagiazō, which translated from the original Greek means to purify internally by the renewing of the soul. Knowing this, when I reread the scripture above I could read it as “May God himself, the God of peace, continually purify you from the inside over and over, again and again.” It’s a continual process inside of us by the Holy Spirit.
How does the Holy Spirit do this? We can see it throughout God’s word. Romans 6:22 we see that we used to be in slavery to sin, but since, as believers in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us we have become one with God. It reads, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” In John 17:17-20 Jesus prayed for you specifically about this. It reads, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.”
We need to understand that sanctification isn’t just a one-way street of the Holy Spirit doing His work in us. It involves us being in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Paul reminded the church in Philippi of this very thing when he wrote, “Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 2:12-13). We need to be an active participant in the process by purposefully ceasing to do what is evil in the Lord’s eyes, purifying ourselves from those things that pollutes our bodies and spirit and keeping ourselves from being contaminated by the things of this world.
I believe 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 sums this process up so beautifully for us. It reads, “But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” That process, that amazing process is sanctification.
Father God, we praise You for who You are! You are the Creator of this marvelous world. You have placed the clouds in the skies and the birds who sing Your praises in the trees. You renew the waters in the seas and placed the mountains on their foundations. You are to be praised for who You are! Even as You do the mighty things that only You can do, we praise You for the simple things as well. Thank you for working in our lives. We praise You for the daily renewing of our minds as we say no to what this world has to offer and choose to cling to You. Lord, we confess that at times, we don’t cling to You. Whether it be from fear, selfishness, pride, or any other motive, we at times make choices that go against the commands given to us in Your Holy Word. We humbly ask for your forgiveness. We ask that as Your Holy Spirit continually sanctifies us, that we would be continually be made more and more like You as we are changed into Your glorious image. We pray that the desires and attractiveness of what this fallen world has to offer would taste like sour fruit. Lord Jesus, as we are minute-by-minute sanctified and refreshed by Your Spirit, it is our prayer that we would be continually reminded of the sweetness that comes with the fruits that come from a relationship with You. We love You Father.
We pray this in Your powerful and omnipotent name,