Sometimes I get frustrated with my turtle-paced sanctification.
I have a desire to be more like Jesus because God deserves followers who are Christlike. But, turns out, transforming a sinful human into the likeness of Christ isn’t an overnight process.
(I wonder why that is… God is sovereign. He designed this whole system. He could have made us instantly fully sanctified at the moment of our conversion, but He chose not to. He thinks it is better for us and brings Him more glory if He ever so slowly makes us over instead of doing it in one fell swoop. I suppose He sees value in the journey…)
When I’m in a pattern of self-loathing, I think of Paul’s similar frustration with himself: “…what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing,” (Romans 7:15-19).
Paul is so frustrated with himself, he exclaims, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
Good ol’ Paul. He has just a touch of melodramatic flare, and I appreciate that because so do I. I feel just as terrible about myself as Paul does about himself.
When we long to be making more spiritual headway than we actually are, our views of ourselves and of our circumstances become characterized by hopelessness. We consider ourselves “wretched” and helplessly trapped in a body that simply will not stop sinning!
But we can’t stay there.
God did not call us to lives of hopelessness. Instead, He extends the most generous offer of all time–an offer to rescue us.
Paul answers his own question, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” with “Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Who will rescue us? God Himself! Because the truth is we are hopelessly addicted to sin unless God intervenes.
And the way God chooses to rescue us from the curse of our own sinfulness is through Jesus. (Hence Jesus’ statement, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6).)
When we understand the extent of our sin, that we cannot correct it or eliminate it in our own power, and that sinless Jesus’ substitutionary atonement is the preferred (and only) way to make amends between us and God, we become Christians.
And when we become Christians, the Holy Spirit comes and exists inside of us. And while He is in there, He continually leads us into all truth, convicts us of sin, and empowers us to do righteous things we cannot do under our own power.
In a word, He is sanctifying us.
This is a life-long process, much to my chagrin, but this blessing from Paul brings me joy: “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 one who calls you is faithful and he will do it,” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
Other translations read sanctify you completely, entirely, and wholly.
Paul believes our perfect sanctification is going to happen. We can count on it. We will get there. It may seem like we’re moving at a snail’s pace right now, but God is faithful, and–this is the best part–He will do it!
Our total sanctification depends upon God, not us. We don’t have to work to conjure up righteous attributes. That would be depending on our own strength, which Paul established in Romans is fruitless.
We simply invite God to continue to sanctify us through the Spirit that lives inside us on account of our faith in Jesus. (It’s a trinitarian endeavor.) And when we get frustrated with the pace of our sanctification, let us remind ourselves we will get there. One day. In His timing.
And let that hope give our minds rest from any and all self-loathing thoughts. He is faithful; He will do it.