There’s a big Bible, Christianese word that scares a lot of people, especially non-Christianese speakers. It’s “sanctification.” Some think it has to do with how you live out your faith, cutting your hair, not cutting your hair, woman having to wear head coverings, and all manner of other “rules” that people glean from the Scriptures. But what it really means is so simple, separation. There are, however, two basic aspects to this separation, both being equally important. To be sanctified, in the Biblical sense, one must be separated from evil, or even just the common things of the world, AND devoted to God. Simple. Right?
Sanctification is an instantaneous process that takes a lifetime to complete. And that’s another thing that confuses the non-Christianese speakers. What it means is, when a person commits his or her life to Christ, the process known as being born again, they are instantly sanctified. They have committed their heart to the Lord, devoting themselves to Jesus, and setting themselves apart from worldly things.
But! The world is still the world. It’s still there. It’s still RIGHT there, calling from the place of familiarity. And those that still live their lives in the world are quick to spot every little sin of the new believer. “Hey Jesus lover, how come you swore when you hit your thumb with the hammer? I thought you couldn’t do that anymore. You Christians are such hypocrites.” It’s a tough thing to overcome when you’re a new Christian. But there’s a line that is often quoted in Christian circles, that we are “to be in the world, but not of it.” And that is sanctification, living in this world on planet earth, yet set apart from worldly thoughts and ideas. And it can be difficult to maintain that separateness and not become a monk (or monk-ess as the case may be). And while we are set apart when we accept the Lordship of Christ, God then begins the process of making it stick, and that process will take the rest of our lives! We will have ups and downs, good days, holy days, and bad, satan filled days. We will have challenges from friends, relatives , and strangers. But – “When God looks at us through Christ’s blood, He does not see our sin but sees the holiness and righteousness of Jesus. We are holy before Him because of Jesus’ sacrifice. However, those around us can still see the sin.” (Ford, Johnny; Introduction to Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective 4th ed; pg 111).
So, how do we go through this process of becoming more holy, sanctified, set apart and devoted to God? Well, there are several steps, and it will take each of them at one point in time or another, and all of them together sometimes. Just like everything else in life, sometimes you’ll run far and fast, and other times it’ll be 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, or even 1 step forward and 5 steps back.
The first thing we need to do is chase after holiness as an act of our own will. Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He will never force Himself on us. We have to go after it! The more we focus on God, seek Him, and pursue His will for our lives, the more our actions will fall into place. Colossians 3:2tells us, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.” (ESV). We also have to be intentional about setting ourselves apart from things that could lead us into sin. It’s those little “well, this won’t hurt, it’s just…” things that turn us into chameleons. We start to blend in and look like the rest of the world. We pick and choose what we want to adhere to in the Bible, and then, either people don’t believe we are Christian, or we become “one of those” Christians. You know the ones, the ones who make the non-believer stay a non-believer because of all the hypocrisy.
In order to keep on track and not fall into chameleon status, we have to be very self-disciplined. The way to do that is to stay focused on God through being in the Word and through prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us that we need to “pray without ceasing.” (ESV). That’s not easy. Even establishing a regular daily routine for 20 to 30 minutes is hard. The excuses come, “Oh, it was a late night last night,” “Let me just check my email real quick,” “Jimmy, why did you just dump that on your sister’s head!?”
And finally, – (whoops, my phone just beeped gotta do a quick check of facebook…) – ok I’m back now…
Finally, we need to obey. Holy Spirit will not steer us wrong. If we stick with Him, He won’t let us down. He’s ever the gentleman, so He won’t force us to do something we don’t want to do. However, if we listen and obey, He will lead us to more than we can even imagine. It’s a lifelong journey, but in the end…
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him,” (1 John 3:2)