I found myself sitting across from Carem having a conversation about sanctification. “I have listened to the message on this subject for years and have come to the conclusion that God has this for some people, maybe even most people but not for me. I have sought as the pastors have told me and not discovered this life altering moment when I no longer struggle with sin or thoughts or habits which I know I need to change.” Those words “God has this for some but not for me…” stuck in my ears with a heartbreaking thud. The Spirit’s work of sanctification has often been accompanied by outlandish claims that cannot be supported by scripture. Many people feel the same as this manwho thought God was leaving him out of something important.
There are no shortcuts to holiness. The sanctified life is a partnership between a person and God to empower them to be conformed into the image of the Christ. I guess it would be nice if Jesus waved His magic wand and all of us were perfect. It would save a lot of energy if He would just take care of it all and get back to us when it is done. We really would like to treat God like the dry cleaner. We drop the old flesh and carnality off and then go and pick it up when it’s all cleaned up. We want Him to do all the work in one spectacular moment and then get back to us. That kind of teaching will leave people frustrated and confused.
Instead, what we find is a work that begins with God and empowers Christians for life and godliness. Sanctification is a spiritual partnership that requires every believer to submit their will to God. It comes at the invitation of the Spirit and is God’s will for every disciple. Christians open their lives (accepts the invitation), through their will, to the control of the Holy Spirit. This is not control like His hand is on the wheel of our spiritual car. Instead it is control like He is reading the map giving directions for a car we are driving.We still have our will. We can still turn left when He says right if we choose to. However, the partnership demands us to allow Him authority over our will. We are still driving the car with full ability to make decisions; we just decide to follow after the Spirit. We grow to maturity in that experience as we keep in step with Him. If He says go left and we go right, He will still turn left and we will have to make the proper adjustment to get back in step with Him. Sanctification is a work of empowerment over those things that have spiritually bound us in the past and those things that the enemy puts in the path of our future. There is no mysticism in this work of God. He begins the work of grace in us, and then works in unison with us to gain the victory in this life and for eternity.
Pastor Jon Carnes
Senior Pastor at Pensacola First Church of the Nazarene