Sanctification means being “consecrated” or “set apart.” There are two parts to the sanctification of a believer. The first occurs at salvation when someone is set apart for God as one of His people. In this moment, he becomes a “saint.” The second part of sanctification is what we usually think of as the definition and pertains to the process a believer goes through during his life.
Sanctification is a process that goes on throughout a believer’s life in which the believer becomes more and more like Christ. This occurs by putting off the old sinful patterns of life and putting on the new Christ-like patterns found in God’s Word.
The problem is, no one can do this on his own. Philippians 2:13 says “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” God gives the believer both the will and the ability to be more Christ-like and please Him. God provides the power and yet we have a part to play also. We must make the effort to do whatever it is that pleases Him. We don’t just “let go” and “let God” change us. There is a cooperative effort between a believer and God. The believer is one who has been changed by God, empowered by God, and given the will to change by God. The believer yields to God’s power and strives to do His will. Yield and Strive.
Tools of the trade for sanctification, as C.J. Mahaney puts it, are the study of God’s Word, a rightly informed conscience, and prayer. By being in the Word we are constantly reminded of God’s will for us. The Word teaches, reproves, corrects and trains us (2 Tim. 3:16). Be committed to being in the Word! As a result of being in the Word, yielding to God’s power and striving to be Christlike, our conscience will be informed of the things of God--prompting us to delight in them--and will act as a trustworthy warning system to avoid sin. Finally, prayer is an essential part of the sanctification process. Pray for deliverance (1 John 1:9) and pray in submission to the Father as Christ did (Luke 22:42).
As believers we will be in this process of sanctification until we go to be with the Lord or Christ returns. So in the meantime, use the tools God has given you, yield to His power, and strive in grace-filled obedience.
The above pastoral word is a combination of a recent article by Jay Adams (Institute for Nouthetic Studies), C.J. Mahaney’s book, “How Can I Change?” and my own thoughts. Thanks to Jay and C.J.!