In our last question, we introduced the word “sanctification.” And we learned that it basically means “holy–fication.” Sanctification is where God takes law-breaking rebels and transforms them into faithful followers of God.
But there’s something about sanctification that makes it different from some of the other words we’ve learned. The moment a person believes the good news of Jesus, they are immediately forgiven. They are immediately justified. They are immediately saved. And they are immediately adopted into God’s family. But they aren’t immediately sanctified and holy–fied, at least not 100%.
We don’t immediately become perfect people the moment we believe the good news. We have hearts that want to follow Jesus as our king. And we have God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us. But soon, we find ourselves failing to faithfully follow God’s commands. We might lose our temper or tell a lie or fail to treat God’s name special. In other words, we sin.
When God the Holy Spirit sanctifies (or holy–fies) a new Christian, he does it bit by bit, day by day. He slowly grows us and guides us to be better and better followers of his commands, to be holy. Like a tree grows little by little until it’s so big it can produce fruit to eat, God grows us little by little until we sprout up into people who produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
The process of being sanctified by the Holy Spirit isn’t always a straight path toward holiness. It’s more like a twisty, winding, up-and-down road that goes in all sorts of beautiful and strange places. There are good days when we feel like we are really starting to get the hang of living like a child of our King. And there are not-so-good days when we feel like the worst sinner who ever lived. Being sanctified can be a frustrating process. And the truth is, we will never be completely and perfectly holy-fied in this life.
But there’s good news. God promises he will finish the job. When we spend forever in God’s kingdom, we will finally be fully free of sin and forever faithfully follow the commands of our King. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, we are given this promise: “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.” Day by day, God’s Holy Spirit will sanctify us. It’s a big job, but it’s one God guarantees he will finish on the day when Jesus returns to rule as king!