Our theme for this month: “A New Year, A New Beginning”
Our Bible verse for today: “For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you keep away from sexual immorality, that each of you knows how to control his own body in holiness and honor …” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “Cooperate with God”
Yesterday I encouraged you to make some New Year’s resolutions regarding your spiritual growth. I even used the term “apply yourself”. Does that surprise you? Some Christians believe that spiritual growth is something the Holy Spirit does in us and there is therefore nothing we can do to make it happen. Well, it is true that it’s the Holy Spirit who produces spiritual growth in us, and it is also true that we cannot force the growth, but it is not true that we have no role in it or that there’s nothing we can do to help bring it about.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring about spiritual growth in us, but we have to cooperate with Him. We have to intentionally place ourselves in a position before God every day so that the Holy Spirit can work in us to bring about the changes that God desires. That’s what Paul was referring to in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 with respect to sanctification.
“Sanctification” is a theological word that means “To be set apart for God and made holy.” The Bible describes three stages of sanctification. “Positional” sanctification happens in the moment of salvation and is closely related to justification. It is that moment when we place our faith in Christ and we are therefore declared to be holy and righteous in God’s eyes because of our relationship with His Son. There are many verses which teach this, Ephesians 2:5 is one of them.
“Progressive” sanctification is the ongoing transformation that takes place in our lives as the Holy Spirit works to progressively change us into the man or woman God wants us to be. This is what Paul was writing about in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 and it is the stage of sanctification I’m referring to here as well. The third stage of the sanctification process is known as “Final” or “Ultimate” sanctification. It occurs when we are finally in heaven with the Lord and we are the people we will be for all eternity. 1 John 3:2 is one of the verses that refers to this last stage of sanctification.
Although the entire process of sanctification, from start to finish, is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we do have a role to play as well. We have to choose to place our faith in Christ to begin with, and then we have to place ourselves in a position before God each day whereby the Holy Spirit can accomplish His work in us. It is in this respect that the believer can actually influence the pace and degree of their spiritual growth. The more you do your part, the more opportunity the Holy Spirit has to do His part.
Tomorrow we’ll consider some of the actual practices, or spiritual disciplines, a Christian can choose to incorporate into his or her life which will help to facilitate the ongoing progress of their sanctification. Then on another day we will consider the “why” of it all. What difference will sanctification make in your life now, and for all eternity? Stay tuned. We’re going to get to that.