During the 31-day writing challenge, I thought I would take each Sunday to share with you writings from previous authors who have tackled the concept of the joy of sanctification so much better than myself.
Today I would like to introduce you to Owen Strachan. He was one contributor to the book Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day edited by Kevin DeYoung. Owen’s chapter is titled “Sanctification: Being Authentically Messed Up Is Not Enough.”
“Sanctification is fundamentally a battle against sin. It is a fight for holiness. Nineteenth-century Anglican bishop J. C. Ryle explains:
Fundamentally, to be sanctified is to become holy. It is a conflict. God and his children team up to fight Satan and sin. The believer is “washed” of sin by faith in the work of justification. In sanctification, the Lord “separates” the believer from the “natural love of sin.” The struggle against our inherent unrighteousness is not a one-time cataclysm, but a lifelong war. Satan will attempt repeatedly to discourage us as we falter, but we must persevere in our war against him, daily taking up our cross as we journey to the rest that awaits us (Luke 9:23).
In this sense, we recognize that we are very much broken by sin, unable to help ourselves outside of the intervening grace of God. We must experience the humiliation of confession before we can taste the goodness of grace. This means acknowledging our utter wickedness and dependence on the Lord. All of our efforts to make ourselves pure and holy before the Lord fail without his help. Though we know this as Christians, we repeatedly forget it and must continually pursue a repentant brokenness before the Lord in order that we might be restored.
We must also remember that this fight is not a fair one. Though Satan’s temptations are strong, and though our flesh is weak, God has conquered both of these foes through the death of his Son. In the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, sin has lost and Satan has been crushed. All who experience the new birth in believing in Jesus Christ and repenting of their sins are united with Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Sanctification proceeds from the realities of the gospel. It does not happen without the gospel. It’s like a computer sitting in a room. Without power, the computer can do nothing. But once the computer is plugged in, it can work wonders. The same is true with us. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, received by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, we can do nothing to please God and will only taste his just wrath and eternal judgment. But when we believe the gospel, and the Holy Spirit rises in us, we are free to experience the explosive current of holiness that flows from the Godhead into the soul of a believer. Sanctification is no meek and mild affair, no mere rearranging of spiritual furniture. It as an electric process, and exhilaration experience of the power of God with us. It births a hunger and thirst for the things of God that is satisfied only in him. As we daily believe the gospel and apply it to our lives, we taste the essence of biblical sanctification” (107-108).