“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23
Herein we find the reason for so much of life’s poundings. Those three words, “sanctify you completely” reflect the determination of God for every one of His children. We have been brought to faith in His Son, and we have been told that we will be conformed to the likeness of that Beloved Son (Romans 8:29). Because we will be forever like Jesus Christ, it is reasonable for us to embrace this process of being sanctified completely. Sanctification is the sovereign work of God whereby He sets us apart in Jesus Christ and then progressively sets us apart for Jesus Christ so that we may be, in the end, set apart as Jesus Christ is set apart. This all sounds fine to us, but we need to realize that the process will be intense. Your own flesh wars against your sanctification. You are living out your life in a world system that resists your sanctification. The devil himself, along with innumerable demons, fights with a fury against your sanctification. Is it any wonder that we sometimes find ourselves groaning as we live out the life of faith? The Apostle Paul gave transparent description to this battle in Romans 7, wherein he testified that the war for his practical allegiance was maddening at times. We might well be compared to a taut rope in a cosmic tug of war between God and everything which opposes Him. Yet God will manifest His victory in the end, of this we are most sure.
But today we are not yet as we should be or could be. Above, the word ‘completely’ in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 reminds us that we are not done yet. There is much more necessary growth coming our way and, with growth, inevitably come growing pains. Inwardly we long to be free from things that stretch and distress us. Let’s be honest, something inside of us craves ease and a sabbatical from the battle. Your being made holy is no superficial, casual work from God. It drives itself down into you like an unapologetic drill-bit and then, when you think the work is finally accomplished, it ratchets up the torque and comes into you more deeply to reach places which still remain untouched by the beauty of God. Many among us have self-decreed that they have reached an acceptable place of Christlikeness, which is not like Christ at all. Our part is to continually cooperate, to yield, to pursue and to receive the hard-to-define work of God’s sanctifying work. I do not understand it all, but I can say via my personal experience that it is, at first, agony and, later, ecstasy. It is the cross first and the resurrection second. Santification = groans followed with glory.
Christian, this describes some of what is going on with you today. None of it is accidental or incidental. God’s ways are not the same as yours and part of your faith-walk is to trust Him as He takes rough, dry, hard places in your nature and presses them into the image of His Son. It is a precious work that the Potter is performing and, apart from this, you will always be more like fallen Adam instead of faithful Jesus. Will you rest on the potter’s wheel today? Will you trust His strong hands which bring to pass the design of His heart? You do not have to always smile about His work while it is happening. Job agonized. David moaned. Jeremiah lamented. Hannah begged… and Jesus declared that His own soul was exceedingly sorrowful in Gethsemane’s garden. We are not called to superficial smiles. We are called to enduring joy. The place where God takes us is exceedingly wide with much room to run and breathe… but the passageways that bring us to that place are purposefully tight, intentionally constricting, frightfully narrow and occasionally suffocating. Don’t mistake this moment on the journey for the permanence of the final destination. If you are still walking with Him, you are exactly where you are meant to be today.