Written by Toby Baxley
He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me
These words, penned by Charles Wesley, remind us of the glorious truth that God is at work in us to finish the work of Salvation that He began in us. What does that mean, though?
The word the Bible uses to describe the ongoing work of salvation is sanctification. It's the lifelong process through which God conforms us into the image of Christ. In justification, we are declared righteous. In sanctification, we are made righteous.
While God uses a variety of means (prayer, Bible reading, communion, suffering) to sanctify us, it is natural to wonder if it's actually working? You might be asking, "Am I actually becoming more Christ-like?" If you've been walking with the Lord for a long time yet still dealing with the same sins, you might be tempted to wonder if you're even saved at all. John Piper once quipped that he was only tempted to doubt the existence of God when he considered how long his sanctification was taking.
I want to propose that in our sanctification, we focus too much on sin and not enough on Christ. Am I saying that killing sin is not important? Am I saying that it's OK to indulge your flesh? Absolutely not. I am saying that if you're struggling with a particular sin, you'll never overcome it by thinking about it all the time. Sin can't be overcome in our own power. It must be replaced by a greater affection: Christ. He must be so sweet to our taste that our sin becomes bitter by comparison.
The writer of Hebrews had this in mind when he wrote:
... let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
This verse was brought to life when I was teaching my kids to ride a bicycle. I was amazed that when they focused on the obstacles they wanted to avoid, they unwittingly steered directly toward them. However, when they focused their attention on where they wanted to go, the obstacles faded into the periphery.
I also want to propose that a sign that you're growing in sanctification is that you run to Christ faster when you do sin. The Wesley brothers (Charles and John) believed that you could reach full sanctification in this life. We believe that we will not know sinless perfection until we see Jesus face-to-face. As such, everything on this side of heaven remains tainted by sin. In Gentle and Lowly, author and pastor Dane Ortlund writes,
If sin were the color blue, we do not occasionally say or do something blue; all that we say, do, and think has some taint of blue.
A sign that you're growing in sanctification may not mean that you sin less. It may mean that you're quicker to repent. The heart of Christ grows toward you when you come to Him in repentant faith. The devil would have you skulk in the shadows and wallow in your secret sin. Jesus bids you come and find rest for your soul.
I just finished a child sexual abuse awareness and safety training. One of the tactics that abusers employ is secrecy. If they can keep a victim from coming forward through threats or feelings of shame, they can keep abusing that victim. However, once the abuse is brought out into the light, the abuser knows that he or she has lost an easy target.
Make yourself a hard target by running to Jesus. Run straight to Him; not looking to the right or to the left.
Repent and believe the gospel and see the power of canceled sin broken in your life.
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