The Progressive Work of Sanctification and Our Involvement


The other day I got the rare opportunity to witness seventh graders playing a quick pick-up game of basketball. I was reminded of the days of my youth spent in a wandering spirit with the only thing troubling my mind is how much homework I would have that night and if I would be picked last that day during P.E. As I stood there with my own basketball in hand (to knock the boredom off of being a substitute), I watched joyously as these mere budding young adults attempted to play what we know as the game of basketball. Their version was a mixture of WWE, football, water polo, and checkers all while trying to get a basketball through the hoop.

I was never the purveyor of the basketball sport however I do know a few basic rules; no walking, no double dribbling, no pushing, no playing tag, no tackling, no crawling on the floor, no untying of the opponents shoes, no pulling on clothes, no swapping players mid play, and no using two balls. This game was quite entertaining.

However, what came to mind watching these whimsical sporting goofs play was how each of them were at different stages of knowing the game. A couple of them were scoring hounds. Of course they were handed the ball at every opportunity to score and typically they were successful. There were the few that knew enough to dribble the ball down court and throw the ball in the air hoping for the net and not the brick. Then there were those who had no clue other than that ball was supposed to go through the goal. However it got there didn’t matter.

So it goes with Christians. We all know the goal is to love God and be obedient to His word. There are some who are score hounds. They know that prayer, bible study, steady church attendance, obedience to God and His word, and love for others is imperative to spiritual healthiness. Then there are those who just get by with making sure they go to church as often as life lets them, they read their bible once a month or so, pray when life gets hard and give when they want to feel good about themselves. Then, there are those who are Christian because their parents were. They went to church when they were a kid and typically go on Christmas and Easter because it is the right thing to do. They give when it’s a benefit or fund-raiser, love the idea that there is a “man upstairs” that listens to them complain about life and they give Him a list of things they want.

But there is something that all Christians have in common, sanctification. It’s a large word meaning a “progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives” (Grudem 1999, 328). Did you catch the key word there?

It’s progressive.

That means it is an ongoing process to get us from being sinful to being holy. All Christians are being sanctified and each are at different levels in the process of sanctification. Therefore, just as the basketball game, some know how to score big and some just know that the ball needs to get through their hoop.

One of the biggest problems with Christians is those who know how to score big get upset at those who don’t even know how to dribble the ball. They can’t understand how someone can be such a klutz. Then there are those who somewhat know how to play the game that argue some are too good and smell like it while others need to work on their game. Those who don’t know how to play are just happy to be in the game and willing to do what it takes to be part of a winning team. But because there are different levels of ability, you get different views and arguments.

I bet you know those who go to church complaining about others in the church. We call that gossip or backbiting or creating factions. Maybe you are the one doing it. I only hope that this analogy helps all of us understand that the sanctification process is a good work, one that God himself will finish (Phil.1:6).

Romans 6:19 encourages us “Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.” In other words, we were born sinful and grew deeper in it as we aged. What once was stealing a piece of bubble gum from the store quickly turned into being a car thief or house burglar. What started as lusting over a girl turned into buying Maxim magazines which further progressed to watching internet porn. But now that we are in Christ we are to work towards being more holy in all that we do. We start small; being faithful to attending church or reading our bible till we get to the point of working faithfully in our gifting.

It’s a process we are all in and each of us should understand that we are all part of the sanctification process. So instead of belittling a person because they are not as far along in the process as you are, prayer would be a good place to start. Loving others is part of the Great Commandment. It’s impossible to do that when you’re too busy bashing somewhat for not being as Christian as you are.

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About Kevin Riner
child of grace, worshiper of Jesus, husband, father, Pastor of Village Church, author of Faith Debugged

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