For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
– Philippians 2:13
I love the quote by Kevin DeYoung it says, "The will of God for your life is pretty straightforward: Be holy like Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God." While the quote is powerful it doesn’t get to the heart of how sanctification works. Recently, I have been thinking more and more about sanctification. Often we hear a lot of things about justification or glorification, but not a lot on sanctification. I began reading a book by David Powlison called, How Does Sanctification Work? In the book, He gives five simple truths of how sanctification works. In this short article, I want to explain how I believe these truths can help you become more like Christ.
God Changes You
The first truth is God, himself, changes you. This is what I believe to be the most important aspect about sanctification. As Christians we are to depend on God to change us. As believers we have the Holy Spirit in us that helps us conform to the image of Christ. Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” I love what one commentator said about this verse, he says, “by his indwelling presence in you, in individual believers and in the community as a whole, God directs, strengthens, and sustains even the will-to-work.” The indwelling of the Spirit of God causes a radical shift from our former selves. Giving us the ability to now with his strength, become more like Christ.
Scripture Changes You
The second truth is the Word of truth changes you. Two passages come to mind, when thinking about this truth. The first is John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” The word sanctify means to be set apart. The word of God sets us apart from the world. It teaches us everything we need to know about life and Godliness. Without the word of God, we can never truly understand what sanctification actually looks like. Another passage that comes to mind is 2 Timothy 3:16-17 it says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” As fallen individuals we need to be taught the word of God. This verse gives us an outline of how this takes place. God teaches us through his word how to be like him. He shows us our errors, and where we may need correction. Thus it results is Godliness. In the sanctification process, Christians need the full council of God.
Wise People Change You
The third truth is wise people change you. Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” Christians today have a wide variety of access to good biblical teaching. However, I believe this must start in your own local church. I believe God puts faithful elders and teachers in your own local context to teach you about himself. These wise individuals not only teach you, about God but model what it looks like to be a faithful follower of Christ. In addition to your own local church, seek out other Godly men and women who can help you become more like Christ. I have been blessed with the opportunity to go to seminary and learn from great men of God, while this is not in everyone’s plans there are great teachers of the word of God that can help you grow in your faith. You can do this by finding time to read a book or check out the many other resources that are available to us.
Suffering Changes You
The fourth truth is suffering, struggle and troubles change you. Contrary to popular belief the Christian life is not without suffering, struggling, and troubles. Currently in the life of my church we have experienced various trials. However, I have seen God work in all of those ways to glorify himself. Romans 8:28 is a verse that always comes to mind. It says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” I love what Douglas Moo says about this verse. He says, “Essentially, it promises that nothing will touch our lives that is not under the control and direction of our loving heavenly Father. Everything we do and say, everything people do to us or say about us, every experience we will ever have—all are sovereignly used by God for our good. We will not always understand how the things we experience work to good, and we certainly will not always enjoy them. But we do know that nothing comes into our lives that God does not allow and use for his own beneficent purposes. Paul’s overarching purpose in Romans 5–8 is to give us assurance for the life to come. But verses like 8:28 show that he also wants to give us assurance for the present life as well. God has ordained not only the ends but the means.” Whatever we may be going through in our lives, God will use it for a purpose. As we walk through life trials will come our way. We must trust that God will use those events to grow us into his likeness.
You Will Be Changed
The fifth truth is you will be changed. I believe each and every one of these truths teach us how sanctification works. Sanctification starts with God. We cannot live the Christian life without his Spirit in us. Without that relationship true sanctification will never happen. You must be rooted in the word of God. I challenge you to ask yourself these few questions.
Do you have a relationship with God?
Are you consistently in the word of God?
Are you surrounding yourself with wise council?
Are you connected to the local church?
Do you have accountability with other believers?
Are you benefiting from the great teachings we have access to?
Do you see life’s biggest struggles as opportunity to grow closer to the Lord?
Do you have change in your life?
If not, I challenge you, to see what you may be missing.