Sanctification: Christlikeness Amid Suffering

Sanctification: Christlikeness Amid Suffering

Sanctification is a process. Give yourself the freedom to grow rather than expecting yourself to have arrived because you’ve understood some things. This is another way to protect your heart in the process of growing so that you experience sanctification as the gift God intends it to be.

Sanctification may come across as a fancy theological word. Don’t be intimidated. Simply put, sanctification is the process of becoming more like Jesus. When we embrace the gospel, God erases our sin debt, and we gain the assurance of eternity with God in heaven. That is justification. It occurs in a moment. For the rest of our earthly life, we experience progressive sanctification. It happens with ebbs and flows and in new ways during each season of life.

As we think about sanctification in light of a journey through suffering, one of the challenges for us is that we usually only think of sanctification in terms of purification from sin. Removing sin from our lives is a vital part of sanctification. We do want to see the desires of our hearts that make sin enticing shrink. The metaphor of pruning is often used for this aspect of sanctification (John 15:1–5); our sinful tendencies are cut away so that we will experience greater growth and bear more good fruit in our lives. This pruning can be painful—but even when it is, it is good, and we should thank God for it.

But if we only think of sanctification in terms of purification, we begin to believe that every unpleasant emotion that emerges from suffering reveals an idol, some aspect of life taking on a God-sized role in our heart. This belief is inaccurate, creates false guilt, and causes God to come across as an uncaring cosmic Cop. An incomplete view of sanctification makes it difficult to process grief that has stagnated in the anger phase.

So, we ask, What is the complementary aspect of sanctification that needs to be emphasized? If sanctification is the process of becoming more Christlike, the following question will point us to the answer. What verb does the Bible use to describe Jesus’ response to suffering? Consider what Hebrews 12:2 says of Jesus: “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (emphasis added).

We become like Jesus when we endure suffering in a way that resists the shame that often accompanies it. We need a view of sanctification that allows us to both be purified from sin without a condemning sense of guilt and endure suffering without a stigmatizing sense of shame. That is what it is to be Christlike in a broken world where sin and suffering are both common experiences.

We will consider both sanctification via purification and sanctification via endurance to further consolidate the progress you’ve made on this journey. Hopefully, realizing that sanctification is not just about purification will provide the emotional freedom to grow in the areas where some desires have grown too large, which is inevitably true of all of us.

Sanctification via Purification

This is where we ask the question, What has become so important to me that I have been willing to sin in response to my pain? Perhaps your drive for achievement made the setbacks resulting from your hardship unbearable, so you cheated to catch up.

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