Summary: In the Old Testament, the word sanctification comes from the root word ‘kadash’ which means "to cut or separate." Sanctification is God’s grace setting us apart for His work and to lead holy lives. This life of separation challenges the believer to forsak
Grace for the Journey
Last week, we looked at how we understand grace in our Wesleyan Methodist tradition. We started out by defining grace as God’s unmerited love and forgiveness. We understand grace as a journey of faith which John Wesley called the “way of salvation.” It starts with the recognition of our sin, leading to repentance, receiving God’s grace and forgiveness and being justified before God, and then moving into sanctification and perfection. Today, we summarize this journey in three-stages: prevenient grace, justifying grace and sanctifying grace. These are not 3 different types of grace but rather 3 different ways we experience God’s grace, and the impact it has on our lives. Prevenient grace, or preceding grace is the grace that comes before our response of faith to God. God is active in our lives, wooing us as with His love with the hope that we will respond in faith to Him. When we turn to God and accept His love and forgiveness, we experience God’s justifying grace and are made right with God. While the struggle with sin remains, it no longer reigns over our lives. Through God’s justifying grace, we are freed from the consequences of sin, that is separation from God and guilt over our actions. Therefore, we are able to move forward into the future in a right relationship with God.
In that moment, God’s grace begins to sanctify us as we yield to Him and He begins to transform us into the likeness of Jesus, His son. In the Old Testament, the word sanctification comes from the root word ‘kadash’ which means "to cut or separate." Sanctification is God’s grace setting us apart for His work and to lead holy lives. This life of separation challenges the believer to forsake the patterns of the world and to follow the pattern of holiness found in Jesus. Sanctification and holiness are closely tied together. It leads to a life of holiness. For God is holy, and calls his people to be holy. Leviticus 11:44 says, “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” When we respond by consecrating ourselves entirely to God, it is by God’s grace that we may become more holy. Wesley named 2 kinds of holiness. First is personal holiness which is avoiding sin. We become more and more like Jesus. And when we do, our lives show evidence of the Fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.” Also evidenced in our lives is a growing love for others. This then leads to social holiness which is addressing the needs of people and the social ills of the day. In Wesley’s time, these were a lack of good education and health care, poverty, and war. Not much has changed today has it?
Our scripture lesson this morning talks about God being light, “in whom there is no darkness at all.” This is the image of sanctification as God’s grace enters our lives, removing the influence of sin and continually revealing more and more of the light of God in us. Sanctification deals with any darkness within and replaces it with light. Then we are able to let that light shine in the world. This is how we become the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
If justification has to do with our standing with God, that, is before we are mired in sin then sanctification has to do with our character and conduct for God. Justification puts us into a right relationship with God; sanctification exhibits the fruit of that relationship, a life of holiness. Justification is what God does for us; sanctification is what God does in us. Sanctification is not what we do for God but rather what God does in us. It’s doesn’t begin by changing us on the outside but rather begins with a change on the inside. This is where the person of God enters the heart, soul and mind of man and begins to change us to think, believe and feel like Jesus Christ. By doing so, we begin to participate in the life of Christ. The mind that was in Christ now becomes our mind. The desires of Christ become our desires and the heart and compassion of Christ becomes ours. We become more and more like the image of Him who created us. Sanctification first and foremost is all about a change of the heart and mind from thinking and feeling like the world to thinking and feeling like Christ. That inward change then leads to an outward change in our lives. It’s change from the inside out.
The path to salvation is not a one-way road. Experience and history tell us that backsliding is possible. Just as you can enter into life in Christ, you can also leave it. It’s not a “once saved, always saved” thing. You can leave your faith and living for Christ and lose your salvation. Therefore, each and every day we need to continue to live an intentional life of faith and growth in God’s grace. The good news is that God’s justifying grace is continually available to those who backslide, but the point is not to rely on that fact but to grow continually in Christ-likeness through sanctifying grace. That takes hard work and discipline. That’s one of the main reasons Methodism was built around a disciplined and methodical way of living.