Since Easter, we have taken a short devotional journey to explore the beauty and power of Christ’s death for us on the Cross. “Bless the Lord O my soul and forget not all his benefits,” says Psalm 103. And from the Cross pour out unfathomable benefits and blessings. Jesus’ death opens the door for me to receive…
Propitiation/Expiation – I am freed from facing God’s wrath.
Justification – I am freed from the guilt and condemnation of my sin
Redemption – I am freed from the power of sin, death and the devil.
Adoption/Reconciliation – I am freed from my separation from God
Sanctification – I am freed from my inability to obey God
Glorification – I am freed from death
Let’s consider the fifth of the Cross’ many gifts to us: what Christians call sanctification. The cross frees me from my inability to obey.
The first four blessings of the Cross are undeniably rich. But what good is my forgiveness if I continue to do things that need to be forgiven? What good is redemption if I continue to act like a slave? What good is adoption if I continue to mock my Father to his face with rebel behavior?
Unless my sin nature is somehow disabled, unless I am changed from the inside out, history will eventually repeat itself. Is there anything in the cross of Christ that makes a provision for me to become a new person? Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes!
Something miraculous takes place in the heart of a new Christian upon their repentance and conversion, which never took place prior to Jesus dying on the cross: God the Holy Spirit takes up residency within their hearts.
The Difference Between Then And Now
Back in Old Testament days, the Holy Spirit only came upon important people at important times and usually just to accomplish an important task. The idea of God living inside of a believer, of unpacking his suitcase and making a home there, was unheard of.
But that’s what Jesus promised. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)
We are truly born again. We are in reality given a new life. A fresh start. Christ himself is with us through the Holy Spirit, to guide us and help us in the journey of our lives. And why is he there? He’s called the Holy Spirit, not the Happy Spirit. Christ in us will teach us and train us to live and love like himself. Which is what sanctification literally means – to be made holy.
You may be saying to yourself right now, “Well I don’t feel all that new.” That’s because sanctification is a journey. One that will stretch across the span of our lives, and not be completed until we make it across the other side.
The Difference Between Justification And Sanctification
Justification happens in an instant. God pronounces us forgiven, and in his eyes we are cleansed and pardoned. All is forgiven. Sanctification you might say is the journey of catching up to our forgiveness.
When Lincoln declared the slaves to be emancipated, in the eyes of the law they were no longer slaves. But the next morning, I’m sure most every slave didn’t feel free. I’m sure when most of them passed a white man, they dipped their heads in subservience. I’m sure when most of them heard a white person call out to them, they trembled. They had to catch up with their emancipation.
Sanctification is the journey of catching up to our forgiveness.
A few years ago, the Lord led me to look back at my forty years of serving him, and itemize the many victories he had helped me win. I was stunned to see how much he had changed my life. He had helped me win the battle against profanity. I used to have a foul mouth. It still can bubble up at times, but largely, it’s gone. The battle against lustful thoughts. This has been a fierce, violent war in my life, which is largely in check. The battle for my marriage. If it wasn’t for Jesus in our lives, Janis and I would, in all likelihood, have not survived as a couple.
There were plenty more. The battle over anger. The battle over money-mismanagement. The battle over father-wounds. The battle over stress. The battle over depression. The battle over laziness and apathy. The battle over grief.
In none of these areas would I pronounce myself completely free. In each one, I could quickly regress, should I neglect my daily connection with Christ, or abandon my spiritual training, or God-forbid, say to Jesus, “Okay Lord, I’ll take it from here.”
What Are You Waiting For – Start The Adventure
What Jesus asks of us here and now is that we begin the journey. Start the adventure. Let the miracle happen. The proof that you are saved is not that you’ve come this far or made this amount of progress. The sign that you’re a Christian is that you’re making the journey. The sign that you’re an apple tree is not that you’re producing ripe October apples, but that the fruit of the apple is in you, however small, however early, and gnarly, and undeveloped it appears.
It’s those who show no fruit at all, who aren’t fighting the sin that’s in them, let alone even concerned about it, those who don’t seem to care about staying close to Jesus through Bible study, prayer and fellowship, those who think because they’ve been baptized they can now coast along – those are the ones you can have doubts about.
Sooner or later the fruit of whatever tree you are shows itself.
The beauty of living under the cross is that God gives us time and space to grow. When you have a victory over sin – and you will have victories for “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” – you come to the cross and thank God for the miracle of grace that made this transformation possible.
And when you are defeated by sin – something that is always possible but never inevitable – you come to the cross again, and plead for the blood of Jesus to cover you, and make you clean, then ask the Father to pick you up and help you try again.
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. He’s just released his latest book, “Living Under The Cross: A 40-Day Devotional Journey”. His blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon.