Christian Doctrine: Justification versus Sanctification

Yes, I'm still alive, as my twitter stream would substantiate.

Felt led to share this.

First, some background: I'm a Protestant Christian.  As such, I follow the doctrine of Justfication by Faith (Sola Fide).  Justification by Faith, broadly defined, means that we are 'justified', that is, redeemed or saved, by Grace from God alone through Faith,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:9, ESV).  
So, there's that.  Simple enough?

Well, yes and no.  So, if I'm "Saved," through no action of my own, then it seems that my actions before and after such Justification are immaterial.  If I'm a member of the elect, might I just as well go on doing things that feel good and still punch my ticket to Heaven?

The answer is maddeningly simple:  Yes, you might do that, in that Christ's atonement is sufficient (Calvin's objections to the contrary notwithstanding), but in reality, once you become saved, your desire to do things apart from God's will decreases.

That's where we need to introduce a separate concept: Sanctification.  That is, "the process of being made holy."

Now, "Justification" and "Sanctification" seem like awfully legalistic terms, don't they?  What do they mean?

  • Justification: You avoid Hell.  Your bank account balances with God. If being born into a sin-nature damns you, then being re-born through Christ's justification reverses that process.  Thus, the symmetry of the Christian cosmos.
  • Sanctification: You're a baby Christian, you move to being an adult Christian, and as Paul says, "when I became an adult, I put away childish things."  You stop getting milk, you start getting meat.
Why is this a big deal?  Couple of things.
  1. It stops the treadmill of being "Good enough."  It seems obvious reading the New Testament, but many Christians--myself included--stay on a never-ending treadmill of quasi-Christian doctrine that you must work your way towards God.  "Cleanliness is next to Godliness," etc. Worse is the pernicious, "I'll clean up my act, then get saved." That's nothing like Christian doctrine, thankfully.
  2. It DOES give you something to do, and a reason to do it.
Getting Justified in Christ is like getting through the job interview and getting hired, then showing-up for your first day at work.  YOU GOT THE JOB!  Congrats, euphoria, all that.  (And indeed, angels laud this day!)

However: Now what?  What is your career in Christ going to look like?  Are you going to skate along doing the minimum?  Are you going to excel?  You have agency once again.  

I've been obsessed for years trying to figure out Free Will versus TULIP Predestination doctrine.  Turns out I had it all backward:  Whatever the mechanism, I am justified, now I need to work at being sanctified.

Will I have setbacks?  Yes.  

Will I have seasons where I move towards God?  Yes.

Is this all both liberating and exciting?  Yes.  It's like I've been struggling to get through a door for years, and I've been on a moving train all along.  Now I can actually enjoy the scenery.

God bless you all.   This may be bone obvious to you, but it's taken ~10 years of study for me to get peace on this.

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