At certain times of my monthly cycle, which is becoming more and more difficult to predict the older I get, I find I can relate all too well to Paul’s cry in Romans 7, “I do not understand what I do, for what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” I’m quick to blame hormones when my fuse is suddenly short, rude words fly out of my mouth, or I’m hit with feelings of insecurity. Why do I still struggle so hard against sin if I’m supposed to be a new creation and sin is no longer supposed to master me? Why is it so easy for my flesh (hormones) to take over control?
In those times, I find myself grateful that my actions have nothing to do with my standing before God, theologically termed “justification”. Justification is a courtroom term explaining God’s legal act of placing us into a right relationship with Him instead of condemning us. Our status before God changes when we confess that we are sinners and need the forgiveness and salvation offered through believing that Jesus Christ took the punishment for our sins on the cross.
My own standing before God is not something I earn; it comes by God’s grace. No amount of work can earn right standing before God (Ephesians 2:8-9). But the other good news is that there is also no amount of my moodiness or lashing out that takes my status away! Even further, He doesn’t see me merely in neutral standing when he forgives me – He sees Jesus in me and views me as righteous (Romans 3:22-24)! It is His work alone, and my only part is to believe it and receive it.
Before we are justified, God is already up to something – He begins the work of regenerating us so that we are able to choose to have faith in Him. In regeneration, God instantaneously acts by working in us that gives us, giving us the ability to respond to Christ’s work on the cross by faith. Our salvation is the result -- He gives us new spiritual life, a new heart with His Spirit in us (Ezekiel 36:26).
If we have been regenerated (given new hearts) and justified (forgiven and viewed as righteous in God’s eyes), we are also immediately sanctified. To me, the theological term “sanctification” is a fancy term for transformation, but it literally means to be “set apart”, or made holy. Sanctification is instant in that we are no longer under the rule of sin and have the power to overcome temptation (I Corinthians 1:2, 6:11; Acts 26:18). So shouldn’t transformation be immediate and obvious?
Sanctification is also progressive. Regeneration is the beginning point for sanctification, so sanctification is not only a static state but also a dynamic state through which we are gradually changed as the struggle with sin in this world continues. While we have been given the Spirit’s working power in us to make us truly alive, it takes time for it to become evident in our character and will. Sanctification increases throughout life as we live in relationship with Jesus and seek after Him. By faith we receive the Holy Spirit’s power that enables us to live for God and overcome the pull of sin.
I may be stuck in this body with all its flaws and chemical/hormonal variations, but God is using it as part of my transformation process. It’s like a monthly drill to see if His Word has penetrated into my heart as reflected in my actions when under pressure. It is training grounds for strengthening my faith and reminding me to depend on Him. While I will never be perfect in this life spiritually or physically, I have a hope that someday I will have a resurrected body free from both spiritual and physical struggle!