Approaching menopause, I find that becoming more like Jesus is sometimes harder to accomplish as hormonal fluctuations make me wonder if I’m turning into a crazy woman! Maybe I need a more methodological approach. In order to be transformed to be more like Jesus, is there a schedule or program I can follow? A list of things to read or do to speed up the process? Maybe if I read my Bible through this year and study a couple books in depth, spend 20 minutes in prayer on my knees daily instead of ‘shotgun’ prayers while I’m in a rush, memorize one new scripture verse every week, be in church 2-3 times a week, never miss the women’s Bible study, serve more in ministries at the church or in my community, maybe then will I be transformed faster?
Checking off a list hasn’t accomplished what I hoped. It either instills guilt in me for not accomplishing enough, or grows pride in me for what I accomplish. Something is missing from the list – the heart of the goal – a deepening of my relationship with Jesus.
Just as we cannot accomplish justification ourselves, neither can we accomplish sanctification ourselves. In my previous post, I explained that justification and sanctification are bound together in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross. They were both a single definitive act (1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:11; Acts 20:32, 26:18). Just as justification is by faith, so is sanctification. We are united with Christ by faith, and by faith we accept that sin no longer masters us. By faith we receive the Holy Spirit’s power that enables us to live for God and overcome the pull of sin. The Spirit does the sanctifying work to make us more like His Son (I Peter 1:2, Romans 15:16).
Sanctification is also a lifelong process (Romans 8:13). Regeneration is the beginning point for progressive sanctification, and sanctification is not a static state but a dynamic state through which the struggle with sin continues. Though we have entered definitively into new life with Christ and are dead to sin (Colossians 3:1,3), we are commanded to put sin to death (Colossians 3:5).
In Scripture, we find the Greek forms of the verb “sanctify” in both the indicative mood (meaning a statement of fact or reality) and the imperative mood (meaning a command to actualize the reality). There is a tension between God’s sovereign work of holiness in us and our responsibility to practice obedience. As a result of our new condition, we are responsible to seek to become more like Christ by following the pattern he set for us. But God inwardly transforms us as we yield our hearts, minds, and wills to the Holy Sirit and is thus a divine gift, not human effort on its own. As we wait for the indicatives to become a complete reality, we follow the imperatives to make the new dominion manifest in our will and actions as far as possible until its consummation. God enables us to desire to work out the imperatives.
It’s all about the relationship rather than my list. Maybe this year I will read the Bible through multiple times, but it won’t be because I have to check off a list. It will be because I desire to know God and His ways more. Maybe I will pray more often on my knees, but it will be so that I can hear God’s voice and get His perspective on the world around me, not just because it seems like something a spiritual person should do. Maybe I will memorize 10 or 60 verses this year, but it will be because I want to meditate on them and impress them on my heart. Maybe I will serve in a church ministry and in my community again, but it will be because I feel called and compelled by the Spirit from the overflow of the Father’s love in my heart. It will be because I want to make Him look great in my life, rather than because I feel obligated or expected or fear not having a purpose.
Still, I desire to ensure that all these activities that were on my list are a part of my life because it is in these things that I receive God’s instruction through relationship with Him. First, though, I must rid myself of the accomplishment perspective and replace it with the intended purpose. He designed these things to be a part of my development and growth. Therefore, I will discipline myself to do them even when I don’t “feel” like it because I want to walk every step of this life closer to Him, and in doing so, He will change me!