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Journey of Sanctification


Sin is a funny thing. Not funny ha ha, but more funny in the ironic sense.  Take this ever popular statement: All sins are the same in God’s eyes. Is it true?  Yes.  Is it potentially misleading?  Absolutely.  It does serve a purpose though, for it reveals a critical misunderstanding of the two natures of sin.  Or perhaps not a misunderstanding as much as a complete ignorance of how God views sin.

In my Christian life I have noticed a tendency to lump all sins into a grand, singular category.  Everything from a white lie to avoid embarrassment to a loathsome backstabbing uttered from a spirit of horrendous pride.  They all fall into the growing list of reasons I do not deserve heaven.  This is not untrue of course.  Every sin, even the minutest infraction, reveals the rebellion of my heart that swings shut the gates of heaven.  But this is where the blindness appears.

There is a second type of sin.  The sins we commit as a Christian, the sins pouring out of a heart that while saved, remains imperfectly sanctified.  They are of the same constitution, but of a very different effect.  Powerless to keep us from the redemption of Jesus, yet equally potent in their ability to rob us our joy and silence our connection with our Lord.

This mistake comes with odd consequences.  One would think it ought lead us to a humble and contrite spirit. But it doesn’t.  It leads us to believe the sins we commit after 50 years as a Christian will be the same as those we commit in our first week.  This isn’t all bad.  It is a healthy reminder of how woefully inadequate we are at securing our own salvation.  But there is a sinister aspect. Because if you believe these sins are a constant, if you believe they will never really change, you will lose inspiration to root them out.

I have felt this many times in my walk with the Lord.  The feeling that it pointless to keep fighting the battle, if we will simply continue to commit the same quantity and severity of sins even years after our conversion. Why fight, why continue the battle? The conclusion is inevitable. Discouragement, and if left unchecked, apathy.

The answer lies in the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is he who ultimately convicts us of all sin and it is he who gives us the power to overcome.  We must remember the Holy Spirit has in some sense, a very relative view towards sin.  Ah, you say, how dangerous is this attitude.  Wouldn’t this well up a spirit of religious pride as we look down at the adulterers and alcoholics still mired in their egregious sins?

From a worldly standpoint, that would be quite true.  Our society tells us murder and thievery are far worse than simply jealousy or gossip.  But the Holy Spirit is not bound by the same set of rules.  He is directed by a desire for sanctification.  This frees him to pour the same brutal conviction upon our smallest flaws as he hammered upon the most flagrant transgressions.  This is why the Apostle Paul, though a spiritual giant compared to us, could utter the words “I am the chief of sinners.”  Because the Holy Spirit, in his relentless desire for holiness, stands at the controls of our conviction.  It is he who wields the sword and he who brings us to our knees.

In this there is great hope.  Not that we will be free of sin, or that we will someday achieve a holiness that would grant us entrance into heaven, but the hope that ever smaller sins will bring an ever greater conviction. A hope that when we’re 85, perhaps reflecting on 50 years of life as a Christian, we will be convicted and broken by sins that today we don’t even consider sins.

The goal is a life lived with a contrite spirit.  Yet the goal is not a contrite spirit waging war over the same sins God revealed to us in the waking hours of our conversion.  We must rest in the assurance that His grace ought free us from the sins of today while holding in store a holier life that never loses the sweetness of deep repentance.


Comment from Dan
Time January 25, 2010 at 11:44 am

Hey Jim,

Great points. The difference to me is allowing for direction by the Holy Spirit in our and others lives, vs. a strictly intellectual process. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to bring conviction, not ours – all we can do is point to scripture. Also, lumping all sins together removes the ability to recognize that believers are at different points in their walk – that believers working on some more difficult or finer point, should not be treated dismissively or as some new believer dealing with a “gross” or obvious sin. Not allowing for the Holy Spirit’s guidance causes the sharp sword to become a damaging sledge.

Comment from Heidi J. Berkey
Time January 25, 2010 at 1:47 pm

awesome, thanks for sharing!!!

Comment from Wyatt Houtz
Time January 25, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Hey Jim, great blog! I agree that all sins are equal in the sense that they all bring us into judgment, but in the justice of God, he will make things right according what has gone wrong. It’s easy to confuse the gravity of sin with dante’s inferno but all sins will not receive the same condemnation.

Here are a few verses that indicate that all sins are not equal, and some will receive different judgment than others. And that greater sinners will receive greater judgment.

* 1 John 5:17 Sin that leads to death
* Luke 12:48-49 severe vs. light beatings
* John 19:11 has the greater sin
* 1 Peter 1:17, 2 Timothy 4:14 relative judgment according to deeds
* Luke 7:47, number of sins
* Matt 18:34, amount of debt
* 2 Cor 5:10, Rev 22:12 judged according to our own particular sins

So if I am a greater sinner than another christian, then Christ will bear more of my sins than others, and this will glorify god more because i will be forgiven more. Rom 6:1

I know I just brain dumped a bunch of verses, but i think about this a lot and its difficult to understand.

Comment from Proverb
Time August 10, 2010 at 8:53 am

I really dig what you had to say about the journey of santification. Good read. i amd currently going through a book entitled The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.
I think when we purse holiness that process in and of itself will lead us to sanctification.

Comment from jrmallory
Time August 12, 2010 at 9:18 am

Thanks Proverb. I checked out your music, good work, you’ve got talent. Come do a show in Seattle some time. Our church (Mars Hill) hosted Lacrae a while ago to a packed house.

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