Scripture sanctifies us. It cleanses us, washes us (Ephesians 5:26), and renews our hearts through faith in Jesus Christ. By living in the power of God’s Word, we are able to experience the continual process of being made holy, and be transformed into the image of Christ “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
On the contrary: If we do not abide in Christ and do not immerse ourselves in God’s revealed truth, we will stifle the process of sanctification and perhaps even become like the branches in John 15:6 that “are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
For this reason it is imperative that we devotedly revisit the wonder and glory and gravity of the Gospel time and time again. Because it was Jesus who “suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood” (Hebrews 13:12), it is to the nail-pierced feet of Jesus that we must return each and every day. Through His blood we are washed; through His blood we are redeemed; and through His blood we are sanctified (1 Corinthians 6:11).
In addition, since we have no life apart from Christ (Colossians 3:3), we should never expect that we can be sanctified apart from Him. In this way, it is not only our justification that comes by faith (Romans 3:28), but it is also our sanctification that comes by faith. In other words: All the righteous deeds we could ever perform are not enough to make us holy. The only true righteousness we have is that which flows from the perfect righteousness of Christ. We are the dirty pool at the bottom of the waterfall. He is the pure, vibrant, life-giving stream that rushes over the edge of the cliff and pours into the stagnant waters of our soul.
Unfortunately for many Christians today, there is a tendency towards works-based sanctification (rather than faith-in-Christ-based sanctification). The thinking goes: “Now that I am saved, I need to be a good person, read my Bible, keep my nose clean, and go to church in order to be righteous.” Yet this completely undermines the saving work of Christ on the cross! For we do not have “a righteousness of [our] own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9). Believe it or not, if we are relying on our own self-righteousness to live the Christian life, we are actually failing to fully understand the Gospel. We are denying the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ and putting ourselves in a position where we become the flowing waterfall from above, and Christ is left alone in the murky waters below.
O, how I pray that we may never reach this point in our lives! May we always remember that it is the Lord who sanctifies (Leviticus 20:8), “and because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Jesus consecrated himself for our sake, that we “may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:9). He was set apart that we might become set apart. And because of the words He has spoken to us, we are already clean (John 15:3). It is His truth that sanctifies, His blood that washes, His words that cleanse, His body that was broken for us, His righteousness that becomes our righteousness, and His death that offers us eternal life. And when we truly see all it is that Christ has done (and continues to do) for us, it becomes clear that the work of sanctification cannot be trusted to anything other than a burning faith in the glorious Messiah himself.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore. (Ezekiel 37:28)