Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The importance of Sanctification: an existential viewpoint

I was over at the Stuff Fundies Like Forum, looking around, and saw a question posed by the Forum's creator:

Our identities are very tied to our flaws here in this world. The "me" (or "id" if you're so inclined) that I live with is prone to all kinds of things that the Bible calls sin and yet those behaviors make up a large part of both how I see myself and how others see me.

Then in Scripture we read that we will enter a sinless state in eternity. So how much of the "me" that I know now will go away? Will I still be recognizable as the person I am today or do we all enter some state of being holy clones when stripped of our battle wounds and fatal flaws?

One answer is that we will enter a state of being the "me" that we were originally intended to be before the fall. But I guess some part of me kind of likes being the one I am now even while recognizing the fallen state with which I still struggle.

My reply was as follows:


This is an excellent question, one I hadn't really thought about before. But as soon as I did, several verses popped into my head, and I've had somewhat of an epiphany. (And boy am I feeling convicted right now!)

The "me" that is "prone to all kinds of things that the Bible calls sin" is called "the old self" (ESV) or "the old man". Also, "the image of the man of dust."

I think the Bible makes it clear that 1) we do NOT know what we will be, but 2) "when He shall appear", those things that "the Bible calls sin" will be stripped away, no matter how large a part those behaviors make up of our current self-image.

Here's the epiphany: that's why sanctification is so important!

(That's also why we Orthodox don't distinguish between justification and sanctification -- or not nearly as much anyway. But I digress.)

The more like Christ, who is our life, we are, the more of "ourself" we get to keep. ("Nevertheless not I, but Christ...")

Here are the relevant Scriptures that came to mind:

That the "old man" will be stripped away:

...but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. ... Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. -- I Cor. 13:10, 12b

(I know, I know...this verse is referring specifically to certain spiritual gifts. But the general principle is applicable to the conversation here.)

As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. -- I Cor. 15:48ff

That this is a great motivation for sanctification:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. -- Col. 3:1-10

]Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure. - I John 3:2

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light."
-- John 12:24-36, cf. pretty much all of I John

Ok, I'm going to go repent in sackcloth and ashes now.

P.S. ephiphany #2:

In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.

I always thought Paul was being redundant here. But he's not. He's saying, "you walked in these things when they were your 'life'. Now they are not your life (or your "id" if you prefer), so why are you walking in them?! You must put them all away."

I need to go ponder that while I'm busy with the sackcloth and ashes. :)