The word “justified” means to be declared righteous, to be innocent or acquitted by a court of law. In other words, a justified person is not condemned by the judge. It is just as if he did nothing wrong. The Bible says that the believers are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3:24). That means that God does not condemn us. God sees us as innocent - just as if we had never sinned! Why? Because at the cross, Jesus Christ, God’s Son, took the guilt and condemnation that we deserve for our sins. He paid the price. By trusting in Christ and turning to God, we receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice. We are declared by God to be righteous. We are forgiven. “In Him,we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace,” (Ephesians 1:7).
As Christians, people who have turned to God, and who trust Christ, not ourselves, for salvation, we already have God’s forgiveness and acceptance. This is wonderful! It means that we do not have to strive in our own power to be good enough for God. We don’t have to be perfect or to achieve some standard of holiness to be able to come into God’s presence and have an audience with Him. The blood of Jesus Christ gives us access to God, so as to be able to know Him, to receive Him and to receive answers to our prayers (Hebrews 10:19,22; Romans 5:1,2).
A person unsure of whether they are forgiven by God will not be sure if they are accepted by God. Forgiveness and acceptance go together. Forgiveness depends on trusting the grace of God enough to confess our sins, turn to God and believe that through Jesus’ sacrifice we are forgiven. It does not depend first of all on living a holy life. Even baby Christians have forgiveness, and it is important for them to know it. “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven youfor His name’s sake.” (1 John 2:12).
It is not just that God forgives and and only tolerates us. He also accepts us. He loves us. We are now “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). Even if we sin and spoil our relationship with God for the moment, God is waiting for us to come back to Him like the Father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:20). All we have to do is turn back to God, and confess our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We can then continue our relationship with God. This is how to walk in justification. We must believe that God forgives us when we turn back to Him and confess our sin, and then we must go on confidently. This faith pleases God. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)
Our justification is wonderful, and it forms the basis for us to always be able to go on in God. Yet the highest and greatest experiences with God come to those who have made spiritual progress towards maturity beyond this level. God wants to work in us to do His will more consistently (Philippians 2:13,14). He wants to form His character in us (Romans 8:29). This is what happens through sanctification.
Sanctification means literally “making holy”. It also means “consecration” or “setting apart” something for a special holy purpose.
In the Christian life, sanctification has two parts - God’s part and ours. In many things in the Christian life God is playing the major role - and yet we have our part to do also - which is to respond in faith and obedience to what God is saying.
In sanctification, our part is to offer to God our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) - in fact to consciously offer our whole spirit, soul and body completely to God so that we devote ourselves to forever do His will and not our own. Our sanctification cannot be complete than the sincerity and the understanding with which we make this dedication to God.
God’s part in our sanctification is to actually change us by the operation of His blood, His Word and His Spirit. We are sanctified by God’s grace - his unmerited favour working in our hearts and lives. We have to trust God to work in us. He is the One who produces godly character in us, the fruit of the Spirit and the ability to overcome sin consistently.
Sanctification can also be defined as: “possessing the mind of Christ, and all the mind of Christ.” God wants us to allow our minds to be renewed (Romans 12:2). Our thinking and attitudes must change if we are to grow in God (Ephesians 4:23). Many of our thinking patterns, values and priorities have been shaped by the world system and not by God. We must relearn many things. “We have the mind of Christ” legally (1 Corinthians 2:16). But to actually think Christ’s thoughts and allow Him to rule our behaviour we will need to submit to the work of the Holy Spirit so as to appropriate our inheritance in this area.
Sanctification also relates to emotional healing, or a changed heart. God wants remove all negative attitudes of despair, fear and rejection from us and give us a hopeful, joyful, faith-filled attitude. He wants to remove all bitterness and resentment from us. A person who is hurt or bitter needs to receive God’s grace so he or she can truly forgive those who have caused the hurt, and get free of every root of bitterness. Wrong heart attitudes such as pride, envy, impatience, resentment, rejection, selfishness, rebellion, independence and so on are the fruit of an unsanctified heart. A full sanctification in God will remove these wrong heart attitudes from us. Sometimes the term “inner healing” is used in relation to the sanctification of the emotions and memories in our soul.
Santification and holiness also means the development of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and other qualities of godly character. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:23,24). The most important of all here is love. In fact, growth in God means growth in love, for God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is the greatest and most important quality that a Christian can have (1 Corinthians 13:13). A definition of Christian love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
Comparing our lives with this description of love can give us an idea of how far we have really progressed in sanctification as God defines it.
It is worth mentioning that the truly sanctified or holy person has the fruit of joy. To think that gloominess and sadness is a mark of holiness is to be deceived. The Bible calls us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16).
Sanctification produces other qualities of godly character such as courage, endurance, truthfulness, honesty and many others. Sanctification is rooted in humilty - the correct view of God and oneself which leads one to hear correction from God and others, to put down selfish desires, and to obey God from the heart. The more truly humble a person is, the more God’s grace will work in his or her life to produce all the other elements of godly character.
Sanctification means overcoming sin. As God comes in and fills the life, darkness and deception and evil desire is rooted out and cast out. The process of sanctification will change our motives, our thinking, our speaking, our behaviour and our actions. The old nature will be crucified (Galatians 5:24) and what it produces will be stopped. But most of all God will manifest Himself through a sanctified life.
A sanctified person will be like God in His character and personality.
Sanctification is an ongoing work in the life of the Christian. There may be moments of special consecration and powerful change worked by God, but a Christian could easily deceive himself if he considers he has “arrived” already as far as sanctification is concerned. We should always be diligent to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). The salvation of the soul - the mind, will and emotions, is usually never quite completely wrought in any Christian before he or she dies. But it is important that we receive as much of this work of sanctification in this life as possible. To oppose or resist this process is to choose sin and rebellion against God.