Sanctification Is a Part of the Christian Life

I will admit that eighth grade General Science was not my favorite subject in school. But one day, as I took my seat in what was normally a boring, lifeless class, the teacher announced that we would look at the topic of metamorphosis. Immediately, I came to attention as I tried to imagine the monstrous dinosaur we would be studying that day. The teacher, however, pulled out “Exhibit A,” a large glass jar, and invited us to approach the lab table and take a look. Inside was a small stick from a tree, and attached to the side was a furry lump. We were told that inside that cocoon “metamorphosis” was taking place. A caterpillar had formed that cocoon, and if we would watch, one day a beautiful butterfly would emerge.

The term metamorphosis by definition means “a complete change of physical form or substance.” In the animal world, it is “the marked and rapid transformation of a larva into an adult creature.” It is miraculous to us that a worm-like creature crawling slowly across the ground could suddenly grow wings and fly gracefully in the summer sun. But God, in His infinite wisdom and power, designed that to happen over and over again in His created world. As older adults, we only wish that God had designed a cocoon into which we could crawl and instantaneously restore some youthful energy and beauty. Unfortunately, that is not God’s plan for us physically, but He has designed a metamorphosis of another kind for us.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Spiritual metamorphosis is God’s greatest desire and delight. He sent His Son into this world to die on a cross so that our old sinful nature could be changed into a new nature. All of us by nature are sinners and condemned to die, but God through His Son has provided a free gift of salvation whereby we might suddenly be made righteous in His sight.

For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.—Romans 5:17

This change cannot be manufactured or manipulated in our own power or through our own means. The caterpillar may desire to fly, but until it goes through the God-designed and God-created process of metamorphosis, it has no power to take to the skies. It is a miraculous change that cannot take place apart from the Creator. Likewise we may desire to go to Heaven when we die, but our only hope of doing so is by submitting to God’s designed way of salvation. The Bible makes it very clear that spiritual metamorphosis only takes place one way.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.—John 14:6

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.—Acts 4:12

I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour.—Isaiah 43:11

God desires that all men experience this instantaneous change that takes place at salvation. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). When God looks down upon humanity today, He yearns “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto the power of God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18).

But while God’s first goal for us is that immediate and instantaneous change that occurs at salvation, He also desires additional changes that occur through what the Bible calls sanctification. These changes can take place rapidly or gradually, depending on our willingness to obey God’s Word. Old habits and patterns of life that developed before salvation must now be replaced by new patterns fashioned by our conformity to God’s image. This is why God has given us the local church and the servants who minister to us the Word of God.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.—Ephesians 4:11–13

We naturally resist change. We don’t like to give up the things that have fulfilled our flesh and satisfied our sinful appetites. The devil convinces us that to put off the old man and replace it with a new life in Christ is boring and unfulfilling. But quite frankly, it is just the opposite! Think of it this way: everyone likes a fresh change of clothes. Having to wear the same clothes every day would be boring and repulsive. Most of us change our clothes often and even sometimes multiple times in a day. Those changes equip us for an upcoming activity or work, and often the simple changing of our clothes brings freshness to life and vitality to our purpose.

God wants to change us daily so that we are equipped to do His will and have the spiritual vigor to accomplish His work. But remember, change means change! If I told you that I was going to change my clothes, I wouldn’t go to my closet and simply put on another suit over the one I’m wearing now. That would be “adding,” not changing, clothes. Nor would I simply remove the suit I’m wearing now and emerge wearing nothing at all! That would be ridiculous and simply indicate that I had taken off but had not replaced anything. Salvation is a change involving repenting of our sin (putting off ) and placing our faith completely in Jesus Christ (putting on). Nothing occurs until we do both.

Sanctification involves the same process. We must daily allow God to strip us of those things unbecoming to our Christian life and replace those old rags with robes of righteousness. Ephesians 4:22–24 says, “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

So, step up to the lab table. Take a look in the jar. See yourself as God sees you. Without Him, we’re just a helpless worm groveling along on our path of sin. But God looks beyond who we are and has metamorphosis in mind! Crawl into His arms, and you will emerge a new creature in Christ!

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