The Christian life is a call to perfection. In Matthew 5 Jesus says, “Be perfect, as your Father heavenly Father is perfect” Yet, in Christ, which by the way is the only way to become a Christian. You can’t actually earn it. You can’t obtain it. You can’t mark off all the things you are supposed to do, and now you’re a Christian. No. No. No. It is simple child like faith and trust in Christ. And in Christ, on the account of Christ, the moment you repent and believe, the Father declares you perfect.
A person can never be seen by God as any more righteous then the moment they first believed. You might not feel righteous. You won’t actually be righteous. But if you have believed, on the account of Jesus, we have reached the highest stand we will ever reach. Our sin was credited to his account and on the cross he paid the full penalty for it. So we are completely forgiven. And his righteousness is credited to our account. So we have achieved the highest standard. Not only is our slate wiped clean of all our wrongs we have ever done or ever will do. But our slate is also filled up with all the best rights, with all the most highest of standard as if we have already achieved them. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
So in all reality, following Jesus, being his disciple, starts the moment we first believe, is a lifelong pursuit of growing into and becoming more and more what God has already us to be.
We are clothed in Christ righteousness (Romans 4:22-5:1). Ephesians 1 says we are seated w/Christ in heavenly places. So we are already perfect. We are already in heaven. And then the rest of the Christian life is just getting to and being who we already are. A growing into our true identity.
One way as a Christian to look at the commands in the Bible to us is, “You are that, now be that”. Be who you are. You have a new identity in Christ. No be your new identity in Christ. Grow into it. Be who you are.
So you see there are two aspects to sanctification. There is that decisive moment, when you believe, and God sets you apart unto himself. He says, your are mine, declares you holy, and sets you apart. Thats what being holy or sanctified means, that is, they both mean the same thing. It means to be set apart unto God. And God does that when we first believe.
And then the other aspect, is a growing in holiness, a growing in Christlikeness, a transformation per se. This happen throughout our life, and is something we never fully attain to, until we get home to glory. Christ says, be perfect. God says, you are perfect, because of Christ. Now we imperfectly ever grow into our perfection the rest of our life.
Both aspects of sanctification happen because of God and on the account of God, it is just that the progressive aspect of sanctification, the part that we progress in and grow in, were we actually become more Christlike, we play a part in. We work it out. We strive. We put energy and sweat into it. It is because of, and on the account of Christ. It is by, and through the power of the Holy Spirit. But we must do it. We must fight the good fight. We must run the race. We must seek first the kingdom of God.
To this end, we must toil, striving with all the energy he works powerfully in us. (Colossians 1:29)
Why? Because Christ is working in us. If you are not seeking the things of God, than obviously Christ is not working in you. You know that. It is kind of no brainer. And you know if you are doing things to try and earn Gods favor, or if you are doing things on the account that you have already received Gods favor. You know if you are doing things to try and earn salvation or if you are doing things because you are saved. You know if you are trusting in your works or if you are trusting in Christ. You know it.
Christ alone saves, and the power of Christ alone sanctifies.
“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
May we be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)