Who Are You Trusting in For Sanctification? By Lara d'Entremont

Who Are You Trusting in For Sanctification? By Lara d'Entremont

It happened again—another angry meltdown over something insignificant.

But it wasn’t one of my children who had the angry meltdown. It was me.

I paced my bedroom with the door closed. How could I keep sinning against my children like this? How could I keep losing my cool? It seemed no matter what I tried—no amount of podcasts, books, articles, or tactics could stop my anger. Yet I continued to scour the internet for some kind of practice or exercise I could do to put an end to my anger once and for all.

Does any of this resonate with you? We want to suffocate our sins once and for all because we love God and love those dearest to us, yet nothing we do helps. 

What if it wasn’t up to us? What if we’re putting a trust in the wrong place?

Saved and Sanctified By Grace

Have you ever watched a determined toddler try to do a task they are unable to do? You offer help, but they quickly retort, “I do it!” Then you are forced to watch them struggle until they finally admit defeat (usually in frustrated tears).

As adults, we may laugh, but we shouldn’t be so quick to think we’re much different. We are often like them. Paul wrote to a church in Galatia, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:1–3 ESV).

False teachers led the Galatians astray from the gospel of grace to a religion of works. They ignored Paul’s teachings about Christ and listened to teachers who told them that they needed to keep the Jewish law and work to keep their salvation by perfecting their flesh. They tried to live the Christian life by their own strength and earn their salvation—completely contrary to the gospel.

We often do the same. We try to defeat our sins in the power of our flesh with apps, books, sticky notes, and the like. Though these things can be helpful, in our own strength they’re unsuccessful. They may appear wise, but are of no value in stopping the flesh (Col. 2:20–23). 

Before we were saved, our hearts were so filled with sin that only the Holy Spirit could open our eyes to the truth of the gospel. Sola Gratia—by grace alone. We are saved by nothing of our own merit, but exclusively by the grace of God. Because He showed us grace, we can be saved from death and condemnation.

We know this when we begin the Christian walk, but what about the rest of our faith? Though we have new hearts, we still live in the sinful flesh. As Paul asked the Galatians, are we saved by grace and then continue on in our own strength? Does God melt our hearts of stone and leave the rest to us? Having begun by the Spirit, are we now being perfected by the flesh? We are foolish to believe so.

We need Christ through and through—from beginning to end. It’s pride that says we can live the Christian life in our own strength and change our own hearts. When we obey, it’s because God already worked a miracle in our hearts. Where we often want to rely on what we can do to make ourselves holy, God’s ways are all about receiving, just as it is in the gospel: We receive his gifts through the means of grace and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit. 

Set Our Minds On Christ

We may think change begins with behavior modifications. Yet the Bible never displays that as the solution for the born-again believer. Rather, Paul instructs us: “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” (Col. 3:1–3 ESV).

After this passage, Paul says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (v. 5). Note the “therefore.” Paul says by setting our minds on things above, we are equipped to put sin to death.

To grow in the image of Christ, we must set our minds on our new identity in Christ and recognize where our true citizenship lies. Though we walk, live, and breathe on earth, we belong in heaven, and our names are already engraved there by Christ’s atonement. Because of that, we should live differently. We should live as citizens of the heavenly city.

If we only focus on the earthly, what we presently see before our eyes, our actions will reflect that. But if we lock our gaze above on the things of God, our attitudes, desires, and perspectives will change, and then change our outward responses. Again, this action is about receiving what Jesus has done for us and resting in His work. The Holy Spirit draws our chins upward through the Word, the sacraments, prayer, and fellow believers to behold all that we have in Christ stored away for us in heaven. 

Remember the Already-But-Not-Yet

The battle against sin is tiring. Sometimes it seems no matter how badly we want to do what is right, no matter how hard we grit our teeth, we can’t get a grip on this specific sin. We read books, we listen to podcasts, we take advice, we pray, and the struggle continues.

Sin will always be hiding behind a tree waiting to pounce on us like a lion. As long as we are on earth, we will trudge through this battle. “Wretched man that I am!” we cry with Paul. “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).

Thank God, that’s not the end of the story.

“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Rom. 7:25). 

We live in this already-but-not-yet space of being saved from sin’s punishment while sin still remains in us. One day we will be redeemed from this body of death and enter into eternal life with God where all will be new and perfect—without blemish, pain, or sin.

Cling to this hope and reality as you face that daily battle. Don’t let sin discourage you into a plateau. Continue striving to be obedient; continue fighting the good fight of the faith. But not in your own power—in the power of Christ who raised Himself and you from the dead.

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