“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1Peter 2:9)
I have always been amazed at how God blesses new believers who are from utterly secular or pagan backgrounds, who bring all kinds of immoral baggage into their new life of faith. But as that new believer seeks to walk in the light of God’s Word and God’s Spirit sin is revealed and their sinful practices become history. This means, among other things, that the church must beware of usurping the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Instructing new believers in the Word of God is one thing, but playing God is quite another. The life of the new believer is rarely up to the standard of what the church thinks it should be the day after conversion. God loves these new believers and will not let them remain where they are. The sanctification process is God’s desire and God’s responsibility.
This may sound strange but it is a question that both needs to be asked and is also revealing of the spiritual state of the church in America today: “How far are you willing to go in the sanctification process?” I say strange but necessary because it seems to me we in the church are very willing to deal with moral issues in our lives like sexual sin, hatred, jealousy, witchcraft, idolatry, envy, discord, etc., but we balk when it comes to things like racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, or elitism. These latter sins seem still to be extremely prevalent in many local churches of America.
The sanctification process should be a lifelong process but many in the church, it seems to me, forego the process for long periods of time, if not for the rest of their lives. Why? God the Holy Spirit reveals some item or issue of sin in their lives that they want desperately to hold on to more than their communion with Jesus. We do well to remember that the question often posed today, “How can anything that feels so good be so wrong?” will eventually be answered with great disappointment because the pleasures of sin last only for a season.
Sweet communion with Jesus will always have to deal with new depths of sin in our lives. As we walk in the light along that Pilgrim way toward a God who is all about light, more and more darkness in our lives will be revealed. We can count on it. But we ought not to see this new revelation of sin as a defeat in our spiritual life. We should not be discouraged because God is bringing out into the open the sin that has plagued us for so long. He wants us to conquer it with his power and move us onward in faith, knowing that, as we do, more challenges will arise even in the midst of God’s wonderful blessing.