The (often) slow nature of sanctification

I cringe every time I get on our scale.  I am fearful (ok, that’s a strong word, but it’s probably pretty close to my internal anticipation in that moment) of what number will be revealed moments after I am positioned and still.  Even though the scale doesn’t cringe and groan as much as it did several years ago when I got on it, I still experience apprehension as I approach it.

My anxious moments on the scale are because I don’t want to see the reality of what I am.  The scale doesn’t lie.  It doesn’t hold back truthful reality to appease its owner.  It doesn’t soften the number with a list of excuses or with some empty platitudes about my recent efforts.  It just puts the number out there in stark boldness.

Some days I get off the scale and am content; other days I acknowledge that I need to reaffirm my commitment to exercise and controlled eating.  Every day I recognize that my battle for my weight (and against my weight) is a daily battle and progress is often slow and incremental.  Ten pounds won’t be lost in two days — at least not in healthy ways.  But practices that become habits that lead to the loss of ten pounds can be established in two days.

This battle against the decay of our bodies (2 Cor. 4:16) is an analogy for our battle for spiritual progress.  Our growth is not instantaneous — it is progressive and slow (Rom. 8:22-23; 2 Cor. 5:2-5).  Our growth is not perfect — only in Heaven will we know perfection (1 Jn. 3:2).  Our growth is a fight — every day we know the allure of the flesh and temptation to sin (1 Tim. 1:18-19).  Our growth is not even our doing — it is ultimately the result of the Spirit’s work in us (Rom. 8:11-13).

But the battle for sanctification is worth every defense against sinful temptation and every discipline enacted and every moment spent meditating on Scripture and every pleading with the Spirit for help.  We will never regret (ultimately) any effort expended to be righteous.  We will regret (ultimately) every indulgence of sin that could have been avoided.  And while not perfect on earth, in Heaven we will be glad for every effort we make in pursuing the likeness of our Savior.

This week I have been thinking much about sanctification.  I’ve been thinking in self-examination about some of my struggles and areas of weakness.  I’ve been encouraged and emboldened by the Word.  And I’ve been helped by a variety of writers that have reminded me of some basic principles of this often too-slow (seemingly) process of transformation.  Consider this reminder about our incremental and sometimes unnoticeable changes:

“When it comes to sanctification, it’s more important where you’re going than where you are. Direction matters more than position. Your future progress speaks louder than your present placement. So ‘cheer up’ if you aren’t as holy as you want to be now. God may still be pleased with you because you are heading in the right direction. And be warned: if you aren’t as holy as you used to be God probably isn’t impressed with yesterday’s triumphs when for the last few months you’ve done nothing but give up.” [Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness.]

So get on a spiritual scale.  Get an accurate assessment of where you are and where you are headed.  And then start taking some steps toward maturity in Christ.

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