“The work of God’s grace by which the believer is separated from sin and becomes dedicated to God’s righteousness. Accomplished by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, sanctification results in holiness, or purification from the guilt and power of sin. Sanctification is instantaneous before God through Christ and progressive before man through obedience to the Holy Spirit and the Word.”
– Jack Hayford (Hayford’s Bible Handbook)
The Bible teaches that a man becomes a new creature when he is saved. This is good news. Every other religion says that man just has to try harder to be good. Christ says He will make us want to be good. The difference is unfathomably huge. It is the same difference between life and death. Black and white. Up and down. Unfortunately, many people do not understand this. They see Christianity the same way they see every other religion: a list of rules. However, when the Bible makes lists, it is describing what a Christian looks like. Not what a person must do to become Christian. And please understand that no Christian is exactly the way the Bible describes a Christian. A real life Christian is becoming like the Bible’s description. A real Christian feels the desire to be more Christian then last month and last year.
“But I’m a new Christian and I still struggle with sin. I still struggle with the desire to sin.”
Certainly. Sin still lives in your body. But now there is the presence of Something else. Or better yet, Somebody else. Inside the new Christian is the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit. He not only looks down from Heaven but He has come down from Heaven to live inside of you. In you is the new power, strength and life that will slowly “infect” your sin with holiness and righteousness. New appetites will begin to grow from your insides. Like a garden, things won’t happen with the flip of a switch, but they will grow slowly but surely with time.
Reading the Bible and praying to God are the sun and water of the new Christian. Doctors check the pulse of patients to see if they are dead or alive. Christians check their pulse by seeing new desires begin to pulse in their life. Now please don’t make the mistake of trying to make these things appear with self-discipline. That won’t work. And if you get good at it you just might fool yourself into thinking you are saved when you are not. Religious people do that a lot. Christians are not religious people. They are God’s people. Normal, natural humans. The only normal, natural humans. Because men and women were designed to live with God inside of them. Most people do not have God inside of them. They are what the Bible calls “spiritually dead.” Think of someone who is brain dead. Their body is alive, but their mind is dead. Being spiritually dead is worse than brain death. It is the worst kind of death. God wants to be the source of your new life. He wants to change your appetites. Slowly but surely.
“But I don’t understand how to let Him change me. I always have to use self-discipline to do the right things God asks. Does this mean I am not a Christian?”
Think of the time before you became Christian. I picture myself in the line up going into a night club. I had many appetites swirling within me. They were all for sin. Other people in the line up were thinking the same things. Some worked harder and more courageously than me at trying to get these things. But we were all in the same line going to the same place because of the same appetites. Some nights I was especially courageous at trying to acquire a particular sin. Some nights I was lazy. But the appetite was always there. Sometimes weak. Sometimes strong. But it was a part of me. I did not have to make sure it was there. It was just there. Like my liver was always there. In Christianity, like in sin, having self-discipline is a good thing. But it is not the thing. A new Christian should ask themselves “is a new desire making me want to have self-discipline?” At first, many steps in the Christian faith will seem to be powered by pure self-discipline. So be it. As long as you remember that these efforts you are making are not responsible for your salvation or the maintenance of your salvation. When properly examined they are the result of the fact that somewhere, deep down, the Holy Spirit is moving within you, stirring you towards new appetites. Knitting your bowels into a new configuration. Re-organizing the deep chambers of your heart. Re-making you. God is doing that, not your self-discipline.
As time continues, you will see more and more of these new desires appear. Sometimes these desires will simply be that you are more aware that your sin is wrong. Fear may become a constant companion whenever you do a particular sin. Your sin will most likely continue to become less enjoyable, even if only because of the constant fear of God that accompanies it. Again, this can be a legitimate avenue the Holy Spirit is using to purge that sin out of your life. All because of what is occurring, deep in the underground of your being. Authored by God Himself. As He continues to live in the carcass of your flesh, without giving up or desiring to move out. Incredible.
Fellowship with other believers is essential to growing your Christianity (Hebrews 10:25). One of the first fruits of genuine Christianity in my life was the strong desire to be with other Christians. Some of whom I would never have befriended before becoming born again.
Scripture, prayer and fellowship will surround and feed the seed of your faith. And in time you will see a small fragile bud emerge from the soil of your flesh. You will feel the roots spreading below the surface and change your mind and heart. God will make sure of it.