A.B. Simpson, being born again, darkness, doctrine, experience, heart, justification, light, love, Martin Luther, prayer, repentance, sanctification, self-righteousness, the new self, theology, true faith, William Gurnall
“Justifying faith is not a naked assent to the truths of the gospel.”
“The sanctified body is one whose hands are clean. The stain of dishonesty is not on them, the withering blight of ill-gotten gain has not blistered them, the mark of violence is not found upon them. They have been separated from every occupation that could displease God or injure a fellow-man.”
To start off with, I’d say that we as humans are neither able to justify nor to sanctify ourselves in order to make our way to God. Instead, both transforming periods of spiritual life are gifts from our Father through Jesus Christ. While the first one, justification, changes our whole thinking regarding God, ourselves, and others, and gives us the bedrock our spiritual house can be built upon, the second process that sanctifies our whole being enables us to change our behavior, too.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1 KJV)
Justification is fundamental because we could not have ANY relationship with God if Jesus had not paid for the sins of the whole world, ours included. Justification can be considered as the fundament of faith and the “initiation” into divine life. Actually, justification is required in the very beginning of our common walk with God. It is a process, as is sanctification, but it is way shorter.
Before God puts us into this painful process where His light slowly begins to shine into the darkness of our hearts, we may believe that God and Jesus do exist, we may believe in the Trinity, we may know everything about theology, or we may be atheists, agnostics, or Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus – whatever. We may have had certain spiritual experiences before which were impressive, but what we might lack, still, is an assurance of faith, a doubtless conviction that God is always here, with us, and most importantly, FOR us.
Martin Luther exactly realized that it’s not possible for the natural man to know all about his sinful nature. There is a constant unconsciousness concerning the deeper roots of our sins until the Holy Spirit expands our awareness through His Light that scrutinizes the inner darkness, as it is written,
“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (Jn 1:5 KJV).
Confronted for the first time with God’s bright light, we won’t like that process and would rather refuse to see what we ought to see inside our hearts. There is an inner rebellion and objection of our old Adam and old Eve against God’s purifying and enlightening work. It appears to be internally inconsistent that spiritual growth simultaneously means to accept fleshly wretchedness beyond all hope. Again and again to cry out,
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Day by day – that is anything but pleasant for the natural man and woman. Alas, God’s light detects EVERYTHING. He examines our whole past life in every (hidden) detail. Painful, indeed. No possibility left to behave self-righteously before the eternal and righteous God. Instead, humility is brought forth inside us and we think better about others than we think of ourselves.
Nonetheless, afterwards, when we have been justified by God, we KNOW that we have been forgiven. Completely. God does not point to the same sins any longer; it seems He forgot them all. And He also makes us forget our past wrongdoings. Eventually, we are able to get our minds off of our self, self-forgetfulness sets in, and a wholly new view of all things coupled with an increasing interest in heavenly things has started to change our spiritual being.
But what is the reason for spiritual growth itself? What enables us to look deeper and deeper into our fallen nature, into its wounds, its hurts, and its twisted thinking?
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” (1 Thes 5:23-24 KJV)
Sanctification is the very answer to the question of how to be changed completely. It is the second and final step of spiritual life with God in Christ. However, there is a remarkably great difference between step one and step two. While justification ensures our access to God outside of us through prayer, sanctification means that God ensures His access to our inside by making His home within our hearts (John 14:23).
Now the Holy Spirit begins to pray inside of us since we do normally not know what we should pray for (Romans 8:26) unless God nudges us to pray the right prayers that are accompanied by that particular faith in our hearts and minds that knows He heard them all.
As the process continues, we can see more and more clearly that we are utterly helpless and lost without God and we realize that we need Him more than everything and everybody around us (cf. Mt 5:3).
But sanctification also means inner transformation, the cleansing of our heart, i.e., the painful circumcision of the very same (Romans 2:29) in order to bring forth the new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15) from the inside to the outside. While He is sanctifying our souls, God enables us to forgive everything that was ever committed toward us and He eventually heals our souls as if there had never been any offense. Or in other words, God makes us “Born Again Beings”, His beloved children, innocent spiritual babies who only know light, and love, and all good things to be their very nature. And finally, the tree of knowledge of good and evil has lost its appeal for those who are ONE with God who alone is good (Lk 18:19).
“Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.” (3 Jn 11 KJV)