Sunday, I heard a sermon on sanctification. The pastor was direct with the congregation. If you are cohabitating and having sex, you are sinning. If you are looking at pornography, you are sinning. If you cheat on your taxes, you are sinning. If you lie to your parents, that is sin. Gossip? It’s sin.
The direct approach took the audience by surprise. People were uncomfortable and the pastor knew it. But he felt it was his job to make Christians uncomfortable when we sin. Why? Because as Christians, we are supposed to be in the process of sanctification. And sanctification requires us to pay attention to our sin and repent.
But because the process of sanctification points to our sin and requires effort on our part, we don’t like to talk about it.
When we are saved, we are justified to God. This mean we are new creations in Christ. We are justified by faith–we don’t earn it and it is a completed work. We are the righteousness of Christ, an unearned gift given to us at the point of salvation. Justification relates to our position in God.
But once we give our lives to Christ, there is a type of effort that goes into living a transformed life. And that transformation is what we call sanctifcation. Sanctification involves conforming to the image of Christ. It is the righteousness of Christ working in us and can’t be done until we are first justified to God. Once saved, we have what we need (the righteousness of Christ in us) to become more like Christ. But we have to participate in the process. And this is where we get uncomfortable.
We hesitate to confront sin because we don’t want to judge and want to be tolerant. And sin is often enjoyable. But we all fall short and are regularly in need of repentance. Without facing our sin, we can’t continue the process of sanctification.
We have to cooperate and “work out our own salvation” (Philippians 2:12; Ezekiel 11:20, 20:19). Sanctification is about our relationship with God. Because we love Him, we want to obey and serve Him. This means confronting our sin.
With so few pastors willing to even talk about sin, we grow a little too comfortable letting sin slide. “Sin” is not a bad word and needs to find its place in the American church again.