Okay, not really, but I think I got a beautiful picture of what sanctification looks like.
The text says in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” Sanctification is the present work of the Holy Spirit, whereby the believer is progressively being set apart from sin, and re-characterized by the Holy Spirit through the Word, to make the child “fit” to be God’s own possession.
The method by which this is accomplished is through the Holy Scriptures (John 17:17; Phil. 2:12,13). The Bible serves as a tool of Sanctification in three ways: 1) The Holy Spirit uses the Word to reveal our sinful condition (James 1:23-25); 2) The Holy Spirit uses the Word to cleanse us from our sinful habits and practices of sin (Eph.5:26). 3) It is the Word that washes away our daily defilement.
Today, my son Ashton, was tearing up the house with dog. I don’t just have an ordinary dog. I have a Cane Corso. She is only 6 months old, and weighs about 60 pounds, and is the strongest 60 pound puppy I have encountered. Ashton, my son, is about 40 pounds, and Fiona’s head and Ashton’s head are about equal height. We were getting ready to leave the house, so I told Ashton to go “put-away” Fiona (the dog).
Here’s the deal, when Christ saved us, we were all tearing up our lives and the world around us, playing with the sin that so easily entangled us. When Christ saved us, he commands us to “sin no more” or to “put-away” our sinful ways that controlled us.
Ashton grabbed Fiona by the collar and began the journey to the kennel, just as we attempt to ‘grab a hold of our sin‘ and begin the journey to ‘work out our own salvation with fear and trembling…’ The problem was, that Fiona, was just too dang big, powerful and strong for Ashton, and due to her strength he was trapped in a state of perpetual disobedience. This is our state, we are commanded not to sin. We are told ‘work out our own salvation’ we theologically call this sanctification, but the truth is, due to our brokenness and weakness, we are left in this perpetual disobedience.
This is the problem with Philippians 2:12, it’s often quoted by itself. Philippians 2:12 is actually a verse of hope, when it is taken in full context. Ashton had no hope to ‘put-away Fiona’ just as we have no hope to ‘put-away’ the sin that so easily imprisons us. Many people have lived condemned and guilt-ridden because they have been preached a verse that has been proof-texted to demand moral perfection, when the truth is, like my son, left to ourselves to ‘work out our salvation’ leaves us in a state of disobedience and condemnation.
So, now lets add the rest of Paul’s thought – Philippians 2:12-13: Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
In short, it is God who gives you the ability to do what it is he has called you to do! When I watched Ashton wrestle with the dog for long enough, I stepped in, grabbed Ashton’s hand, showed him how to hold the dog collar, and led Him, and Fiona, by taking away Fiona’s power against him, therefore freeing Ashton to live in perpetual obedience.
On the Cross, Christ took the power of hell, sin, and the grave. He has commanded us to obey him, and this is possible, and we are to ‘work’ at it, with the knowledge that it isn’t really us, but him in us, and his cross that disabled the strength of sin in our lives…
The next part is free – you will always have the flesh with you, and therefore will never be made perfect until the day you are with him in another realm, free from this flesh…it’s called sanctification…not perfection! Remember that…
Sanctification is like walking a dog that is stronger than you, but having your dad defuse the power of the dog, and take you by the hand…