The Bliss of What Christ Has Done (For Us and To Us)
In Romans, chapters 3, 4, and 5, the apostle Paul outlines what God did for us through the giving of His Son. By believing in Christ’s sacrifice, we have been declared not guilty, legally acquitted from all charges against us. His blood washes us clean and makes us justified (just-as-if-I’d never sinned). We are headed for heaven; this is Good News for which we daily rejoice and are grateful.
But guess what! There is even more Good News. We can abide in His holy presence as joyful saints right now; we do not have to wait until we go to heaven.
In Romans chapter 6, Paul explains that on the cross Jesus did something to us. By including us in His death, Christ destroyed our sinfulness. Now that we are born-again new creations, the tyranny of sin no longer enslaves us. We are now alive to God with brand-new hearts, and the Holy Spirit can reside in us with the beauty of His holiness.
In essence, Paul is describing two sides of the same coin—justification (what Christ provided for us) and sanctification (what Christ did to us). Both are gifts provided in the redemption from the start. God has finished the work and invites us to respond by joining Him in the bliss of reckoning it so.
Here is the difference between justification and sanctification in a nutshell. You can be justified and believe in God’s plan of salvation yet find yourself joylessly struggling along and doing your own thing.
In Abraham and Sarah’s story, we see the prophetic parallel. God counted Abraham as righteous because he believed God’s plan for their future. But Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands. Instead of waiting for the child that God had promised them, they produced a son named Ishmael through their servant Hagar.
Justification through faith changes our status with God. Abraham was already righteous. Sanctification through faith, on the other hand, is activated by a change of identity. It was not until the Lord changed their names and they began to call each other by their new identities, agreeing with what God said about them, that they spoke forth their destiny.
Sarah was barren, but God waited for Abraham’s loins to die, too. They were now ready for a miracle. When neither of them could take any credit, He moved in by His Spirit and quickened their mortal bodies. This is a type of sanctification; God did for them what the Law could not do. He touched them and they produced Isaac, the child of promise.
Sanctification is when God touches you with His Spirit and takes away your deadness.
Upon salvation, the Lord touches us inwardly with His resurrection Spirit and we become His Isaac, the supernatural fruit of God (see Galatians 4:28). That’s where our joy comes from because heaven is in us now. The new identity of every believer corresponds to Isaac, whose name means “laughter and rejoicing.”
While justification means that we have been declared not guilty, sanctification means that we have been set apart for God and for His holy purposes. Ultimately, human beings can neither justify nor sanctify themselves. Both are pure gifts, found only in the person of Christ.
Wow, what a great reward for believing! Just like our spiritual father and mother in the faith, we, too, are invited to respond to His loving voice, knowing that He has prepared laughter for us in our own faith journeys.
The Lord calls us beautiful and holy. By echoing in agreement with Him, we can celebrate what He says with His belief in our hearts. We should not allow our own performance failures or delays to make us bitter or despondent, knowing that great reward is awaiting us as we follow the Good Shepherd all of the days of our lives.