I’m a ridiculous mess. I study the Word daily, take part in leading local women’s ministry and discipleship classes, write a weekly blog here, and attend church every week. I spend most of my free time listening to Christian music or audiobooks and trying to train up my kids in the Word. I’m a seminary grad as well. So what excuse do I have for being such a mess? How can I do “the very things I hate” (Rom. 7:15)? Praise be to Jesus Christ; the answer is simply that I’m still very much under construction.
We Aren’t Immune to Temptation
I sometimes hear confused people say that once they’re saved, they’re “dead to sin” (Rom. 6:11) and therefore somehow immune to temptation. But Paul follows this exact verse with instructions that we’re not to let sin reign in our mortal body (Rom. 6:12). For while we’re still in this flesh, which Paul calls our “mortal body,” we must war against the selfish impulses while we undergo our transformation into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).
In his well-known book Basic Theology, Charles Ryrie explains that the process of becoming like Christ is divided into three parts:
The first part is justification. All believers, regardless of their level of spiritual maturity, experience this positional aspect of sanctification. When a believer comes to Christ, he becomes a child of God through faith in Jesus, and the penalty for his sin is cancelled. He is “set apart,” and although he is still capable of sinning again in the future (and Scripture tells us that this is inevitable), positionally we’re sinless in God’s sight because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross on our behalf.
Next is sanctification, which involves the ongoing process by which we progressively mature spiritually and we act more like Jesus. This process requires a daily dying to self (Luke 9:23) and obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to conform us to holy living.
Finally, we experience glorification. This is our “ultimate sanctification,” when we will be perfected and live in face-to-face communion with our Creator in Heaven. In other words, if we’re not there yet, we’re still under construction.
Our “under construction” sign doesn’t give us an excuse to sin. Our mess isn’t okay. If we’re responding with the right heart, our construction should result in a growing sensitivity and avoidance of sin. God is actively involved in the work in us (Phil. 1:6) but we also must daily decide to abide and not resist Him. He’s building something great in us. Be assured, there’s an end date, though. And unlike earthly construction, there’s no chance of a delay. The very work going on in us will indeed be completed on the “day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).