Have you ever moved into a new house? The process of finding a new home is often stressful as you search for the right qualities of a home that fits your needs: size, number of rooms, price, location…all of these must meet your personal specifications before moving in. Finally, Moving Day arrives! When you arrive at the house, however, you find that it’s full of clutter and trash. The carpet is filthy, the walls stained, the kitchen still has dirty dishes in the sink, and the yard is overgrown and full of debris. Would you move in? Certainly not!
This is what our heart is like in a state of sin. It is completely unfit for the presence of God. Sin has made your heart filthy and cluttered with all kinds of uncleanness. Hate, envy, lust, anger, lies…all kinds of sins that we have committed over the years clutter up our hearts and prevent God from moving in. God will not live in a dirty house any more than you would. Just as you have standards for where you live, so does God. So how do you make your heart fit enough for God to live in it?
First, our hearts have to be cleaned. This is not something we are able to do on our own. We need God’s cleansing power of forgiveness to clean up the mess sin has left in our lives. Just like we would expect the previous homeowners to do…our house must be cleaned before God can move in. This happens when we realize what we’ve done wrong against God and feel truly sorry for those actions. We come to God and beg his forgiveness for those sins. When we do that, the Bible tells us that He immediately forgives and cleanses us. The house is now ready for a new owner!
True sanctification, according to Scripture, is God’s transforming work in your life. That transformation only comes through the gift of the Holy Spirit into your heart. In this moment, you are declared justified by the Lord through the sacrifice of His Son and freed from the guilt of sin. From there, sanctification frees you from the pollution of sin, helping you destroy sinful patterns and relinquish your former wickedness.
And just as with forgiveness, sanctification is not accomplished by our will or actions—it’s the work of the Lord in the lives of His people. In First Thessalonians, Paul prayed that the Lord would complete His sanctifying work in their lives.
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. (I Thessalonians 5:23-24)
The word translated here as sanctify literally means to be set apart—in its noun form it is usually translated as holiness. So in basic terms, sanctification is the act of God of separating us from sin and setting us apart for holiness. Paul’s prayer is that the Lord would bring about that transformation in the lives of the Thessalonian believers—that their lives would reflect the absence of sin and the presence of holiness.
That transformation isn’t prompted or fueled by feelings, emotions, or subjective spiritual experiences. As Paul says in Romans 6, it’s a function of your new nature in Christ. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God…But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. (Romans 6:12-13, 17-18)
Sanctification is the fruit of salvation. It’s the transforming miracle by which God’s people are forgiven of their past sinfulness, experience the Holy Spirit moving into their hearts, enabling them to grow to reflect His holiness. This is what happens on Moving Day! God moves in, establishes his ownership over His new house, and enables us to live holy. Has God moved in your heart today?