An Active Sanctification

Romans 8:13 (ESV)
“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Apart from the Gospels, Paul’s letter to the Romans is one I would highly recommend reading again and again. There is so much to glean, and, as is often the case, something will jump out at you that you might have overlooked previously. For me, it was the word “you” after the word “Spirit” that caught my attention this time.

This is our ownership in putting to death the old self. Paul makes it clear that the indwelling Holy Spirit of the believer is not going to do all of the work for you: YOU must put to death the deeds of the body through the power of the Holy Spirit. In other words, you are not just to sit back and say, “Holy Spirit, make me clean” and consider your sanctification complete.

If a believer continues to live a life that cannot be distinguished from his earthly counterparts, one could rightly question the sincerity of his or her belief. True salvation is where there is a marked change of life in the person (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 5:18–25; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13; Titus 2:14). If a Christian continues to live like an unbeliever (according to the flesh), it is a sign that no obligation to do so is felt, which is a sign of the lack of the presence of the indwelling Spirit, which would lead one to believe there was not a sincere transformation in the first place.

We must be responsible for putting the old self to death. While we will still sin, sin—especially our “go-to” sins—must no longer reign in our lives. When we read this letter to the Romans, we should feel an obligation to put to death the misdeeds of the body. After all, what believer, after reading Romans, could feel the slightest freedom to indulge the sinful desires of the flesh?

Romans is not the only letter that enumerates our sanctification is a result of righteous behavior: see also Colossians 3:5; Galatians 5:24; Mark 9:43–47. All of these verses make it clear that it is an active role on our part to put to death the old man and live a life as one born in the Spirit of Christ.

What I like about re-reading Romans, is that Paul could very well have written this letter yesterday, considering its relevance for us now. The various other relevant verses in Scripture serve as a reminder that only through a consistent study of God’s Word can we expect to see a real change in who we desire to serve: sin or Christ.

Where we choose to set our mind will make the difference between life and death (Romans 8:6), as the battle between flesh and spirit will be an everyday thing—for some it is even moment-by-moment. God’s Word remains our only sanctuary from a world that is decaying right in front of us.

Take time to evaluate your own walk with Jesus since you accepted Him. Is your life any different? Can others see a difference in you? Do you make the same choices as you did before?

Be intentional in your own sanctification: as Paul said, work out your own sanctification with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). This is a far cry from just sitting back and letting the Holy Spirit effect the change in you.

Apathy is a behavior that should never be counted among any Christian.