“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18
There is an idea fatal to all true sanctification, which some believers, especially those who are young in experience, are prone to entertain- that nothing is to be done in the soul after a man has believed, that the work of conversion having taken place, all is accomplished. So far from this being the case, he has but just entered upon the work of sanctification- just started in the race, just buckled on the armor.
The conflict can hardly be said to have begun in conversion; and, therefore, to rest composed with the idea that the soul has nothing more to do than to accept of Christ as his salvation- that there are no corruptions to subdue- no sinful habits to cut off no long-existing and deeply imbedded sins to mortify, root and branch- and no high and yet higher degrees in holiness to attain, is to form a most contracted view of the Christian life- such a view as, if persisted in, must necessarily prove detrimental to the spiritual advance of the believer.
The work of sanctification, beloved, is a great and a daily work. It commences at the very moment of our translation into the kingdom of Christ on earth, and ceases not until the moment of our translation into the kingdom of God in heaven. The notion, so fondly cherished by some, of perfect sinlessness here, is as fatal to true sanctification as it is contrary to God’s word. They know but little of their own heart, who do not know that sin, in the language of Owen, “not only still abides in us, but is still acting, still laboring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh;”- who do not know that in their “flesh there dwells no good thing,” that “that which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and will retain its fleshly nature and propensities to the very last.
Let us not exult “as though we had already attained, or were already perfect,”- let us not be “ignorant of Satan’s devices,” one of which is to build us up in the belief that, in the present life, a man may cease from the work of mortification. The Lord keep the reader from cherishing so erroneous an idea. The work of sanctification is the work of a man’s life. “When sin lets us alone (as has been remarked), we may let sin alone.” But when is the day, yes, when is the hour, that sin does not strive for the mastery, and in which the believer can say he has completely slain his enemy?
He may “through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body,” and if he does, “he shall live;” but, as the heart is the natural and luxuriant soil of every noxious weed of sin, and as another springs up as soon as one is cut down, yes, as the same root appears again above the surface, with new life and vigor, it requires a ceaseless care and vigilance, a perpetual mortification of sin in the body, until we throw off this cumbrous clay, and go where sin is known no more.