How Sanctification Works in the Life of a Christian

(4th article in the Salvation Series)

Over the last few articles, we’ve seen that while salvation is initially a BIRTH experience, it's also a process.

God takes us through 3 phases of salvation:

1.  Justification.  God regenerates our fallen SPIRIT when we believe in the work Christ did on the cross (John 6:29).  See my article, What It Means To Believe in Jesus.

Combined with an attitude of repentance, our belief in Him causes God to regenerate our spirit and BIRTH us into His Kingdom.  All of this is done by our faith in Christ, not by any good work that we may do (Ephesians 2:8-9).

2.  While God saves our spirit instantly, He now looks to transform our mind, will and emotions (our SOUL)— over TIME.  The Bible calls this process Sanctification.  The purpose of this article is to show you how this process works, so you can cooperate with it.

3.  Then at the resurrection, our BODY is made sinless, completing the salvation process (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  The Bible calls this Glorification.

How Sanctification Works

Born in the IMAGE of Christ and seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), we now seek to transfer who we are in heaven (a justified spirit) to who we are on earth (a fallen soul).  We do this by the renewing of our mind, will and emotions.

That's why the Apostle Paul can say:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2

Paul knows that our thought life has been compromised as a result of our fallen spirit prior to regeneration (Justification).

A quick review of man’s composition will show us why this is so.

Created in God’s image, man was body, soul and spirit.

Before the fall, the SOUL of man (mind, will and emotions) used it’s physical body to interface with other men in the physical realm.  The soul of man used it’s spirit to interface with God in the spiritual realm.

The following illustration shows how man’s soul and spirit were LINKED so that he could  interface with God.

But then the first man, Adam, sinned and his SPIRIT DIED.  He could no longer interface with God.  The link between his soul and spirit were broken.

Sin also changed Adam’s composition.  After sin, Adam looked like this:

When Adam and Eve had children they passed on their fallen composition.  Therefore all men are born without the capacity to interface with God.

As a result they are the product of what the world makes them.  Man’s mind, will and emotions are controlled by the world he lives in.  It is his only source of input.  For this reason we can say that man lives in the “Matrix”.

What the Matrix Is

The Matrix is the construct of a FALSE world in your mind.  This construct was developed because you had no access to God through your fallen spirit.  You were the product of every false thing that your 5 senses fed you.  As a result you believed in things that weren’t true.

But now through salvation (justification), God changes that.  You have access to the TRUTH through the Holy Spirit.  Christ’s mind is in you (1 Corinthians 2:16)— you have the ability to be transformed into the IMAGE of God (Romans 12:1-2).

This is how man’s composition looks with the Holy Spirit in Him:

The Holy Spirit allows man to reconstruct his thinking.  The Bible reveals how this is done.

The Process of Sanctification

The process of sanctification is actually the ministry of the Holy Spirit in us (2 Corinthians 3:8).  The Holy Spirit changes us as we gaze into the Word of Truth— the Bible.

In 2 Corinthians the Apostle Paul explains how this is accomplished:

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory (by gazing into HIs Word), ARE BEING TRANSFORMED INTO HIS IMAGE with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18

As we contemplate the Lord’s glory (by way of the Bible) the Holy Spirit teaches us what we need to know.  Sometimes we are educated in doctrine, sometimes we are instructed in righteousness.  Sometimes we are corrected or reproofed (2 Timothy 3:16).  Whatever the Holy Spirit quickens in us— it is our joy to respond.

If He convicts us of sin, we have an attitude of repentance (1 John 1:9).  In Sanctification, just as in Justification, we die to ourselves— we die to our own ego filled sense of what WE think it true.  We realign our thinking with God’s Word.  As we cooperate with God’s Word allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us (not the traditions of men or religion) God transforms us.  We become more and more like Christ.

Steps of Sanctification

1.  Reading the Bible daily is the first step of sanctification.  We can’t transform our thinking unless we are guided by the Word of Truth.

However, I think you’ll find that many of the admonitions of the Bible are impossible to walk out on your own.

Take for example, deep set sin.  Lust, anger, unforgiveness to name a few.   Overcoming these sins is impossible without the help of the Holy Spirit.  The “Matrix” keeps us locked into sin.  Even though we want to, we can’t change our thinking.

This is where the SUBSTITUTIONARY LIFE of Christ comes in.  This means that Christ took OUR LIFE of sin so that we could have HIS LIFE free of sin.

2.  Therefore, applying the Life of Christ is the second step to sanctification.

But how does it work?

In the Matrix of this world, if you sin you have to DO something to PAY for the consequences of your sin.

However, in the Kingdom of God, there isn’t anything you can do to pay for the consequences of your sin.  Why?  Because the consequences of your sin have already been paid for by Christ’s death on the cross for you.

So the question remains, “How do we get free of our sin, how do we live the life of Christ?”

Living the Life of Christ

We live the life of Christ when we REST in Him.  Consider the following:

In God’s Kingdom (of which you are now a part by virtue of birth) everything is perfect.

For example, in God’s Kingdom there is only forgiveness.  Therefore, if as a citizen in God’s Kingdom you find yourself in a condition of unforgiveness, you need to realize that you have mentally LEFT God’s Kingdom.

So how do you DEAL with this sin of unforgiveness in your life?

The answer is that you simply RETURN to the Kingdom of God. There is only one way to return to God’s Kingdom.  You CONFESS your unforgiveness to God. The Bible says that if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us our sins and CLEANSE us from all unrighteousness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to CLEANSE us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

Once we confess our sin, we are IMMEDIATELY back in the Kingdom.  There is nothing else that needs to be done.

Dealing with sin is not WORKING to get better, it’s simply REMAINING in the Kingdom.

In a practical sense, you may wonder how this seemingly passive acceptance of God’s grace actually changes us here in the present?

The way it changes us is that with each sin and each confession, God WASHES our mind, will and emotions to correspond with the sinless part of us (our justified spirit) living in God’s Kingdom (Ephesians 2:6).  Our mind, will and emotions on earth are being transformed to correspond with who we really are in heaven.  So while the temptation to DO something exists, you have to understand that when you were born into God's Kingdom you were ALREADY changed (given a sinless nature).  God is just using TIME to bring your mind, will and emotions up to speed with your spirit already in heaven.

To understand how to deal with sin when we hurt other people or when God reveals hidden sin in our lives, read my article, How To Deal With Sin.

As we have seen, learning to rest in God allows us to live the life of Christ.  But how is the process of rest achieved?  The answer to this question brings us to the third step of sanctification.

3.  We REST in God when we learn to TRUST Him.  We learn to trust Him when we MEDITATE on His Word.

Meditation gets God’s word from our head to our heart.  More than just reading God’s word, meditation gets God’s word deep inside us.  In doing so, meditation reprograms our sub-conscious mind and allows us to trust Him.

Learning to meditate BIBLICALLY can be found in my article, The Purpose of Meditation.


Sanctification is the process of bringing heaven to earth in you.  We do this by applying the life of Christ as expressed through the Bible to our mind, will and emotions.  As God’s word reveals our sin, we confess it and die to ourselves (1 John 1:9).  Meditation gets God’s word deep into our hearts and allows us to trust Him even when things around us are saying something totally different.

Sanctification is “walking in the spirit”.  If we walk in the Spirit we won’t gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

As Christians, walking in God’s Spirit should be the desire of our heart.  God promises a crown of life to all who endure in Him.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the CROWN OF LIFE that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12