Sanctification & the Christian Life: An Analogy

As a teacher, I’m pretty excited when summer rolls around. For me, it’s a time to rest and reset some things around the house that might have gone by the wayside during the year. One of my favorite pastimes is reading on the deck in my backyard. But this year before I could even get a chance to grab my book and a cold drink, I realized I had a problem. My husband had shoved our patio table to one side. He had been using it as a junk holder for his many building and maintenance projects. There was no way I could use the table in its current condition. My first project of the summer was clear. As I was cleaning, though, it occurred to me that the whole undertaking had some great similarities to the process of sanctification in the Christian life.

The Process in the Natural

When we started, the table was filthy. Not only that, but there were also boards and nails from my husband’s recent fence project strewn about the table. There were power tools, a toolbox, and grates and a scraper from our old grill plus our new tabletop grill and the grates that went with that. Around the table were cans of varnish from a porch staining project, digging tools, more boards, and a ladder. 

The first thing we did was to remove all of the items from the top of the table and around it. Then we dragged the table to the center of the porch right where I wanted it. I wiped it down with cleaner and a washcloth, but there were drips of varnish where my husband had set the cans so long ago. I spent quite a bit of time with a razor blade going square by square, scraping the varnish and wiping until clean. 

Last but not least, I pulled the chairs around the table and put the new grill, now dusted, in the center of it. The table was now set and ready for me to use. But even as I was going inside to tend to my sore finger (from the pressure of scraping with a razor blade), I saw two more stray varnish drips I missed on an edge. It occurred to me that even if I were to get everything 100% clean today, it would just need to be cleaned again tomorrow because it was still located out in the elements. In order for me to continue to use it, it will need constant cleaning.

What is Sanctification?

Strong’s Concordance gives the word in Greek as ἁγιάζω (hag-ee-ad’-zo). It means “to separate from things profane and dedicate to God; to consecrate, to make holy, to purify, to sanctify.” It starts when we are saved. 1 Corinthians 6:11 says, “…But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” That’s when it starts, but sanctification is a process. It’s a present, continuous action that lasts our whole lives. Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (emphasis is mine).

Who Does the Sanctifying? Both God and Man.

It’s a process that God both initiates and drives. Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” He does a lot of the deep cleaning by His Word. Ephesians 5:26-27 says, “That He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

But then we must submit to Him and do our part. 

  • Romans 12:1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
  • Romans 6:13: “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” 
  • 1 John 3:3: “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
  • 2 Corinthians 7:1 says, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

The Analogy of Sanctification

The table wasn’t useful in its current condition. (Us before salvation.)

Yes, God can use anyone at any time. But just like I could have sat at a dirty, cluttered table, it would have been more stress-inducing than relaxing to do so. It didn’t fit my purposes or make me happy, so I had to do some work. Romans 8:78 says, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” 

I wanted to use my patio table, so I set my mind to change the situation. (God chose us for His purposes.)

John 6:44 reminds us that God chooses us before we choose Him. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” This is when He begins the process of sanctification. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”

First I took everything off and away from the table so I could even get to it. (He calls us)

God has to remove the barriers so we can even understand our need for a Savior. He does this by showing us our true condition. John 16:8 says about the Holy Spirit, “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” Then He allows us to see the solution to it: Romans 5:8. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Then He calls us for His purposes. 2 Timothy 1:9 says, “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”

Next, my husband and I put the table into the middle of the deck right where I wanted it to be. (We submit to God and come into the center of His will)

Romans 10:9-10 says, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Then I wiped the table down. (We repent, and He cleans us with His blood.)

1 John 1:7-9 says, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Then I went square by square scraping and wiping. (He sanctifies us over time.)

This is where the hard work really began. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  I saw the varnish drips on my patio table as a symbol of stains from sin. A few squares had more varnish than others, just like people tend to sin in certain ways. Some drips came off easily. Some took more scraping. This is just how the Lord takes our lives little by little and makes us more like Him. He heals wounds, helps us to forgive, and removes patterns and mindsets we have learned from our life before Him. He trains us in His ways instead of the ways of the world.

Sometimes it’s painful like in Hebrews 12:11, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Sometimes it’s glorious when we realize how much better it feels to be clean. Romans 6:22 says, “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.”

Then it was ready for me to use. (Walking in victory)

2 Timothy 2:21: “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor,  sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.

Last, I put the chairs all around it and the new grill in the center. (God surrounds us with help.)

Hebrews 10:25 says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” God puts people in our lives who will help us be useful to Him (the Church). They provide a system for support, comfort, and friendship. Acts 2:42 says, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

But the process will never be finished as long as the table is still located outside in the elements. (Sanctification is a lifelong process.)

While in this sinful world, we can never just say, “I have arrived.” We must continue to repent and allow God to change us. Life is messy, and just being here makes us prone to new drips and stains that must also be cleaned. We must be constantly growing, constantly striving to be more like Jesus. 2 Peter 3:18 says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

The Process Will Have an End

The process of sanctification lasts our lifetime, but it does have an end. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” When the Lord Jesus comes again or this life is over for us, that will be when the work is done. Until then, God isn’t finished yet. That means we can’t be too hard on ourselves when we can’t quite get everything right all the time. And we can never get complacent or think that we are done conforming ourselves to Christ.

Finally, we must never forget Who is ultimately in charge of the process. God Himself will see us through to the end if we will but trust in Him. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” To God be the praise and glory! For it is by His grace alone that we will stand faultless on that Day.

If you like analogies, try It’s Not the Machine That Makes Us Clean. It compares aspects of the Christian life to a dishwasher. Or, try Fixing Spiritual Problems and Plumbing: An Analogy When I had a slab leak last year, God taught me a great lesson about the solution to spiritual problems. Please sign up to receive my blog in your email. Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church.

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