Summer vacation is fun, a time to plan a few more things for enjoyment with family and friends. This week, I took a trip to an indoor hotel swimming pool. As I got into the water little by little, I recognized the definite feeling of conviction coming over me. It occurred to me that acclimation is a process much like sanctification. Both require some intermediate discomfort and a definite decision and commitment to see the process through to the end.
Sanctified and Being Sanctified
The Bible talks about sanctification in two ways. First, we are sanctified, or set apart as holy, from the moment we become born again. Some people call this “positional sanctification.” Hebrews 10:10 says, “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” It’s a work God performs as part of our salvation when He sets us free from every sin by the blood of Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”
But there is another kind of sanctification called “experiential” or “progressive” sanctification. This kind isn’t a one and done. It’s still a work of God, but it’s a process by which we grow toward spiritual maturity for the rest of our lives. In the NKJV, Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” In the KJV, Paul says in Romans 15:16 that he is “being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.” This kind of sanctification involves deepening our relationship with God and conforming us to the image of God and the truth of His Word. This happens little by little as we allow God to do a work in our lives for His glory. 2 Peter 3:18 says, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.” This is the kind I thought of at the pool.
Getting Into the Water
The day my family and I went to the hotel’s indoor swimming pool, it was 104 degrees outside. We were so hot and ready to get into the cool water. I got to the steps and eagerly put both feet in. A chill shot through me as my body adjusted to the new temperature. I stepped down again. This time, what started as a cool treat was now just a little uncomfortable. I found myself “gearing up” to take the next step. I knew the cool water was good for me. It’s what I needed to combat the heat of the day and reduce my temperature to make it through the rest of the outdoor activities we had planned. I also knew that when I could get used to the water, it would feel good to swim.
I closed my teeth tight and stepped again. Now I was one step from standing on the floor of the pool so the water would come up over most of my torso. It took me a few minutes to “make” myself take that last step. Here’s where the conviction started. I thought of how many times God has dealt with me about this or that over the past ten years since He saved me and made me a new creation. It was that same uncomfortable feeling of knowing that the way forward was only through a definite decision on my part. I would have to yield to God, release more of the old me and embrace the new changes God wanted to make in me. If I didn’t choose to take that next step deeper into the waters of submission, I would remain where I was – neither dry nor swimming.
I had to Let Go of the Bottom
When I finally stepped down to the floor of the shallow end, I smiled at my family members. They were already swimming happily around the pool. But I still couldn’t seem to let go of the bottom and plunge fully into the water. Instead, I walked the edges of the deep end which were the same depth as the shallows. Around once and again, my feet stayed stubbornly fixed to the floor. More conviction. Was God trying to tell me something? Was there something He was asking me to do that I was resisting? I couldn’t think of anything, but the feeling persisted.
Finally, put into the context of the analogy, I FORCED myself to launch forward, my feet waving in the water behind me. I was swimming. There was a feeling of relief at having finally made the decision I knew I would make all along. After all, I had set my mind for swimming. No matter how much discomfort there was along the way, I was committed to the process. In the spiritual, the Christian walk is just that. It’s a moving forward in both relationship and likeness to Jesus. Our once and for all decision and daily commitment to allowing God to have His way in our hearts and lives is what “sets us apart” from the rest of the world.
Then I Tried the Hot Tub
As we were about to leave, my mom decided to try the hot tub for a minute. I followed her in, and the analogy seemed to continue in the back of my mind. The warm water was much easier to get used to than the cold water. It occurred to me that, like backsliding, or going back out into the world after salvation, getting “used to” the selfish, fleshly ways of the world is a process that is much easier (and faster!) than yielding to sanctification. We must guard our hearts from following others away from God and into the world. It only took a minute for me to realize that I needed to get back into the pool before we left. As my feet hit the cool water once again, I winced. While I was used to the pool before the hot tub, it was going to take more painful acclimation to get back to swimming.
More Lessons Learned
As I thought through the analogy later, I realized something else. While swimmers can choose to jump into the deep end of a pool to get used to the water all at once, God must take things slowly with us. He knows when each of us is ready to take the next step to let go of something of us to embrace more of Him. Some people seem to glide into the water with little effort, swimming happily in just a short period of time. Others, like I did, seem to circle the outside for quite some time before plunging in. We can’t compare ourselves to others, and whatever the pace, the important thing is that decision and commitment to follow the process to its end. Isaiah 50:7 says, “For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”
I also thought of one more thing. We can do ourselves a big favor by remembering that, for the true child of God, our Lord will always get what He wants anyway. The time we spend resisting His changes just increases our dread. Inevitably, the change isn’t nearly as hard as we have made it out to be in our minds. And in any case, God only wants the best for us. He knows what our future holds and what we will need to be happy and productive servants to Him at that time.
Sanctification is Like a Day at the Pool
Sanctification is positional (a work of God to set us apart for Himself). It’s also experiential and progressive (a work of God He does in us over time). The second kind has a lot of similarity to the process of getting used to the water at a swimming pool. Little by little, we must make the decisions that, though they might be uncomfortable for a moment, move us closer to our goal.
What I want to take away from this swimming analogy the most is that feeling of relief when I finally let go of the bottom of the pool. The fight was over, and after a small jolt of cold, the joy of swimming was all that was left in its place. Submission to God isn’t always going to be easy, but the pain is short-lived, and the reward is great. God knows just what we need and when we need it to change our likeness from ours to His. We just have to keep moving forward.
If you like analogies, try Spiritual Emergencies Call for Spiritual CPR. Like the life-saving medical procedure, CPR in the spiritual involves a remedy for the worst attacks of the enemy. Or try Three Reasons We Can’t Stop Trying to Save the Lost. It’s an analogy of the Parable of the Starfish. 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.