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Cleaning All The Corners

Christian, tell me why do you use big words like "justification" and "sanctification". What do they even mean? Why can't you speak in normal language?!

Because…Those words explain two different aspects of our relationship with Jesus. Justification is the one-time transaction that happens when we accept Jesus. Sanctification is the on-going process of becoming more like Him.

I have been on a housecleaning spree lately. We did some remodeling that made a mess of the house. It was so difficult to get it clean afterward that I decided to try to keep it that way.

To make it easier, I allocated a different day of the week to each section of the house: kitchen on Mondays, living room on Tuesdays, etc. An advantage to this is that by only thinking about that one space, I am willing to take the time to clean it more thoroughly. An hour a day in a single space is easier to face than five or six hours at once for the entire house.

Why should you care about my housecleaning? Because I’ve learned a lesson from it that may apply to how God deals with the sin in my life, and maybe in yours as well.

  • On my first pass through after the remodel, the goal was just to restore some semblance of order.
  • The second pass, on my first space-specific days, I cleaned pretty thoroughly.
  • On the space-specific days of the next week, I was inspired to do things like move the furniture out of the way, or vacuum under the bed. 🙂
  • The next cycle, I didn’t have the distraction of “this place is a mess”. So I was able to notice the smaller spots that usually get overlooked: the windowsills, baseboards, door frames, chair legs.

It seems that each time a given space’s turn comes back around, I find something new that I hadn’t thought to clean before. And, of course, the main obvious spots always need dusting, vacuuming and mopping again. Nothing ever stays clean; it’s an ongoing, never-ending process.

God’s “Housework” in Me

Hmmm…. Does God do that in my life? I have big, repetitive sin-dirt that constantly needs attention. Even if the usual problems are swatted down temporarily, there’s always something else waiting to be noticed.

For instance, maybe I’m doing better at consistent Bible study. But I’m still on the lazy side, not taking meals to a shut-in but instead waiting for someone else to handle it. Then I make the effort to tangibly show God’s love to someone, but find myself snapping selfishly at my husband if something doesn’t go my way. Or I manage not to snap, but realize that there are things that I’m neglecting to pray about: sick friends, world crises, etc. There’s no telling what dusty corners God knows about that I haven’t even registered are wrong and need to be fixed.

King David had the same problem. In Psalm 19:12 he says “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.” Again, in Psalm 139:23-24, he says “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” He is asking for God to keep cleaning every dirty spot until he is completely righteous.

This brings up the point that David could never be completely righteous; neither can I. We will always have recurring sin, or another unnoticed corner that needs to be addressed.

Confession time: I’m not sure that I can always join David in his prayer. Sometimes I don’t want to know. about my sin. I’d rather hide from it in my ignorance-is-NOT-bliss than face the work of cleaning up every corner. That in itself is a sin!

God Does the Scrubbing

The good news of the Gospel is that God does the work. I’m like a child who just needs to sit still and let my parents wash my face and give me a bath.

First, Jesus took on my dirt, and traded His righteousness to me in its place (2 Corinthians 5:21). God already sees me as being just as clean as Jesus, in so far as my future with Him is assured. Christians use the word “justification” for that part; we are justified — made right with God — simply by accepting Jesus (Romans 3:24).

We use the word “sanctification” for the everyday cleaning that continually makes us a bit shinier in this life. Each time God works on me, I will become more like the person God designed me to be, a tiny bit more like Jesus (2 Peter 3:18, Philippians 1:6, Acts 20:32). The Bible uses the word in two related contexts: Sometimes it is a synonym for “holy“, meaning the Christian has been set apart (sanctified) for a special purpose; other times it is the process of growing into that holiness and purpose.

These can easily get mingled and confused, making it look as if we need to clean up our act before God will accept us. But that is backwards: Justification happens first and once for all time. Sanctification comes afterward, and is a life-long process.

In my housecleaning, every time through the same room I can clean a little deeper, finding another dusty or disorganized spot (or one that has gotten dirty again since the last cleaning). In my life, God will keep cleaning out sinful corners until none is left. I’m sure that my house will be completely spotless long before I am!

Please be patient. God isn’t finished with me yet.

Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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