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July 20, 2011 / Daniel

Sanctification without Effort?

Hannah Whitall Smith

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Does the process of sanctification happen effortlessly?  Do you just need to “let go and let God?”  Many believers today advocate such an approach to Christian living.   You can find it in the writings of folks such as Andrew Farley and Hannah Whitall Smith.

However, Paul tells Timothy,

Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.  For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe (1 Tim 4:7-11).

Paul tells the Corinthian church,

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises selfcontrol in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Cor 9:24-27).

Peter writes,

Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love (2 Peter 1:4-7).

Faith is not opposed to effort.  It’s opposed to merit.  If you trust in God, you will do what God says.  Sometimes He asks us to do hard things.  But He always give us the grace to accomplish the tasks He sets before us.  God will never lead us where His grace cannot keep us.   “Sanctification requires God-dependent effort.”

Here is where the practice of spiritual disciplines (i.e. prayer, Scripture reading, community) enters the picture.  Spiritual disciplines are means of God’s grace.  Habits that God uses to conform us into the image of His Son.


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