“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
The term “progressive sanctification” refers to how God works in our lives to make us more like Him, and contains the idea that we will not be perfect until Jesus returns. This, to me, represents more of the grace of God. Even after becoming a follower of Christ, we still sin. Paul struggled with a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) and lamented that he was, “...not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15b) Whether it’s a white lie, the pride and self-centeredness of thinking of ourselves before God, giving in to sexual temptation - whatever your personal struggle (mine leans toward pride and anxiety) - we struggle with sin.
That’s why Jesus had to come live a perfect life to be the perfect sacrifice in order to atone for our sins. Yet not only that, He rose victorious from the grave and bestowed upon us the Holy Spirit so that we have a direct connection with the Father as He did. We see in 2 Peter 1:3: “..His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” So He has given us the tools (which are listed within His Word) and the power of the Holy Spirit to not sin, yet “...from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mark 7:21-23)
Our hearts are still sinful, but God has freed us from the power of sin and is working on and in us, as it says in Philippians 1:6 above. He also writes in Romans 8:29a that “...those whom He foreknew He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son[.]” He didn’t save us and leave us. He is with us every moment, even when He feels far off. God is molding us here on earth, and we can rest in His Grace and learn to shift our focus back to Him when we sin.
That does not mean that God’s work in us gives us license to “let go and let God.” We must be Intentional in our relationship with Him, just as we are intentional in our relationships on earth. Just as those who are married will grow apart if they aren’t intentional about their relationship with each other, we must actively and intentionally follow God.
I am to be an active recipient of God’s shaping; to learn from my mistakes and take steps to help me not do it again, which involves laying aside the old self and putting on the new self. “Christ is all, and in all.” (Colossians 3:9-11) That is progressive sanctification.
I am thankful for the opportunity, and God’s grace and Divine Power to work out God’s progressive sanctification in my life. Each time I sin, I can Confess it to Him, know that I am forgiven, put on the new self, and use His tools to follow Him more closely the next time that I am tempted. That is such an encouragement and picture of God’s grace.