Think back to when you repented of your sins and surrendered your life to Jesus. A peace you had never experienced before flooded through your soul, and you could finally relate to the words of the apostle Paul, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). That process of being made right with God is called justification, and it is immediate: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
What happens after that? Maybe you have heard the term sanctification but are unsure how to live out this important process. Sanctification follows justification, and is the process of being set apart and made holy for God’s service. The apostle Paul elaborates upon it like this: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Nearly 1900 years later, Christian author Ellen White expanded on the definition of sanctification: “Sanctification is not the work of a moment, an hour, a day, but of a lifetime. It is not gained by a happy flight of feeling, but is the result of constantly dying to sin, and constantly living for Christ. Wrongs cannot be righted nor reformations wrought in the character by feeble, intermittent efforts. It is only by long, persevering effort, sore discipline, and stern conflict, that we shall overcome.”1
As Christians awaiting the soon return of Jesus, we are to live holy lives, but how they are we do to this? Truly, the only way to live a holy life is through faith, for “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). Yet, Galatians 5:22-23, Romans 12:9-21, and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 name specific behaviors that need to be constantly displayed in our lives. How can we become people like this? Is there a way that we can be working on becoming sanctified individuals?
Certainly! In one of her Bible commentaries, Ellen White states: “Many never attain to the position that they might occupy, because they wait for God to do for them that which He has given them power to do for themselves. All who are fitted for usefulness must be trained by the severest mental and moral discipline, and God will assist them by uniting divine power with human effort.”2 Human effort is part of the sanctification process, and it is the purpose of this article series to elaborate on five sanctification habits, giving practical tips for how we can cultivate them in our lives.
Develop a Habit of Daily Surrender
Luke 9:23 and 1 Corinthians 14:31 make it clear that we must die to self daily. Surrendering to Christ as soon as we open our eyes is the best way to start the day. We can stay surrendered to God throughout the day by “praying without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). We must make a conscious decision to follow Jesus and act on that decision through obedience.
Many Christians have wondered what surrender looks like, and Ellen White gives a beautiful description in Steps to Christ, one of her best-selling devotionals: “Many are inquiring, ‘How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?’ You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections…What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.”3
We can stay surrendered to Christ by praying throughout the day, as we drive down the road, eat our meals, interact with co-workers, and wait for appointments. Sacred music also has a sanctifying effect on the soul, and familiarizing ourselves with the well-known hymns “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” and “I Surrender All” will focus our thoughts and intentions on Jesus, for these are prayers of surrender put to music. An entire section in most church hymnals is dedicated to hymns of sanctification, and even more can be found online.
It is important to remember that if we fall, we need get right back up and cling to Jesus. The writer of the hymn, “Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” was a young man who kept falling into sin, but upon hearing a sermon on Revelation 3:10, he realized that it was Jesus, not himself, who would keep him from falling to temptation. That beautiful truth so electrified his soul that he penned the following which was put to music: “I will arise and go to Jesus. He will embrace me in His arms. In the arms of my dear Savior. Oh, there are ten thousand charms.” He took his inspiration from the prophet Micah, who had stated 2000 years earlier: “when I fall, I shall arise” (Micah 7:8). We are not to plan to sin (Romans 13:14), but if we do sin, let us not give up on the hope of sanctification. Let us claim Jesus’ promise that: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 1:9; 2:1).
Sanctification is an ongoing process. We may have some setbacks, but let us remember that by developing a habit of daily surrender and prayer, we can cooperate with God in living holy lives. It is faith alone that saves us (Ephesians 2:8), but actions certainly show whom we serve (Matthew 7:16). By choosing to live holy lives, we are surrendering the will to Jesus to do with as He sees fit. He encourages us with the loving promise that: “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
Call to Action
Take a minute to renew your commitment to Jesus. A habit of daily surrender is the best habit you can ever develop! In future articles, more sanctification habits will be discussed. We hope you join us to learn more about how to develop the habits of daily prayer and Bible study. Tips from a variety of Christian sources will assist in helping us to apply these important truths in our lives.
Habits of Sanctification "Part II" will be published in three weeks on December 3.
All scripture taken from the King James Version
- Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1911), 560.
- Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1890), 248.
- Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1892), 47.