"In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work."

2 Timothy 2:20–21

“Sanctification” is a concept that is so intangible that I have spent a lifetime struggling to understand it. Yes, the term has a definition in the dictionary: “The act of making holy ... The act of consecrating or of setting apart for a sacred purpose; consecration.”1 Nevertheless, putting it into practical terms has proved challenging.

We have three terms in the development of the Christian life: justification, sanctification, and glorification. All three have been ambiguous, at least for me. “Justification” seems to happen in the moment. “Glorification” apparently happens when Jesus comes. “Sanctification,” which is becoming holy, seems impossible. How can a wretched, prideful sinner like myself be holy or perfect?

A friend in another state sends me an uplifting Bible verse or thought every morning. Even though the thought that day had nothing to do with moving, something clicked in my brain on Monday, May 9, 2022. I messaged her with these thoughts:

  • “One more week before the moving truck comes. Moving is such a process, but it is so worth it.” (By “process,” I was commenting on all the purging I was doing.)
  • “This gives me an idea as to what sanctification looks like. Cleaning out little by little, getting rid of the bad stuff, and keeping the good. It takes a long time.”

Cleansing in the Move

Many of us have had significant moves at one time or another, but like my friend said, “That is a great way to look at it. I never thought of moving that way before.” This will be my third substantial move. I moved from Virginia to Maine in 2002, from Maine to Michigan in 2007, and now I am packing to move again, this time to the other side of the country, Washington State.

I just carried my baggage with me from Virginia to Maine and from Maine to Michigan. I threw away what would not fit on the truck, but I crammed as much of my life in those trucks as possible.

I only recently realized that possessing so much stuff takes a great deal of time to manage it (unsuccessfully, in my case). When I have very little, things are more easily and quickly accomplished. Then I have more time for the pleasurable things in life. Despite that it is quite painful, purging most of the last four decades of my life falls into four categories:

  1. Being sold
  2. Being donated
  3. Being recycled
  4. Being trashed

Parting with family heirlooms, photos (I am a photographer), and other memorabilia is agonizing. Not only does my heart ache to let these things go, but the physical pain of making the choices is also excruciating: lifting, pushing, and pulling.

I am learning that this is what sanctification is all about. Peeling back the layers of a sinful life and disposing of them drives my soul into spasms. The problem is that I cling to my sin. I thought I liked my sin, but life is so much better without it. I must part with its filth.

Finding Strength to Let Go

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

Jeremiah 33:3

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”

Psalm 29:11

We may not know how to embrace this business of sanctification, but we have this promise that when we call on God, He will always answer — sometimes quietly, sometimes surprisingly, sometimes remarkably, sometimes slowly, sometimes negatively. When we let Him, He will always do what is best. He will give us the strength to persevere. In the end, we will have joy and peace.

Call to Action

“The one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Matthew 24:13

Be willing to suffer the grief of letting go of your sin. You will receive a great reward.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. 

  1. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), https://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/sanctification.

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