Risks of an Atrophied Sanctification

If we fail to give proper attention to the biblical process of sanctification, we can unnecessarily weaken our souls.

But if sanctification is put in the trunk, the gospel can be darkened a bit. It can morph into that which saves from sin’s penalty but not its presence, which is not the biblical gospel. Instead, the gospel becomes something to display and imitate before it is something by which I am made acceptable to God. Often that something else is social cause. The death of Christ is to rescue us from our social needs instead of the wrath of God. The gospel which saves becomes the gospel which socializes.

 

If you’ve ever broken a bone, you recall something about that associated muscle; atrophy. Due to low attention and use, a muscle will become weak and emaciated, or atrophied. A muscle in this state is feeble and of less use to the body.

The same can occur spiritually in the lives of Christian. If we fail to give proper attention to the biblical process of sanctification, we can unnecessarily weaken our souls. And, when a church leadership shepherds with a weak approach to sanctification, they risk endangering souls in many ways.

With that, here are a few risks of taking an atrophied approach to sanctification:

  1. An atrophied sanctification risks confusing the definition of a church.

A NT kind of church is a glorious thing. It is a part of that one institution which Jesus promised to build and bless. Part of that building and blessing includes the shaping and maturation of spiritual newborns; sanctification.

However, an atrophied sanctification can turn the church into an evangelistic event, but not a shepherded flock. If souls are not cared for beyond birth, the majority of the church will remain in perpetual spiritual diapers.

But the local church is a not just a soul-birthing center. It’s also a nurturing family. The new birth is just the beginning. What identifies a church is not only people making professions, but professors maturing.

  1. An atrophied sanctification risks diluting and socializing the gospel.

The Person and finished work of Christ grants us the infinitely blessed gift of salvation from the penalty and power of sin. It’s a package deal, beginning at regeneration and justification. So, the process of sanctification is the logical continuation.

But if sanctification is put in the trunk, the gospel can be darkened a bit. It can morph into that which saves from sin’s penalty but not its presence, which is not the biblical gospel.

Instead, the gospel becomes something to display and imitate before it is something by which I am made acceptable to God. Often that something else is social cause. The death of Christ is to rescue us from our social needs instead of the wrath of God. The gospel which saves becomes the gospel which socializes.

Social causes are necessary. But, the work of God in Christ is about rescuing us from our personal penalty and power of sin. It will not do to reduce Christ’s substitutionary penal atoning death to a means of increased social awareness. A low view of sanctification can contribute to that confusion.

  1. An atrophied sanctification risks stunting the growth of God’s people.

Souls are born by the Holy Spirit to grow. Like a seed to a fruit tree, the seed of regeneration is to be tended to for progressive maturation. Sheep need shepherds, not just welcome-to-the-flock attendants. We are to equip the saints so that they “are no longer tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine,” giving care so that they “grow up in all aspects in Him who is the head” (Eph. 4:14-15). Leaders are to labor for each soul’s completion in Christ (Col. 1:28-29).

A church with an atrophied sanctification will foster a culture of immature Christians at best. Members will be carried about by every wind of doctrine, indulge the flesh, ride imbalanced doctrinal hobby horses, spurn correction from others, and, perhaps worst of all, have no idea how desperately they need to grow. While there’s nothing wrong with lacking maturity, there is with doing nothing about it.

  1. An atrophied sanctification risks becoming an irrelevant church.

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