Sanctification Is a Community Project
Tim ChalliesTim Challies, a self-employed web designer, is a pioneer in the Christian blogosphere, having one of the most widely read and recognized Christian blogs anywhere (www.challies.com). He is also editor of Discerning Reader (www.discerningreader.com), a site dedicated to offering thoughtful reviews of books that are of interest to Christians. He is author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, published by Crossway.
- 2012 Aug 20
People often ask me how I find so many topics to write about. The answer is simple: Wherever I go, I am looking for something—anything—to think about. Whether I am in sitting in church or listening to music or reading a book or attending a conference, I am keeping an ear open for things I want to think more about. I jot those things down on my phone or on a scrap of paper. Later on I choose one to think about it, and as I think, I write.
A couple of weeks ago I was at a conference and heard Mike Bullmore speak. There were a couple of things he mentioned in passing that I jotted down so I could think about them later. One of them was this: “The true measure of spiritual growth is not how much knowledge you’ve gained in the past year, but how much you’ve grown in holiness.” Every Christian knows that it is difficult to measure sanctification—to measure progress in the Christian life. It is easy to confuse knowledge with growth, to think that a grasp of facts necessarily translates to growth in sanctification. But, as Bullmore says, this is not the case; the Christian life is not measured in knowledge but in conformity. The purpose of the Christian life is not to accumulate the greatest number of facts, but to be increasingly transformed to the image of Christ.
There’s another thing Bullmore said that I’ve been thinking about. It’s a simple phrase, a tweetable phrase: “Sin doesn’t do well in the light.” The way to put sin to death is to draw it out of the hidden darkness of the human heart and to expose it to the light—the light of visibility and the light of God’s Word.
To summarize, the measure of the Christian life is growth in holiness. We grow in holiness, at least in part, by putting sin to death. We put sin to death by exposing it to the light.
This all helped crystallize something I have been considering for some time now—the corporate nature of holiness. Sanctification is a community project. There are many reasons that the Lord puts us in Christian community in the form of the local church. We are in community for mutual encouragement, mutual labor, mutual support, and so much else. But we are also in community because holiness is a community project.
This has been the challenge for me: I need to grow in holiness not just for my own sake but out of love and concern for those around me. If I love the people in my church, I will grow in holiness for their sake. I am prone to think that holiness is an individual pursuit, but when I see sanctification as a community project, now it is more of a team pursuit. I am growing in holiness so that I can help others grow in holiness, I am putting sin to death so I can help others put sin to death. My church needs me and I need my church, and this is exactly how God has designed it.