The story is told of Augustine, the fourth century theologian and Bishop of Hippo in north Africa, who, after he confessed faith in Jesus Christ, ran into a former mistress on the street. Immediately upon recognizing her, Augustine quickly reversed and began swiftly moving in the opposite direction. The woman, surprised by seeing Augustine and equally surprised at his reversal of his route, cried out, “Augustine, it is I.” Augustine, continuing to move away from her, replied, “Yes, but it is not I.”
This anecdote reminds us that if we are in Christ, we are new creations. The former has passed away. The new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). In other words, the Christian is a changed person. The gospel changes you. The Word of God changes you. The Spirit of God changes you. The blood of Christ changes you.
This change is the manifestation of receiving new hearts and minds that have been set on fire by God. This change is the result of having come to see the awfulness of our sin and the beauty, hope, and love in Jesus Christ. It is the everyday and everyway movement of our lives away from sin, Satan, and this world toward the light and glory of God in Christ Jesus. It is having our minds renewed (Rom. 12:2) even as we are being conformed to the image of Christ (8:29). It is the setting apart or being made holy by and for God. This process is commonly known as sanctification. The Bible says it is for the elect through the blood of Christ. According to Hebrews 13:12, “So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.”
If you have come to Jesus Christ by faith, Jesus has sanctified you. His blood has made you holy, righteous, and set apart unto Him. So radical is the sanctifying blood of Christ that it will eventually and necessarily begin to show in your life. People will notice that you are different. You will notice that you are different. There will be a movement in your heart away from the desires of this world toward a growing desire for Christ.
For example, when the Christians in Corinth were struggling to understand the difference Christ had made in them, the apostle Paul gave a laundry list of sinful behaviors and reminded the Corinthians that the unregenerate, the unchanged, and those unmoved by the gospel would not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9–10). But then he says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11, emphasis added).
The blood of Christ has secured our holiness in the sight of God. Because the blood of Christ has been shed for us, our position in the eyes of God is secure. We are in Christ, and we are holy as He is holy (1 Cor. 1:30).
Nevertheless, there is the ongoing work of Christ in making us practically what we have become positionally, namely, holy. In other words, there will be times in our lives when we do not feel the ongoing, progressive nature of our sanctif ication. We may even get the sense that rather than progressing, we are regressing due to our perpetual struggle with indwelling sin. It is during such times that the gospel reminds us that our sanctification is not because we are willing to shed blood but because Christ was willing to shed His. It is not our blood and sacrifice that has pleased the Father; it is the blood of His beloved son. Thus, when the battle for daily holiness appears lost, encourage yourself with the words of the old saints: “I ain’t what I wanna be; I ain’t what I’m gonna be; but through the blood of Christ, I ain’t what I was.”
Yet, often the conversation is not just with ourselves; at times, it needs to be in the presence of our enemy. Satan knows our weaknesses, and he often sees when we fail. He is quick to remind us of our lack of progress in the gospel and how often we appear halted in our conformity to Christ. When this is the case, consider the words of Aug us t us Topl ady : “When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the g uilt within; upward I look and see him there, who made an end to all my sin.”
He made an end to all our sin by suffering as our sin offering outside the gate (Lev. 4:21). The blood of Jesus has laid the path of holiness. And though the pace of our steps along the path is often varied, the path yet endures.
So, keep moving Christian. The Bible reminds us that “what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). In other words, God is not through with us yet.