Our salvation in Christ is a twofold process.
The first – Justification – is the completed work of Jesus on the cross. By His sacrifice of His own life in our place – taking upon Himself the rightful punishment of death for our sins – Jesus exchanged our unrighteousness for His perfect righteousness, and saved us out of death into eternal life with Him. In the very instant that we first believed in His resurrection and confessed aloud His lordship over us, our Justification was ensured by the sealing of His Spirit dwelling within our hearts.
But our justification was just the beginning of our new life in Him. In the instant of our justification, He also began the process of our sanctification through which He is perfecting us into His own very image so that when our bodies die and our spirits are transformed in an instant and brought into the presence of God Almighty in Heaven, Jesus may present us as His spotless bride before the throne of His Father. The process of sanctification is sometimes painful to us as He cleanses us and perfects us by the power of His Spirit. Yet through it we know that the crown of perfect righteousness awaits us at last.
In my own favorite passage in God’s Word, the apostle Paul speaks of this sanctification process in his letter to the church in Philippi.
12Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:12-14 [NKJV]
Bob Dylan’s song Pressing On taken from this scripture continues to bring me tears of joy as I consider God’s faithfulness in my sanctification.