Imagine what life would be like if we were not Christians. We would not be forgiven of our sins, the Holy Spirit would not be living in us, there would be no beautiful relationship with Jesus, and we would have no hope of eternal life. Also, consider what kind of people we would be and how we would act without the instruction of God’s word and the influence of the Holy Spirit to help us live a sanctified life. We would be selfish, angry, depressed, materialistic, and full of anxiety. We would be living (actually dying) aimlessly toward the grave with zero concrete hope in the afterlife. Now, think about the changes Jesus has made in your life – how different you are today from the way you were back in “the day”. I am not talking about behavioral perfection – I am talking about spiritual progress. It is called sanctification. It is what the Holy Spirit does in our lives as we keep surrendering daily to Jesus as Lord. The apostle Paul writes that we “put to death the (sinful) deeds of the body by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 8:13). In Galatians 5:22-24 he calls it the “fruit of the Spirit”. It’s not the “fruit of you or me” – it is the influence of the Holy Spirit changing us to become more like Jesus. And remember, our goal is not simply to be a good person – our goal is to be like Jesus. For me personally, I know God is helping me change into the image of Christ. I also know there are areas where changes need to be made as I strive to submit more to Jesus as my Lord. I like the saying by John Newton: “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am”. Sanctification is a process in which the Holy Spirit helps us become more like Jesus day by day, year by year. Read Romans 6:1-23 and 8:5-13. Then listen to an encouraging song by MercyMe entitled Sanctified.
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.