A few years ago I was exposed to one of those books that calls Christians to deal with their “soul issues” and inner flaws. So in response, I was doing that old familiar harsh introspective gazing at all I felt was unacceptable in me and trying to drag it all before Jesus.
I had piles of stuff.
While I was struggling through this process, the Holy Spirit clearly asked, “What are you doing?” I replied that I didn’t want these issues to hold me back or sabotage me. He answered, “Well, if you want to torment your way into sanctification, I suppose you can try.”
And I suddenly realized how counterproductive all this was for someone with my temperament.
He then asked gently, “Am I not faithful? Have I not been faithful enough for you to relax with Me? To just trust Me and walk with Me?”
A Big, Obscure Bible Word
Sanctification is basically the process where the followers of Jesus are being ever increasingly transformed into the image and nature of Jesus Christ. It involves a slow process of growing and maturing, being purified, and being made harmonious with the Kingdom and nature of God.
As we are sanctified:
- we are increasingly free to walk harmoniously with the Holy Spirit
- we experience greater peace and joy
- we behave with greater love, patience, and kindness toward other people
- we increasingly see our circumstances through the eyes of faith
- we endure suffering and injustice with greater patience
- we produce more fruit
It is not our job to sanctify ourselves. Although we are called to respond to God as He works in our lives, we are inherently incapable of truly sanctifying ourselves.1
It is something only God can do for and in us. In fact, one of the identifying names God uses for Himself is “I Am YHWH Who Sanctifies You”.
His Process of Sanctifying Us is Truly Beautiful
I don’t speak for the other 80-some percent of the world, but with highly sensitive people, the Holy Spirit Himself escorts us into and through the most lovely seasons of cleansing. When He does, He is very specific, very effective, and very kind. And it feels so good to get free.
With us highly sensitive types, the Holy Spirit’s way is to address our stuff in manageable, bite-size pieces. One very specific bite at a time.
AND the tiny bites are all sweetened with His warm, loving regard and kind patience.2 It’s like Mary Poppins where “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down… in a most delightful way”.
“Delightful” is a fitting word for this relational process that is so life-giving and transforming. What I love most is how the Holy Spirit keeps our attention riveted on how wonderful Jesus is, not on how messed up we are.3
The Demoralizing Alternative
To the contrary, the cleansing/transforming process people want us to engage in is, for us, exhausting and demoralizing. It sends highly sensitive people into introspective navel-gazing looking at all the condemning, overwhelming issues we fruitlessly struggle with.
It results in feelings of insecurity and shame. And it leaves us trying to behaviorally juggle all the right behaviors we now feel responsible for.
As highly sensitive believers, anything that yanks us out of our secure relationship with God and makes us stare at our behaviors, defects, and soul issues is a bad trade.
Looking at Jesus Loving Us
The fact is that we all have enough flaws and soul issues to keep our eyes busy for the rest of our lives. But as highly sensitive believers, our eyes are better off looking at Jesus loving us.
We are free to do this because His death on the cross covers our mess4 and gives us unearned entry into a relationship of peace with God.5 And once in that relationship, God is faithful and has promised to take responsibility to complete the work He began in us.6
All we as highly sensitive people really have to do is responsively go along for the loving, relational ride.
Happy New Year.
1 See “A Deeper Look” below
2 Romans 2:4
3 2 Corinthians 3:18
4 Romans 4:25
5 Romans 5:1
6 Philippians 1:6
A Deeper Look
For those readers who want to explore this further in scripture:
There are mysteries in scripture that allude to a connection between rest, being cleansed/transformed/sanctified, and the inherent nature of God.7
Early in Judaism
In the Old Testament, sanctification is linked simultaneously to the concept of Sabbath (rest) and to one of the redemptive names of God: YHWY Qadash8 – translated YHWH Who Sanctifies You.
This assures us that through the simple process of being in relaxed, responsive, loving relationship with Him, His nature slowly transforms us and makes us more like Him.9
Jesus’ Own Words
In John 15:1-11, when Jesus painted a picture of how we are to be spiritually healthy and growing, He used the image of a grapevine in a vineyard. He says He Himself is the vine (roots, trunk), His Father is the vinedresser, and we simply are branches growing out of the vine.
Jesus so clearly portrays here a place of relaxed rest. A branch does not strive to grow or produce fruit. All a branch does is stay connected to the vine and receive the care of the vinedresser. This imagery is both restful and relational.
Letters to the Early Church
In Hebrews 4:11-16, three concepts that are often presented as separate teachings are all sequentially connected.
- First the call to enter into God’s rest.
- Second, the promise that the living Word of God (don’t just think “Bible” here; also consider John 1:1 – Jesus Himself) is active and will effectively touch the deepest and most hidden things in us.
- And third, that Jesus is our compassionate high priest, and we can go boldly to His throne of grace.
In other words, we can be slowly transformed and sanctified by entering into a rest relationship with God through Jesus because the living, active Word of God will go deeply and personally into each of us who are in such a relationship.
And when this process exposes a problem, we can confidently draw near to Jesus, who sympathizes with our weaknesses, and receive grace and mercy from Him.
And do remember that it is the kindness and goodness of God (His grace and mercy) that causes us to change how we think and behave.10
For further study: Galatians 3, Romans 3-5.
7 Exodus 31:13, Ezekiel 20:12, Hebrews 3-4
8 Exodus 31:13
9 Romans 8:29, I Corinthians 15:49, 2 Corinthians 3:18
10 Philippians 1:6