By Ian Toon
Jesus, You are changing me: By Your Spirit You're making me like You; Jesus, You're transforming me, That Your loveliness may be seen in all I do; You are the Potter and I am the clay: Help me to be willing to let You have Your way; Jesus, You are changing me, As I let You reign supreme within my heart.
This song, written by the blind pianist and songwriter Marilyn Baker, captures the theological concept of sanctification – the process by which we become more and more like Jesus. As Paul puts it (in 2 Corinthians 3:18):
“So all of us, with our faces uncovered, see and reflect the glory of the Lord as in a mirror. We are being transformed into the same mirror image, whose glory grows brighter and brighter. This is what the Lord, the Spirit, does.“
Setting aside the irony of talking about uncovered faces in a time plagued by Covid, I think a recognition of the fact that sanctification is a process shows how important it is to maintain a correct balance between truth and grace. Whilst not wanting to excuse wilful sin, we also need to recognise that we are all ‘works in progress’ – God hasn’t finished working on any of us yet.
There is a need to be both uncompromisingly truthful and uncompromisingly gracious in how we express love. Christians who emphasise truth at the expense of grace tend to be legalistic, self-righteous and judgemental (none of which expresses God’s love), whereas Christians who emphasise grace over truth tend to be liberal, soft on sin and light on the need for sanctification. Grace without truth is destructive because it gives licence to the flesh and ignores the need for the mind to be renewed, whereas truth without grace is harsh and unforgiving and ignores the fact that sanctification is a process. We need to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and our application of grace needs to be “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6), i.e., tempered by truth. Jesus, of course, showed both truth and grace perfectly (John 1:14).
Let’s not be arrogant or self-righteous in this endeavour. Paul exhorted those who thought they were standing firm to be careful lest they fall (1 Corinthians 10:12), and Peter, who fell dramatically by denying Jesus, was restored and was used mightily by God to build His Kingdom and move in the power of the Holy Spirit. Change is possible for all of us – and none of us has yet reached a point where we no longer need to experience the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
“ Father God, thank You that You confront us with both truth and grace. Thank You that you reveal the truth about us, that You expose our sin and make it clear that we have fallen short of Your glory. Yet, You do so with such love and kindness, and You extend grace and mercy towards us because You have already made provision for us to be cleansed from our sin. Lord God, may we feel your strong and loving hands lifting us up from where we might have fallen, and raising us back up into the heavenly places where Jesus delights to seat us right next to Himself, taking us out of darkness and bringing us back into the glorious light of Your presence and Your Kingdom. Help us, we pray, to cooperate with You as Your Holy Spirit continues to sanctify us day by day, so that we become more and more like Jesus in our thoughts, words and deeds. We give you thanks and praise, Lord, in the mighty name of Jesus, who alone is worthy of all glory and honour. Amen!”