Do you ever wonder why we aren’t changing as quickly as we thought we would?
The Bible says that those who trust in Jesus are changed. Immediately. It’s dramatic and it’s complete.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The moment we trust in Jesus, we’re given new hearts and identities. The Holy Spirit lives within us. We’re completely forgiven. Our futures are secure.
This is true of everyone who turns to Jesus in repentance and faith. While the change is sudden, we also experience change slowly at the same time.
In his book Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem outlines the difference between what happens immediately (justification) and what happens as part of a process (sanctification).
- Whereas justification involves legal standing, sanctification involves our internal condition.
- Whereas justification is once for all time, sanctification is continuous throughout life.
- Whereas justification is entirely God’s work, we cooperate in sanctification.
- Whereas justification is perfect in this life, sanctification is not perfect in this life.
- While justification is the same in all Christians, sanctification is greater in some than others.
In other words, some things about us change immediately when we trust in Jesus. Other things take a lifetime.
No matter how mature or immature we are, we’re still in process. God is still at work within us changing us from the inside out. We can be sure that he’s changed us and that he will continue to work within us for the rest of our lives, even as we work to grow.
What This Means for Us
Understanding the difference between these two types of change is important for every follower of Jesus Christ.
If you have put your trust in Jesus as your only hope in life and death, and are trusting in what he did for you, then you can rest in what Jesus has done. You have been changed. You’ve passed from death to life. Don’t put your trust in yourself. Put your hope in Jesus instead.
On the other hand, it’s important to examine our lives for evidence that there has been a real change. Some people mistakenly think that following Jesus is a matter of making a decision, and then continuing to live as they did before. Don’t make this mistake. Although we will continue to struggle, there should be evidence in your life that he has changed you and is continuing to change you.
Finally, don’t be surprised if you continue to struggle. We all do. Don’t get discouraged. Continue to look to Jesus and ask him to change you. Continue practices that help you grow, like reading Scripture, praying, and participating in worship and fellowship in a local church.
Through Jesus, God changes us decisively. He also changes us slowly as well. We need both kinds of change, and to understand the difference between them.