Motivation is the key component when it comes to self-sanctification. Do we have a self-sanctification in the positive sense of separating ourselves from those things we know that are not good for us or not good for others, not in order to merit any more righteousness before God through that performance, but in light of all that God has already made us to be IN Christ (Our new identity).
On the opposite end of that self-sanctification spectrum, we have those who suppose that their behavior is the source of their right standing with God, that is self-sanctification negatively. They suppose that becoming more righteous in practice will make them more righteous in God’s sight, faulty thinking on their part, Paul called it foolish.
It will not gain them Heaven, it will not help them avoid the second death. Paul lets us know that in the book of Romans that God did not make Heaven for good people, God made Heaven for sinners who are justified freely by God’s grace.
Paul did not set himself apart in order to gain a greater righteousness before God through his performance, but that he made his life-style (to the best he could) conform to who God had already made him to be in his sanctified or set-apart position being joined to Christ that he might more affectively reach others.
That was Paul’s key motivation; there is a vast difference in those two motivations. Setting oneself apart for holiness is one thing, setting oneself apart because of the holy standing God has already given that individual in Christ is something altogether different.
People have a difficult time separating their performance in the flesh from their position in Christ and it was the question from the religiously minded people of Paul’s day that remains the question from the religiously minded people in our day. Most people think in those terms because most people fail to properly understand justification, the cornerstone that comes prior to sanctification.
If we misunderstand justification, we are going to have a difficult time understanding sanctification. Since people link a justified standing before God with performance of their own, they also link a sanctified standing before God with their own performance. And as a result they believe the degree to which they stand sanctified in God’s eyes depends entirely upon the degree to which they remain holy in behavior.
If they do not see themselves as being holy in conduct, they do not believe that God sees them as being holy, either. And consequently, if they do not see others as being holy in their attitude and actions, they do not think God sees them as being holy either! Holiness linked to performance is what religion is all about, a new reconciliation over and over and over again.
If we think that our justified standing before God, our sanctified standing, is contingent upon the presence of holy deeds and the absence of unholy deeds in our life, we are going to think that God’s attitude toward us and therefore, our position with him in Christ is of a fluctuating nature.
If we think our relationship with God is of a fluctuating nature, we never know where we stand. So, people’s minds are up and down and all around, an emotional roller-coaster as to where does one stand with God? God may be happy with me today, he may very well be angry at me tomorrow is how it is often reasoned.
Where do people go to see how far they have removed themselves through their behavior from God’s favor? More often than not, they go right back to the Law of Moses taught in the halls of religianity by ministers of righteousness. That can only lead in one direction, instability.
It is the “I have been good, I have been bad, God’s happy, God’s mad” mindset; a mindset that results in people having to be dishonest with themselves as to their own practical holiness. The religiously minded begin to believe they are indeed measuring up as righteousness becomes relative to those people.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are people walking away from a God they perceive as being unfair in having created them to fail in the first place. Some take it to the extent of a total denunciation of God altogether. If God does exist, how can he demand perfection? If God does exist, the fact of his fairness or unfairness does not really matter, does it?
You see, no matter where on the performance spectrum one happens to sit, whether it be the perceived safe-haven of religion or avowed atheism on the other end, a misunderstanding of the need for and the manner of justification (Our righteousification) and sanctification (How we are set apart in Christ), resides at the core of that unstable thinking.