Sanctification is an inevitable process in the life of the true believer.
The question is do we co-operate with God in this process, do we ignore it, or can we resist him?
Our experience of God’s sanctification is different depending on our response, the end result is ultimately the same.
Ignoring the process is classic holiness teaching, let go and let God. If he brings anything to mind, deal with it, but otherwise you’re OK. This is contrary to scripture, and from experience doesn’t work, sanctification in this environment is a confusing series of mistakes, corrections and enjoyments. We are like a pebble in the river of God’s purposes, static in form but pushed along bouncing from place to place but unaware of the direction or speed of travel, or when the next surge or bump will come. This, I think, is the experience of those Christians for whom sanctification is just something that happens to them.
Do we resist the process, by sinning? If we try to resist God’s will, then we are like someone trying to swim up Niagara falls, we will be unsuccessful and it will hurt. A lot. This is God’s discipline.
Do we co-operate? Co-operation starts with observing what God is doing. He is gradually making us more like Christ and he will complete that work. Wow! Everything (EVERYTHING!) works for the good of those that love him. This is a joyful and wonderful thing to realise, this is God’s river of grace! God’s awesome wisdom and power and purpose for us, yes you and me, to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He does the work, he flattens the mountains and raises the valleys, he does what we cannot and in that truth we find peace and rest and joy. The mind-boggling power of God’s river of grace to us ceases to be a mysterious torrent of circumstances and we suddenly see its speed and direction. We know when to expect the sharp cut of the word or the gentle touch of his healing. But more than that we find that swimming with the current of God’s grace is a wonderful experience. We adopt a posture of humility and faith, we grow in the knowledge of his grace, in the hatred of sin, in the love of obedience, and we hunger and thirst for righteousness. But we never fool ourselves that it is us that does the sanctifying. We are just kids on the ride of our lives, learning how to enjoy the exhilarating current of God’s grace to the fullest as we shout “Again! Again!” That is the joyful experience that God’s grace has bought for us and the character that our sanctification should have. Not morbid introspection, but a child-like perfectionism driven by the enjoyment of God’s love and the glory of His name.