There’s a goal to the Christian life, which God expresses this way: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). This refining process is called sanctification. And there are several identifiable stages en route to this goal, but sadly, most believers are unfamiliar with them. Let me offer some definitions so you can identify where you are on the journey and understand what to expect.
Salvation is the first stage of the Christian life. This describes our redemption from sinfulness through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. What results is forgiveness of sin, which lets us have a relationship with Almighty God.
Next, God gives us opportunity to serve (Eph. 2:10). We were created to do good works in Jesus’ name.
But at some point, we notice something isn’t working. This is the start to stage three: frustrated inadequacy. This unpleasant but necessary part of the journey can last varying amounts of time. Without it, we’d undoubtedly experience self-sufficiency and pride. But we should recognize this difficult phase as beautiful because it leads us into the best part of our spiritual lives: total dependency upon Jesus as Lord of our life. And we will be fulfilling our ultimate goal: becoming a reflection of Christ.
Sadly, many Christians don’t reach a point of complete reliance on the Lord. Pride, discouragement, and distraction can ruin focus and perseverance. Paul reminds us to fix our eyes on the goal of maturity in Christ (Phil. 3:14). Learning to die to self is painful, but ironically, it’s the only true way to life.