It seems sometimes that I have spent a large portion of my Christian life unlearning things. Now admittedly most of this is because I spent a large portion of my life digesting what passes for modern Evangelical theology. With its synergistic salvation and its idea of the “Carnal Christian” I paid no attention to the idea that my sanctification was a progressive goal of becoming more and more like Christ.
Indeed when I think about it I don't know that I was ever taught about sanctification at all. Although I suppose that sad little illustration found in the four spiritual laws could have been an attempt to show what sanctification was. Thing is I spent too much of my life thinking that the “Carnal Christian” was to be my lot in life.
My paradigm change was learning about Reformed theology and the Sovereign God of the bible. There I was confronted with a complete view of salvation found in the Ordo Salutis (order of salvation). Salvation wasn't just saving me from hell. It was an entire process that not only consisted of salvation from sin but salvation from the power of sin, and conforming me to the image of Christ.
This is sanctification:
Those who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, have a new heart and a new spirit created in them; and by His Word and Spirit dwelling within them, this personal work of sanctification is indeed carried further. All these blessings accrue to them by reason of the merits of Christ's death and resurrection. Sin's mastery over them is completely broken; the evil desires to which it gives birth are increasingly weakened and dealt their death-blow; and saving graces in them are increasingly enlivened and strengthened. The practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord, is thus promoted.
John 17:17; Acts 20:32; Rom. 6:5,6,14; 2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 5:24; Eph. 3:16-19; Col. 1:11; 1 Thess. 5:21-23; Heb. 12:14.
Sanctification, as defined in this way, extends to every part of man, yet remains incomplete in this life. Sin's corrupt remnants continue to defile all parts of man, causing within him a continual warfare that does not admit of reconciliation; the flesh rises up against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.
Rom. 7:18,23; Gal. 5:17; 1 Thess. 5:23; 1 Pet. 2:11.
In the war of flesh versus Spirit, sin's corrupt remnants may for a time gain the upper hand, yet the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ enables man as a new creature to gain the victory. And so the saints grow in grace, moving on towards a fullness of holiness in the fear of God. They earnestly endeavor to live according to heaven's laws, and to render gospel obedience to all the commands which Christ, as their head and king, has laid down for them in His Word.
Rom. 6:14; 7:23; 2 Cor. 3:18; 7:1; Eph. 4:15,16.