Regeneration and sanctification are inseparable parts of a true Christian experience. The new birth gives new life, life that is marked with holiness unto God. While regeneration is the exclusive act of God and is the act of a moment, sanctification is a work of God’s free grace and continues throughout a believer’s life. In regeneration the soul is passive, in sanctification the believer is active. He co-operates with God. True sanctification is not easy. The world, the flesh and the devil combine to make it difficult. Indwelling sin works with external temptation and the result involves a spiritual battle for the believer. There have been various approaches to this spiritual conflict and in years past many have depended on a ‘list’ – a list of do’s and don’ts. This acted almost as code of conduct for believers. Often the don’ts outnumbered the do’s and included things like dancing, drinking, gambling, movie theatres, immodest dress and other ‘worldly’ activities. The ‘list’ has its merits but it also has its dangers. For some, holiness became a matter of compliance with the ‘list’. They measured their sanctification by their adherence to the various do’s and don’ts, regardless of their heart desire to be like Christ. The result was that professing believers conformed to a list but were not necessarily conformed to Christ. It was outward and often hypocritical.
In more recent times there has been a reaction to the ‘list’, with some professing Christians dismissing the need for such a thing at all. They argue, ‘holiness is an issue of my heart and conscience therefore I don’t need to be told what I can or cannot do.’ Consequently, the list has almost become redundant. I don’t altogether agree with that position. I fear that the pendulum is in danger of swinging too far in the opposite direction. Holiness is an issue of the heart and we must never lose sight of that, but sometimes we need help and while compliance with a list is no substitute for true holiness, Christian guidelines can assist us in our walk with God. Our great aim should be more Christ-likeness: this will include more holiness, more consecration, more obedience, more abstaining from the appearance of evil, more living unto Christ – anything that can help us in this regard, should be welcomed by us – but should never be allowed to become a substitute for true personal and progressive holiness.