Why God sanctifies us slowly
Notice the implications of this word renewed. We are being “renewed” every day (2 Corinthians 4:16). If you are being renewed every day, what does that imply? It implies: hope fades, encouragement wanes, your bucket leaks. I find it unbelievably encouraging that the apostle Paul says, “I’ve got a secret, and it isn’t a secret of how never to need renewal. You can have an experience, and you don’t need renewal anymore.” That’s not the message. In fact, the message is unbelievably realistic.
“I’ll never sin again after Jesus comes back. So why am I sinning now?”
Day by day, renewed, which means every day you leak, every day you fade, every day you get depleted. That’s what it says. You wouldn’t need to be renewed day by day, if you could run your car on yesterday’s gas, if your metabolism could function on yesterday’s meal, or if the pain in your head can be relieved on yesterday’s dosage. You can’t run today’s life on yesterday’s newness. This is just huge.
Those of you who have been Christians for a while, you just know this. But if you’re a new believer, this is one of the most important things you can learn in your life because it’s so easy to think, with the highs that come with Jesus moving into your life, “I’ve found it. I’ve risen. I’m flying on eagles’ wings.” But soon enough you won’t be. And so you have to find ways to put the air under your wings every day.
And Paul says, “I know how to do that.” That’s the secret I’m after here. I don’t want to lose heart — not a day. I want the secret of being renewed every day — not a week, not a month. Every day I want to figure this out so that I can walk like this. I know life is going to be a battle. That’s the application of “renewed.” So Paul, I really, really want what you say you have. And you say it takes renewing.
This is what Jesus meant when he said in Matthew 6:34 that each day has enough trouble of its own. “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Have you ever thought about that phrase, “its own trouble”? Like, what is today? Friday. Okay, there’s Friday trouble. Guess what? There’s Saturday trouble.
That’s what Jesus said. That’s not like me being a prophet. Each day has its trouble. It’s appointed. There’s going to be Sunday trouble. I’m getting on a plane tomorrow. Maybe the front wheel will fall off. I don’t know.
But you know what else? Lamentations 3:22–23 says the mercies of the Lord “are new every morning.” I don’t know how many years I’ve been using these texts for my soul. On the one hand, every day has its own trouble. But on the other, every day has its own mercies. This is Lamentations 3:22–23, and this is Matthew 6:34. God has matched them. That’s part of the secret. Tomorrow will have its Saturday troubles, and tomorrow will have its Saturday mercies. And those Saturday mercies must be tapped into by the secret here of renewing because I had some mercies this morning, and they’re not designed for tomorrow. They were designed for today, and I’m feeling them right now.
“The mercies of the Lord are new every morning.”
Tomorrow there are going to be new mercies, and the secret that Paul’s got here is: How do you get under those? How do you get in those? How do you experience those? I paused right here in my preparation. Since this conference is under the banner “Soli Deo Gloria,” to God alone be the glory, I asked God, “Is there something in this text that would just give me a clue for why you set it up this way: that I have to be renewed every day? I mean, you could have just bumped me up to maximum sanctification and kept me there.” You know how I know he could? Because he’s going to do it when Jesus comes back. I’ll never sin again after Jesus comes back. So why am I sinning now? “I mean, Lord, just do that. You’re going to do it then; just do it now.” And he says, “Not the plan.”
“We have this treasure in jars of clay” for a reason — clay that needs to be renewed every day, clay that can’t stand on its own longer than 24 hours or on yesterday’s grace for 24 hours — all so that the surpassing power will belong to God (2 Corinthians 4:7). You can get in God’s face about this and say, “I don’t like the plan. I don’t like the plan that you leave me unsanctified and battling every day with depletion, having to be renewed on grace every day. I don’t like the plan. I’d just like to be done with the battle.”
And God would say, “Well, that’s the plan. And the reason it’s the plan is I’m going to get some glory in your life. If I didn’t do it this way, you’d get uppity about it. You’d think you had it made. You’d think your strength was coming from you. The fact that you’ve run out of gas every day puts you in the station — and the station is me.”
So God has his reasons for why he saves us in stages, sanctifies us slowly, and makes us fill up every day at his pump, lest we forget where the gas comes from.