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What Do Sanctification and Transformation Really Mean? by Michael Desgrosseilliers
Inner healing ministry is a work of “evangelizing the unbelieving parts of a believer’s heart,” as John and Paula Sandford used to say.
An “unbelieving” heart is that way because of the effects of sin. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9 NKJV). That verse describes the effect of sin on our heart and the wound it creates inside us.
But God has a plan. He says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Eze. 36:26 NKJV).
There is a wide gap between these two heart conditions that needs to be bridged. That bridge comes about only by transforming the heart through the process of sanctification.
Transformation and sanctification are foundational to Elijah House ministry and practices, but they’re also often misunderstood in Christianity. So let’s take a brief (and straightforward) look at what these two words mean.
What Is Sanctification?
The word sanctification comes from the Greek word hagiasmos, the root of which is hagios or “holy.” In this case, hagios refers to being set apart. The process of sanctification sets us apart and transforms us to a state of being holy.
When Jesus first comes to us, He enters in with His sanctifying healing—but He does this only in those places of our heart where we let Him. Initially, there are some areas we are not willing to surrender to Him. In fact, there are many deep areas of the heart we aren’t even aware of.
Scripture tells us that we are sanctified when we receive Jesus into our heart. We are positioned in the spirit as though it is a done deal. The work of sanctification in our heart begins when we invite Jesus into our life. We are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6) and thereby sanctified (see Rom. 4:17).
However, the work of sanctification must take place in all the hidden wounds in our heart. This is an ongoing, lifelong process.
There are wounds in our heart that have not seen the light of Jesus. Those places remain bound up in the sin that caused the wound in the first place. We are saved…but in those specific areas, where we have not permitted Jesus to go yet, we still need to be sanctified: to be made holy.
God called King David “a man after My own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22), but notice what David asked of God in Psalm 139:23–24:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my thoughts.
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting. (ASV)
The American Standard Version notes that the word wicked actually translates as a “way of pain.” David had been following the Lord for a long time, yet he apparently still had “ways of pain” or unhealed wounds inside him.
In Transforming the Inner Man, which is foundational to the work of spiritual inner healing, John and Paula Sandford say the following:
The tragedy is that too many Christians are still trying to build rather than to rest in Him. Sanctification is the process by which we come to rest in Him. Sanctification is daily death and rebirth. Sanctification is that part of the maturation of the sons of God that proceeds by the Holy Spirit solely through the cross of Christ, borne individually! The end product of sanctification is not only a new person but also a clean one. (p. 17)
What Is Transformation?
Transformation is that process of death and rebirth whereby what was our weakness becomes our strength. Sanctification overcomes the power of canceled sin, but transformation turns the mess to glory. (p. 18)
Transformation is the result (or fruit) of sanctification. The Greek word translated “transform” is metamorphoo, from which we get metamorphosis.
According to the Sandfords:
Transformation is, therefore, not synonymous with healing (unless we mean by “healing” what transformation truly is). The word healing seems to imply that something that formerly worked became broken, so we fix it. (p. 21)
There is no fixing sin within us; sin must be put to death by the work of the cross.
True healing comes, then, not by making a broken thing good enough to work, but by delivering us from the power of that broken thing so that it can no longer rule us and by teaching us to trust His righteousness to shine in and through that very thing… We do no good thing. He accomplishes all. Thus, for the soul, there is in that sense no “healing”—only death and rebirth. (p. 12)
Putting lipstick on a pig does not make it different. It is critical to understand that our sinful ways cannot be cleaned up and made presentable. The sin dwelling in the wounded places in our heart must be put to death—not cleaned up or propped up.
Sanctification is the ongoing process of bringing healing to the unhealed places in the heart. When the healing is accomplished, that place in the heart is transformed. The wounded condition of the heart as found in Jeremiah 17:9 is transformed to the completely healed condition found in Ezekiel 36:26.
How Does the Healing Process Get Started?
What begins this healing process within us? Jesus said He would send a “Helper” to us:
When He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. (John 16:13 NKJV)
This Helper is the Spirit of Truth. That name comes from the Greek word paraclete, which can mean a whole bunch of different things: Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Counselor, Strengthener, Standby. The Holy Spirit is all of those things for you personally.
The important thing for all of us to realize is that the Holy Spirit is the One who puts His finger on what needs to be healed in us and when. We do not search out these places ourselves. The Spirit reveals or brings up a specific issue for us to address.
Here’s what the healing process essentially looks like:
- We realize we need to forgive the person who hurt us.
- We ask God to forgive us for our sinful reactions toward that person.
- We forgive ourselves for the unforgiveness, guilt, and shame we’ve held over our head all this time.
Scripture clearly reveals that the Holy Spirit is the One who brings conviction.
And He, when He comes, will convict the world about [the guilt of] sin [and the need for a Savior], and about righteousness, and about judgment. (John 16:8 AMP)
The conviction referred to in Scripture is a persuasion of truth. This truth leads us to forgiveness and repentance, which is the work of the cross, and to resurrection life. That’s the kind of abundant life we get to experience, and we can rest in the awareness that the One who started the work will eventually complete it:
Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 1:6 NKJV)
The continuing journey of sanctification will result in the transformation of our heart and our life.