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Finding Joy in Sanctification – Serenity in Suffering


Just over two weeks removed from celebrating Lent and the glorious gift of redemption purchased by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, I ponder joy’s relationship from the perspective of the cross. The undeniable joy at the thought of complete forgiveness of my unfathomable sin debt lingers, my tremulous desire urges me hold tight this joy; but how? My longing to live this joy in my every day, greets me with each morning’s sunrise, yet my inadequacy tags along like an irritating pebble in my shoe. Once again, my perspective shifts ever so slightly from grasping to releasing control; turning my gaze to finding joy in sanctification.

My journey so far taught me joy is not dispensed to the greedy, yet I sought a solid grip on the renewed joy in the freedom of forgiveness. Joy itself, holds a characteristic of intoxication; once experienced, we seek it more fervently. But seeking joy as an emotional possession relegates it to a paltry existence empty of the magnificence God intended. Indeed, Joy is much more precious than a mere emotion; for its price is the price of Christ’s blood. Joy was purchased with the once and for all propitiation of Christ’s death on the cross. (Romans 8:3) The removal of God’s wrath from us, placed on Christ; the truth of Romans 8:31-33; God is for us, the very source of our joy.

joy : A work in process

A greater foundational passage of scripture regarding the supreme work accomplished on the cross by Christ, I know not, other than Romans 8:31-39. As I memorized and meditated on this passage, my understanding of joy in the every day magnified. For in this one passage we view the propitiation of God’s wrath placed on His Son in verses 31-32, the justification of His elect n verses 33-34, the sanctification of the elect in verses 35-37 and the glorification of the elect in verses 38-39. Through each of these major stages of the Christian life we see the presence of joy:

  • Propitiation purchases our joy
  • Justification bestows that joy upon us through the fruit of the Holy Spirit
  • Sanctification offers us the experience of joy in this life, as we become more like God
  • Glorification perfects our joy as we will be restored to His image, our joy will be His joy.
Tulip shaded lamp lit on small side table of three books and large dried flower arrangement, finding joy in sanctification

Propitiation and justification occur in the life of the believer as “one time” events. Conversely, sanctification is both definitive; we are crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and therefore dead to sin (Romans 6:11) and progressive; as we work out our own salvation. (Philippians 2:12) The process of sanctification leads us through increasing holiness, goodness, righteousness and love, as we cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The epicenter of sanctification is the actuality of our joy in Christ, because the battle for sanctification is fought on the battlefield of what we love and treasure.

After the fall, the affections were misplaced on wrong objects; in sanctification, they are turned into a sweet order and harmony, the grief placed on sin, the love on God, the joy on heaven.

Thomas Watson

Sanctification Joy defeats sin

Finding joy in sanctification increases exponentially when we understand the joy we have in God as a result of the propitiation and justification we received, defeats sin and hastens us toward holiness. Sanctification as a miracle of God, shifts our desires from the deception of sin to joy in God’s Will. The process of sanctification is a spiritual journey of transformation, emptying sin of its pleasure and enticement, ultimately strengthening our delight in holiness and obedience. At its core, sanctification is a battle of affections.

The joy found in sanctification is not simply gratitude for salvation; nor is it an additional outcome, it is the crucial factor in killing sin in our lives. Hebrews 12:1-4 reminds us of all Christ endured, “for the joy that was set before Him,” (vs 2) and urges us in verses 1, 3-4 to fight sin in our own lives in the same manner, as we focus on future joy. But we not only possess future joy, we possess sin defeating joy right now, for the fruit of the Spirit is joy, right now in the every day. Paul elaborates on this concept in 2 Corinthians 8:2, illustrating through sanctification, joy frees us from the lies and lure of sin resulting in increased love for God and others.

large white pitcher with lilacs, small vase with lilacs cup of tea in pink and white flowered cup and saucer, open book with dark rimmed glasses on top

our joy is his joy

The mystery of sanctification is the indwelling of God via the person of the Holy Spirit given to us at salvation. God’s own likeness and nature supernaturally manifests within us through justification (Ephesians 4:24) and the Holy Spirit conforms us to that image throughout our lifetime. Since joy is intrinsic to God’s triune nature, that means we have God’s joy dwelling within us a believers. If we view Nehemiah’s statement, “the joy of the Lord is your strength” in Nehemiah 8:10 through the lens of sanctification, we realize the beauty of this statement. His joy is our joy, because when we find God we find the source and embodiment of all joy.

God’s Peace is Joy resting. God’s Joy is Peace dancing.

F.F. Bruce

God offers us no joy outside of His own joy. God’s majesty, beauty and holiness radiate joy; these very attributes draw us to Him. We linger in moments of joy with the trinkets He generously bestows upon us, but compared to the pure and perfect joy of God Himself, they seem dull, temporary. But when we rest upon God alone, the essence of all joy, we partake of that divine joy. While God delights in blessing us with good things, His chief delight rests in His joy as our joy completed as we abide in Him through the process of sanctification. (John 15:11)

finding joy in sanctification

Alas, my journey into joy digs deep this month. Beginning with a Good Friday meditation of repentance to a Resurrection Sunday celebration, culminating in a wrestling match with grace; I searched for what I already possessed. I allude to my joy purchased at Calvary with Christ’s blood, bestowed upon me by faith when I called upon His name, indwelling me throughout my sanctification. As I abide in Christ, He abides in me, (John 15:4-5), I am His, He is mine, His joy is mine in the every day and for all eternity.

The entire work of sanctification; conforming me to the image of Christ, draws me deeper into God’s joy each day. True joy is a product of grace, it is not something we “choose” nor an attitude of pursuit, choosing to view our circumstances positively with gratitude. If joy is something we choose or pursue it is but a self-secured joy.

The freedom of finding joy in sanctification, or rather the full Gospel message of propitiation, justification, sanctification and glorification, enlightened my eyes to a most joyful truth. With each purging of the dross of selfish desires, and each dead, fruitless branch pruned, my joy grows more like His. Ultimately, it is not my searching for joy, but God’s joy pursuing me; is not that pursuit at the heart of the Gospel? Jesus’ express desire was for us to have His joy within us (John 17:13), so the very nature of our joy is His nature. For the journey of sanctification leads to glorification, when our joy will be perfected in that moment our eyes meet His and we hear the words, “Enter into the Joy of your Lord.”

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All content is copyrighted and the intellectual property of Donna M. Bucher, Serenity in Suffering 2020.

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