Does christian faith really make a difference in real life? Does it actually have the power to grab hold and set life on a new course? Or is the vocabulary of faith a mere set of pious phrases? Questions like this fill the air these days, and they need tending to. For they touch the vitals of sanctification; they call into question its possibility and its reality.
What sort of pretention does the Church make by calling itself the communion of the saints? Has it made good, at any time, on this title? Or has nothing really changed? Are we the same people we have always been, living our unchanged lives in an unchanged world? Was Martin Buber right when he said that the Messiah could not have come because human life has not yet been fundamentally changed?
The question of whether faith has really changed anything is also an important one within theology. The biblical picture of sanctification pointedly suggests a radical alteration of our real and concrete life. Sanctification entails a thorough-going rerouting of life, an about-face of human existence. There is talk about a new creature, remade after the pattern of God’s will (Eph. 4:24). Over against lies, bitterness, and hostility, the new light has come—and whoever resists the new light grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30).
The reality of change, in fact, implies a crisis for the future: without being sanctified, no one shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). We are therefore obliged to strive toward holiness, toward peace and sanctification. The Old Testament, too, puts the question: Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord and who shall stand in his holy city? It gives its own answer: Only he who has clean hands and a pure heart, who pays no heed to falsehood, nor swears ...1
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