Sanctification or Sanitization?


One of the values we hold dear in Whole Life Worship is the transformation. We believe that Christ not only came to bring us eternal life, but abundant life, as well. This abundant life occurs as we are changed or transformed by the power of Christ through His Spirit who dwells within us. The theological word used to describe this process is “sanctification;” that is, to become holy or Christ-like in character. Sanctification allows the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, etc.)  to be genuinely demonstrated through our lives.

Now, if this were true, why do so many Christians struggle with transformation? Why are these Christ-like character qualities lacking in people who bear His name? Why does it seem that many Christians are just as worldly, just as impatient, just as worrisome as anyone else?

The answer is not easy, but I believe one reason why we don’t see more “fruit of the Spirit” coming from Christians is that many choose the path of “sanitization” over “sanctification.”

Sanitization is fake sanctification; it substitutes true transformation with “image orientation.” Sanitization makes a person look good on the outside (through religious acts and behavioral management) but leaves them still putrid and foul on the inside. Jesus identified “sanitization” in the Pharisees when He called them “white-washed tombs” (Matt. 25:27).

Sanitization is kind of like make-up: it is convenient, hides a multitude of sins and comes off with soap and water (once you are out of the public eye.) With sanitization, you don’t have to hassle with confession or denying yourself or taking responsibility for your own actions or relying on the power of the cross. Sanitization is easy – it’s so much easier to act “nice” than it is to be good. It’s easier to act out “modesty”, than to travel the path of true humility. It’s easier to keep busy with church activities, than it is to meet with Jesus regularly in your quiet place. And it’s far easier to put a WWJD sticker on our car than to actually drive like Jesus would! (ouch!)

But sanitization is not real. It shrivels up under pressure. It is a “house of cards”; a façade. Jesus talked about this in Matt. 7:24-27. The house built on the rock (hearing Jesus’ words and doing them) is the process of sanctification. The house built on sand (hearing Jesus’ words, but not doing them) is sanitization.

How do we choose the path of sanctification over sanitization? That is a topic that would take far more space than I have left. But here are some principles to ponder:

  1. Get rid of our spiritual make-up kit; it didn’t make us look that good anyway!
  2. Understand our faults, our areas of character growth. Ask Jesus to reveal them
  3. See our trials as God’s way of answering point #2!
  4. Ask for God’s grace and then rely upon it.
  5. Obey the leading of the Spirit

Purify my heart, cleanse me from within and make me holy. Purify my heart, cleanse me from my sin deep within (“Refiner’s Fire” by Brian Doerksen)

5 thoughts on “Sanctification or Sanitization?

  1. Thank you for these thoughts. They stick with me throughout the day. Yesterday’s HALT wisdom shows up true in my life. When I’m TIRED that seems to be the time I’m most susceptible to temptation. I mentioned times of temptation and your comparison through the acronym HALT to my adult daughter last evening. While we are both at manageable and healthy weights, we decided the Hungry didn’t fit the times of temptation because we rarely fail to feed our physical bodies! However, the twist is that we often turn to food when we instead need to ask for more of the Holy Spirit for comfort or delve into the word of God for a morsel of nourishment.Your faithfulness in posting is helping me grow closer to my Lord.

    • Yes! As one who is working hard on maintaining healthy weight (I’m a Weight Watcher), the enemy uses my love for food as a way to “compensate” for emotional deficiencies. Thanks, Cathy, for your additional insights to this blog and the insidious nature of the spiritual warfare set against us.

      Sent from my iPhone

  2. Thank you, Doug. This is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you for listening to the prompting of the Spirit. God Bless

  3. What if item #2 is the stumbling block that has never been able to be bridged after a lifetime of attempt for a person? What can we say to help and encourage a person in this situation?

    • Good question, Lynne! One of the premises of Whole Life Worship is that the whole life worshiper realizes their need for transformation. Those who don’t feel they need to change or be transformed by God are not whole life worshipers. They might worship God but they are keeping Him from certain areas of their lives, hence only worshiping God with part of their lives. Our role in their lives (since we can’t and shouldn’t make them change) is to pray that God would graciously reveal their need for Him and desire transformation. Often this takes a long time because some deep seated barriers need to be broken. But I have seen God do this work and it is glorious!

      Sent from my iPhone

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