As Christians we can often use theological words that most people don’t understand unless they were raised in the church or study theology in their spare time. These are good words and I am certainly not advocating that we jettison words like justification, sanctification, propitiation, or other words that are in fact found in the Bible (e.g. Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 1:30; 1 Jn. 2:2). I even use these words in the pulpit, but I usually try to explain what they mean. But we can help others to understand these words better and what they mean for us today if we talk about them not just with theological accuracy but also with words that connect to our everyday experience as humans. I’m talking about translating them into words that anyone can understand, even a child.
This is one of the biggest challenges for a pastor when he preaches. And this has sort of been on my mind lately ever since I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller entitled “Justification By Faith” in which he described our justification in such a way that anyone listening to him would have walked away knowing how immensely practical this doctrine is for our life. Justification is really a universal longing to be validated, to be approved, to be accepted by others. But we won’t ultimately be satisfied by the approval of men. Only will we truly be satisfied when God, our Creator, approves of us and says “you are forgiven AND I, I ACCEPT YOU in Christ as righteous.”
As I have been continuing to think in these ways, the following thought popped into my head as I was studying today: At least three of our deepest longings and needs as humans are met in Christ, for those who have faith in Him. In our justification in Christ, we find acceptance (the best kind possible. . . acceptance before our Creator). In our sanctification in Christ we find fruitfulness produced by the Spirit (the best kind possible, fruitfulness that benefits not just myself but others and fruitfulness that will last). In our glorification in Christ we experience the latter two (acceptance and fruitfulness) perfectly in the presence of our Triune God and each other and thus are eternally happy. In sum, in Christ we find acceptance, fruitfulness and happiness (and much much more!). Now we experience all these things as a foretaste by the Spirit but when Christ returns we shall experience them as a consummate reality, all for the glory of God!
I’m sure you could describe our justification, sanctification and glorification all from slightly different angles (e.g. justification=approval, validation, worth, righteousness, in God’s sight; sanctification=fruitfulness, productivity, good works, progressively becoming a better person (by God’s standards); glorification=the whole enchilada. . .your best life later. . .all that we long for and truly need. This is just me trying to translate the benefits we have in Christ (such as justification, sanctification, glorification) in words that most people understand today. Any thoughts?