There was quite a reaction to my previous post. Much of the reaction was positive, but some of it extremely negative. Apparently my post even created a meme!
Well, I'm not going to respond to that type of goofiness, but there are some questions that I have been asked regarding my view of sanctification that I would like to address.
Are you saying that part of our righteousness before God is based on our sanctification?
Of course not! I'm not sure how anyone who reads what I have written can possibly assume this, but I have been asked this by a few people. Our standing before God is always solely based on the alien righteousness of Christ. I have always, and will always proclaim this. Our sanctification is always imperfect, and our works would always condemn us apart from God's grace.
Are you promoting the idea that Christians should try to be sinless?
Again, I'm not sure how anyone would assume this after reading anything I have written or listening to my program. No one will ever be sinless in this life. Every work we do is tainted by the old Adam that still clings to us. That doesn't, however, negate the fact that we do genuinely good works, even though they are tainted by our sin nature.
Should I be looking for constant progress in the Christian life?
This is one of the reasons why I became a Lutheran, because I couldn't handle the navel gazing puritanism that I encountered in my previous experience. We often don't see progress in the Christian life. We often seem as if we are getting worse! But in reality, this is an effect of the Spirit, showing you more of your sin. Your sensitivity to sin is itself part of sanctification. Even if we can't see it, God is changing us on the inside, raising up the new man and killing the old. We always look to what God has done in Christ for us instead of in us for assurance. That doesn't mean, however, that the work of Christ in us can never show itself through visible action.
Should we look for assurance in our sanctification?
Again, if you have paid attention to anything I have written on this subject you would know that I don't promote this idea. Our assurance comes from the objective work of Christ, and God's gifts given to us through word and sacrament. Our assurance does not come from the state of our hearts, because we still struggle with sin.
However, there is such a thing as false faith and false assurance. Both Scripture and our Confessions mention it. If you live with no repentance in continual willful sin, you shouldn't have assurance, because you don't truly have faith in the gospel. We are supposed to (according to our Confessions) believe in the doctrine of mortal sin. That's why we practice church discipline; faith doesn't exist without repentance.