“Not that I have already obtained all this or have already been made perfect, but I press on…” Philippians 3:12 (NIV).

You want to be better. You are stretching yourself out in pursuit of a more godly life. Do you sometimes find that you’re discouraged by the progress that you’re NOT making? You want to be a better Christian, but you’re not there yet, and you’re painfully aware of it.

That’s what the doctrine of sanctification does: It promotes humility and effort. It says to us “You haven’t arrived yet. You have a long way to go. Press on.” I need this great truth in my life and so do you. I need to apply myself to become more holy. With God’s help, I need to work on being less selfish, less critical, more generous, and more thankful.

Are you as holy as you want to be? The first sign of holiness is that you want to be more holy than you are. The problem we face in sanctification is discouragement. If sanctification is the only truth you have grasped, the Christian life will always seem beyond you.

Strength for the journey

That’s why alongside sanctification, we need regeneration that reminds us of what God has already done, so that we find strength and joy to continue the journey:

A man goes on a journey through a desert. He has a backpack and a cloth over his head as he trudges through miles of sand. In his backpack he carries water to sustain him on his journey. And whenever he drinks, he’s reminded that he needs to find more water, because without it he cannot go on.

Regeneration is the oasis for your soul. It tells you that alongside the work that Christ continues, there is the work that He has already done. That’s water to a thirsty soul!

Imagine the same man, now tired and thirsty, coming to an oasis. His flask of water has been empty for hours. He sees a spring of water ahead of him, and a cool lagoon to swim in. You see him coming, so you go out to welcome him. But he tells you he cannot stop. He must press on.

You plead with him “But you need to renew your strength! You will never survive, unless you refill your water.”

“No,” he says. “I must press on…” And off he goes without water…

Stop fretting and drink!

A lot of Christians live like that. God says “You are a new creation.” That’s water to a thirsty soul, but you rush past it: “I’m not as new as I want to be. I must press on.” God says “You have been set free from sin.” There’s power in that, but you rush right past it, saying “There are so many sins in my life that I need to conquer.”

You’re so passionate about sanctification that you rush past regeneration. And like a man without water in the desert, eventually you will fall down. Drink deeply of this water. Let Christ tell you who you are in Him. Take in the miracle of grace that He has already done. Stop fretting about what you’re not, and take in who you already are: In Christ you are a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come! Take in this truth. Drink of this water. It will be life to you. It will help you overcome discouragement.

This LifeKey is based on the message “Knowing Who You Are,” by Pastor Colin S. Smith on May 3, 2009, from the series “Regeneration: How Christ Changes Your Soul.”