No Filter Faith
She's got her fancy journaling Bible and her special pens. She finds the best obscure theologian quotes to post with the most down-to-earth captions. It seems she has been running an online ministry since she finished college. Maybe she's Gretchen or maybe she's your childhood best friend or maybe she's your pastor's wife, but whoever she is, you want to be like her.
So you craft your images and mine your quiet times for the perfect nugget of truth to caption them. Or you open your journal and struggle to get started because you can never remember which color pen is meant for which gospel truths you're supposed to be tracking throughout Scripture. You stumble through Bible memory, and can never quite get it perfect enough to feel like you're making any progress.
You're stuck and disappointed, wondering if you will ever have the faith of those women you admire. Your faith feels so messy, stopping and starting, falling and repenting, and always struggling to see evidence of growth.
Sanctification is Slow
We live in an instantaneous world—instant groceries sent to our doors, instant gratification from likes on social media, instant information just a quick search away. We also live in a world that's filtered—through lives spent too much online—in snapshots that don’t tell the whole story carefully chosen by algorithms made to grab our attention and keep it.
No wonder we become frustrated by the slow plod of daily faith. We want change and transformation, which is a right and holy longing, but we want it now. We’re not used to seeing the work behind the growth, the cost behind the product. We’ve grown accustomed to slapping on a quick filter to fix what's wrong with us. Unfortunately, sanctification is never instant and is rarely obvious. Because we can't see it reflected back in our latest selfie, we wonder if it's even there.
Biblical Counselor Dr. David Powlison defines sanctification as having “your faith simplified, clarified, and deepened.”1 We too often try to measure our growth by specific fruit, when fruit really flows from the growth of our faith. We can do a lot of growing in our hearts long before any fruit is ever seen.
Sanctification Begins in the Heart
Fighting your behavior isn't enough to create lasting transformation. Sanctification happens when the motives and desires of your heart are centered on the awesomeness of God instead of proving your worth. You don’t need a quick fix; you need a total heart transplant. Of course, you can't pull on a pair of latex-free gloves, grab a scalpel, and perform a heart transplant on yourself no matter the confidence or skill you have. A heart transplant only happens through the work of a surgeon. Thankfully Jesus came to save humans sick with sin, desperately in need of his grace, forgiveness, and righteousness. Christ came to bring you into a relationship with God, and by that relationship, your heart is changed.
Sanctification Happens in Hardship
As much as we don't like it, we usually experience more growth in suffering than in ease. Powlison also asserts that there are five factors present in sanctification: God, biblical truth, suffering and struggle, wise mentors, and yourself.2 When we walk through hardship, we cling to God, we search the Bible, we seek out the wisdom of friends, and we are faced with the depth of our sin and move forward in repentance. So it shouldn't surprise us that God uses our hardships for our own good and for his glory.
Sanctification Requires Diligence
The monumental hardships of life pull back the veneer of our projected images and reveal our motives. However, God's most consistent tool of sanctification is the everyday challenges of the mundane circumstances of our ordinary lives. There are no shortcuts to growing more like Christ. It's more a slow, consistent plodding toward faithfulness than great triumphant leaps. It requires your steady, earnest, and even energetic effort. Our everyday moments serve as training grounds for big-moment faithfulness.
So we don't just sit back, "letting go and letting God," but we work hard by God's equipping grace. Sanctification isn't a straight line; it's an up and down battle, completely reliant on and always returning to the grace of God. As Paul encourages the Philippians, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12–13). We work hard because God is at work within us.
Pursuing No-Filter Faith
If we want to be like the godly women we admire online, we have to increase our admiration of God in our real lives. Perfect images do not lead to a transformed life. There are no quick fixes or filters in sanctification. If we want to become more like Christ, we must do the hard work of growing in holiness that comes from walking in no-filter faith with our faithful God.
Meet the Author
Hey Friends! Did you know that our new content director, Maggie Combs, is also an author? Her latest book Motherhood Without All the Rules: Trading Stressful Standards for Gospel Truths delves deeper into how moms can grow in godliness by ditching the stressful standards of the world and learning to walk in a relationship with God.
A Note from Gretchen
"In Motherhood Without All the Rules, Maggie offers moms tangible gospel hope through sharing her experiences and struggles in motherhood and pointing moms to Jesus. She reminds us that the pressure is off to be the perfect mama, because we have the perfect Heavenly Father guiding us and providing for us. Instead of living for the kingdom of ourselves where we are the “queens”, Maggie offers us another kingdom to live for—the kingdom of God ruled by our good and gracious King. This book is for all moms, and I guarantee, after reading these pages, you’ll be refreshed and reminded of God’s great grace and the freedom he freely gives.”
1 David Powlison, How Does Sanctification Work? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 63
2 Ibid., 14.