If Holiness Is What God Wants, Why Is He So Slow To Change Me?

There are certain sins I’ve struggled with for a long time. I mean, like, “surely I’m not still struggling with this,” long. I’ve been a proud, arrogant punk for quite a few years now. When someone disagrees with me, I’m tempted to either arrogantly dismiss them or passionately argue with them.

Could I be wrong about a particular issue? I suppose it’s possible that, somewhere in some world, like Narnia, I could be wrong. But certainly not in this world. I’m usually convinced that the difference between my opinions and absolute truth is very small, if there’s any difference at all. Maybe it’s a firstborn kind of thing. Maybe it’s just that I have some deep pockets of sin in my heart.

Can you relate? Are there any areas of sin you’ve struggled with for a long time? Anger? Impatience? Anorexia? Lust? Same-sex attraction? Gluttony? A sin that has plagued you for years and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon?

Why is God so slow in making us holy? Think about it for a second. If God wanted to, he could have made us instantly perfect the moment we believed in Jesus Christ. Or, he could completely deliver us from our clinging sins in the blink of an eye. Why doesn’t God do this? I mean, isn’t the entire goal of the Christian life to be more and more free from sin?

I like how Barbara Duguid puts it in her book Extravagant Grace:

Let’s be honest: if the chief work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification is to make Christians more sin-free, then he isn’t doing a very good job. The church throughout the ages and throughout the world has not usually been known for its purity and goodness. Instead, it is wracked by a constant history of strife, violence, and hypocrisy. (Page 30)

So what is God up to? Why doesn’t he just obliterate my pride and transform me into Gentle Stephen Meek and Mild? Maybe, just maybe, God’s goal in my sanctification isn’t simply that I would be better person. Don’t get me wrong, holiness matters very much to God. But if my holiness is all that matters to God, he has a strange way of making that happen.

Again, I really appreciate how Barbara Duguid puts it:

God thinks that you will actually come to know and love him better as a desperate and weak sinner in continual need of grace than you would as a triumphant Christian warrior who wins each and every battle against sin. This makes sense out of our experience as Christians. If the job of the Holy Spirit is to make you more humble and dependent on Christ, more grateful for his sacrifice and more adoring of him as a wonderful Savior, then he might be doing a very, very good job even though you still sin every day. (Pages 30-31)

Satan wants my repeated struggle with pride to send me into a downward spiral of despair and condemnation. God wants my struggle with pride to remind me that I’m a desperate sinner who has a glorious Savior. Satan wants me to believe that God couldn’t love someone who sins as much as I do. God wants me to believe that he loves me in spite of all my sin. God allows me to sin in order that I might reject any hope I have in myself and trust only in the righteousness of Christ. That I would give up on the fool’s errand of trying to justify myself and trust only in the justification God provides in Christ.

When you sin in the same way again and again, how do you respond? Do you sink into a swamp of self-loathing, or do you gratefully run to Jesus? When you sin, do you shrink in fear from God or do you humbly confess your dependence on God?

God wants me to be holy, but that’s not his only goal for my life. He wants me to learn to treasure my Savior and humbly depend on Him for everything in my life.

And if you disagree with me, you absolutely must be wrong.

Stephen Altrogge

I'm a husband, dad, writer, & Mixed Martial Arts Salsa Dancing Champion. I created The Blazing Center. I've also written some books which people seem to like.