In our pursuit of sanctification, we often have a limited perspective on its true meaning and purpose. Sanctification, defined as “being set apart” or “made holy,” should not be reduced to merely distancing ourselves from sin. Instead, our focus should shift towards the One we are set apart to, rather than what we are set apart from. This change in perspective allows us to grasp a deeper understanding of sanctification and its profound impact on our relationship with God.

Introduction: The Fallacy of Sin-Centered Sanctification:

While acknowledging the significance of sin, making sin cessation our ultimate goal is akin to trying to remove all the air from a glass bottle by sucking on the top. We may succeed in removing some air, but it is an impossible task to eliminate it entirely. Instead, if we concentrate on what fills the bottle, the air will naturally be displaced. Similarly, if our primary focus is on drawing closer to God, the separation from sin will follow as a result.

It is important to stress that this all occurs in God’s timing, not ours.

God’s True Goal in Sanctification:

What if God’s primary objective in our sanctification process is not to make us stop sinning, but rather to bring us closer to Himself? Our proximity to God is not solely focused on our ability to cease sinning. So, how do we draw near to Him? Could it be that those with a wayward nature find their path to closeness with God through moments of brokenness, where they have nowhere else to turn?

The Role of Brokenness in Sanctification:

What if the main way individuals with a nature that is always “backsliding”/failing/reverting draw close to God is through a state of brokenness? It is during these moments that we realize our total dependence on His grace and divine nature. Just as a shepherd’s rod and staff offer discipline and comfort to sheep, God allows us to experience brokenness to bring us closer to Him.

The Shepherd’s Rod and Staff:

In Psalm 23, it is written that God’s rod and staff provide comfort to His people. The staff represents protection and unity, used by the shepherd to gather the sheep together. On the other hand, the rod symbolizes discipline. The shepherd may use the rod to break a sheep’s leg and then bind it up. Subsequently, the shepherd carries the sheep on his shoulders, guiding it to walk again under his care. Only then does the staff become a source of comfort and protection. Only then does the sheep cling to the shepherd, totally dependent on his care.

The Power of Forgiveness and Brokenness:

Jesus emphasized that those who have been forgiven much will love much.

Jesus is at the house of Simon the Pharisee when a woman who was known as a sinner enters and anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume and her tears. The Pharisee questions Jesus’ acceptance of the woman’s actions, and Jesus responds with a satement about forgiveness. In Luke 7:47, Jesus says, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Experiencing brokenness is the greatest and most utilized path that leads to genuine sanctification, and as a result, sin begins to lose its grip on us. When we recognize the depth of our need for forgiveness and rely on God’s grace, our hearts are dumbfounded. It is in this state of gratuitous confusion that we become useful vessels. We become clinging sheep.

Just a Few Left at this Price!


I don’t know about you, but just about every time I have broken my back trying not to sin, I fail. I am not kidding. Even when I stopped taking the opioids, it just happened. There was something greater in front of me that necessarily caused me to just let go of them.

But, again, sanctification encompasses more than simply avoiding sin; it is a journey towards a deeper relationship with God. While ceasing from sin is an important part of the journey, it is not the means for sanctification, but a result of sanctification. Instead, God often uses our brokenness to draw us closer to Him, teaching us to depend on His grace and leading us to true sanctification. Let us shift our focus from sin alone and embrace the transformative power of brokenness as we strive to walk intimately with our Shepherd. Then, and only then, will the air be out of the bottle.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

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