Holiness and Salvation are NOT the same...
Salvation is a gift of God to all who call upon His name and confess Him as Lord (Rom. 10.9-13). We just celebrated what many call Resurrection Sunday (Easter) when we proclaimed anew the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. A person who receives Jesus receives eternal life. (Jn. 1.12, 3.36, 5.24 , 6.40, 17.3). It is a new birth, and at that moment I became a full heir of the Kingdom (Titus 3.7; Gal. 4.7). Our salvation is secure and complete, (Eph. 1.13) and for that I say, praise God.
There is a saying among preachers that I was saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved. They are not saying I get salvation by the installment plan and it is a partial salvation until I get the last installment. The statement means I was saved (totally, by regeneration), my salvation will unfold in increasing areas of my life (sanctification), and one day I will shed this earthly body and experience my salvation in a complete way unknown to me in this existence (glorification).
Let’s concentrate on the second part of the three. Sanctification and holiness come from the same Greek base word and essentially mean the same. They both imply a separation that is simultaneously separation “from” and a separation “to.” (Colossians 1.13) Sanctification is a lifelong process along those two fronts: separating “from” sin and worldliness and separating myself “to” the things of God. Holiness is not some mysterious rapturous state of consciousness I achieve by reading, praying, or playing Casting Crowns while burning incense. Holiness-sanctification is aligning my life one step at a time with the heart, actions, and mind of my Christ.
This is a process that is uneven and it seems the Spirit points out different areas for different people to work on. That is frustrating to us if we start “comparing our holiness” to others. For some it is alcohol, others finances, lying, obesity, anger, porn, the list is endless. When I have conquered a certain area in my life, I become sensitized to it in other people’s lives, and inwardly I often become impatient with them (I’ve overcome this particular sin, what’s taking them so long?) We must have a proper balance of patience with others, a continual striving toward personal holiness, and allowing God’s grace to manifest in many different ways. In my life, it may come as pressure shaping my heart or forgiveness washing over that same heart; a time of shaping and refining or a time of showering me with His love to the point I surrender, sometimes to His pressure, sometimes to His incredible affirmations of His love for me.
The Holy Spirit has many roles in our lives from coach to cheerleader to judge (John 16.8). I am not the Holy Spirit (let us all praise God) so my role in others’ lives is to try to reproduce the life of Christ in them. If they are unbelievers, we call it evangelism; if they are believers, it is discipleship. Their progress toward becoming Christlike or even starting to call on His name as Lord will most likely not resemble my journey. I want Jeremiah 29.13 to be fulfilled in my life (You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.) and in the lives of others around me. Encourage, edify, instruct others in following in His steps and do so with equal amounts of patience and perseverance. My Christ has been unbelievably patient with my stumbling into sanctification; therefore I must approach others with humility, knowing I have grieved His heart more times than I can count with my three steps forward, and two back (sometimes that ratio is reversed). Holiness-sanctification is not earned, it is acquired. We can never be haughty or smug about any new progress in His direction.
We are all sinners who have been made saints by the grace of God. May we all grow in that grace toward each other and toward Him.