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Note to Self: Sanctification is Slow

Sanctification is a process—an extremely slow process—for us all. Comprehending truth, applying truth, mortifying indwelling sin, cultivating the fruit of the Spirit—it’s a process that usually takes place by small increments over a lifetime. Normally, people don’t grow dramatically as the result of a single sermon or sermon series. And neither do you. Look at it this way: for ordinary pastors, the slow process of sanctification is a form of job security.

Too often I expect those I serve to comprehend and apply God’s Word quickly when it has taken me many years. I easily forget how much time my theological journey has taken. I am glad John Newton didn’t forget. As a wise and a patient pastor, he recognized this truth. He wrote,

I have been thirty years forming my own views; and, in the course of this time, some of my hills have sunk, and some of my valleys have risen: but, how unreasonable would it be to expect all this should take place in another person; and that, in the course of a year or two.¹

So let me ask you: ordinary pastor, what are your expectations of those you serve? Are you patient with them? Or do you expect them to comprehend quickly what took you years to grasp? Understanding truth takes place slowly and gradually. And applying it takes place slowly and gradually. That is why our preaching must be accompanied with “complete patience” (2 Timothy 4:2).

This post is part of a series entitled “Ordinary Pastors” and is adapted from a message I preached at T4G 2010, which was published in a compilation of sermons from that conference entitled The Unadjusted Gospel (Crossway, 2012. Used by permission.)

¹Richard Cecil, Memoirs of the Author: And General Remarks on His Life, Connections, and Character, in The Works of the Rev. John Newton, 3rd ed. (London: Hamilton, Adams, & Co., 1820; Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985), 1:101.