Have you ever wondered why God’s sanctifying power has not been more significant in your life? Have you been a Christian for a long time and been frustrated by your lack of moral improvement? I know I sure sometimes am. One way in which I have found it helpful over the years to think of the indwelling work of God has been to envision God as changing me from within, based on the room that I give Him to bring about that change. As a Christian philosopher, I believe that humans have the power of free will. God has given us the power to control the extent to which He transforms our lives. Whenever we are receptive to His transforming power, He more easily shapes our dispositions. But whenever we are unreceptive, He does not impose himself upon us in a way that would undermine our freedoms. God chooses not to control us, and as such we do have some power over our sanctification.
It has been helpful for me to think of the input materials in my life – the information and experiences that I am absorbing – as being the materials with which God works. When I feed my mind profitable and uplifting materials, God can more easily transform my character. But when I feed my mind garbage, God has fewer resources with which to transform me. Profitable things go in, and profitable character change results. But if garbage goes in, then garbage is what will come out.What is the practical upshot of this principle? What is the upshot of my belief that God has given me a power of choice in how much I want His sanctification in my life? One result is cultural. In part, this principle is the reason why my wife and I do not have a television in our house. If we did, then it would be a lot more difficult for us to control our materialistic impulses. After seeing the attractive television advertisements, we would always be wanting more things. We do not want the input of television advertisements because we think that they would shape our character in undesirable ways. They would make us have urges for things that we do not need.
The same principle works on the positive side as well. When I meditate on the Scriptures and on other uplifting things, I am giving God the materials He needs to improve my character. This lesson – learning to make one’s life inputs uplifting and profitable – has been essential to my success as a Christian. Cutting out dangerous or depressing inputs and adding profitable ones has made my life happier and more successful than it would otherwise be.