God is completely sovereign. His grace, working through the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit, is sufficient to both save us from sin and “sanctify” us (make us holy).
God gets all the glory for anything we do that is good or pleasing to Him.
Some people will disagree with much of that. Others, who might somewhat agree with it would want to add something.
Both groups might raise some of the following questions. “Don’t we work with God to live holy lives?” “Are we simply passive in sanctification?” “Are you saying we just wait for God to do everything for us and in us while we just live eat, drink and be merry?”
These questions expose a fundamental issue about the power of the gospel. This issue is being stirred up by a Tsunami of books on restoring the concept of the gospel as the means of sanctification. These books have been attacked for putting forward the proposition that salvation and sanctification are totally the gracious work of God in us, through the completed work of Christ for us.
The concern of many critics is that if we go around proclaiming that both our salvation and our sanctification are gracious gifts of a sovereign God, people might start to conclude that our choices about our behavior, attitudes, and lifestyles are irrelevant. Christians might decide not to resist sin or strive for obedience to God, since God is the only one who can keep us from sin or cause us to obey. If God is controlling it all, we might as well not resolve to yell at our kids less, tell our spouse that we love them more, act more patient in traffic, or even lay off the Doritos.
The concern is very much like that which was leveled at the Reformers.
Such criticisms of what might be called “gospel-centered sanctification” miss the fundamental fact that sanctification, from start to finish, is God’s work. They also miss that those who see it as such do indeed understand that God does that work through a process that includes creating a resolve to strive for a more holy life.
That is the clear message behind Scripture such as 2 Thes. 1:11:
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power. (ESV)