This week we begin our journey into the Lenten season. More precisely, we begin our journey toward the cross. Who has articulated the significance of the cross more powerfully than the apostle Paul? With little exaggeration, Paul claims that the cross of Jesus changed everything, from the history of the world to the hearts and lives of individual believers.

If we were to press Paul to articulate how his life changed because of the cross — and how our lives should change because of the cross — what do you think he would say? I think he would say: Because of the cross, we now live under grace. For Paul, that means two things. First, we are justified by grace; that is, we are saved, redeemed, given the gift of salvation. But Paul would hasten to add: We are also sanctified by grace. Sanctification is the process of being made holy. It is the process of letting go of our old life and walking more and more in newness of life (see Romans 6:1-4). It is the process of becoming less like we were and more like Jesus. And we don’t do it on our own — we don’t do it in our own resolve or our own power. By grace, we have access to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Tony Hopkins is the senior pastor of Greenwood First Baptist Church. He can be reached at