The journey toward holiness is usually in small, gradual steps as well. God’s desire is that we be increasingly conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). Like having braces adjusted every couple of weeks, this gradual growth involves incremental change over time.
We are instructed in 2 Peter 1:5-8,
Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I’ve been told that the first day after the orthodontist adjusts braces, the patient feels discomfort. But as the teeth move another one-to-two tenths of a millimeter closer to their desired destination, the pain subsides until the next adjustment. The journey toward holiness can be very uncomfortable as well. We have to take it one step at a time.
God is like an orthodontist. He presses us so that we are more and more like his Son. He lovingly uses difficulties, disappointments and a host of other adjusting techniques to move us incrementally to become more and more like Jesus. This is the progressive part of sanctification.
The orthodontist works to bring a beautiful smile. As we become more and more like Christ, the smile of God’s pleasure is upon us!