I have been wrestling with these two for a few weeks as my studies, personal reflections and experiences all merge.
In theory, we are justified by God. (By theory, I do not suggest that it does not actually happen, but rather in our being); in practice, we are not yet fully sanctified; my actions do not reveal my being at all times.
What then are my responsibilities as a Christian. Do I have the responsibility to spend time in prayer and reading the Bible? Do I have the responsibility to provide spiritual direction? Do I have the responsibility to witness to Christ at all times? Obviously the answer is yes, but the problem is when we focus primarly on these actions we can forget the purpose of our life (or some may call it the “Goal of Vocation”).
I am reminded about my Young Life area director who proudly claimed that he has had quiet time for 11 straight years, having never missed a morning (that was 6 years ago, so perhaps now it is like 17 years). He then tried to impose this practice upon the rest us suggesting that we would not fulfill our ministry effectively if we did not do likewise. Yet as a college kid, I knew that in theory it did not matter because God loves me regardless of my efforts.
However, the damage was that at the same time, I became static and did not seek to actively engage God through prayer and meditation because the bar had been set so high I knew my practices would never surmount.
I’ve noticed in myself and in others around seminary, that the same feelings can easily arise. Prayer and meditation on the scriptures becomes a nice theory, but not really a practice we participate in because we dilute everything (such as studying for an NT midterm) into spiritual practices. Once everything becomes spiritual practices, however, then nothing really becomes a spiritual discipline.
Therefore, we will constantly be in this justification-sanctification, theory-practice tension, but if we remain static and do not attempt to live into the particular practices (prayer, scripture and spiritual direction) which we theoritically have been given freedom and license to, then we have failed to live out our goal of vocation which is as Witnesses to Jesus Christ.
*with apologies for the intentional repitition of Karl Barth and Eugene Peterson without citation.