Michelangelo was asked the question how he could make a beautiful sculpture like his “Moses” out of a large block of marble. He famously answered that he simply began and chipped away everything that wasn’t Moses.
And this is a paradigm for us....
Clearly for us, the Lord must chip away everything in us which is not Jesus. Yes, everything that is not of the Lord must go. St. Paul said, “I live, no not I, Christ lives in me! (Gal 2:20). And thus, the Lord chips away at all in us that is not of him that we may become the image of God in Christ.
For a long time the primary conception of sanctification has been one of growth and change into something. I rather like this imagery. And it fits how the Lord speaks of pruning away that which impedes the purpose of the vine. Is it really that we grow into something or is it that God is ever at work trimming away what is not of Christ? Finally, the work complete, Christ in us is left. Not the eradication of the person that is me but the fulfillment of the new creation that is Christ in me, the hope of glory...
It also fits well with the words of Paul especially in Colossians about the great task of self-control and self-denial that is the mark of our lives in Christ and the fruitful work of the Spirit. In many respects, it is more helpful to acknowledge that sanctification involves at least as much "no" to self (the sinful nature and its desires) as it is "yes" to Christ (and His new life planted in us in baptism).
The authentic self is not the one parading itself in independence and arrogance before God. That self is the false self, controlled by sinful nature and deprived of the fullness of the image of God. The authentic self is the one redeemed by Christ, reborn in baptism, and set apart by the Spirit to live in the perfect communion with the Trinity that was and is man's glory. It is the deception of Satan and of much of new style Christianity that seeks the natural man and his spiritual nature as recoverable goal instead of his death and resurrection in Christ to become the new creature that fulfills His intended purpose.
This also explains why sanctification is painful. The chipping and snipping away of the old, the extraneous and the unfruitful is neither easy nor is it without the consequence of suffering. But it is this suffering that completes Christ's affliction (see Colossians) and becomes the fruitful suffering that produces and does not destroy.
In the end, all that is not Jesus must be chipped away. All is not our new self born of baptism, which is God's creation, must be chipped away, bit by bit, until we become what God has declared us to be and made us to be in baptism -- the children of His promise in creation. No one and nothing can prevent God's purpose in creation and in the redemption of His fallen creation -- except us! Our refusal of His grace is then the greatest sin for it deprives us of that which has the power to restore our true self to us.
HT to Msgr Charles Pope