In previous lessons we have seen the importance of repentance from dead works and of faith. These two elements are the keys to receiving God’s salvation. We have also seen the importance of casting out demons as a key to wholeness in Christ. This lesson builds on these concepts and looks more specifically at the issue of overcoming sin, sanctification and how to live a holy life.
WE ARE JUSTIFIED, FORGIVEN AND ACCEPTED IN CHRIST
The word “justified” (Gk: dikaloo) means to be declared righteous, to be innocent or acquitted by a court of law. In other words, a justified person is not condemned by the judge. It is just as if he did nothing wrong. The Bible says that the believers are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3:24). That means that God does not condemn us. God sees us as innocent – just as if we had never sinned! Why? Because at the cross, Jesus Christ, God’s Son, took the guilt and condemnation that we deserve for our sins. He paid the price. By trusting in Christ and turning to God, we receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice. We are declared by God to be righteous. We are forgiven. “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace,” (Ephesians 1:7).
As Christians, people who have turned to God, and who trust Christ, not ourselves, for salvation, we already have God’s forgiveness and acceptance. This is wonderful! It means that we do not have to strive in our own power to be good enough for God. We don’t have to be perfect or to achieve some standard of holiness to be able to come into God’s presence and have an audience with Him. The blood of Jesus Christ gives us access to God, so as to be able to know Him, to receive Him and to receive answers to our prayers (Hebrews 10:19,22; Romans 5:1,2).
A person unsure of whether they are forgiven by God will not be sure if they are accepted by God. Forgiveness and acceptance go together. Forgiveness depends on trusting the grace of God enough to confess our sins, turn to God and believe that through Jesus’ sacrifice we are forgiven. It does not depend first of all on living a holy life. Even baby Christians have forgiveness, and it is important for them to know it. “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” (1 John 2:12).
It is not just that God forgives and and only tolerates us. He also accepts us. He loves us. We are now “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). Even if we sin and spoil our relationship with God for the moment, God is waiting for us to come back to Him like the Father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:20). All we have to do is turn back to God, and confess our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We can then continue our relationship with God. This is how to walk in justification. We must believe that God forgives us when we turn back to Him and confess our sin, and then we must go on confidently. This faith pleases God. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)
Our justification is wonderful, and it forms the basis for us to always be able to go on in God. Yet the highest and greatest experiences with God come to those who have made spiritual progress towards maturity beyond this level. God wants to work in us to do His will more consistently (Philippians 2:13,14). He wants to form His character in us (Romans 8:29). This is what happens through sanctification.
WHAT IS SANCTIFICATION?
Sanctification (Gk: hagiasmos) means literally “making holy”. It also means “consecration” or “setting apart” something for a special holy purpose.
In the Christian life, sanctification has two parts – God’s part and ours. In many things in the Christian life God is playing the major role – and yet we have our part to do also – which is to respond in faith and obedience to what God is saying.
In sanctification, our part is to offer to God our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) – in fact to consciously offer our whole spirit, soul and body completely to God so that we devote ourselves to forever do His will and not our own. Our sanctification cannot be complete than the sincerity and the understanding with which we make this dedication to God.
God’s part in our sanctification is to actually change us by the operation of His blood, His Word and His Spirit. We are sanctified by God’s grace – his unmerited favour working in our hearts and lives. We have to trust God to work in us. He is the One who produces godly character in us, the fruit of the Spirit and the ability to overcome sin consistently.
Sanctification can also be defined as: “possessing the mind of Christ, and all the mind of Christ.” God wants us to allow our minds to be renewed (Romans 12:2). Our thinking and attitudes must change if we are to grow in God (Ephesians 4:23). Many of our thinking patterns, values and priorities have been shaped by the world system and not by God. We must relearn many things. “We have the mind of Christ” legally (1 Corinthians 2:16). But to actually think Christ’s thoughts and allow Him to rule our behaviour we will need to submit to the work of the Holy Spirit so as to appropriate our inheritance in this area.
Sanctification also relates to emotional healing, or a changed heart. God wants remove all negative attitudes of despair, fear and rejection from us and give us a hopeful, joyful, faith-filled attitude. He wants to remove all bitterness and resentment from us. A person who is hurt or bitter needs to receive God’s grace so he or she can truly forgive those who have caused the hurt, and get free of every root of bitterness. Wrong heart attitudes such as pride, envy, impatience, resentment, rejection, selfishness, rebellion, independence and so on are the fruit of an unsanctified heart. A full sanctification in God will remove these wrong heart attitudes from us. Sometimes the term “inner healing” is used in relation to the sanctification of the emotions and memories in our soul.
Santification and holiness also means the development of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and other qualities of godly character. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:23,24). The most important of all here is love. In fact, growth in God means growth in love, for God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is the greatest and most important quality that a Christian can have (1 Corinthians 13:13). A definition of Christian love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
Comparing our lives with this description of love can give us an idea of how far we have really progressed in sanctification as God defines it.
It is worth mentioning that the truly sanctified or holy person has the fruit of joy. To think that gloominess and sadness is a mark of holiness is to be deceived. The Bible calls us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16).
Sanctification produces other qualities of godly character such as courage, endurance, truthfulness, honesty and many others. Sanctification is rooted in humilty – the correct view of God and oneself which leads one to hear correction from God and others, to put down selfish desires, and to obey God from the heart. The more truly humble a person is, the more God’s grace will work in his or her life to produce all the other elements of godly character.
Sanctification means overcoming sin. As God comes in and fills the life, darkness and deception and evil desire is rooted out and cast out. The process of sanctification will change our motives, our thinking, our speaking, our behaviour and our actions. The old nature will be crucified (Galatians 5:24) and what it produces will be stopped. But most of all God will manifest Himself through a sanctified life.
A sanctified person will be like God in His character and personality.
Sanctification is an ongoing work in the life of the Christian. There may be moments of special consecration and powerful change worked by God, but a Christian could easily deceive himself if he considers he has “arrived” already as far as sanctification is concerned. We should always be diligent to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). The salvation of the soul – the mind, will and emotions, is usually never quite completely wrought in any Christian before he or she dies. But it is important that we receive as much of this work of sanctification in this life as possible. To oppose or resist this process is to choose sin and rebellion against God.
WE CANNOT ACHIEVE SANCTIFICATION BY SELF-EFFORT
Many Christians make a mistake, trusting in their own power to make them holy for God. It doesn’t matter how many promises you make to God or to yourself – if you are still trusting your own power you will not stop sinning. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). It is not just a matter of deciding, “That’s it! From now on I sin no more.” Of course you must desire to stop sinning or you will not stop sinning. The person who doesn’t want to stop sinning is not saved, because there is no longer repentance in their life! But just deciding to stop sinning doesn’t guarantee sucess.
The key to overcoming sin is not trying harder. It is not imposing rigid and harsh treatment of the body on oneself (Colossians 2:21-23). Isolating oneself from the world is not God’s plan for holiness. Jesus told us to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13,14). We must go into all the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15) – not run away from the world. We must love the people as God does. Self-isolation is not the key. Indeed, the Bible says “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.” (Proverbs 18:1).
Criticising oneself or condemning oneself does not produce holiness, although it is important to judge ourselves at times (1 Corinthians 11:31). “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1). If we know we have sinned, we should confess it, repent of it and look to God – not meditate on our sinfulness. If we don’t know where we have sinned, then we should humble ourselves and ask God to make things clearer to us. We should resist Satan’s condemnation and accusations.
Trying to keep the laws of God does not make us holy. It will either condemn us – if we feel we have failed to keep the law – or it will make us self-righteous – “God I thank you that I am not like other men.” (Luke 18:11). Pride in what we have done through our own power is sin (1 John 2:16).
Worse than trying to be holy through keeping God’s laws in our power is trying to be holy be keeping man-made rules which have been added to the commandments of God. Such rules are typically special rules for how to eat and dress – or rules about how to have church services. When we focus our energy on keeping man-made rules we are far from God (Matthew 15:8,9). We become like the Pharisees, who were very proud of their efforts to keep the traditions of their elders. None of this will lead to the holiness of heart and life which God desires. God wants mercy, not sacrifice. The Scripture verses found in Matthew 15:11, Hebrews 13:9, Romans 14:17 and 1 Timothy 4:3-5 should make it clear to us that rules about food are not the key to sanctification. Rather, they can become an obsessive distraction.
As we have seen is lesson 4, the law was designed to show us our sinfulness (Romans 7:7). The law can show us our need for forgiveness and sanctification, but in itself it never produces what we need for salvation. What we need for forgiveness and sanctification was provided for only at the cross of Christ.
Romans 7:14-24 describes a man who is trying to overcome sin and be sanctified through his own will-power. Paul describes it as follows: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practise; but what I hate, that I do.” (Romans 7:15). He goes on to say, “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practise.” (Romans 7:18,19).
Note the accent on personal will. That the phrase “I will” is so often repeated here is not an accident. Despite the good resolutions and willingness, the power of sin is still ruling. It requires something more. Some have suggested that Paul here is talking about himself before he was saved. In any case it is clear that the man of Romans 7 is sincere – but he is bound by a power of sin he can’t control. He would like to do what is right. Paul says here, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man” (vs 22). He is not indifferent to the law of God. But here he is trying to overcome sin by the power of self, armed with the knowledge of the law. This kind of attempt is doomed to failure in anyone’s life. In our flesh dwells no good thing. It takes a life lived in Christ, in His power, in His grace to overcome sin.
It is clear therefore that sanctification requires more than simply an act of the will. Our wills are involved however, as we will see – but not directly in efforts to keep the law. Our wills must be used to keep our focus on Jesus. Our wills must surrender to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Keeping focussed on Jesus will enable the Spirit to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18).
The normal way to keep focussed on Jesus is to focus on His Word. Sanctification is part of our salvation which we must receive. Like justification, sanctification is by faith in Jesus (Acts 26:18). “Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Therefore we can see that faith is the key to sanctification, through which all the other gifts and means by which we receive God’s grace are received and made effective.
SANCTIFICATION IS BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS
“Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace.” (Hebrews 10:29).
The Scripture teaches us that the blood of the Jesus sanctifies us. Not only does it justify us or make us right with God – it also sanctifies us. It changes us.
The first step for any person coming to God is to believe in the power of the blood of Jesus. This blood represents the payment for our sin. It takes sin away. We must believe that through the blood of Jesus we are forgiven. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Knowing we are forgiven and free from guilt, we can serve God with a clear conscience and without fear (Hebrews 9:14). We can go forward in our walk with God.
But the blood means more than forgiveness. It involves sanctification. It is the blood of the covenant. A real Christian is in blood covenant relationship with God. It is time we realised what this means. Blood covenants, still practised today in some parts of the world – are the most serious types of agreements between two men. Their blood is actually mixed. Being in blood covenant with someone means “All that I have is yours, and all that you have is mine.” We must realise that this is our relationship to God. All that we have is His (1 Corinthians 6:19), and yet all that He has is ours in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:21; Romans 8:17; Romans 8:32; Matthew 7:7). The way this works in practice is detailed in the New Testament or New Covenant. This is another reason why it is important to study the New Testament. It is your contract with God.
When we realise that the blood of Jesus means that God has bought us and all that we have and are belongs to him – this has a powerful affect on our lives if we truly believe. We realise that we are no longer our own to go off and do whatever we choose. We must now listen to God. The knowledge of this blood covenant can change us.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A TOTAL CONSECRATION
The knowledge of the blood covenant we are in as Christians calls for a conscious acknowledgement, consecration and dedication of ourselves to God. Paul writes, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1).
We are called to consciously dedicate our bodies completely to God. This is something we must do. It must be a faith response towards God. It means that we are totally available for whatever God wants us to do. It means that our eyes, our ears, our hands, our feet, our mouth and our brains are given willingly over to God’s purposes. It means that our sexuality is given over to God’s control. It means that our eating will be for the glory of God only (1 Corinthians 10:31).
The truth is that our body, soul and spirit form a unity and are linked together in many important ways. Dedicating the body to God completely will affect also the mind, the will and the emotions. God will transform us in every way – in our thinking, in our behaviour, in our words, in our actions – if He truly has the keys to our lives which we have voluntarily given back to Him. The renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2) can only truly take place in the life of someone who has dedicated and offered his or her body to God.
God is interested in the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Much of our thinking may still be influenced by Satan through the worldly values which we have received in the past. There are so many worldly principles which must be abandoned if we are going to think with the mind of Christ. It would be the subject of many books to list and discuss them all. But the basic principles on which we must base our new thinking are as follows:
a. God’s Word must be loved and sought daily. It is the final authority and the voice of truth for my life. God’s Word can be trusted. It should be acted upon.
b. I am now a child of love and am to walk in love. Every departure from the principle of love is a betrayal of God.
c. God is a good Father to me. He already loves me and accepts me in Christ, and I can safely depend on Him to meet all my needs, spiritually, emotionally, financially and in every area (Philippians 4:13). I can find total fulfilment in my relationship with God and in doing His will.
d. All voices which promise help or happiness through philosophies or ways contrary to the principles of God’s Word have their roots in the evil one and lead to death if followed.
e. Everything which does not glorify God or meet people’s real needs is worthless and a waste of time.
f. Money, worldly influence, education and talents are not to be trusted in, but to be used for the glory of God.
g. Every good thing I have or am is because of God’s grace, goodness, love and power. All thought or action independent of God is rooted in pride and will only hinder the flow of God’s blessings.
h. Jesus Christ is the centre of my life in every area.
A total dedication to God implies a dedication to constant Spirit-led prayer. The Bible exhorts us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to “continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2), to be “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). In the lesson “Prayer – Intimacy with God” we see in more detail what God really wants here.
This kind of prayer is only possible by the power and working of the Holy Spirit. We should aim for it, depending on the Holy Spirit, the power of the cross and every other revelation God gives us, especially through His Word the Bible. We cannot achieve it simply through self-effort. But we can and should ask God to work in us to produce this kind of prayer life.
What does this total consecration mean in practise? Firstly it means being willing to be willing to worship and obey God always and live for Him in everything. It does not mean punishing oneself or inflicting oneself with duties we imagine God might be pleased with. God far prefers wholehearted obedience to man-inspired sacrifices (1 Samuel 15:22).
Secondly this consecration means self denial and taking up the cross daily. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). We cannot be totally consecrated to God without “coming after Jesus” and Jesus tells us what will be necessary.
a. We must deny ourself. This means saying no to the demands of self. It means saying no to selfish desires, the easiness and comfort that our flesh wants for itself, the “right” to indulge the sinful nature and to violate God’s law of love. It means saying no to pleasures which don’t come from God and don’t lead us to God.
b. We must take up our cross daily. Every day we will have opportunity to die to ourself. Paul said, “I die daily.” (1 Corinthians 15:31). Taking up the cross means surrendering to God’s will when it is different to our own will, even when the path of God’s will means passing through pain and suffering. However, we know that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:31). The more we consent to be united with Jesus in the likeness of his death, the more we will share in his resurrection power (Romans 6:5). That is true even in this life.
c. We must follow Him. This means seeking to be in His presence always through prayer, modelling our lives on His life, identifying ourself with His nature and His purposes, and gladly obeying His commands.
RECKONING OURSELVES DEAD TO SIN BUT ALIVE TO GOD
“What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptised into His death? … Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin … Likewise you also, reckon yourself to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. … For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:1-3,6,11,14)
This passage contains many important revelations and some important instructions. The truth is, Jesus has already paid for our total deliverance on the cross. We belong 100% to Him. Let us believe that.
The sinful nature which still resists God has been legally dealt with. God has no program for this sinful nature except crucifixion. He does not want to educate it, to heal it, to accept it or to love it. It must be killed. It has been killed, legally, at the cross. Our old man was crucified with him.
Faith takes the Word of God and accepts it, even when the reason can’t fully grasp it. It is a revelation of major importance for our sanctification that Jesus has already provided the execution of our sinful nature. All we need to do is to consider it so. Reckon yourself to be dead indeed to sin.
What you think about yourself in relation to this determines the way you will be. Romans 6 is about overcoming sin and living for God throughidentifcation with Christ.
If I believe that through the cross I am dead to sin, that I am now a child of God, a child of love and that old things have passed away then all this will be increasingly manifested in my life.
If I don’t believe these things – if I look to my own reasoning, based on my past experiences and on Satan’s doubts, then I will fall into line with what I am believing about myself. God says that in Christ I have power over the evil one (1 John 4:4) and over temptation (1 Cor 10:13). If I believe that I have no power left to resist Satan or temptation, disregarding God’s word and looking to the negative things I feel or think, then I will fall into sin.
Let the thought that you are dead to sin grow in your mind and your thinking. All those temptations that come – think of them as coming to a dead man who cannot respond. You are in Christ and through faith in Him His resurrection power is keeping you safe (1 Peter 1:5).
We act according to what we think. If you think you are dead to sin you will act like you are dead to sin. It takes faith in God’s Word. We must consider that God’s word changes us NOW!
MEDITATION ON THE WORD AS A KEY TO OVERCOMING
The Word of God is a major key to our sanctification. We should not underestimate the power of God’s Word to sanctify us. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17). To work in our lives, the Word should be heard often by us. It should be studied, understood, meditated upon, believed, confessed, prayed and most of all, obeyed. We then need to act on the Word or we deceive ourselves, thinking that hearing is enough (James 1:22).
The renewing of our minds takes place in the light of God’s Word. There are a multitude of revelations of God and His ways which the Holy Spirit can reveal to us through the Bible. Reading and studying the Bible will help us to think according to what is true, what is real and what is really important. It will give us insights into the character qualities and attitudes God is looking for in us. It will increase our knowledge. And it will get our hearts and minds off worthless things that have no eternal value.
As we read and study the Bible prayerfully, we will begin to see Jesus through the Word. The Word of God is compared to a mirror (James 1:23). It reveals who Jesus is and it helps us to see how we are and how we need to change. Change happens as a result of the Word and the Spirit working together in our life. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Jesus is called “the Word of God” (Revelation 19:13; John 1:1). The Scriptures testify of Jesus (John 5:39). And He is our Saviour, the one who will change us. Jesus is the One who loves us more than life itself. If you love Him you will love His Word (John 14:21,23). Let God’s Word fully work in your life and it will produce the change God desires.
There are many truths that must enter our innermost being. Many of these truths are revealed even through very small portions of Scripture – a verse or a part of a verse for example. The Holy Spirit will sometimes cause a particular truth to come alive to us. When this happens it is very good to turn that Scripture over in your mind again and again. Read it out loud over and over until you know it perfectly. Think about how it applies to your life. Say it over and over until it enters into your heart. Let that Scripture unite with your imagination and your deepest emotions. Then the living water of the Holy Spirit will flow in your being.
“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16).
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8).
The key to success in the spiritual life or in any other domain in which God wants you involved is much meditation on the Word of God. It is more important to meditate deeply than widely. Even Science has shown that the more you repeat the same words the more parts of your brain are used. By meditating much and repeatedly on the same part of the Word it will enter your heart and it will transform your life. The Holy Spirit works to fix the Word deep in your heart when you fix your attention on it. When the Word arrives in the soft part of our hearts it produces faith, just as a seed in good ground produces a plant. This is the faith we need to overcome the world. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” (1 John 5:4).
We should not think that God’s plan for us is to arrive at perfection through isolation from others. God has placed us in a body of believers – the church. The members in the church, if they are walking in Christ, will edify us and build us up in our relationship with God. The messages of a spirit-filled, Word-filled preacher will build us up and give good revelation to us. There are also excellent preaching messages available in many parts of the world available on video or audio cassette. Listening to these messages can help us greatly in growing in the Lord.
We have to be continually in tune with what God is saying and bear in mind what God wants for us. Otherwise we will begin to listen to other voices rather than the voice of the Master. For this reason, it is good to be reminded of the things of God again and again. (2 Peter 1:12). It is wrong to switch off our minds when we hear repeated in preaching ideas we have already heard before. God’s word is so precious and every repetition of it has the potential to build us stronger and to establish us more in God.
Not only God’s Word is important for our sanctification, but also our words. “Death and life is in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Our words are either in harmony with God’s Word, or they are not. We very rarely rise above the level of our confession, or what we say. Jesus is called, “the High Priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1). What we get from God will be influenced by what we are saying down here. If I believe God’s Word in my heart, what I say with my mouth will reflect it, for “those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart” (Matthew 15:18) and “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Having the spirit of faith, “we believe, and therefore we speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13).
If we find that negative words our coming out of our mouth, it is a sign that our heart needs changing. We should determine to say less (James 1:19) and to listen with more patience. Listen to God and also try to understand what people are really saying. We should allow these outbursts of foolish words to become signposts for us as to where the problem in our heart is. Then we can search the Scripture to get God’s heart on the matter and allow God’s Word to change our thinking in that area.
Many things are spoken about the importance of controlling the tongue. “If anyone thinks he is religious, and does not bride his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26). “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body.” (James 3:2). “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it on the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36,37).
Faith operates through words. So do most of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “He shall have whatsoever he says” (Mark 11:23). Words are very important. Be faithful to God in your use of them, and then they will work for you, being channels for God’s blessing to flow into the lives of many. “All things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23; Matthew 17:20). So believe that through your tongue will only come words of faith, hope, love and wisdom, which will build others up according to the need of the moment (Ephesians 4:29).
DEPENDENCE ON THE SPIRIT OF GOD AS A KEY TO OVERCOMING
The knowledge of the Word alone will not give us the power to overcome sin and be all that God wants us to be. The power to be changed into the image of God comes through the Holy Spirit. Just as evil spirits are at work to lead us to follow evil ways of deception, so the Holy Spirit wants to work in us, through us and with us to produce what God wants.
The Holy Spirit is much more powerful than any evil spirit. Nevertheless, He does not violate our will. Only evil spirits attempt to do this. You must cherish the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit more and more as He guides you into all truth. The more you walk in truth the more deeply the Spirit of God will be able to work in you – as long as you keep trusting God and remain willing. If you want God’s way with all your heart, if you hunger and thirst after righteousness, you will be filled (Matthew 5:6).You must be filled with the Holy Spirit always to fully fulfil God’s plan (Eph 5:18).
The importance of being filled with the Holy Spirit daily cannot be over- emphasised. In the early church, even to serve at tables, the requirement the men had to be “of good reptutation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). To return to apostolic power and love in the church we must make being full of the Spirit a major priority in our daily lives. The first thing we must do every morning is to seek God until we are full of the Spirit. It may be necessary to wake up earlier in order to have time to do this. May God help us.
We must not set too many rules about what may or may not happen when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. If someone touches a 220 volt power source different reactions are possible. Some may fall over – others might shake. To others, nothing may seem to be happening. The Holy Spirit is God and has unlimited power – much more than a household electricity supply. It is hard to say that being really filled with the Holy Spirit would never produce physcial manifestations such as trembling, shaking, laughing or falling over. We must be careful not to decide that we will limit the terms on which we will permit God to come and visit us. God is sovereign and has the right to do what he likes. Its not good to say, “Holy Spirit come, but only do those things our minds can accept easily and our theology can accommodate.”
All of God’s sanctification is by grace. It is God’s business to produce in us the fruit of the Spirit. Only He can make us holy. What is our part then? We must believe for Him to work, and co-operate with Him. And what is necessary for this? The answer is humility. Our spirituality is only limited by our pride and unbelief in the final analysis. We can always advance more if we are willing to humble ourselves more deepy.
“Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:5,6)
God is always wanting to give more grace. Paul the apostle said, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” Grace from God is always undeserved. Grace comes through the Holy Spirit. A correct relationship with the Holy Spirit is what we need then in order to receive the grace God wants us to have.
The way to receive more grace is firstly to recognise that you need it, and secondly to humble yourself. God gives grace to the humble, and the more you humble yourself, the more grace you will receive.
Fundamental to the idea of humilty is the knowledge that we are not sources of goodness, but only reflectors of God’s goodness, as it were. Just as the moon shines only because of the sun, so we can be holy only through receiving moment by moment the life of God in and through us. Without Him we are nothing, and we can do nothing of any value (1 Corinthians 13:1-3; John 15:5). Its only God’s mercy and power that keeps us alive.
A humble man knows he should wait on God. We should let God be the initiator of our faith and actions, just as Jesus did (John 5:19,20; John 7:18; John 12:49,50). We should be prepared to wait for the Holy Spirit to lead us (Romans 8:14), rather than running ahead based on what we think we know we should do. We should wait on God continually (Hosea 12:6; Psalm 25:5).
One way to humble ourselves is to fast or stop eating for a while. During times of fasting we can hear the voice of God more easily. He will bring correction to us. If we truly humble ourselves, we will be willing to listen to His correction and obey Him.
Sometimes God uses other Christians to correct us. Proverbs 12:1 says, “He who loves instruction loves knowledge; but he who hates reproof is stupid.”
God wants to use other people, especially people in the local church, to correct us and build us up in the things of God. It takes humility to accept this. God will not always deal with us directly. If we want to be humble, we must learn to recognise our need for the rest of the body of Christ.
Our growth in sanctification and holiness is worked out in the context of a life of fellowship with other Christians. We need the other parts of the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We need apostles, prophets. evangelist and pastor/teachers till we all come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13). God has given these ministries to the Universal Church until all these purposes mentioned in Ephesians 4:12,13 are fulfilled. We would be foolish to reject them if we want to be fully sanctified.
Living in relationship with the Holy Spirit is very important to our sanctification. We cannot be holy in and of ourselves. Rather, our holiness is really the outshining of the life and character of God in us through a relationship with Him that must be maintained all the time.
Jesus told us to abide in Him (John 15:1-7). We abide in Christ not only by feeding on His Word in our hearts, but also by learning what pleases Him and what doesn’t. Through our relationship with the Holy Spirit, we will learn through experience which things quench his presence and working in us and which things please Him. Abiding in Christ will happen when we learn to surrender our will to the will of the Spirit, and stay in the conscious presence of God. It means letting the peace of God rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). It means settling down in the presence and under the influence of Christ’s Lordship.
Obviously prayer, thanksgiving, praise and worship are all important areas for the Spirit- filled Christian to cultivate. These things please God if they are done in spirit and truth (John 4:23,24). See the lesson on prayer for more details. To be a true worshipper all the time requires a high level of sanctification in the believer. Worship brings intimacy and fruitfulness in the life of the believer.
Books could be written about each of these aspects of our relationship with God. This introduction is presented with the purpose that it will motivate and encourage you to draw near to God and let Him work deeply in you.
FAITH IN JESUS AS SANCTIFIER AND HIS OTHER OFFICES
The Bible declares, “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 10:30)
Jesus is both our sanctifier and our sanctification. It is important to keep our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). We can see Him in the Word revealed to us as the one “who is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25). Since salvation is for the mind as well as the spirit, we know that Jesus is able to save us from bad thinking.
The more we see Jesus the more we will be like Him (1 John 3:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18). If we can know Him, receive Him and trust Him more and more as Lord, as Governor, as Healer, Deliverer, as God, as Shepherd, as Righteousness, as Victory and in all His other offices and roles which He has towards us, then our sanctification and victory over sin will be so much stronger. The Holy Spirit would like to reveal Jesus more to us. That is one reason for which He was sent to us. (Acts 2:25; John 14:21-23; John 16:14).
DELIVERANCE AND EMOTIONAL HEALING AS STEPS IN SANCTIFICATION
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23,24)
We see in this passage that God is able and willing to sanctify us completely – spirit, soul and body.
At the new birth, we receive a new spirit – there is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This spirit is born of God and does not sin (1 John 3:9). However, we are exhorted in many places to be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Ephesians 4:22-24). Our mind, will and emotions are involved in an ongoing process of cleansing and sanctification.
The evil spirits which were at work in our minds and emotions are not necessarily all driven out at the point in time when we receive a new spirit. The wounds of the past are not all dealt with in an instant. It is necessary for us to co-operate with the Holy Spirit as we grow in the Lord and allow Him to heal our damaged souls, to renew our minds with His truth, and to drive out every spiritual power which resists the love and truth of God.
We have seen in lesson 13 that many Christians need deliverance from evil spirits. Driving them out of our minds and bodies is necessary, just as it was necessary for Joshua and the people of Israel to drive out the giants and heathen nations in the land of Canaan which had already been given to them by God’s promise. In the same way, we must drive out the enemies that have marred and damaged our souls before (or maybe even after) we turned to the Lord.
Driving out demons is not enough. If enemies enter your house and do damage there, it is not enough to drive them out. The damage they did while there must be repaired. In the same way, after driving out demons, the soul or body may still need healing.
The most powerful healing force is the love of God. Emotional healing or “inner healing” is basically believing in and receiving the love of God in our souls. This love can be received as we forgive those who wounded us. If we do not forgive men their trespasses against us, neither will our Father forgive us. It is therefore absolutely vital to forgive others – even when they don’t ask for forgiveness.
Sometimes a Christian is deceived regarding the guidance of God. When this leads to disappointment, we need to recognise and trust that God is faithful, but we have been deceived. We must be willing to forgive ourselves, because God is willing to forgive us also if we confess it.We must renounce any bitterness towards God for the disappointments we have experienced. God is not to blame. He is faithful and just. Rather, deception entered because of our pride and foolishness.
Renouncing bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness is at the heart of all inner healing. As we then wait in a trusting attitude before God, looking to Him, He will come and pour His healing love into our soul. He will plant seeds of hope in us, and give us a fresh motivation for life. All this is very important for people.
There is a wonderful promise for us in the book of Joel. “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, my great army which I sent among you.” (Joel 3:25).
If we have been unforgiving, God sends judgment against us (Matthews 18:35). But when we forgive others and humble ourselves before the Lord he will restore to us what the devil took. He will cause our lives to be beautiful testimonies of His grace and mercy.
THE ROLE OF SUFFERING IN OUR PERFECTION
The Scripture teaches that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” ( 2 Timothy 3:12).
While not all suffering is God’s plan for us, there are some kinds of suffering which will come to us in one form or another if we wholeheartedly seek to do the will of God.
Other suffering we experience because of our own lack of wisdom or knowledge. If you are proud or ignorant you can be deceived by the evil one in some decisions you make. The outcome of those decisions will lead to personal suffering.
It is much better to decide now that you need to seek humilty, wisdom, knowledge and love all the days of your life.
Suffering in sickness is not the will of God. Jesus took our diseases and carried our pains, and with His stripes we are healed. (Matthew 8:16,17)
Yet God both permits and uses suffering in our life to establish and settle us in all the will of God. He wants us to identify with Him in His suffering for a lost world.
“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourself also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” (1 Peter 4:1)
We need to prepare our minds for suffering – even be willing for it. Christians must be prepared to continue in the grace of God in the midst of sufferings, adversities, hardships and persectutions. Paul and Barnabas at one stage were “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.’ “.
There is much teaching in the New Testament regarding suffering and persecution. It is to be expected when we follow hard after God. Our loyalty to God will be challenged by Satan. He does not want us to plunder his kingdom. Only those who are determined by God’s grace to be faithful to Jesus through suffering will pass the test.
It seems though that God has a sovereign purpose even in suffering for which we can see no reason. If our attitude is right, he can use suffering to perfect our patience and prepare us to contain a greater measure of His glory.
Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18).
“This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will also deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
It is very important, in the midst of our suffering, to keep our eyes on the Lord and the invisible things of His spiritual kingdom. Only then will suffering produce what God intends.
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17,18)
Our sufferings for the Lord will be turned into glory, especially in the future life but at times even in this life. Suffering and persecution can be the fire in which all the impurities and weaknesses in our lives can be brought to the surface and eliminated. The Bible compares this process to the process of refining gold. To be purified, gold must be melted in the fire. All the impurites then come to the surface and can be eliminated.
God-ordained suffering in the life of the believer is always for our good. “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
One thing to also bear in mind is that God will be with us in our suffering to comfort our hearts, and make us able to comfort those who are suffering with different kinds of suffering (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Suffering will not last forever, but the positive results from it in our life will! Meditate on the promise and possibilities of the following verse.
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
THE HOPE OF PERFECTION AND MATURITY
In completing this study, it would be good to consider the fact that God already loves and and delights in us as believers in Him. He rejoices over us with gladness! (Zephaniah 3:17). This He does regarding all His children who are justified before Him through faith in Jesus.
Yet we have also seen that God has given us “exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these” we “may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4)
God promises to sanctify us completely and preserve our whole spirit, soul and body blameless before him at his coming. (1 Thessalonians 5:23,24).
Even in this life, God says that he will “sprinkle clean water” on us, cleanse us from all our filthiness and from all our idols. He promises to give us a new heart and put a new spirit within us. He promises to take the heart of stone out of our flesh and give us a heart of flesh. He promises to out His Spirit within us and cause us to walk in His statutes, keep his judgments, and do them (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
He also promises to put His laws in our hearts, and write them in our minds (Hebrews 10:16). Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25) and “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
God is able to “purify our hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9), “perfect, strengthen, settle and establish us” (1 Peter 5:10).
God has given us many promises. Our response should be to believe them, expect God to do it, and humbly rejoice in the presence of God always.
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and of spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
Our attitude should be like that of Paul the apostle:
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14,15)
“Now unto Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Saviour, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24,25).