A couple of weeks ago we looked at God’s first work in the heart of man, salvation. This week we will look at the second work, sanctification, which is worked by the Holy Spirit and is followed by living a life that is holy and pleasing to God.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 NKJV “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;”
To be sanctified simply means to be set apart, to be holy. So why do we need to have an experience of sanctification if we are saved? When we are saved our sins are forgiven, another way we could put it is our sins are pardoned.
One can be pardoned from the punishment of an evil act but unless a full heart change takes place the entire old nature still remains. Sanctification is giving your whole self to God and being cleansed from the depravity of heart and receiving purity of heart.
We not only see this in the above scripture but other places as well.
Psalm 51:7, 9 NKJV “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (10) Create in me a clean heart O God.”
2 Corinthians 7:1 NKJV “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Our salvation takes care of the punishment of sin and sanctification takes care of the pollution of sin.
When you think of the day of Pentecost what do you think of? Most of us think of the Holy Spirit coming in power, the disciples’ speaking in tongues, and others getting saved. That is all true, but see how Peter describes Pentecost long after that day; Acts 15:8-9 NKJV “So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, (9) and made no distinction between us and them purifying their hearts by faith.”
We see in these two verses Peter explaining the purpose of the baptism in (or with) the Holy Spirit, purity of heart. Not everyone in Acts who was filled spoke in tongues. I am not discounting or dismissing that some did, but everyone did not.
John Wesley described sanctification as the circumcision of the heart; he also termed it Christian Perfection. Of Christian perfection, he said this;
“It is that habitual disposition of soul, which in the sacred writings is termed holiness; and which directly implies the being cleansed from sin, from all filthiness of both flesh and spirit; and by consequence, the being endued with those virtues which were in Christ Jesus; the being so renewed by the image of our mind, as to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect.” (An Introduction to Wesleyan Theology: Greathouse and Dunning).
Sanctification is instantaneous and perfection (holiness) is progressive. Scripture says we are to press on to perfection.
1 Peter 1:15-16 NKJV “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, (16) because it is written “Be holy for I am holy.”
It is possible for Christians to go through this life and not sin, which is why the Holy Spirit is come. That is why the Word tells us to cast down imaginations, and why there is a way of escape. We will make mistakes in life, we are human, but mistakes are not sin.
I know many have heard we will always sin, that is contrary to Scripture; we will always be tempted, but we don’t have to sin.
We see holiness throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, yet many Christians feel it is unattainable, why is that? Simply because in many places the power of sin is overemphasized. The power of sin has been destroyed (Romans 6:6), so we do not have to be in bondage to it anymore.
We can be sanctified, it is the will of God and that is why the Holy Spirit came. I know many talk about the power that comes with the infilling of the Holy Spirit but there is a purity that can come as well if you will ask for it.
If you ask for power, if you ask for tongues, without purity of heart you will receive what you ask for with the neglect of the most important work of the Holy Spirit, the purifying of your heart. We need both power and purity.
Believers should live a holy life. We are told to come out from among them and be separate, He would not have told us to do that if it was not possible.
In Closing, we will look again at 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7; 5:23 NKJV “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. (5:23) 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.”
We don’t have to struggle with sin, which is a lie from hell! If you have never asked the Holy Spirit to sanctify you, do it today, it’s easy. Just tell the Lord you give yourself completely to Him, ask him to cleanse you from all sin and give you are pure heart.
There does not have to be any emotion that comes after it, there may be no outward signs that is not important, the important thing is the surrender of your life and heart to the work of the Holy Spirit to purify your heart.
If you would like to learn more about Christian perfection and holiness, John Wesley’s, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection is a good place to start. This and other books can be found on the recommended reading page.