The process of sanctification. Is sanctification a reality in every Christians life? Must this sanctification be separated from the new birth by x number of years? I wouldn't say how many. Or is it possible to live it very early in your Christian life? What do you think about that? Does this sanctification walk involve a crisis? Or can it be lived without a crisis? I'll explain what a "crisis" is later. Once you have lived this sanctified walk, is it permanent or can you regress and lose the reality?
First I want to talk about the basic step, what Oswald Chambers calls, "Giving up the right to ourselves." That is the only thing that we can give to God because God has given you your abilities, your gifts, your mind, your ability to work, whatever it is you live by. Those are just in stewardship to God Himself. We are to be stewards of those gifts. The one thing He does not infringe upon is our right to ourselves. He has taken enormous risk in limiting Himself to our free wil, the right to ourselves.
He wants to be at the center of our lives, He wants to be our Lord as well as our Savior. He talked about this a lot when He was on earth. When you are a new Christian, you seldom think of giving up your will to the will of God. You're just happy that you are saved, that you are not going to hell. As time goes on, later, the question of giving up your whole self on the alter, Romans 12:1, comes to light as you are taught or as the Spirit leads you. What do you do then? Do you give up your whole self on the alter? Is that something that is the act of a moment, the act of your will in a moment in time? "Yes, Lord, I will give up myself. I will place myself on this alter." Of course, Paul says this is a reasonable response in Rom. 12:1,2. He says the will of God is good for us. So it is a step that you are expected to take in view of the mercies of God.
The book, So Great A Salvation, gives the history of Keswick. They hold the same doctrinal view that we have. I went to Keswick all my life in Africa, my parents went for years in the mission field. A lot of mission work is based on Keswick. You'd be amazed at how many men and women have gone through Keswick, and that is where they got called to the mission field. It is a group of people who got together to promote godliness in the Body of Christ in the 1850's. It has remained balanced all these years. It is amazing that any great teacher that you can think of and they were either changed by Keswick or they started Keswick or they've taught there every year like Andrew Murray, FB Meyer, Hudson Taylor, Oswald Sanders. In fact, Oswald Sanders addressed Keswick in 1947. They emphasize positional truth, and they emphasize the crisis, as they call it. They say that placing yourself on the alter is a crisis experience at a point in time. That sanctification is both a crisis and a process. This is what Evan Hopkins, who was probably one of the leading men who spoke at Keswick and had a great deal to do with keeping the balance of Kewick, said, "Sanctification, in the sense of conformity to Christ, is a process, a continuous never ending process, but sanctification, in the sense of a definite decision of committing one's whole being to Him, is a crisis. The crisis must take place before we really know the process." Not all doctrines agreed to that, for instance, John McCarther would say that if you are not sanctified, then you are not a Christian. That it is almost an automatic thing. I don't agree with that. I think you can be a Christian and not have that crisis time when you make that decision, and not go along with the process either.
I made that crisis decision when I was 18 at Wheaton when Daws Trotman came through and spoke at the Foreign Missions Fellowship, to missionaries' kids. I was so moved and I got on my knees and gave my whole life to the Lord. I said I wanted to serve Him my whole life. Now I took back that decision many times, but the Lord never let me. He takes you at your word. You can hinder that process. You can slow it up, but once you have made that crisis decision, the Lord takes you at your word. He has ways of convincing you to continue. He certainly did me.
When we surrender our strong wills to the Lord, then we are in a position where we can progress in the process of sanctification. I have often told you that the strong will is the big pillar in the center of our lives. With our mind we might say, "Yes, Lord, I want to follow you." That is what Paul is saying in Romans 7, "With my mind I agree that your law is good." And with our emotions we can get caught up in saying, "I really love you Lord, and I can see that you died on the cross for me, and I really want to respond by following you." But that strong will stands in the middle of our lives and it turns traitor on us. It always, always, always rebels. I don't care whether you are a choleric, a melancholy, a phlegmatic or a sanguine, you all have that strong will. This process involves being able to understand what it means to collapse your will into the will of Christ.
Now it is a continual process that starts with this crisis of saying, "Yes," then it is a life-long series of "yeses" that involve both small and great decisions. You can prolong the process, you can hinder the process and you can even halt the process for a period of time, but it is much the better thing to say "yes" daily and continually to the Lord. Of course this inevitably means saying "no" to your strong will, "no" to your self. Jesus said, "Deny yourself." We must act and decide to put Christ on the throne of our lives.
- 2 Cor. 5:15 - "It is the love of Christ that motivates us, constrains us, so that we will not live for ourselves, but to please Christ who died for us."
- I Peter 4:2 - "So we should no longer live in our lusts, but live in the will of God."
- Gal. 2:20 - "I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me. The life that I live I live by faith in Christ who loved me, and gave Himself up for me."
We are going to be talking about what that really means, "No longer I live." This is very difficult to explain, because it is so simple to say, yet so hard to do. What is the significance then of "walking in the Spirit", of the "fullness of the Spirit"? You read those phrases all the time in books. Andrew Murray says it is simply, "Living and working as an abiding in Christ Christian. Being filled with the Spirit is a special extra supply of His power for service at specific time, for a special need." He believes that you can walk in the fullness of the Spirit as you are in the process of sanctification if you are abiding in Christ. If you are an abiding in Christ Christian. However, as you minister for Him, you need to be filled with the Spirit, and that it is an extra gift, an extra power, to face a particular situation, a difficult situation. I think this makes sense. Do you go around every minute of every day saying, "I want to be filled with the Spirit, I want to be filled with the Spirit"? No, you don't, but you can walk around every day, all day, in the fullness of the Spirit. There is a slight difference there and I want to talk about that later.
Christ talked in John 14 - 16 about the Spirit as He was leaving. He said that it would be the Spirit who would make Christ real to us in our hearts. I like looking at the Spirit's role as being the light and the projector. He lights Christ on our heart. He projects Christ on our heart. Jesus said he would not bring attention to Himself, but He would magnify or glorify Christ and lead us into all truth.
When we walk in the fullness of the Spirit it is not a choking thing. It's a freeing type life. That is what we mean by the fullness of the Spirit. It is a freeing type life where your personality is blossoming under His leadership and you are liberated, not only to do the Lord's work, but liberated for your own personality to develop. For you to be more the real you. In our flesh and in the world we really hide who we are because we are afraid that people won't like the real us, and you have all these facades and these veils we wear and all these ways that we pretend to be different. However, when you are walking in the fullness of the Spirit you can be really you, you can be open and vulnerable because the Holy Spirit is beautifully working to fill your personality to its maximum, give you that extra dimension that God created you to be and to have. So you are perfectly happy being yourself. Now isn't that an inviting thing? You don't have to worry about whether people like you or not, or whether you are going to make a good impression or not. You can be free. You are liberated to be free.
You need to develop a close intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. They did in the early church. They depended on Him all the time. They prayed for the filling of the Spirit when they were going to go out and witnessing. Over and over it says, "They were filled with the Spirit" when they were going out and minister. Because they were filled with the Spirit, and depended on Him, His power was released through the early church in a magnificent way. It is a matter of diligently building that relationship, that intimacy with the Holy Spirit, which I don't think most Christians do. I think the Holy Spirit is one they don't know. Again, He is not drawing attention to Himself, so I am not talking about seeking the gifts, and seeking an experience and showing off something which I think is very false. The Holy Spirit's job is to conform you to Christ. How He does that is by projecting Christ on your heart, and convicting you and convincing you to live a more Christ-like life. As you are praying, He is the One who intercedes with groanings which cannot be uttered; He is the One who hinders you when you are going to do something that is wrong; He is the One who leads you to do something that the Lord wants you to do. He is One who you need to build an intimate relationship with.
This is what Sander's teaching was on in 1947. He addressed the Keswick convention on the Holy Spirit and he said, "There is difference between knowing about the Holy Spirit and actually knowing Him. Christians are expected to know Him as a real, living person with whom they can have fellowship. This knowing Him is absolutely fundamental to a satisfying Christian experience and a fruitful Christian life. The filling of the Spirit is not that of an empty receptacle waiting for something to be put in it, but of a human personality which is to be controlled by a divine personality, under the control of the Holy Spirit. He is that divine personality. The control of the Holy Spirit is not automatic, but is dependent on abandonment to Him, and abiding in Christ. If we withdraw our abandonment, and our abiding, then the Holy Spirit cannot carry out His work through us, and will not empower us. As we are filled with the Holy Spirit, by abandonment, we continue in the fullness of the Spirit by abiding." The responsibility is His not ours. To abandon, to abide, then to obey is our part.
How does the Faith - Rest life fit in to all of this? Most of the exhortations in the Bible involving fear say, "Do not fear what man can do to you." "Do not live fearfully, but live in faith." However, and this is the only place I know of, in Heb. 4:1, it says, "Let us fear." "Let us fear lest while a promise remains of entering His rest anyone of you would seem to come short of it." This exhortation in Heb. 3 & 4 talks about entering the rest. We are to be afraid of not entering into this faith-rest life. The author of Hebrews is using the Old Testament narratives to apply this spiritual truth of walking in the faith-rest life. He is using the children of Israel not being able to go into the promised land, which happened at Kadish-Barnea where they refused to go in and they hardened their heart, as an example. In Heb.3:12 he says, "Take care, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart and falling away from the living God, but encourage one another day after day as long as it is still called today, Lest any one of you should be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." He is talking about them refusing to enter the promised land and therefore being put out in the desert for 40 more years. In the last 2 verses he says, "To whom did he swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient." We see they were not able to enter because of unbelief. Do you understand that the root of every sin is unbelief. The opposite of unbelief is belief or faith. So it does not matter what sin you are talking about, the sin of rebellion, the sin of lying, the sin of anything, any kind of lust, the root sin is unbelief.
Why is that the case? There are only two ways to walk the Christian life:
- One is to walk in faith, in the Spirit.
- The other is to walk in unbelief, in the flesh.
When you are walking in unbelief, in the flesh, you will sin. Whatever sins you love, whatever sins you catered to all your life, you will sin. The root sin is unbelief. He is quoting here in Heb. 3&4 from Psalms 95, which is a good 600 years after they failed to enter in to the land of Canaan. He is saying that there is a rest the people of the day of the Psalms could enter in, and then he says there is a rest we today can enter in. God's rest that he is talking about here is definitely something that we can enter in, and if we don't enter in it will be due to unbelief. We need to fear that we won't enter in. We need to be afraid that we are not taking that privilege, that opportunity, to enter into God's rest.
In Heb. 4:9 "There remains, therefore, a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest, has himself also rested from his work as God did from His. Let us, therefore, be diligent to enter that rest. Lest anyone fall from following the same example of disobedience as they did in the O.T." So he is warning us that it is possible not to enter into that rest, and we should fear that. When he talks about God's Sabbath, He finished His work, it's all about the creation and the fact that God did all His in 6 days and He rested on the 7th. The word Sabbath means rest. It has to do with rest. God resting and us resting.
What does this really mean? Is it so complicated that we can't understand it? No, it is actually so simple. There are two principles he is talking about:
- The principle of knowing the promises of God, knowing the character of God.
- Believing the those promises and appropriating them.
It is very simple, but it is also very complicated. It is complicated because we can hardly comprehend depending on God like that. Which is rest. We cannot comprehend abandoning ourselves to God. We use those words so cliché, so lightly, but when it comes to understanding entering God's rest, it is quite a bit different. Usually the Lord has to make us completely miserable in order to make us completely happy. That is because of that strong will in the center of our lives. He has to remove every human crutch we have erected to live the Christian life and make us make us completely helpless before we are convinced to trust Him. That is just how stubborn we are. I don't know why He bothers with us? Surely He could have found a better race or something that would have done a better job than we have. I think it is amazing that He limits Himself to our strong wills. If He goes to the trouble of taking everything away from us so that we will learn to trust Him, then you see He thinks it is very important that we should take our life from Him.
The power of helplessness is the only way to learn the faith-rest life moment-by-moment. I can't program that for you, you can't program that for you, God will program that for you. When you are taken through these periods of time, through testing, through circumstances, through your own foolishness, through whatever lessons God has for you there, and He will use our environment, our mistakes, our friends, our kids, our illnesses, everything. He will use every event in our lives, and every circumstance to try to teach us this lesson of helplessness. The crutch is out from under us, our independence, our functioning, our being so sure that we know how to do Christian work and live the Christian life. Evan Hopkins said, "You abandon yourself to Christ and you lay yourself on the alter, and then you think of something you haven't done, so you jump off the alter and you say, 'Let me try this God,' and that fails so we jump back up on the alter, and say, 'Okay, God, I guess you're going to be the one who . . . . oh wait a minute I remembered something else I need to try.'"
We laugh, but we do this. This is not the faith-rest walk at all. We aren't helpless. We are still helping ourselves. You will not cease from the energy of the flesh until you choose to enter the faith-rest life. Even though things are falling apart around you, you will still have the energy of the flesh there to move it back together, and try again some different way. What happens eventually is the Holy Spirit will teach you the uselessness of the flesh. He will teach you to be helpless. When you will go to the word and His promises and actually believe and depend on those promises, instead of just quoting them, and bring them into your life and hang on to them, you will enter His rest. You will have that peace. You will derive strength from that helplessness, from that faith-rest walk. You will be able to work three times as hard without getting worn out, because you are depending on His power and His direction instead of your worrying and anxiety, and your flesh which wears out. Once you have experienced the faith-rest walk, you will never want to live any other way. You will go back to it over and over again.
I choose an event in the Old Testament to illustrate this helplessness.
2 Chron. 20 This is the time when Jehoshaphat was King of Judah. Judah was just a little country because the division had taken place by now. There were just two tribes. Judah was surrounded by very strong tribes, the Moabites, the Ammonites, all the ites. They were much more powerful then Judah, and they were always attacking. At this point God raised them up to fight against Judah. The sequence, here, is the exact sequence you need to go through to appropriate the faith-rest walk. There is this huge multitude coming against you. From all around them this huge army is going to attack.
In 2 Chron. 20:3 is says, "Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord." He finally was afraid, then he gathered them together; he stood in the assembly in the house of the Lord, and he said (v.6-10), ""O Lord, the God of our father, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. Did You not, O our God, drive our the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and give it to the descendants of Abraham You friend forever? And they lived in it, and have built You a sanctuary there for Your name, saying, 'Should evil come upon us, the sword or judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You (for Your name is in this house) and cry to You in our distress, and You will hear and deliver us. And now behold, the sons of Ammon and Moab . . . ." are coming. These are the people who, by the way, that Israel didn't destroy when they came into the land, they went around them. So he's pointing that out to God; we didn't destroy them. Now they are rewarding us by coming to drive us out of the possession which You gave us.
How come that is happening God? We didn't kill them off, they are coming to destroy us. (v.12) "O our God, will you not judge them for we are powerless before this great multitude who is coming against us. Nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You." (v.13-24) So they were standing before the Lord and someone in the group started prophesizing, his name was Jahaziel, and he said, "Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the Lord to you, 'Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley in front of the wilderness of Jeruel. You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.'" So he bowed down and worshipped Him and all the people did, and they stood up and praised God. Then they rose up early the next morning and went out. He said, "Put your trust in the Lord." What he did was put all the priests and the praisers and everyone out in front, and said, "Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting." And then the Lord destroyed the Ammonites.
I want to go over the steps that they took. They are the steps you want to take when you want to walk.
- The first thing they did (v.6) was reiterated who God is. Aren't you the God of the whole world and all the nations of the world? You are the ruler of all the kingdoms, and power and might are in your hands. No one can stand against you. That is the kind of God you are going to rest in.
- Then they recounted God's mighty acts, fulfilling His promises to Abraham. You promised this land to us, You gave us this land to us, and we are living in this land. Also, they pointed out to Him that He had told them to avoid wiping out Moab. Yet this was the Moab that was coming out to kill them. So they sort of challenged God on what He had done. Then (v. 8,9) Jehoshaphat did what Solomon did. When Solomon dedicated the temple this is what he did. He stood in front of it. He said this is Your home God. This is a building made for You. Should evil come on it, then we will cry out to You, and You will hear us, and deliver us. Jehoshaphat threw down this challenge. This is Your house and we are challenging you to protect us. That is what Solomon said they should do whenever any enemy came up. So they challenged God to live up to His promises (v.10,11)
- They admitted their helplessness then in v.12. We are powerless before them. Then God answered them through the prophet, and said, "Don't worry about it. I'm in charge here. This is my promise to you. You just stand and see what I am going to do." Before He did it they praised God and worshipped Him. They moved out in faith, doing what He had told them to do.
The sequence I believe that it is necessary to go through in your heart as you really want to experience this faith-rest walk is:
- Assess the situation that you are in. In my life, what I do, when I am getting into one of those situations that I am really uptight about and don't know what I should do, when it seems like a very difficult problem, is I assess the situation realistically. They did that realistically. Then I remember God's faithfulness in the past in my life. One of the most wonderful things to do is just go through your prayer book and see how many answers He has given you. Remember how faithful He has been in the past.
- Then I like to recount God's promises. That is not only a good exercise, but it gives you the opportunity to place faith in those promises. Like, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Like, "My God shall supply all my needs." "Seek first My kingdom and all these things shall be added." This has to do with your material things, whether you have food and drink and clothes. Whatever area of life you are struggling with, there are hundreds of promises that cover it. There are 7,000 promises, and believe me, there are hundreds that cover any situation you might be going through. So recount God's promises to yourself. Read a story like this.
- Believe. This is your faith step, right here. Admit that you cannot do God's work in the flesh. So that means you are going to abandon yourself to Him. You are going to throw yourself on Him. "Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you." "Lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." Lean on the Lord, abandon yourself to Him. Depend on Him. There is your rest part. Then allow the Holy Spirit to lead and to fight. Let go of the problem and trust it to the Lord at that point. "Stand firm and resist the devil" at that point. Only move when He says, when the Lord Himself says move. Do it with His power, because you left the problem in His hand. And thank God for the victory you know He is going to give, and for using you to accomplish His will.
Remember and repeat this sequence every single time, until it becomes habitual. Until you automatically assess the situation, remember God's faithfulness in the past, appropriate, believe, and take into your heart the promises of God. Lean on the Lord at that point, depend on Him. Let the problem go, and trust it to Him. Wait for his direction and move out at His direction with His power, and thank Him for the victory which you know is going to be there. Then remember it the next time, which will be in about the next half hour. Don't do it once and think that that's the faith-rest life. It is a continual, continual, continual process.
Back in Hebrews, again, that is he says, "Be diligent" because the faith-rest life is characterized by diligence. Diligent to go through this sequence, getting into God's word. In 4:12,13 he gives some of the greatest verses on how to get into the word, and what the word is. "The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." Now there is a good prescription on how to arm yourself against the devil and fill yourself with the promises of God upon which you can depend.
The word of God is constantly alive. It is the secret to living. It is not a dead book. I keep telling you this. My mother read it through every year clear through she was a linguist. She read it through from the time she was 16 on and she used to say to me in her 90's, "You can never plumb the depths of God's word." She loved it so, she hid it in her heart, she never felt she got to the depths of it. It is that living and active. It is an exciting thing to get into the same passage you've gotten into many times before and have the Lord reveal to you a new, a deeper truth, a more heart-warming aspect of Him as you get into His word. So it is constantly alive.
The word is powerful. It is operational power in your life. It is sharper than any two-edged sword. That means it cuts both ways. It cuts between the soul and the spirit. The soul is the part of you where the body of sin dwells, where your mind, will, and emotions are. The psyche part where you have been in control. The word slices through that to your spirit where the Holy Spirit dwells and shows you when you are in your flesh. The word tries to cut you away from your body of sin, and give you the spiritual insight to things. Not only does the word divide, but it gets inside your motives and those things which are not in accordance to His will. That is what He is there for. That is what He is doing in our lives, if we let Him, conforming us to Christ.
Then in v.14 "Let us hold fast our confession because Christ is our high priest." We need to tenaciously cling to this faith-rest walk, to the Holy Spirit. So we are convinced that there is no human solution, so we will never go into the flesh. But we will of course go into the flesh, because the flesh is always with us. That is why v.16 is there. "Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need." In time of need because we have done it in the flesh again. In time of need when we are desperate like Jehoshaphat was. In time of need because we can't get rid of that sin problem that we have been plagued with. That is when you run to the throne of grace, and jump up on His lap, and cry, "I'm helpless. I need you, I need your help. Thank God I have your forgiveness. I need your help. I was really wrong again, and I repent." When you do this, constantly, and go through that sequence, you will experience the faith-rest walk. You will experience the process of sanctification.
Remember the crisis, then the process. The process can become so wonderful that you really don't have the think through that sequence. It becomes so much a part of your life that at every point you turn to Him, appropriating His promises and His power, and thanking Him. The faith-rest life makes you praise Him and thank Him all the time, because for one thing you are able to enjoy life, you are not struggling with your flesh, you are not struggling to do the Lord's work in your own strength. You are resting and letting Him empower you, and when the battle comes, you can stand and see the Lord do the fighting. That is what He wants you to do. He wants you to put on the armor of God, and let Him do the fighting. He uses us, He uses our bodies, but as long as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit it is a battle of us resting and letting Him fight. That doesn't seem possible does it? But it is. You can rest even when you are being attacked. You can rest even when everything looks hopeless. You can rest because it is His battle.
We are not fighting against flesh and blood. We are fighting against principalities and powers, and we can't possibly win, but He can.
It is wonderful to be able to turn to Him and trust Him and get His direction. Do you get His direction for every aspect of your work and walk? Can you talk with Him and know that you get His direction about every little thing in your life? Can you know the will of God for your life, everyday? Yes, you can. If you have built that relationship with the Holy Spirit, that is so intimate, you talk everything over with Him. He gives you simple clear directions all the time about every aspect of life.