Jesus our Sanctifier
This week, we want to continue in the four-fold Gospel. It is this four-fold Gospel that makes the Christian and Missionary Alliance distinct from all other denominations. This four-fold Gospel summarizes how Jesus works in our lives as His followers. Last week, we looked at the first part of the four-fold Gospel which is Jesus our Savior, symbolized by the cross in the Alliance logo. This week, we want to look at Jesus is our Sanctifier, which is represented by the laver.
This symbol comes from the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple, where the priests would wash their hands, making sure that nothing impure would enter the tabernacle or temple. Jesus sanctifies us, by removing sin and making us more like Himself. This is all done, not by our own ability, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. After a person puts their faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection and chooses to follow Jesus with his or her life, God begins to work in the believer’s life in order to make the believer like Jesus. This process of becoming like Jesus is called sanctification. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 that sanctification is God’s will for our lives.
Our English word “sanctification” translates the Greek word “hagiasmos” which means “personal dedication to the interests of God.” This is the noun form of the word “hagiazo” which means “to set aside something or make it suitable for ritual purposes, to consecrate, dedicate.” These are the same words that the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, use describing how Aaron and his sons, along with the Tabernacle were sanctified (Exodus 29:36 – 37). They were dedicated to God for His service; they were set apart from the ordinary things to be used for God’s honor and glory. When the New Testament authors talk about a believer being sanctified, I cannot help but think that they had the Old Testament understanding of these words in mind; instead of a building, or pieces of furniture, or a particular tribe of Israel or even a few individuals like the high priests, everyone who knows Jesus as their Savior is now the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and we are called to be sanctified, to be wholly dedicated to the Lord, to be separate from ordinary things and to be holy just as Jesus is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). But what does this process look like in our lives?
One of the more controversial teachings of the Christian and Missionary Alliance is how this process of sanctification happens as a “crisis” and progressively. The reason why this teaching is controversial sometimes is because of the modern usage of the word “crisis,” which means something totally different than how the Alliance uses this word. When the Alliance uses the word “crisis” it is defined as “a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events is determined, a turning point.” An example of a “crisis” moment in the Bible is when a person puts their faith and trust in Jesus. This is to be a radical turning point in their lives. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that a person becomes a new creation at that moment. The old things of their lives are gone, have passed away, and that person has become new. This is a major crisis in a person’s life. This person begins to see the world totally different, and they begin to desire things that are honoring and pleasing to God. Their life is totally changed from that moment on because of the new life he or she has in Christ.
As a person grows in their relationship with God, God begins to show them sinful habits and patterns in their lives that are not pleasing to Him. God then brings us to another crisis moment in our lives where we cry out like the Apostle Paul did in Romans 7:15; that what I want to do, live a life honoring and pleasing to God, I do not do, but what I hate, sin, I do these things. God makes us aware of our sin and brings us into another crisis moment in our lives, where we again must make a choice. The choice is this: Are we going to surrender our lives fully to God and live for Him, or are we going to continue in a lifestyle of sin? It is in this crisis moment that we recognize that Jesus is our sanctifier and we become wholly set apart, wholly dedicated to Him and Him alone. But this is only just the beginning of a lifelong journey.
What is the goal of being a follower of Jesus? It is to be like Jesus in everything we think, we say, and we do; to be conformed to the image of Christ. In Romans 8:28-29, Paul talks about God’s sovereignty and says that “all things work together for good to those who love God…” But what is that good? Many times, we think about our definition of the word “good,” which usually means that God will take something negative and turn it positive in our lives. But this is not what Paul means. Verse 29 explains what that “good” is according to God, which is to be conformed to the image of His Son. God’s number one priority in our lives is not our comfort or even our wellbeing in life. God’s number one priority is making His children to be like His Son Jesus; to take away the sinful habits that still linger in our lives so that we might become like Jesus in every aspect of our lives. This doesn’t happen overnight, but it is a process that God begins to do in our lives as we surrender our lives fully to Him.
Jesus talks to Nicodemus in John 3 about being born again; how every single person in this world needs to be born spiritually. When a person experiences that new birth in Christ, the Bible calls them a babe in Christ (1 Peter 2:2). Just as a newborn baby grows and develops into a mature adult, Peter explains that this also happens to our faith. When we become followers of Jesus, we are like a newborn baby that needs pure milk to grow. Peter says we need that same pure milk to grow as believers in Jesus and this pure spiritual milk that helps us grow into Christlikeness is God’s word.
We enter this process of sanctification at a crisis moment or turning point in our lives. God brings us to a moment in our lives where He shows us the sin that we are hanging onto and calls us to repent. We need to turn away from our sin and we become set apart unto Him; totally dedicating ourselves to be like Jesus in all that we say, do and think. But this is just the beginning. As we enter this process, it really is a lifelong journey of becoming mature followers of Jesus. The goal in the process of Sanctification is Christlikeness. Our desire should be how Paul describes believers in Ephesians 5:27; believers should desire to “…present [themselves] to [God] not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that they should be holy and without blemish.” This is a lifelong process until we either die, or Jesus returns and at that time, we will be like Him (1 John 3:2-3). But we cannot become like Jesus through our own strength or by trying to live for Jesus harder. But God has given us someone to walk with us through this process.
Jesus does not leave us to figure out this process of sanctification by ourselves. He has given us a great gift, His Spirit, who empowers us and works this process of sanctification in our lives. In John 14-17 we have what is called the Upper Room discourse. Jesus is fully aware of what is about to happen in a few hours and Jesus takes these last few moments to help the disciples understand that He is about to leave them. He tells them to not worry because He is going to pray to the Father and the Father will give them another Helper (John 14:16). In verse 17, Jesus identifies this Helper as the Spirit of truth and in verse 26 this Helper is identified as the Holy Spirit. As Jesus is leaving, Jesus tells His disciples that He is not abandoning them, but that God will send them another Helper, the Holy Spirit, who will be with them, just as He has been with them over these past several years. What a gift God has given to us, His Spirit now lives inside of every single believer in the world. We receive God’s Spirit in our lives at the moment of conversion (Acts 2:38).
The Holy Spirit works in our lives and is the one who brings us into the crisis or turning point of sanctification. He is the one that convicts the world including believers of sin and of righteousness and of judgment (John 16:8). As we become more aware of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, we need to surrender our lives more to Him. This is why Paul tells the believers to not be drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Believers are not to be controlled by wine or by any other thing, but we are to be literally “drunk” or controlled by the Holy Spirit. We are to give up total control of our lives to the Holy Spirit who lives inside of us so that just as a person who is intoxicated by alcohol loses all control of His body; Paul says this needs to happen in our lives as believer, because of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit controls us and empowers us to serve God. In Galatians 5:16, Paul tells believers to “walk in the Spirit.” This means to keep in step with the Spirit; to live a life that is constantly in obedience to the Spirit. He then goes onto say that as we walk in the Spirit, then we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh, which are sinful desires not pleasing to God.
As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to walk in the Spirit and we are to allow the Spirit to have complete control of our lives, but what does this look like in our lives? I love to listen to music. This love for music has been with me my entire life. I now listen to music on my tablet or phone, but years ago, I had a radio that had an antenna and a tuning wheel. I would position my radio on the counter or windowsill, turn it on and then use the tuning wheel to pick up the radio station single. Depending on the weather, if the day was cloudy or sunny, I may have to adjust my radio every day to get the static out of the single and to hear the radio station clearly. This is a picture of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit lives in every believer and is leading us, guiding us and working in us. But sometimes in our lives, because of busyness of life or because of sin, we do not hear God’s Spirit speaking to us very clearly. We need to fine tune our ears to be able to clearly hear and understand what the Spirit is telling us. How do we fine tune our ears? First by praying, this is much more than going to God and asking Him for things. Praying is having a conversation with God, being with Him, just as we sit and have conversations with our friends. Jesus tells His disciples in John 15:5 that without Him we can do nothing. Secondly, by getting into God’s Word. In Psalm 119:11 the psalmist tells us that “he has hidden God’s Word in his heart, in order that he may not sin against God.” God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) because God’s Spirit takes these words off the page and speaks to us through them. God has revealed His will to us through His Word. As we pray, as we study and memorize and read God’s Word, we fine tune our ears to God’s Spirit. Then as we go throughout our day, we can walk in the Spirit and listen to the Spirit’s prompting.
The reason why the Holy Spirit plays such an important role in our lives as believers is because of the freedom we experience in Christ. In 1 Corinthians 6:12-14, Paul talks about how “all things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” Paul is arguing that believers are supposed to be different then non-believers because of what Jesus has done in us. Paul says that technically I have the freedom to live my life in whatever manner I want, my freedom in Christ; I do not have to follow the Old Testament laws. But not everything is helpful to me as a believer in Jesus; in fact, I do not want anything to control me except God’s Spirit. Then Paul goes on to argue that we are to live our lives in a way that is honoring to the Lord because God’s Spirit dwells in us. He then ends the section by telling the believers to glorify, honor, God with their body and their soul because they belong to God. Paul says, yes we have freedom in Christ, but this freedom doesn’t give us permission to live a lifestyle of sin. Instead, we are to honor God with our entire lives. How do we know what is honoring to God and what is dishonoring to God? God’s Spirit who lives inside of us reveals this to our lives.
As followers of Jesus, we should strive to become like Jesus in every aspect of our lives. This process of sanctification is both a “crises” moment and a lifelong journey that is never complete until we enter the presence of Jesus. God doesn’t leave us to figure this out on our own, but gives us the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to live a life pleasing and honoring to God. May we cultivate a close relationship with God through prayer and reading the Bible, so that we may be able to keep in step with the Spirit and walk in obedience to Him.