God tells us in the Bible that we are to glorify Him, not only outwardly in our bodies, but also inwardly in our spirits. (1 Corinthians 6:20) It's impossible to do this, however, if we don't really understand what our spirit is. So, last month we tried to define our spirit, how it differs from our soul and the critical importance of separating the two. This month, I would like to continue that exploration, by taking a closer look at the process of freeing our spirit from our soul, which is called sanctification.
Hopefully, because of last month's article, we now understand a little more about what our spirit's functions and operations are, so we can see the critical importance of allowing God to free our spirit so it can, once again, lead and direct our soul. If our spirit does not grow stronger and the soulish things in our livesless and less, then we have not really grown at all. Real advancement in Christ is only measured by the growth of our spirit.
Eloquent preaching, Bible knowledge and spiritual gifts do not increase our spiritual life. Only the cleansing and purifying of our spirit does; i.e., sanctification. In other words, mental knowledge does nothing towards increasing a person's intimacy with Christ or his being conformed into His image. Only allowing the Spirit of God to separate the soulish things in our lives from the spiritual, does.
We begin our course of sanctification when we first become believers, but we don't finish this cleansing process until we are sanctified wholly - body, soul and spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5:23) God is the only One who can do this in our lives, because He is the only One who knows what is spiritual and what is soulish. We could never accomplish this separation in our own strength or by our own wisdom. Only God can! And the way He implements this division in our lives is by literally applying Hebrews 4:12: "For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." In other words God, by His Word, is the One who separates, divides and cuts away anything in our souls that is not of the spirit.
Sanctification is simply the removal of anything in our lives that is unrighteous or unholy and, in its place, seeing Christ's Life reproduced in us. The word sanctify comes from the Greek root word hagion, which means "holy place." This is particularly fascinating because the verb hagiazo (to sanctify) is used to describe the gold that adorns the Holy Place of the temple.
The Big Question
The question becomes, are we really willing to be sanctified body, soul and spirit? Are we prepared for what that really means? A dear friend of mine, a missionary in New Zealand, wrote me a very provocative letter about this very subject a few months ago:
"I read 1 Thessalonians 5:23 in my daily devotions this morning and it really spoke to my heart. 'And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.' When we pray to be sanctified, are we really prepared to face the standard of these verses? Each of us takes the term 'sanctification' much too lightly. Are we really prepared for what sanctification will cost us? It will cost an intense narrowing of all our interests on earth, and an immense broadening of all our interests in God. Sanctification means an intense concentration on God's point of view. It means every power of our body, soul and spirit must be chained and kept for God's purposes only. Are we prepared for God to do that in each of our lives? Are we prepared to separate ourselves to God, even as Jesus did?"
Sanctification means "being made one" with Jesus so that the disposition that ruled Him (God's Spirit), can also rule and reign in us. Are we prepared for what that will cost us? It will cost us everything that is not of God!"
Dividing Our Soul From Our Spirit
In order for our spirit to be sanctified, so that our soulish ways are no longer entangled in our inward spiritual activities, it must be set apart, made holy and separated from our soul. In other words, there can be no mingling of our soul and spirit. Our greatest problem is impurity. We have become a "dual" man. Our outward man (soul) continually affects our inward man (spirit) and this cannot be. Our inward man needs to be released in order to freely direct our outward man. The only way this freedom is possible is to divide and separate the two.
In order for this separation to come about, we must be able to "see" what God sees in us. Seeing is the first step towards dealing. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that only the Word of God can give us the revelation we need to see what God sees. Thus, the method God uses to sanctify our spirits is by the revelation of His Word, with the Holy Spirit as His agent. In other words, the degree to which we allow God's Word and His Spirit to show us our "selves," this is the degree to which our spirit can be purified.
Only God's Word can enable us to see what is of the spirit and what is of the soul, what is carnal and what is spiritual, what is natural and what is of God. Through His Word, God can reveal the motives of our heart and enable us to see ourselves as we truly are. Only He can expose, cut away and cleanse that which is soulish from that which is spiritual. We are unable to do this for ourselves. Thus, deliverance comes only when the light of God's Word helps us to see as God sees. The more we allow Him to strip our soul away from our spirit, the clearer we will be able to see.
God's whole purpose of sanctification is to refine us so that our spirit will not be influenced by what happens in our outward man or in our circumstances. He doesn't want anything to be able to move us from the peace and joy of His presence-from oneness of spirit. He wants to sanctify our spirit and soul so that no matter what is going on in our lives He might reproduce Himself in us and we might begin to experience His presence.
An Example: Tortured for Christ
An incredible example of someone who experienced God's continuing presence, regardless of what was going on in his life, is Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor who spent 14 years in a Communist prison.
Pastor Wurmbrand was involved in the Christian underground movement. He met with groups of Christians in homes, basements, army barracks and in woods, knowing full well what the cost of his actions would be. The Communists, however, were determined to stamp out these Christians so that they could control the churches for their own purposes. Eventually, the pastor and his Christian brothers and sisters were exposed and captured.
Taken from his wife and son in 1948, Pastor Wurmbrand spent three years in slave labor, three years in solitary confinement and five more years in a mass cell. He was released after eight years, only to be arrested two years later and sentenced to 25 more years. He was finally released for good in 1964. His wife was confined to another prison where the women were repeatedly raped and made to work at hard labor. She was forced to eat grass and rats and snakes and stand alone for hours at a time. At the time of their arrest, their son, only nine years old, was left to roam the streets of their city.
Many of the Christians who were arrested at the same time lost their faith as they were brainwashed by the Communists. Some even ended up joining the Communist party and denouncing their brothers and sisters. It was a tragic and horrendous time. The human torture was beyond anything one could ever imagine or describe. One prisoner said, "All the Biblical descriptions of hell and the pain of Dante's Inferno are nothing compared with the torture in the Communist prisons."
Loving God with his whole being, Pastor Wurmbrand would not let any circumstance or any emotion separate him from his Beloved. Someone once asked him, "How did you resist the brainwashing?" The pastor replied, "If your heart is truly cleansed by the Love of Christ and your heart loves Him back, you can resist any torture." He went on to declare, "God will judge us, not on how much we had to endure, but on how much we loved."
Wurmbrand related that he was not frustrated by all the years that he lost in prison, because he said he also saw beautiful things happen there. He saw great saints and heroes of all kinds, much like the first-century church. "Christians could be happy even there," he said. The reason they could be happy was that they "saw the Savior in the midst of everything." As Isaiah 24:15 says, "Wherefore glorify ye the Lord in the fires...."
The lesson here is, that if the spirit is truly the master of the body, then God's presence is always with us, no matter what is occurring in our lives. The enemy, of course, wants to defeat us with all the difficult things that happen in our lives, but as we see in the above example, God wants to use our circumstances, no matter how horrendous they are, for His glory.
After his release from prison, Wurmbrand went on to write numerous books and is now the head of the international ministry, The Voice of the Martyrs, serving the persecuted church. God does use "all things for good..."
Just like the pastor, once we allow the sanctifying process to go unheeded, we can draw near to God and dwell in His presence regardless of what is happening in our lives. As Numbers 16:9 tells us, "Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you [set you apart] from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself to do the service...."
Attributes of a Sanctified Christian
The following is a list of attributes of a sanctified Christian. Test yourself and see how many of these are in your character: reflection of Christ in all they do; humility and selflessness; holiness; a servant's heart; a heart of joy; certainty of God's presence; peace and rest; abandonment to God; unshakable trust in God; and, love for God and others.
"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness; That the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice." (Psalm 51:7-8)
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