A dear, dear friend of mine wrote me these thoughts recently and it’s my prayer for you: “May this New Year be the best ever for you as your relationship with our precious Lord flourishes. May you have a glimpse of His tapestry and design for your life: may you see the pure gold threads of His eternal truth; the rich reds of His glorious Love; the luminous greens of His discernment and insight; the quiet violet of unwavering faith; and the wondrous deep blue of friendship with Him.”1
Again, may it be your best year ever!
This month is a very exciting time for us, as our new book The Kingdom, Power and Glory is now published.
As mentioned last month, Chuck and I are more excited about this book than any of the others. Yes, it has some new insights that are very controversial, but hopefully will spur believers to dig further into the Word of God to check everything out for themselves. That, in itself, is a blessing!
As a result of learning these new things, Chuck and I not only have a closer relationship with the Lord than ever before, but we also are more sensitive to each other than ever before. We are now more mindful of our thought life, our choices and our reactions than ever before. It is our hope that the new material in this book will stimulate you to be those “Bereans” who run to the Word to see if these things be so! (Acts 17:11)
This month’s article, “What is God’s Will?” is so appropriate because it concerns the importance of “sanctification.” It’s appropriate because sanctification is what the majority of The Kingdom, Power and Glory is all about. Sanctification is what leads us to being able to partake of Christ’s Life; and partaking is what leads to being able to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil; and overcoming is what leads to being those believers who inherit the Millennial Kingdom.
We have shared before that God’s basic will for all believers is that we are “conformed into the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29) This is the goal of our instruction. Many of us talk very openly about this and pray for it in our own lives. But, what we don’t realize is that in order to be conformed into His image, we must first be conformed to His death. In other words, in order to experience the fulness of Christ, we must each personally experience our own Garden of Gethesmane and our own Calvary. Throughout Scripture, nothing is made alive or quickened unless it first dies.
Philippians 2:5-9 gives us Christ’s example:
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name.”
Romans 6:5 also highlights this same teaching: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.”
How easy it is for us to simply preach “Christ crucified.” The question we must always come back to is, how can we preach Christ crucified if we don’t really live it? There’s no way we can communicate it, if we have not personally lived it out in our lives first! Our daily prayer should be what Paul prayed in Corinthians, that we would know nothing but Christ crucified and that death would work in us, so that His life could be formed in others. (2 Corinthians 4:12)
Just as Calvary preceded Pentecost, so death with Christ always precedes the fulness of the Spirit. Jesus’ cross must become our cross, so that what others see and hear in us will truly bear the marks of Jesus’ character.
As Paul declares in Galatians 6:17, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” We should be able to say the same. Only through suffering can we be perfected, completed and made whole. God’s glory is only shared by those who are willing to suffer with Him. (1 Peter 4:14; Romans 8:18)
Carved into His Image
The other night, I was reading Isaiah 64:4, “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him.” And the word waiteth just popped off the page.
This Scripture tells us that all these wonderful things will happen to the believer who “waits” for the Lord. What does that really mean?
Well, you know me and treasure hunts! I love them.
I found this same Scripture in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 2:9. Only here the phrase is not “those that wait for Him,” but “those that love Him”-those who totally give themselves over to Him. This even piqued my interest all the more. What does it mean to wait for Him?
I was fascinated to discover that the word “wait” (chakah) in the Hebrew means “to adhere to,” “to pierce,” or “carve or etch an image into.” Wow! Then it hit me. God has prepared something beyond imagining to those who have been carved, sculpted and etched into His image. The soulish things in their life have been cut away and only Jesus’ image is left.
In the same chapter of Isaiah where we find the Scripture “those that wait upon the Lord,” we also find the Scripture that talks about the Lord being the potter and we the clay, confirming that He molds, shapes and patiently carves us into His image. (Isaiah 64:8)
Process of Sanctification
God has chosen us to “salvation through sanctification of the Spirit.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13) Sanctification again is the process of restoring the image of Christ in us. It’s the delicate process of learning how to follow the Spirit’s leading, how to be cleansed by the Spirit, how to worship in the Spirit, how to abide in the Spirit, and, finally, how to walk by the Spirit. It’s the process of learning how to becoming holy, purified, consecrated and separated unto God.
It’s simply the means by which our spirit is freed to control every aspect of our lives and the process of learning how to make faith choices, which allow Christ’s supernatural Life to come forth.
The word sanctify actually 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. And it’s true, only those who have been sanctified may enter the Holy Place.
Sanctification, then, is the removal of anything in our lives that is unrighteous or unholy. The root of holiness or sanctification, which interestingly are the same Greek word in Scripture, is co-crucifixion and co-resurrection. (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7; 5:23) It’s the process of destroying the “old man” and replacing it with the image of Christ.
“To the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee and not be silent.” (Psalm 30:12)
We begin our course of sanctification when we first become believers, but we don’t finish it until we are sanctified completely-body, soul and spirit-which usually takes a lifetime. Sanctification is really just a restructuring of our soul in conformity to Christ. Psalm 17:15 sums it up, “As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.”
Sanctification includes the process of separating the soulish things in our lives from the spiritual. God is the only One who can do this, because He is the only One who truly 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 do it by His Word! “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.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Therefore, God is the One who separates, divides and cuts away anything in our souls that is not of the spirit and, instead, carves His own image. And, again, He often does this through suffering. The end result that He is after in each of our lives is that we might glorify, reflect and manifest His character to others and not our own.
Sanctification simply means “being made one” with Jesus so that the disposition that ruled Him can also rule and reign in us.
The Big Question
The question we must ask ourselves is: Are we really willing to make the appropriate choices to deny ourselves, put off our sin and self and be sanctified body, soul and spirit? Are we willing to be conformed to His death? Are we really prepared for all that means?
A dear friend of mine, who used to be a missionary in New Zealand, wrote me a very provocative letter about this very subject:
“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 God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
“When I read this, I had to ask myself: Am I really prepared to face the standard of these verses? We all take the term ‘sanctification’ much too lightly. Am I really prepared for what sanctification will cost me? It will cost an intense narrowing of all my interests on earth, and an immense broadening of all my 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. Am I prepared for God to do that in my life? Am I prepared to separate myself to God, even as Jesus did?”
These are good questions and ones that you might ask yourself. Are you prepared for what it will cost you? Because it will cost you everything that is not of God!
To be continued next month: “How to be Cleansed by His Spirit.” This article has been excerpted in part from Nan’s book, Reflections of His Image.