by Rev. Jeremiah Cheung
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is Paul’s prayer of blessing for the Church of Thessalonica. He said may your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless, this means to be fully sanctified.
Brothers and sisters, our spirits, soul and body must be sanctified. This is what we must pursue all our life. But you may argue, how can that be? We recognize how corrupt and sinful we are. This is impossible on our own. However, when we rely on the Lord, it is possible. Paul said, “May the God of peace sanctify you through and through.” God is our full sanctification. He gave us three precious gifts to help us become sanctified, that is, the precious blood of the Lord, the Word of the Lord and the Spirit of the Lord (Holy Spirit). These three treasures help our spirit, soul and body to become fully sanctified.
I. Sanctification of our Spirits
Genesis 2: 7 “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” The Lord used dust from the ground to make man. The human body is composed of minerals from the ground. From the viewpoint of science: “Fats from the human body can be made into 6 pieces of soap, phosphorus from the human body can be made into more than 200 sticks of matches, iron from the human body can be made into 1 and a half inch piece of nail,calcium carbonate from the human body can be used to paint a small house,lead in the human body can be made into 20 pieces of pencils. And all these things together were worth only 1 US dollar twenty years ago.”
But a human being is not only made up of these things, for man possesses a spirit. The Bible says, “…the Lord God…breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Man has a spirit and this is the greatest difference between man and animals. What is the use of the spirit? John 4:24 “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” Our spirit is the means by which we communicate with God. But sin caused the spirit of man to die, and separated man from God. Isaiah 59:2 “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” That is how terrible sin is – it separated us eternally from God, it made us eternally lost, it caused our spirits to die so that we can no longer commune with God.
How can our spirits become alive again, so that they can become sanctified? This is easy, because we do not have to do anything, neither can we do anything. We can only do one thing and that is to believe in Jesus. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins, so that our spirits become alive again. 1 Peter 1:18-19 “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” Through the precious blood of Christ we are cleansed and our spirits our sanctified.
What does it mean to be born again? 1Peter 1:2 “…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.” This precious Scripture passage tells us there are three conditions to know if a person is truly saved: 1. God the Father chose him. (Salvation is by grace.) 2. He has the Holy Spirit inside him. 3. The blood of Christ cleansed him from his sin. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all involved in the salvation of man. And man totally has no part in it. Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no man can boast.” We depend on the blood of the Lord to sanctify our spirits, to cleanse us from all our unrighteousness. Has your spirit been sanctified? Have you been saved? If not, then, take this opportunity today, by faith repent of your sins before the Lord, allow the Lord’s Spirit to enter into your heart, allow the Lord to wash you of your sins, then, you can become a sanctified man, are you willing?
II. The Sanctification our Souls
Not only does man have a spirit, we also have a soul. What is the soul? The soul refers to our mind, our emotions and our will. The spirit is the means by which man commune with God, while the soul is the means by which man communicates and relates with man. Can our thoughts, emotions and will be sanctified? Yes, because God gave His Church a very precious gift, that is, His Word. God’s Word is the means by which our soul – thoughts, emotions and will – become sanctified. But it is not easy for our soul to become sanctified, because since our youth, we have learned and imbibed a lot of things that are not good. As Chinese, we have many precious sayings, and although many of these are wrong, yet we have accepted these teachings. The Lord gave us His Word, not only for us to have eternal life, but also to transform our minds through the Truth. The Word of God cleanses our minds. Whether listening to or reading the Word of God, we have an important goal, that is to allow the Word of God to change our minds, our value system, so that our thoughts, emotions and will become sanctified.
What does `value system’ mean? Cost and value are totally different. Cost is the actual worth of something. Value is the price that men gives to something. For example, an item costs 100 dollars, but I gave it a price of 1000 dollars, as a result, its cost and its value are different. If you don’t know the true worth of an item, you cannot grant it its true value.
When our thoughts, emotions and wills are not sanctified by the Lord, whatever decisions we make would be according to our own value system. But when we read the Bible, the Word of God changes our value system, then, the decisions we make will be totally different. Jim Elliot (1927 – 1956, an American who became a missionary to the Auca Indians, wrote in his diary, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” What are the things we cannot keep? Time, strength, talents, wealth, health, etc. What are the things we cannot lose? Doing the will of God is something we can never lose, that includes sharing the gospel, saving souls, teaching men to obey God’s word, building others up, bearing eternal fruits. A missionary served in a hospital for lepers. His work included bathing the lepers. An onlooker commented, after seeing him do so, “Even if you gave me a million, I wouldn’t be willing to do that.” The missionary said, “Yes, I wouldn’t be willing to do it,too, for a million dollars.” William Carey said, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” These men were willing to pay the price to gain the greatest reward, and that is something many find hard to understand. People may call them fools, but in their hearts, they clearly know they are not fools, because they chose the most blessed thing. That is because the Word of God had transformed their mind, emotions and wills.
III. A Sanctified Body
The spirit is the means by which man communes with God, the soul is the means by which men relate to men, and the body is the means by which we relate to the material world. We have our five senses, the eyes, the ears, mouth, nose and hands, to experience this world. But inside, the law of sin controls us. We say: speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil, and do no evil; yet, we do the opposite, we love to hear gossip, speak evil, look at evil, do evil. Paul said in Romans 7:18-24 “I know that nothing good lives in me,that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
This is not only Paul’s experience, but the experience of every human being. How can this body become sanctified? We need to rely on the Holy Spirit to sanctify our physical bodies. Paul said in Roman 8:12-13 “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”
Therefore, what are we to do? There are at least three ways:
1. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire (1Thess 5:19)
Do not put out the Spirit’s fire – to put out means to extinguish like fire; thus, this means that we must not extinguish the flame that the Holy Spirit lights in our hearts. The Holy Spirit works constantly in our hearts, convicting us of our sins, stirring us to do God’s work, moving us to give. If you feel the Holy Spirit’s moving in your heart, then, you must obey him; you must not quench the prompting of the Holy Spirit. This is one difference between a Christian and one who is not – a non-Christian does not have the Holy Spirit, although he has a conscience. Our conscience is God’s gift for all humans, it keeps us from doing evil things. But because of sin, our conscience gradually loses its sensitivity; 1Tim4:2 “…whose consciences have been seared with a hot iron.” Consciences can become totally deadened.
2. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God (Eph 4:30)
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God – How do we grieve the Holy Spirit of God? When we do some things in contradiction to the Truth, the Holy Spirit will become grieved because the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth. Proverbs 10:1 “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother.” When we do foolish things, the Holy Spirit, like a mother who is grieved over her child, is saddened. Parents, have you ever grieved over your children? Sometimes, you find it hard to eat, to sleep because of your children, but have we ever thought at how we similarly, grieve the Holy Spirit. If we truly love the Lord, we should not grieve his Holy Spirit.
3. Beat my body, make it a slave
1 Corinthians 9:27 “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” Colossians 2:23 “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” These two Scripture passages are in contrast to each other. 1Corinthians 9:27 is talking about the man beating his body and making it his slave, while Col 2:23 says harsh treatment of the body is useless in restraining sensual indulgence. These both were written by the Apostle Paul, but they are in contrast to one another. How come? Colossians 2:23 is talking about our salvation.
Paul tells us that it is totally useless for us to rely on ourselves, to control our sensual desires to save ourselves. No one can save himself by good behaviour, no matter how much control one exerts on himself, or try to be a good person, it is totally useless. 1 Corinthians 9:27 is talking about our sanctification. When we become saved, we have the Holy Spirit in us, then, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to control ourselves, to make our bodies obey us. This is our responsibility. Although we are already saved, but the old man is still inside us, and he is corrupt. If you do not deal with the old creation in you, he will come out again. So, we must beat our body and make it our slave. This is a responsibility we must do.
We must be fully sanctified – we must rely on the precious blood of our Lord to sanctify our spirits, on the Word of God to sanctify our souls, on the Holy Spirit to sanctify our body. This is the path to sanctification, let us forge ahead together.