We say the believer is "in" the world but not "of the world". We say he is a square peg in a round hole ... a misfit so far as the world is concerned. That's what we say. But is it true?
I get an uneasy feeling that we are fooling ourselves. It seems the emphasis these days is on accommodating the world, and on knocking off our own rough edges of holiness so that we can be comfortable in the round holes of marginal living
Whatever happened to the Bible injunction to "come out from among them and be separate"? What makes us want to be like the world? What makes us admire and even emulate celebrities whose professions encourage sensuous and violent behavior? Is purity passe'? Is holiness for has-beens? Is saintly and separate living out of date? An old song says, "I want to be naughty and still be nice." Is that what we actually are saying as Christians? May God help us ... and forgive us!
Sanctification is not "things"
Is sanctification a list of "no-nos"? Is there such a thing as "sanctification of the exterior"? Is holiness found in a head covering? Are inanimate things evil? Can things without life be called immoral?
The answer has to be "no." "Things" are not evil. Inanimate objects have no morals.
It is men who are evil or good. It is their thoughts ... their motives ... their behavior that has moral content. While "things" can be indicators of holiness, and can affect purity, "things" in themselves are neither pure nor impure.
Let me give you a "for instance." Take a bottle of wine. Is a bottle of wine evil? No, it cannot be evil, for it has no life ... no character. It is a "thing." Paul said to the Corinthian believers, "I am persuaded that nothing (no "thing") is unclean 'of itself." When by itself, a bottle of wine cannot be said to be either good or evil.
However, if I drink the wine, it is no longer "of itself." It now becomes a part of me ... and I am the one who is either good or evil. If wine makes me think evil thoughts and do evil deeds, then that which has no moral character "of itself' becomes immoral because it caused me to do evil.
Someone will say, "It is not what goes into a man that defiles." True! But if what "goes in" makes evil "come out" ... then that which "goes in" must be called evil because of what it caused to "come out!"
Sanctification is not "works"
First Peter 1:16 says, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." At first glance it looks like a holy God is saying to weak and sinning believers, "Be like me ... be holy." But can a believer, by his own effort, be holy? Is God waiting for us to get our act together and pull ourselves up by our behavioral "bootstraps" so that we can qualify to stand in his presence?
Never! There is no such thing as "bootstrap holiness" in God's plan for our sanctification. The power to be holy must come from God. And this is what is implied in this verse. God is saying, "Because I am holy, you can be holy." It is as we fix our eyes on God who is holy, that we become holy.
Santification is "character by faith"
So what is sanctification? What is holiness? Romans 8:29 says that God has predestined believers to "be conformed to the image of his Son." This is the bottom line when it comes to being sanctified. To be like Jesus is to be sanctified!
"But," you say, "who can be like Jesus? That's impossible!"
Impossible? No, brother, for with God all things are possible ... including the possibility of a believer being sanctified. But we need to know the process by which men become sanctified. Sanctification is character by faith. When a sinner repents and believes on the Lord, he is forgiven of his sins and is completely cleansed. God "imputes" to him "entire sanctification" and "credits" him with the righteousness of Christ himself! He becomes a child of God without spot or wrinkle! His faith has made him whole.
This does not mean that he will never sin again. By faith he has been counted to be a saint. By faith he must now begin to act like a saint. He must not only live in the Spirit. He must walk in the Spirit.
"Ye shall receive power," Jesus said, "and ye shall be witnesses." Be witnesses! The power to "be witnesses" is more than the power to proclaim and to prove. It is more than the power to preach and to perform miracles. The power to "be witnesses" is character power ... the power to "be." Character power enables the believer to walk a sanctified walk ... to demonstrate the Kingdom qualities of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Character power is the power to be Christlike ... the power to turn the other cheek ... the power to return good for evil. Character power overcomes prejudice. Character power enables the believer to be patient, kind, meek, and temperate. It gives power to love enemies ... to rejoice when evilly spoken of. Character power is the power to live a sanctified life!
Sanctification is "progressive"
Maybe this sounds paradoxical, but sanctified believers sin ... even after they are saved and sanctified! You see, it is one thing to live in the Spirit... to know that God has imputed total righteousness to us. It is quite another thing to walk in the Spirit... to "be" in practice what we are "counted to be" in heaven. This means a progression in sanctification ... a day by day presenting of ourselves to God so that our minds may be transformed and our characters changed (Romans 12:1,2).
First Corinthians 3:18 says, "We all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." Change the word "glory" in the above verse to "character" and you have the answer to progressive sanctification. It would then read, "We all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the character of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from character to character, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
Men become what they present themselves to. Present yourself to bad books, sensuous and violent pictures, evil companions, and worldly pleasures, and you become in character what you present yourself to.
Conversely, when you present yourself to the Word of God ... when you "behold as in a glass the glory (character) of the Lord" ... you are changed ... progressively changed ... from character to character ... ever becoming more and more like Christ.
This is the meaning of sanctification.
Sanctification is "active"
But there is something we need to be aware of. Sanctification is not passive. It is active. The sanctified life is not lived in a prayer closet. It is lived in the classroom, in the factory, in the home, and on the playing field. Victorious living occurs on the battlefield ... the place of temptation ... the place where the enemy is faced.
The prayer closet is a place to renew our strength ... a place to commune with our Commander, and to receive instructions for battle. It is not a place of personal victory. We receive the assurance of victory on our knees. But we do not win the battle over sin on our knees. We win the battle of sin at the place of conflict. We win the victory by overcoming at the very spot where we yielded to temptation in the last encounter with the devil.
In the prayer closet we put on the whole armor of God. In the prayer closet we are told we can make it. And how good it feels! So good, in fact, that we shout for joy as we go forth to do battle ... renewed in strength and confident that we will overcome. But the proof of the pudding is in the conflict, and "let not him that putteth on his armor boast as he that putteth it off!" A sanctified life is an overcoming life!
The Sum of Santification
- Sanctification is not a matter of outward adornment. It is a matter of a meek and quiet spirit.
- Sanctification is not a matter of covering the head. It is submission to God-ordained authority.
- Sanctification is not a matter of meat and drink. It is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
- Sanctification is not the domain of recluses and hermits. It is for those who overcome on the battlefield of temptation and conflict.
- Sanctification is not attained by works. It is attained by faith and by the endowment of power from on high.
- Sanctification is not only a life in the Spirit. Sanctification is a walk in the Spirit.