“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” John 17:17
What is Sanctification?
The word “sanctify” shares its roots with other, more commonly used words such as “sanctuary” and “saint”. All of these words originally were derived from the Latin “sanctus”, which means “holy” or “consecrated”. Sanctification is simply the process of being made holy.
What is holiness?
There is a commonly-held misconception that “holiness” means learning to obey a long list of rules and laws. But this image doesn’t represent at all the true essence of the process of sanctification, or what it means to be “holy”.
For a moment let’s consider the impact of the sin that reigns in our lives before sanctification.
In Romans 5:12, Paul writes, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned…”
In Hebrews 12:1, we read, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Even in the very beginning, in the garden of Eden, as God warned Adam and Eve about the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 2:17, He said to them “for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
The truth is that the sin and deception under which we live our lives without Jesus Christ is killing us. It is entangling us so that we are completely debilitated, unable to walk in the truth of our purpose and passion in this life. While many of us are able to maintain an outward appearance of health and wholeness, the reality of our spiritual condition is little more than a partially rotting corpse lying motionless on the ground, its heart barely holding a rhythm, its lungs filled with the putrid, toxic air of addiction and lust and murder and greed. Without the blood of Jesus Christ, we are, in the words of Paul in Romans 4:19, “as good as dead”.
Holiness is not simply learning to follow an impossible list of rules and regulations, but it is our submission to the only One Who can possibly save us from the death of sin and darkness that reigns in our lives. Holiness comes as the authorities of death and deception are broken by the blood of Jesus Christ, and as we are cleansed by the washing of the Holy Spirit. Holiness means that we no longer walk under the oppression of the lies and deceptions we have always believed, but instead we learn to walk freely in the truth of who we really are – sons and daughters of God, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ.
In John 8:36, Jesus Christ said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Holiness is freedom. Sanctification is the process by which we are set free.
Where do we start?
In Hebrews 10:19-22 we read, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
Look again at verse 19: “…since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…” This is where we begin.
Everything begins with the blood of Jesus Christ.
In Romans 10:9-11, Paul describes the experience of our salvation, writing, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’”
At the point in our lives when we begin to believe in our hearts and are able to honestly confess with our mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord, then we are saved. More specifically, our salvation means that our broken, carnal nature is washed and covered with the blood of Jesus Christ, and we are reconciled with our Heavenly Father.
Remember that without the covering of the blood of Jesus Christ, we can not enter into the presence of God. It is through the experience of salvation – our submission to the covering of the blood of Jesus in our lives – that we become legally free to enter into the “Most Holy Place”, into the very presence of God our Father.
But, we must be careful not to maintain the perspective that our salvation is the end goal – the end of the journey. In fact, in many ways, our salvation experience is precisely the beginning.
As we begin to enter into the presence of God, underneath the blood of Jesus Christ, our old, broken, carnal nature starts to feel uncomfortable, even threatened. Our old nature – our old ways of thinking, our old habits – begins to struggle to maintain the authority it has always held in our lives.
In Romans 7:15-25, Paul personally describes this battle, writing:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who does it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell 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 I do not do the good I want to do, but 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: Although 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 me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
The Way to Victory
What is the ultimate goal of the process of sanctification? What does victory look like?
We see a clue of this in John 12:24-26, when Jesus Christ describes sanctification through the metaphor of a seed, saying, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me.” But where was Jesus going? To where does He require His disciples follow Him?
Jesus Christ tells us that in order to be called His follower, we must follow Him first to the cross. Our only hope for sanctification, for walking out a life of freedom and truth in Jesus Christ, is by our allowing our old, broken selves to be crucified with Him on the cross.
In Romans 8:12-13, Paul describes this further, writing, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”
Again in Galatians 2:19-20, he describes the victory in his own life: “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
In his book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote:
Sin is blatant mutiny against God, and either sin or God must die in my life. The New Testament brings us right down to this one issue— if sin rules in me, God’s life in me will be killed; if God rules in me, sin in me will be killed. There is nothing more fundamental than that. The culmination of sin was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and what was true in the history of God on earth will also be true in your history and in mine— that is, sin will kill the life of God in us. We must mentally bring ourselves to terms with this fact of sin. It is the only explanation why Jesus Christ came to earth, and it is the explanation of the grief and sorrow of life.
(From An Updated Edition, 1992, June 23 meditation, Oswald Chambers Publications, Ltd.)
The only way to know resurrection into new life in Christ is through the death of our selfish, sinful nature on the cross. This is the way to sanctification. This is the way to freedom.
Week 4 Meditation
This week set aside 30-40 minutes a day, on 4 different days, for time in prayer with God.
This week the focus of the prayer time will be sanctification, and the process of dying to your old nature. In this week, it may be good to reach out to someone whom you trust and know to be spiritually mature, and who will be willing to meet with you to talk and pray through some of the things the Lord reveals in your time of prayer.
As in the previous weeks, begin each time of prayer with silence, and ask the Holy Spirit to help silence all other distracting thoughts so that you will be able to turn your attention onto Him.
Day 1 – Go back and read again through Paul’s words in Romans 7:15-25.
Day 2 – Psalm 139
Day 3 – 2 Corinthians 5:14-17
Day 4 – Hebrews 10:35-39
Each day ask the Holy Spirit to begin to show you the following things:
– The dark places where you are battling in your own life. Specifically, ask Him to reveal those places of sin or deception in which you have lost hope, where you have become convinced that true freedom is impossible. Jot down the things that He brings up in your spirit.
– Revelation of His Word about each of these places of battle (specific scriptures which can minister to you as you begin to seek healing in this area).
– Ask Him to give you courage, and to teach you how to submit to the washing of the blood of Jesus Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in these places of sin, so that the authority they hold in your life will be broken.
– Ask Him to reveal to you the truth about who you really are, and to begin to write that truth in your heart as the old ways of thinking and living are crucified with Christ.