"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." - 1 Thessalonians 5:23
I believe the Bible is unmistakably clear on the issue of whether or not it is possible to overcome sin in this life. I recommend you read carefully the previous post on Romans 7 that talks about being dead to sin and alive in Christ. The topic I want to deal with now is the process of sanctification, not whether the end result is attainable, for it is; but what is sanctification, what does it look like, and how does it happen?
"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly..." We find here the design that God intends to sanctify each and every one of us completely and totally. This is a promise for all God's children, not just for so-and-so in the ministry and for some obscure people in the past or in a distant land. God's grace has been poured out upon all believers, His Spirit upon all flesh, that each one of us can lay hold of these promises and walk in victory throughout our days on earth. It is exciting to know that our dusty jar of clay is filled with a heavenly treasure, useful to a heavenly cause! Though we are earthly, God has chosen to make us heavenly! Let us not settle for dust when we can live and move in the Spirit!
I love how sanctification is identified with peace here in this verse. Dear Christian, let me ask you: Is there nothing more peaceful than walking upright before God? Is there nothing more blissful and joyous then having a clear conscience, a steady foot, a fixed eye on Jesus, walking in the light as He is in the light? Indeed, we have sweet fellowship with one another. But is there nothing more restless, agitating, sorrowful and burdensome then walking against the truth, against the current of God's heavenly stream? We can all answer from experience. God be praised that He is the God of peace, the God of peace that transcends all understanding! He Himself has offered to sanctify us wholly... to do all the work for us, to carry us up to a higher plane! Is this not a happy thought!?
What then hinders God from sanctifying us? Dear brothers and sisters, it happens in three ways:
1. The sin of unbelief. We do not believe God when He promises to do this. We do not believe a man can be wholly sanctified, holy and blameless on earth. We do not believe our flesh can be dead and our body and soul brought into obedience to the King. This is the number one hindrance to holiness! Unbelief is the chocks that stop the wheels of God's transport from taking off down the runway of promise. All spiritual impasse, whether it be the filling of the Holy Spirit, the healing of the sick, the saving of the soul... Jesus pointed to the sin of unbelief. "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (Matthew 14:31)
2. The arm of the flesh. A person can no more sanctify himself than a dog itself can learn table manners. Apart from Christ we are nothing; we are only evil, bent of folly. The Pharisees tried to become holy by following the Law, but Jesus exposed them for what they were: wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. The Laodicean church tried the same thing, but righteousness without Christ is filthy rags. Hear the words of Christ as He says: "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see." (Revelation 3:18) Every good and perfect gift comes from God. Our righteousness, our sanctification, our holiness must come from the Lord, or we will not have them at all.
3. Failure to fix the eyes upon Jesus. Here lies the work of sanctification: "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." (Hebrews 12:2) What? No work? No effort? No endeavoring? No! Nothing but looking unto Jesus and allowing Him to do all the work. God has promised to sanctify us, He has not commanded us sanctify ourselves. Jesus Christ already finished the mission, which now only remains to be realized in our lives. "And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." (John 17:19) Brothers and sisters, fix your eyes upon the blessed person of Jesus Christ and upon the work He has already accomplished, the cup He has already drank, the death He has already died! Only when we reckon these things finished do we realize these things fully. Christ's death wrought about our life. It is a sad wonder so many Christians do not live it.
Jesus Christ did not simply die to save you from hell, "but to purify unto Himself a pecualiar people, zealous for good works." (Titus 2:14) Let us put aside unbelief and doubt. Let us allow the working of the Spirit to sanctify us wholly; every aspect of our lives: spirit, soul and body. And let us fix our eyes on Jesus, who alone is rightfully and truly the perfecter of our faith.