|2 Sanctification: What Does the Lord Expect of Us?|
Prof. Johan Malan, Mossel Bay, South Africa (August 2010)
2. A Spirit-controlled life
The Lord does not only call us to repentance but also to holiness: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification... He who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 4:3,8). A life under the control of God’s Spirit is the only way in which we can overcome the obstruction of our old, fleshly nature: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:16-17). This is a spiritual checkmate position.
How can this obstruction be removed? By the cross of Christ. He did not only die to pay the penalty for our sins, but also enabled us to die to the old life and be resurrected with Him in a new life. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I [the old Paul] who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). He was crucified to the world and the world to him (Gal. 6:14).
We take this step of full identification with Christ’s death in a complete surrender. Confess and forsake all sins of which the Holy Spirit convicts you and also surrender your old nature to be crucified. Then pray that the Holy Spirit will fill you and imbue you with the new nature of Christ. He will do His work of renewing your life and conforming it to the image of Christ. That is also what Paul asked of the Ephesians: “…that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:22-24).
What happens if a Christian does not take this step by faith? He then remains a carnal Christian who leads a life of falling and rising. Paul said to believers who stagnated spiritually and did not walk by the Spirit: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1). They were full of envy, strife and divisions, and consequently did not manifest the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.
When such people realise that something is lacking in their lives, they often resort to techniques such as the casting out of demons, the breaking of generation curses, or inner healing, in an effort to remove supposed impediments to spiritual growth. In so doing they commit a serious error of judgement as they implicitly reject the all-sufficiency of Christ’s deliverance which is based upon His atonement on the cross. Children of the Lord cannot be demon-possessed, neither are they afflicted by the sins of former generations.
What a young Christian does need is crucifying the flesh and the filling of the Holy Spirit. That is the experience of sanctification which follows justification. If he denies himself and daily takes up his cross, the Lord will imbue him with a heavenly life through His Spirit, and that will be the prevailing principle of life within him. That does not mean that he will never make mistakes or sin, but he will immediately confess his sins to the Lord Jesus and forsake them, and will therefore not become a slave of sin.