The Interceders Encourager No. 41
Revival and Holiness
In the last Encourager, we followed up the story of the Awakening in the Hebrides by referring to the fact that the battle had to be fought afresh at each place, and seeing how this could be applied to our situation today. In this Encourager, we are taking up Duncan Campbell’s comment that "Revival must ever be related to holiness," for, as the Word of God declares, without holiness no man will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
Holiness refers to the essential character of God, which is above and beyond everything and everybody else in its purity and perfection. Relating it to man, it means separation from everything sinful, and dedication to everything pure, sinless and godly. This involves being cleansed inwardly from sin, and being refined and renewed in mind, heart,
soul and spirit.
Our prayers for revival will be just a mockery if we are not living in a holy way. ‘Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear
of God’ (2 Corinthians 7:1).To pray for revival while refusing to obey God or listen to His commandments means that God will not listen to our prayers, for they will be an
abomination to Him.(Proverbs 28:9).
We need to be absolutely honest with God, and pray with the psalmist, "Search me,
O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there is any wicked
way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24)
David wrote, "Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself. The Lord hears when I call upon Him," and "Let everyone who is godly offer prayer to You,"(Ps. 4:3 & 32:6). The psalmist tells us that if he had cherished iniquity in his heart, the Lord would not have listened, but he testifies that fearing God and obeying Him meant that God had given heed to the voice of his prayer. (Ps. 66:16-19)
The importance of holiness in relation to praying for revival is underlined by the truth that Ezekiel declares, that it is only when God vindicates the holiness of His great name that the nations will know who the true God is, when through His people He vindicates His holiness before their eyes (Ezek.36:23). The Lord then goes on to explain how He will do this; it will be through making us realize our evil ways and our deeds that were not good, so that we loathe ourselves for our iniquities and abominable deeds, (Ezek.36:31), cleansing us from our idolatry, giving us a new heart and a new spirit, putting His Spirit in us and causing us to walk in His statutes and observe His ordinances. (Ezek.36:25-27) Other people, including those of other religions, will know that our
God is the true God when He is hallowed in us before their eyes.
A. THE BIBLICAL BASIS FOR SANCTIFICATION
1. Deut. 30:6 "The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul."
2. Ezek. 36: 25-27-"I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you will be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols, I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you. I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe all my ordinances."
3. Ex. 19:6 - "You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
4. Lev.11:45 - "I am the Lord, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be Your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy."
5. Lk. 1:69-75 "He has raised up a horn of salvation for us…so that we, being delivered from the hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life."
6. Matt. 5:48 - Jesus said, "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
7. 2 Cor. 7:1 - "Having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all
defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
8. 1 Pet. 1:15 - "Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all
your behaviour; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’"
9. 1 John 1:5-7- "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him, while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."
10. 1 John 2:1 – "My little children, I am writing this to you, in order that you may not sin."
11. 1 John 3:8 – The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
12. 1 John 3:9 - "No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides
in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God."
13. Eph. 5:25-27 "Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, in order that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present the Church to Himself as glorious, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but in order that she might be holy and without blemish."
14. Phil. 2:14-15 – "Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation; among whom you shine as lights in the world."
15. Phil. 3:15 - "Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in
anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you."
16. Col. 4:12 - "Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God."
17. 1 Pet. 5:10 - "And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace,
who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you."
18. Rom. 6:5-7 - "If we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall be united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be destroyed, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin."
19. Rom.6:12 & 14) – "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, to obey its lusts….For sin will not have dominion over you."
20. Gal. 2:20 - "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but
Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me."
21. 1 John 3:9 - "No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."
22. 1 Thess. 3:12-13 - "May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father until the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints."
23. 1 Thess. 4:3 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification."
24. 1 Thess. 5:23 - "May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely and may
your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame until the coming
of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who has called you, and He will do it"
25. Heb. 12:14 - "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no
one will see the Lord."
26. Titus 2:11-14 – "For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, instructing us so that we deny ungodliness and worldly passions, and live sober,
upright and godly lives in this present age; awaiting our present hope, the appearing
of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself on our
behalf to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify a people for His own possession,
who are zealous for good works."
B. THE NEED
Such an emphasis is certainly needed today. Most of the hymns and songs sung in churches today are shallow and lacking in any challenge. Most are repetitious praise songs; some speak about the Cross; some may put an emphasis on justification, but very few major on sanctification, the fact that Christ died to make us holy, so that we live according to the Spirit, set our minds on the things of the Spirit and not on the things of the flesh, and submit to God’s law, knowing that those who are in the flesh cannot please God.. (Col. 1:21-22, Titus. 2: 11-14, 2Cor. 5:15, 1Jn.3:5-10, Rom. 8:1-8) Even when Charles Wesley’s hymn, ‘Love divine’ is sung, the second verse, the most challenging one, is omitted. Similarly, when ‘Here is love’ is sung, the third and fourth verses, the most challenging ones, are left out. Everything is done to make life easier, the very opposite of the heart of Christianity, which is self denial; and when work is involved, all the emphasis is on us doing this or that in our own strength, but no mention of God needing to do a work in us and through us.
If we desire to be, as Interceders, part of the Remnant Church that is effective for Christ, we must be a people of holiness, in spite of the fact that the Church, as a whole in Britain, has lost its passion for holiness.
Dr. J. Sidlow Baxter wrote, "No subject which ever engages the thought of Christian believers can be more sacredly commanding than that of our personal holiness, by which I mean an inwrought holiness of heart and life. Beyond contradiction, this is our ‘priority-number-one’ concern. Admittedly, one would not infer so from the general appearance of things just now, but it is so, if the New Testament is true".
Although this deeper work of the Holy Spirit in the consecrated believer seems little expounded in the average church today, with the unhappy consequence that comparatively few Christians seem to know much about it in experience, it still remains true that this call to holiness is the first call of the New Testament to all Christians. For the moment, let just one text of Scripture represent the many to us: Ephesians 1:4, staggering in its mystery and immensity: "‘He hath chosen us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love’"
Yet the tragedy is that many professing Christians are so focused on what they think God should give them that they have lost sight of what He wants to make them. They’ve exchanged what they can become for what they can get. Like the prophet Isaiah, we all need a fresh vision of God’s holiness. This is why R.B. Jones, the greatest preacher at the time of the last Welsh Awakening in 1904-1906 consistently preached on the holiness of God from Isaiah 6, and saw the greatest manifestation of God’s glory.
W. E. Sangster summarized the teaching of the Bible: "All through the Word of God, exhortations to holiness appear. They are not sporadic, occasional, or tempered by doubt concerning God’s ability to do this thing in us. Underlying them all is the confidence that God can do something more with our sins than just forgive them."
C. MISUNDERSTANDING AND CONFUSION
There is misunderstanding and confusion about the doctrine of holiness, for Scripture presents different aspects of Christian holiness: positional holiness and practical holiness.
Positional holiness results from our position or standing in Christ. Because we have renounced our sin and accepted that Christ died in our place, and took our sin upon Himself, we are regarded as righteous in God’s sight. God sees us as holy because we are in Christ. Believers are positionally holy because Christ’s holiness is credited to our account, and our sin is laid on Him. Positional holiness isn’t based on our inward holiness of heart, but on the righteousness of Christ.
1 Cor. 1:30 - "He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification, and redemption."
Heb. 10:10-14 - "By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all… For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. Christ’s perfect offering has already perfected, (in the positional sense), those who are, or should be, in the process of being made holy.
1 Cor. 1:1-2 - "Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Paul assured the Corinthians that, in God’s sight, they were sanctified saints, but later Paul confronts their sin and spiritual immaturity. They were holy in position, but not in practice.
Practical holiness is the result of what the Holy Spirit does within us, as against positional holiness, which is the result of what Christ did for us on the cross.
We have already noted many Bible verses which speak of the importance of this. We could add more, such as the following:
Eph. 3:14-19 - Paul prayed, "I bow my knees before the Father… that He would grant you…to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that… you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God."
Is that really possible? Paul answers by saying "Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen" (vv. 20-21).
In all these references, it is God who does the work, but only when we respond to Him.
Positional holiness, therefore, comes from claiming the perfect righteousness of Christ
for us, on our behalf before the throne. Practical holiness comes from claiming the perfect righteousness of Christ in us before the world, for this is what God is concerned about more than anything else. There is no point in talking about our standing before God, as far as the world is concerned. The world needs to see God’s holiness displayed before their eyes, as the Lord makes clear in Ezekiel 36.
This is further reinforced by 1 John 3:7 "Let no one deceive you. He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous." These are not outward deeds done to justify ourselves or done out of pride to prove something to others, but deeds of righteousness done as an outworking of that inward holiness wrought in us by the Holy Spirit of God.
"Holiness is not optional, but imperative," wrote Samuel Chadwick. "Because God is holy, His people must be holy. Without holiness no man can see the Lord. It is imperative and it must be possible, for He who wills the end must provide the means. The will of God is our sanctification. The command of God is that we be holy. If sanctification is His will, and holiness His command, He must have made it possible; otherwise He would mock us and call us to an unequal and unfair task. Life would be doomed to disappointment and dissatisfaction, failure and condemnation."
The apostle Peter declares, in light of the destruction of the world with all the ungodly, "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in all holy behaviour and godliness." (2 Pet.3:11) As Greg Gordon has written: "God is drawing a distinction line and will separate the sheep from the goats in the ‘great day.’ Let us be found in Him walking in holiness and loving the commands of God more then the lawlessness of sin."
John Wesley pleaded with people to understand the need for holiness. "Professing Christians invariably invent one way or another to get to heaven without holiness. In the place of holiness, some have substituted penance, pilgrimages, and praying to saints and angels. Thousand of professing Christians have no doubt but that, by a diligent use of these things without any holiness at all they shall see the Lord in glory. However, Protestants will not be satisfied in that manner. They are convinced that whoever leans on such things leans on the staff of a broken reed. Yet many Protestants also think that they too will see God without holiness. How? Why, by doing no harm, generally doing good, going to church, and receiving the sacraments. And many thousands are content with this, believing they are on the high road to heaven. Yet, that is not much better than the hopes of the first group. However, other Protestants recognize that such nominal Christianity is not sufficient. They correctly say that such a religion does not stand on the right foundation. However, they go on to say that Christ has already accomplished and suffered everything for us. They say that His righteousness is imputed to us; therefore, we need none of our own. Since there is so much righteousness and holiness in Him, there needs to be none in us. In fact, they claim, that to think we have any holiness, or to desire to seek any holiness, is to renounce Christ. That from the beginning to the end of salvation, all is in Christ, nothing is in man. And that those who teach otherwise are preachers of legalism, and know nothing of the gospel.
What evasion! What has Satan done? He has persuaded the very men who receive it to ‘turn the grace of God into licentiousness’ (Jude 4). This is indeed a blow at the root, the root of all holiness, all true religion. Scripture says: ‘Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.’ The whole design of Christ's death was ‘to destroy the works of the devil’ (1 John 3:7&8). But now this is overthrown in one stroke. For wherever this doctrine of easy or free grace is received, it leaves no place for holiness. It forbids all such exhortations as might excite a desire for holiness. Nay, it makes men afraid of personal holiness, afraid of cherishing any thought of it. For they fear that any step toward holiness might be a denial of the faith, and a rejection of Christ and His righteousness. So that, instead of being ‘zealous for good works,’ they are infinitely more afraid of the works of God than the works of the devil. Here is Satan's masterpiece! We are to believe that men are holy without any holiness in them! Holy in Christ, yet unholy in themselves. They are supposedly in Christ, although they do not have the mind that was in Christ. They are ‘complete in Him,’ although they are still proud, or vain, or covetous, or even lustful. They think they can continue in unrighteousness because Christ has ‘fulfilled all righteousness.’ I testify unto you, that if you still continue in sin, Christ shall profit you nothing. That Christ is no Saviour to you, unless He saves you from your sins. And that unless it purifies your heart, faith shall profit you nothing. Oh, when will you understand, that to oppose either inward or outward holiness, under the pretext of exalting Christ, is directly to act the part of Judas, to ‘betray the Son of man with a kiss?’"
J.C. Ryle spoke much on the need for holiness in his day, pointing out that holiness is not an option but a requirement for heaven and a necessary fruit of salvation. "Lastly, we must be holy, because without holiness on earth we will never enjoy heaven. Heaven is a holy place. The Lord of heaven is a holy Being. The angels are holy creatures. Holiness is written on everything in heaven. The book of Revelation says expressly, ‘There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defiles, neither whatever works abomination, or makes a lie’ (Rev. 21:27). How will we ever be at home and happy in heaven if we die unholy? Death works no change. The grave makes no alteration. Each will rise again with the same character in which he breathed his last. Where will our place be if we are strangers to holiness now? Suppose for a moment that you were allowed to enter heaven without holiness. What would you do? What possible enjoyment could you feel there? To which of all the saints would you join yourself, and by whose side would you sit down? Their pleasures are not your pleasures, their tastes not your tastes, their character not your character. How could you possibly be happy if you had not been holy on earth?
Charles Finney shares on the work of Christ and the necessity of being saved from sin: "To some, Christ is chiefly precious because he saves from wrath, much more than because he saves from sin; more because he justifies, than because he sanctifies. Now, rely upon it, that, whenever this is the case, there is a sad defect of character. What is the true spirit of the children of God? Why, it is this, they feel as if they must get rid of sin, at any rate. They don't want to be saved in their sins; they feel that to live in their sins is hell enough. They abhor themselves on account of their sins. They must get away from their sins. They would not wish to be saved at all, if they could not be saved from sin. They are ready to say, if the gospel cannot save me from sin, it is a failure, for this is my necessity. But believer in Christ, the Lord hath set you apart for himself."
I feel it necessary here to put in a word about Christian charity. Some of the people quoted may not fit into a particular theological camp, and the followers of that camp may be prejudiced against him or them. But we all need to have far higher ideals. "It doesn’t matter if a person is a Calvinist or an Arminian as long as he has the saintly character of someone like David Brainerd or John Fletcher or Robert Murray M’Cheyne or Dr Sangster. What matters is the reality of Jesus Christ in the life, and the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, not a particular theology. Many old saints with what some would consider imperfect theology had pure hearts, pure love and a holy life, whether they were Early Church Fathers, monastic saints, Puritans, Pietists, missionaries or revivalists. Jesus was their all in all, their sufficiency, their perfection, their holiness, their source of divine life. We, in our pampered, comfortable life, are in no position to point the finger at them." (Redi on SermonIndex) But, rather, let the word of God challenge us to ‘cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God,’ so that the God of peace sanctifies us completely.
The constant danger is setting the standard lower than the New Testament sets it, and the Church has consistently done this. For if the New Testament standard is not clearly asserted, the Church descends to the level of the world, as it has done, because holiness has not been emphasised.
I commend the wise words of Dr. A. J. Gordon: "Divine truth as revealed in scripture seems often to be between two extremes. If the doctrine of sinless perfection is regarded as a heresy, then we regard contentment with sinful imperfection as a greater heresy. And we gravely fear that many Christians make the apostles words, ‘If we say that we have not sin, we deceive ourselves,’ the unconscious justification for a low standard of Christian living. It would be better for one in his eager grasp after holiness, to overstate the possibilities of sanctification, than to understate them in his complacent satisfaction with a traditional unholiness. Certainly, it is not an edifying spectacle to see a Christian compromiser throwing stones at a Christian perfectionist.
Even if we cannot claim to have the experience of the perfect love that casts out fear, we must certainly desire it, because pure love, the essence of God, is what matters, and without it we are nothing."
We all need to answer this question. How effective is the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross to cleanse us of sin and unrighteousness? In the light of the cross that "cleanses from all sin" and the perfect redemption procured by the sinless Son of God, how can we limit their effectiveness to deal with sin in the believer?
Basically, the doctrine of sanctification is answering simple questions: Can we love God with all of our hearts? By the grace of God we can. Can we love men as we love ourselves? By the grace of God we can. Can someone stop sinning and overcome sin? By the grace of God and the power of the blood he can. Can someone stop hating even his enemies? Yes, by the grace of God it’s possible, otherwise the commandment to love your enemies is impossible for Christians, so Jesus could not have commanded it. But this is the heart of the gospel, that God can change us and make us like Himself. Jesus is the truth, and He knew that by the power of the cross and the Holy Spirit, a man who truly believes in Him, and is set free from the power of sin, is enabled to obey Him, so can love unconditionally, because he is a new man in the likeness of Jesus. The Early Church Fathers taught that, and they were not afraid of the term. This doctrine has been there in the Church since apostolic times.
Adam Clarke was a renowned preacher and scholar. In a sermon preached from Phil.1:27-28 titled "Apostolic Preacher," he explained Christian holiness: "The whole design of God was to restore man to his image, and raise him from the ruins of his fall; in a word, to make him perfect; to blot out all his sins, purify his soul, and fill him with all holiness, so that no unholy temper, evil desire, or impure affection or passion shall either lodge or have any being within him. This and this only is true Christianity, or Christian perfection; and a salvation less than this would be dishonourable to the sacrifice of Christ and the operation of the Holy Ghost. . . . Call it by what name we please, it must imply the pardon of all transgression and the removal of the whole body of sin and death. . . . This, then, is what I plead for, pray for, and heartily recommend to all true believers."
Clarke knew that some Christians were opposed to the doctrine of entire sanctification because they thought "no man can be fully saved from sin in this life. . . . They hold out death as the complete deliverer from all corruption and the final destroyer of sin as if it were revealed in every page of the Bible! Whereas there is not one passage in the sacred volume that says any such thing! Were this true, then death, far from being the last enemy, would be the last and best friend, and the greatest of all deliverers. . But it is not portrayed as such. . It is the blood of Jesus alone that cleanses from all unrighteousness.
If men would but spend as much time in fervently calling upon God to fully sanctify them as they spend in decrying this doctrine, what a glorious state of the church should we soon witness! . . . This moment we may be emptied of sin, filled with holiness and become truly happy. . . . The perfection of the gospel system is not that it makes allowance for sin, but that it makes an atonement for it, not that it tolerates sin, but that it destroys it. . . . Let all those who retain the apostolic doctrine . . . press every believer to go on to perfection, and expect to be saved, while here below, into the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Jesus. . . . Art thou weary of that carnal mind which is enmity to God? Canst thou be happy whilst thou art unholy? Arise, then, and be baptized with a greater effusion of the Holy Ghost. . . . Reader, it is the birthright of every child of God to be cleansed from all sin, to keep himself unspotted from the world, and so to live as never more to offend his Maker. All things are possible to him that believeth, because all things are possible to the infinitely meritorious blood and energetic Spirit of the Lord Jesus."
Sanctification is a great work of God. It is the renewal of the whole man in the image of Jesus. It is the utter destruction of all hatred, envy, malice, impatience, covetousness, pride, lust, fear of man, love of ease, love of human admiration and applause, shame of the Cross, self-will, and the like. It makes its possessors " meek and lowly in heart," as Jesus was ; patient, kind, full of forbearance, pitiful, full of tender compassion and love ; full of faith, benevolent, and zealous in every good word and work.
Various theories have been put forward to try and explain the theology of sanctification, what happens or should happen. Some have argued that the root of sin has to be eradicated, while others maintain that sin has to be continuously fought against, subdued or counteracted. Some people think that it is necessary for there to be a second or third "blessing" for the Holy Spirit to do His work. What matters in the end is that what Christ has won for us is appropriated by us; that sin does not have dominion over us, (Rom.6:14); that we are set free from sin and become slaves to God, (Rom. 6:22); that we are redeemed from all iniquity and are a purified people, zealous for good works, (Tit.2:14); ready for the Lord to use in revival.
D. HOW ARE WE SANCTIFIED?
All who are born of God, and have the witness of His Spirit to their justification, know full well that it was not through any good works of their own, nor by growing into it, that they were saved, but it was "by grace through faith." But very many of these dear people seem to think that we are to grow into sanctification, or are to get it by our own works. But the Lord settled that question, and made it as plain as words can make it, when He told Paul that He sent him to the Gentiles to " open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith that is in Me." (Acts 26:18) Not by works, nor by growth, but by faith, were they to be made holy.
Notice that Paul says that "our old self was crucified with Christ,"(Rom.6:6), and "I have been crucified with Christ,"(Gal. 2:20). The verbs are in the passive. Nobody can crucify himself. Somebody else has to do it, and the only one who can crucify our self life is God. We have to yield ourselves to the purging, purifying fire of the Holy Spirit, and present ourselves as living sacrifices to God, for Him to do the work in us.
"When God calls us to holiness it must be frankly admitted that the demand is beyond us", wrote Samuel Chadwick. We cannot attain unto holiness. Therefore God must give what we cannot gain by will or effort of our own. Sanctification is not attained; it is obtained. For it is of grace through faith and not of merit by works. It is without price, because it is priceless; and it is not of works, because it is beyond man’s possibility. He who wills our sanctification is Himself the Sanctifier.
Because there is no doubt that God wills our sanctification, it is not a doctrine of man to be accepted or declined. We are called unto holiness, and God requires His people to be holy because He is holy. His holiness is the pattern, and His people are to be holy because He is holy, and His holiness is the pattern and standard of His demand. Absolute holiness belongs to God alone, and when He commands that His people be holy as He is holy, it means that every quality of holiness in Him must be in them, even as Jesus commanded, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
What He wills He commands. "For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. So, therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man, but God, who hath given unto us his Holy Spirit" (I Thess. 4:7) To reject the call is to reject God , to despise God. To deny the call is to deny the Holy Spirit. The will of God is our sanctification. Will implies freedom, our freedom as well as His. God cannot make saints as He makes worlds. When He wills man’s sanctification, another will is involved. Man cannot be sanctified even by God apart from consent and without cooperation. Saints are God’s workmanship. Sanctification is the act of God. Concerning this, the Word of God is decisive and emphatic. St. Paul prays in the Thessalonian epistle—"The God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly." It is the Lord who separates the godly unto Himself, and He alone can make that which is separated to be holy in nature and character. There is a cleansing required that is beyond man’s power, and there is a sanctification to be wrought that God alone can do. Man knows that he cannot make himself clean.
Sanctification is not by the will of man. Neither prayer nor discipline, Bible study nor fasting, penance nor ordinance, can purify the heart and sanctify the nature. It takes God to do that, but He is able. He Himself does that which He wills and commands. The experience of sanctification is variously ascribed to God, to Christ, and to the Holy Spirit. We are sanctified through Christ; our Lord sanctified Himself that we might be sanctified, and we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all (Heb. 10:10).
We are sanctified through the blood of Christ (Heb. 13:12) and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin, (I John 1:7). We are sanctified through the Word of God. "Thy word is truth," (John 15:3-17; I John 1:7). We are made holy through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; II Thess. 2:13; I Peter 1:2). From first to the last, salvation is of grace through faith. As we are justified by faith, so are we sanctified by faith.
The act of God in sanctification is followed by the work of God in holiness of character and life. "The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints." (I Thess. 3:12, 13).
This whole subject is hopeless until it is approached from the Godward side. Man cannot make himself holy, nor can he keep himself holy. Only God can sanctify and only God can keep. "Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."
Being convinced that we must be holy, and that only God can do the work, transforming us and conforming us into the image of His Son, so that we can be what God wants us to be, we then need to come to the end of ourselves and empty ourselves, as Jesus did, in order for God to be glorified through us. As Charles Newbold says, we need to get through to that place where you "live the crucified life, so that the glory of the Lord might be revealed in and through you in this final hour before He comes."
"Is your soul hungering and thirsting for the righteousness of perfect love ? Do you want to be like Jesus ? Are you prepared to suffer with Him, and to be "hated of all men for His name's sake "? Then, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset you ; present your body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service, and run with patience the race which is set before you, looking unto Jesus, who is the Author and Finisher of your faith. Come to the Lord with the same simple faith that you did when you were saved, lay your case before Him, ask Him to take away all uncleanness, and to perfect you in love, and then believe that He has done it. If you will then resist all Satan's temptations to doubt, you will soon find all your hindrances gone, and yourself rejoicing "with joy unspeakable, and full of glory." (unknown source)
Jesus then becomes everything to us that God intended Him to be; our righteousness, our redemption, our sanctification, our healing, our deliverance, our protection, our peace, our joy, our security, our guidance, our goal and our glorification. He will also be our Strength and Tower in spiritual warfare. Warriors of God have three enemies: the flesh, (the sinful nature), the world and the devil and his demons. When God, in His great grace, makes us holy, the flesh is defeated, the world will have been crucified to you, and you to the world, (Gal.6:14) but the devil will not give up. On the contrary, as you seek holiness, and as God gives it to you, the enemy will increase his attacks on you. This usually comes in the form of increased temptation and doubts about if you actually received the blessing of holiness. But now you will have greater power to fight against him, and win.
All this is not wishful thinking on our part, but is according to the will of God, for God desperately wants to impart everything to us that has been won for us by the giving, the emptying and the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf.
However, "the great test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain is truth and life will be whether it is manifest in the increasing humility it produces," wrote Andrew Murray. "In the human being, humility is the one thing needed to allow God's holiness to dwell in him and shine through him. In Jesus, the Holy One of God who makes us holy, a divine humility was the secret of His life, His death and His exaltation; the one infallible test of our holiness will be the humility before God and men which marks us. Humility is the bloom and the beauty of holiness.
The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is its lack of humility. Every seeker after holiness needs to be on his guard, lest unconsciously what has begun in the Spirit be perfected in the flesh, and pride creep in where its presence is least expected. Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, the other a publican. There is no place or position so sacred but the Pharisee can enter there. Pride can lift up its head in the very temple of God, and make His worship the scene of its self-exaltation. Since the time Christ so exposed his pride, the Pharisee has put on the garb of the publican, and the confessor of deep sinfulness equally with the professor of the highest holiness, must be on the watch. Just when we are most anxious to have our heart the temple of God, we shall find the two men coming up to pray. And the publican will find that his danger is not from the Pharisee beside him, who despises him, but the Pharisee within who commends and exalts." If we are tempted to think that we are holier than others, we have failed the test. His holiness is not in us.
Where the spirit of love is shed abroad in the heart, where the divine nature comes to a full birth, where Christ the meek and lowly Lamb of God is truly formed within, there is given the power of a perfect love that forgets itself and finds its blessedness in blessing others, in bearing with them and honouring them, however feeble they be. Where this love enters, there God enters. And where God has entered in His power, and reveals Himself as All, there the creature becomes nothing. And where the creature becomes nothing but humble towards the fellow creature, the presence of God becomes not a thing of times and seasons, but the covering under which the soul ever dwells, and its deep abasement before God becomes the holy place of His presence whence all its words and works proceed."
As Interceders, we have pledged ourselves to stand in the gap between God’s righteous anger and this sinful nation. Charles Newbold testifies that the Lord spelt this out more fully to him. "’I am looking for a man," said the Lord, "who will stand in the gap for Me. One who will battle the enemy on behalf of the church, one who will dare to put on the full armour of God, and be all that I require him to be. I require much of this man, more than he could ever hope to be in and of himself. I require him to be holy, to be pure in heart, to be loving and humble, gentle, wise and strong. I require him to be knowledgeable in my word, and perfectly obedient to it. I require of him prayer, the kind that ascends to my prayer room where I can answer in power and might. I require of him perfect obedience to all that I say for him to do, to go where I say to go, to do what I say to do, and be what I say to be. I require of him faith, the kind that moves mountains. I require of him to lay down his life for others, to prefer others above himself, to give no thought for tomorrow or for his life. I require of him to be different, misunderstood, despised by many, hated, persecuted, abused, turning the other cheek. I require of him the power to cast out demons, to heal the sick and to set the captives free. I require of him to be perfectly conformed to the image of my Son, to be just like Jesus.’ In case you are thinking this is an impossible ideal, the Lord added: ‘I will give him the ability to meet all these requirements. I give him Jesus. If he will turn to me with a whole heart, abandon everything else in his heart, truly make Jesus Lord of his life, I will deposit the very life of Jesus in his heart through my Holy Spirit. I will have found the man I’ve been looking for, and he will stand in the gap for me.’"
Will you be the one, (man or woman)? Will you answer the call, and be the person that God is looking for? God is calling His people to holiness and purity, to humility and unity. It is time to shake off all worldliness and surrender totally to His kingdom purposes.
"O God, move upon Your Church and awaken it anew to Bible holiness. Stir up Your people in the inner man; O Holy Ghost, convict believers to yearn for spiritual cleansing and deliverance from the power of sin." (Dick Schnarr)
"Jesus, Thine all victorious love, shed in my heart abroad; Then shall my feet no longer rove, rooted and fixed in God.
O that in me the sacred fire, might now begin to glow; burn up the dross of base desire, and make the mountains flow.
O that it now from heaven might fall, and all my sins consume. Come Holy Ghost, for Thee I call, Spirit of burning come.
Refining Fire, go through my heart, illuminate my soul; Scatter Thy life through every part, and sanctify the whole." (Charles Wesley)