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"Holiness and Sanctification"
The words holiness and sanctification sour in the stomach of most professing christians today. "It's legalism", they cry "It's the super orthodox spiritualists trying to put us in bondage, trying to shove rules and regulations down our throat". But wasn't it the inspired writer to the Hebrews who wrote, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:" Hebrews 12:14
William Law penned these words, "The best way for anyone to know how much he ought to aspire after holiness is to consider not how much will make his present life easy, but to ask himself how much he thinks will make him easy at the hour of death." A. W. Tozer wrote, "We Christians must stop apologizing for our moral position and start making our voices heard, exposing sin as the enemy of the human race and setting forth righteousness and true holiness as the only worthy pursuits for moral beings."
The prophet Isaiah voiced the mind of God when he wrote, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isaiah 58:1). We must see the connection between obedience and holiness. Sanctification is the process by and through the Holy Spirit to make us holy in Christ. "But 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" (II Corinthians 3:18).
Jerry Bridges in his excellent book, "The Pursuit of Holiness" wrote, "It is time for us Christians, to face up to our responsibility for holiness. Too often we say we are "defeated" by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient. It might be well if we stopped using the terms victory and defeat to describe our progress in holiness. Rather we should use the terms obedience and disobedience." He goes on to say, "Our first problem is that our attitude towards sin is more self-centered than God-centered. We are more concerned about our own "Victory" over sin than we are about the fact that our sin grieves the heart of God. We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success oriented, not because we know it is offensive to God"
We have a responsibility to God and that is to obey Him, ("...be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only... Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." James 1:22; 2:17), not out of duty, but of love. "If ye love me, keep my commandments." John 14:15
Oswald Chambers wrote, "‘And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.’ I Thes. 5:23. When we pray to be sanctified, are we prepared to face the standard of these verses? We take the term sanctification much too lightly. Are we prepared for what sanctification will cost? It will cost an intense narrowing of all our interests on earth, and an immense broadening of all our interests in God. Sanctification means intense concentration on God's point of view. It means every power of body, soul and spirit chained and kept for God's purpose only. Are we prepared for God to do in us all that He separated us for? And then after His work is done in us, are we prepared to separate ourselves to God even as Jesus did? "For their sakes I sanctify Myself." The reason some of us have not entered into the experience of sanctification is that we have not realized the meaning of sanctification from God's standpoint. Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the disposition that ruled Him will rule us. Are we prepared for what that will cost? It will cost everything that is not of God in us."
J. C. Ryle wrote in his great work "Are We Sanctified?", "Sanctification, again, is a thing which will be found absolutely necessary as a witness to our character in the great day of judgment. It will be utterly useless to plead that we believed in Christ, unless our faith has had some sanctifying effect, and been seen in our lives. Evidence, evidence, evidence, will be the one thing wanted when the great white throne is set, when the books are opened, when the graves give up their tenants, when the dead are arraigned before the bar of God. Without some evidence that our faith in Christ was real and genuine, we shall only rise again to be condemned. I can find no evidence that will be admitted in that day, except sanctification.
"The question will not be how we talked, and what we professed; but how we lived, and what we did. Let no man deceive himself on this point. If anything is certain about the future, it is certain that there will be a judgment; and if anything is certain about judgment, it is certain that men's "works" and "doings" will be considered and examined in it. (John 5:29; II Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:13) He that supposes works are of no importance, because they cannot justify us, is a very ignorant Christian. Unless he opens his eyes, he will find to his cost that if he comes to the bar of God without some evidence of grace, he had better never have been born."
John Owen warns that, "We must be exercising [mortification] every day, and in every duty. Sin will not die, unless it be constantly weakened. Spare it, and it will heal its wounds, and recover its strength. We must continually watch against the operations of this principle of sin: in our duties, in our calling, in conversation, in retirement, in our straits, in our enjoyments, and in all that we do. If we are negligent on any occasion, we shall suffer by it; every mistake, every neglect is perilous."
Richard Baxter wrote that holiness is, "Nothing else but the habitual and predominant devotion and dedication of soul, and body, and life, and all that we have to God; and esteeming, and loving, and serving, and seeking Him, before all the pleasures and prosperity of the flesh."
J.C. Ryle listed seven characteristics of the messengers during the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century:
1. They taught the supremacy of Holy Scripture.
2. They preached the total corruption of human nature.
3. They taught that Christ's death upon the cross was the only satisfaction for man's sin.
4. They preached the doctrine of justification by faith.
5. They taught the universal necessity of heart conversion and new creation by the Holy Spirit.
6. They spoke of God's eternal hatred against sin and of God's love for sinners.
7. They preached that there was an inseparable connection between true faith and personal holiness.
"They never allowed for a moment that any church membership or religious profession was the least proof of a man being a Christian if he lived an ungodly life. These awakeners continually cried, ‘No fruit, no grace.’ Jonathan Edwards believed that ‘every experience of God could be counterfeited except those with an insight into His holiness.’"
Holiness and sanctification are beyond our ability to be sure. Without the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we could never satisfy the demands of a Holy God. F. B. Meyer wrote, "Holiness or Sanctification is not a quality or attribute which can be attributed to us apart from the indwelling of the Holy One. If we would be holy, we must be indwelt by Him who is holy. If we would have holiness, we must be infilled by the Holy One."
That saying, we must remember the words of C. H. Spurgeon who said, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning and the foundation of all true religion. Without a solemn awe and reverence of God, there is no foothold for the more brilliant virtues. He whose soul does not worship will never live in holiness. You will not gain holiness by standing still. Nobody ever grew holy without consenting, desiring, and agonizing to be holy. Sin will grow without sowing, but holiness needs cultivation. Follow it; it will not run after you. You must pursue it with determination, with eagerness, with perseverance, as a hunter pursues his prey."
God is infinitely holy and we must never forget that standard of holiness He requires of us if we are to ever see Him. "...and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). R. C. Sproul said, "Only once in sacred Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy..."
C. H. Spurgeon wrote this personal account, "While the Austrian general was staying at the Hotel de Ville, upon the Grand Canal at Venice, I lodged at the same house, and as often as I passed his rooms, whether during the day or at night, I encountered two sentries on guard at the door. My heart said to itself, whenever the King of kings deigns to make a chamber of my spirit, let me set holiness and devotion to be sentries at the entrance. When our Beloved visits us He must not be disturbed. Ill thoughts must be repulsed, and carnal desires kept at a distance. With drawn swords let watchfulness preserve the sanctity of Immanuel's rest. ‘I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and by the hinds of the field that ye stir not up nor awake my love, till he please.’"
"But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (character); Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." (I Peter 1:15-16) This is not a request, but a command from the God of all creation. Whether you agree with it or not, you will answer to Him for it. God has made a way however, for those who would humble themselves and obey, He has given us His Holy Spirit. It is time though, for professing christians to face up to their responsibility and, "Be Ye Holy."
Compiled by Randy Munter (Editor)