Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Sanctification In The Experience Of GodÕs Children

Written by Rev. G. R. Procee
God's Spirit renews sinners in the image of God. People who first thought nothing of God now think everything of Him. They now desire to obey His will and love to walk in His ways. Through conversion the Holy Spirit leads sinners to become dedicated to Him; they are sanctified to the Lord, that is, holy. They begin to see as Christ does. Their unclean eyes start to see as the pure eyes of Christ. Their unwilling feet become very willing. They desire to follow the Lamb whithersoever He leads. This is the most blessed and special work of the Holy Spirit. The Heidelberg Catechism refers especially to the work of the Holy Spirit in connection with the life of gratitude (or the life of thankfulness). It is in this section of the Catechism that we find the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit explained.

This inward renewal of the sinner starts at regeneration and takes place throughout our entire life. It consists of dying to self and being raised with Christ. It is the mortification of the old man and the quickening of the new man. Sorrow for sin and also a struggle against sin is experienced. The Spirit renews sinners. He purges the soul from the works of the flesh, such as stubbornness, egotism, pride, worldliness, sensual desires, etc. The flesh is crucified and we begin to exhibit the works of the Spirit, such as meekness, humility, a willingness to walk in God's ways, a readiness to forgive, etc. Then we are not only different than before, but we also act differently.

A tree is known by its fruits. We are made willing to live for the Lord. There now is love to the Lord. That is noticed in all of life--in the family, in marriage, at work, etc. There now is humility, a willingness to help others; there is self-denial and bearing our cross cheerfully. There is submission to God, even in difficult circumstances. With Saul of Tarsus there is the prayer: ÒWhat wilt Thou have me to do?Ó All is surrendered to God.

Two Dangers
In the life of sanctification there are two dangers: legalism and antinomianism. Legalism consists of doing all kinds of things in order to find a ground to stand before God. A call to be sanctified is felt, but it is without Christ. It is like a tree without a root. It cannot stand.

Antinomianians, on the other hand, say that Jesus has accomplished everything and therefore we do not need to worry about sin. Conformity to the world and living in sin is excused by referring to the all-atoning work of Christ. This type of religion is sometimes typified by the expression "joyful Christianity." There are no qualms about sin; there is a sloppy lifestyle. Such people always "rejoice" in Christ but meanwhile they are not concerned about sin within.

This is not how the Holy Spirit works. He works sanctification by mortifying inward sin.

Sanctification is a Gift
Sanctification is a gift of God, worked in the heart by the Holy Spirit. Just think of the parable of the vine and the branches in John 15. The branches are connected to the vine and receive life from the vine. God's children receive the grace of sanctification through Christ. A branch cannot bring forth fruit by itself; it needs the life from the vine. God's child can only bring forth spiritual fruit by being connected to Christ.

GodÕs children will bring forth fruit; it cannot be otherwise. The work of the triune God in the sinner is not without effects. But often God's child does not even recognize the fruits in his own life. Think of Matthew 25, where it is said of God's people that when they stand before the Lord they ask: "When have we done these things to Thee, Lord?" The Lord works fruits to the glory of His Name. In Matthew 5:16 we read, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.Ó The fruits that grow on the tree are not for the treeÕs use, but for the Owner of the tree.

We must not expect sanctification from ourselves, but from the triune God. We may never rest in our own power or our good intentions. These will fail. Neither may we rest in our sanctified or renewed will, but only upon the grace of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is a fruit of election. God's children are chosen in Christ unto sanctification.

When we realize that sanctification is worked through Christ, we will be kept from all kinds of cramped views of having to work sanctification in our own strength. Then we are also kept from despair when we see that we so often fail. We will learn to trust in the triune God.

God Calls us to Sanctification.
We are called to live a holy life with God because God calls us to do so. "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom.6: 4). By baptism we are set apart for the Lord and we are called to walk in newness of life. That can only be brought about by regeneration, through the grace of Christ, and never by our own power.

Being called to die to the old man and to rise to a new life in Christ should lead to the practice and reality of dying to self and living through Christ. What a blessing it is to live the new life in Christ! There is a certain freshness about the life of faith. When through the new birth we walk that glorious and heavenly walk, we become living letters of Christ. All things become new. The new life feeds on Christ. Everything becomes new. There is a new walk in a new life with Christ. That gives rest and peace, even though there still are struggles and battles against sin. There is rest because we have found peace in Christ. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

This life is a preparation for the future life to come.

Sanctification Looks to the Future
In the life of sanctification God's children look to the glorious future of the Lord Jesus Christ. For the sufferings of this present time are not to be compared to the glory that is in store for God's children.

The life of sanctification is a walk with Christ. That walk shows a certain amount of steadiness and firmness in Christ. There is a steady, continuing and onward walk with Christ in spite of self and the fact that you are so often disappointed with yourself. There still is a walk with Christ.

Is that your life and your heartÕs desire? Is that a reality as well? Is that the practice of your life? Sanctification refers to your heart, but also to your eye, your hand and to your feet. Everything must be in God's service. There should not be merely talk about sanctification, but above all, there should be practising of these matters. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb.12: 14).

Do We Become Better Persons?
Does a person become better in the life of sanctification? No. "For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin" (Rom.7: 14). But what then happens in sanctification? Does everything remain the same? No. The Holy Spirit shows us more and more what dwells within us. We become greater sinners before God, yet we commit less sin than before. The Spirit shows us that we are unholy and we learn to see ourselves more and more unholy, sold under sin.

Paul refers to this also in Philippians 3:12, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." There is an increasing longing in the soul to be conformed to Christ and to be made after God's image. There is a desire to be perfect and to be without sin and to have perfect love to God. This goes together with the desire to live close to Christ. The closer to Jesus, the more one is influenced by the Holy Spirit.

There also is a purging of sins. There is a dying to specific sins, although these sins can easily be revived again. Yet, we commit less sin, although at the same time there is an increase in the knowledge of one's personal sin. The result is humility and further striving to mortify sin. There is an active attempt by God's child to mortify sin. In this he is fully dependent upon the Holy Spirit--although in human weakness and with many shortcomings. We need God's Spirit to strengthen us, to protect us and to deliver us from sin.

In this life, sanctification is experienced with many shortcomings. Lord's Day 44 of the Heidelberg Catechism speaks of only a small beginning of this new obedience. God's people are unholy saints. In themselves they are unholy, yet they are sanctified in Christ. They remain double-minded persons to whom the Gospel appeals but who still need the preaching of the law. The Heidelberg Catechism sums it up: ÒSo that all our lifetime we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature, and thus become the more earnest in seeking the remission of sin, and righteousness in Christ; likewise, that we constantly endeavour and pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may become more and more conformable to the image of God, till we arrive at the perfection proposed to us, in a life to comeÓ (Q.&A.115).

Sanctification leads to perfect salvation in glory. Then God will be perfectly glorified in my life. That constitutes the longing of God's child. This is experienced in the heart. "O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day" (Ps.119:97).

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