The Holy Spirit and You: A Transformative Relationship
On November 5th, 2023 I preached on the topic of the Holy Spirit and the role it plays in our sanctification. Since there wasn’t any written transcript or script of any kind, I imagine it would be useful to jot down the major points here.
For starters, let’s define what it means to be sanctified. Simply put, something or someone that has been sanctified has been set apart, cleansed, and called holy. When we come to Christ with repentant hearts and accept Him as Lord of our lives, we are immediately born again, that is, not merely a person born of the flesh but born of Spirit as well (see John 3). Our sins are imputed unto Christ and we become His righteousness – hallelujah!
Christ becomes our righteousness and sanctification and salvation (1 Cor. 1:30); that means when God our Father looks upon us, He sees us as perfect, righteous, and blameless since we are in His perfect, righteous, and blameless Son. It doesn’t get more Trinitarian than this: in John 14:16 we read that God the Son will ask God the Father to send unto us God the Holy Spirit. And it is by the grace of our Triune God that we are saved at all (Ephesians 2). It was the will and initiation of God the Father that His Son would die for our sins so that we may become living temples for the Holy Spirit – Romans 8:11 tells us that the exact same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us!
So you might be thinking that something here doesn’t add up: yes, God the Father looks at us as perfect for the sake of His Son, but we are in no way perfect! This brings us to another important topic, positional holiness & holiness.
Let me boil it down to the basics.
When we are saved we experience positional holiness; that is, our souls, now reborn, are securely in the hands of our God. Since all Christians are in Christ (Rom. 8:1), we walk around in and a part of this fallen world dressed in a seamless white robe of righteousness. Our position in Christ is secured forever because of God’s amazing grace!
This is where the contrast comes in.
Practically speaking we are anything but holy, especially when we first come to Christ. Thank God that our Lord Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, but to call sinners! A person might very well experience an instant freedom from things like drugs, pornography addiction, abusive tendencies, or anything else the moment they come to Christ. It can and has happened before, and glory to God for it. I would argue, however, that more often than not God takes us by the hand when we come to Him and He slowly starts us in the right direction – still wrestling with sinful habits and lifestyles, but finally oriented in the right direction and empowered to overcome the chains of bondage to sin. This growth, this gradual change of direction and transformation into the likeness of Christ is also called sanctification.
That’s right, sanctification is both a noun and a verb – fun!
To be sanctified is a state in which every Christian exists. We are in Christ, covered by His atoning sacrifice, and given the promise and seal of the Holy Spirit for eternal life. To undergo sanctification is a God-given process and journey, the purpose of which is to transform us, degree by degree, into the likeness of Christ. God doesn’t simply save us to leave us where we are, no more than did He dine with and call tax collectors and prostitutes simply to leave their lifestyles unchanged! No, God knows that right living comes from right being. And right being comes from His being!
We want the world to be a better place, right? We want people to agree on right and wrong and to treat others with love and compassion. God wants that more than anyone else. The big difference we need to show others is that He is the only one with a real solution. He is the one who doesn’t merely give us an example of how to live objectively and morally good lives, He also empowers us both to desire and to act in the ways that please Him (Phil. 2:13)!
Our lives are not our own if we are in Christ. Romans 8:11-12 couldn’t be more explicit when it says “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it,” (emphasis added). We have an absolute obligation to the Lord our God first and foremost. Nothing else can come close to our devotion to Him.
Galatians 2:20 spells it out in another wonderful way, “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 gave Himself up for me.”
My friends, I encourage you today to look afresh at the ways in which we should be emulating our Lord Jesus. Absorb the epistles especially. Have your hearts humbled before the Lord as you read and experience His overwhelming grace. Commit anew to keeping in step with the Spirit and keep your eyes on the author and perfector of your faith! It is by sincere love and devotion that we can best glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.