Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sanctification: the Process of Perfection - walking in the Spirit vs walking in the flesh

Thus far in our survey of sanctification we have dealt with some of the major themes within the doctrine. You might call these ideals the framework of the study. These topics have been very theological/philosophical thus far. With this installment, I want to get more into the mechanics of the process. In other words: how does it work? On the advice of a good friend, I’m going to attempt to scale down the amount of info in these posts…make them more succinct and more frequent. After all, this is a huge topic. Literally, volumes could be written about the doctrine sanctification. The old question goes: How do you eat an elephant? The answer: One bite at a time!
With this in mind, let’s begin looking at how sanctification works.
If you were to spend an afternoon being educated by an experienced mechanic, he would undoubtedly spend a good amount of time explaining the vehicle’s motor. After all, without a functioning motor, you may have something that “looks” like a car, but it will never “act” like a car. Up to this point, I have given you a good description of the car; doors, wheels and tires, windshields, etc.  Now, I want to lift the hood of sanctification and teach about the engine, the power that moves the process.
In the first part of this series, I briefly discussed justification. This legal act that initiates salvation is performed, in large part, by one aspect of the Godhead. God the Father is the Justifier. He alone is the judge that has the ability to proclaim a person as justified or condemned. On the other hand, in the process of sanctification, another person of the Trinity takes the lead. The Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier. He is the engine that powers the car’s movement. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, we would never progress in our Christian walk, we would never break free from the drawing of the sin nature, and we would never become more Christ-like.
Sanctification is the foundational ministry of the Spirit. Unfortunately, most Christians today have, at best, a very sketchy understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work. If you will allow me, I’d like to address the misunderstanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and why this is so costly to the process of sanctification.
 In most churches today, the Holy Spirit has been relegated to one of two extremes. On one end of the spectrum, He is locked away in the basement of the church and looked at like the step child of the trinity. These congregations are almost afraid of the movement of the Holy Spirit, so they ignore Him. As result, they exist in a sort of spiritual coma. They are usually extremely dry and feel like God cannot operate outside of a church bulletin. Churches like these have regular meetings with each other, but the sanctifier is seldom present.
Then there is the other end of the spectrum where He is turned into a side show act. The people show up and want the Holy Spirit to do tricks. These services can look more like an over turned ant mound than a spiritual encounter with God. These congregations are usually extremely tied to emotional experience; mistaking outlandish emotion for the anointing of the Spirit. To them, the Spirit is like a shot of drugs in the vein…he brings the desired “high”.
In most cases, God seldom operates in our extremes…but that is usually where religion takes us.  
Now that I’ve upset a portion of those reading, let me qualify my point. I am not suggesting that it is wrong to show quiet reverence in a service, nor am I saying a church bulletin is a sign of being hypo-spiritual. Neither am I suggesting that the Holy Spirit does not perform supernatural acts in the lives of Christians, or that becoming overcome with emotion in a service is a sign of being hyper-spiritual. If this is what you got out of the last paragraphs, you missed the point entirely. My point is that it is not scriptural to believe that the Holy Spirit only operates in our preferred extremes. Moreover, if your church only operates in one of these extremes, there’s a better than average chance that you are trading the true, effective ministry of the Holy Spirit for human/religious traditions.
The reason these extremes exist in most churches is because they do not possess a basic understanding of what the true ministry of the Holy Spirit is. In the place of the true ministry of the Holy Spirit, they have inserted religious schemes that prop up their agendas or make them feel comfortable. These are harsh words, I realize, but this route is the way of mankind. Since the beginning, we have twisted the spiritual to fit our desires and offer control to man…rather than God.
·         You see this in Cain when he brought the sacrifice that he desired.
·         You see this with Abram short cutting God’s plan and having a child with Hagar.
·         You see it with the children of Israel crying out to God for a king to rule over them. So they could be like everybody else.
·         Then with Saul, the king they ended up with, asking a witch to evoke the spirit of Samuel when he wanted advice.
·         Its evident over and over in the Old Testament when the Israelites returned to idol worship.
·         You see it with the prideful misinterpretation of spirituality in the Pharisees of the New Testament.
·         Then, it becomes obvious with the church of Galatia following the gospel of the Judaizers.
·         In the modern church, it is seen with the emergence of the seeker sensitive movement that has thrown the Gospel of Jesus out the window.
All these examples have one thing in common; they are religious actions, enacted by people that claim the name of God. The people that participated in these departures from the truth were very sincere in what they were doing, but they were sincerely wrong. When it comes to the Holy Spirit, we cannot afford to be off base. We must have a true knowledge of what His ministry involves, what He desires to accomplish, and what means He uses to see His work done.  
In closing this introduction to “the ministry of the Holy Spirit as it relates to sanctification”, I want to make one final statement. Then in the proceeding blog posts, I want show you the scriptural basis to support my statement.
In the time between the ascension of Jesus and His return to rapture the church, the activity of God on earth and in the lives of mankind will only be carried out by the Holy Spirit. He, and He alone, is the hand of God on earth. Therefore, we must learn WHO He is, WHAT He does, and HOW He does it. Otherwise, we will miss God all together.