Last week I attended a really great church in N.J. with a dear friend of mine, Danielle. The pastor was teaching about the real reason Jesus came and the real meaning of Christmas. He told us that the purpose was to give us a special gift. The gift of freedom from iniquity. If you are not familiar with this word, Merriam-Webster describes iniquity as “a wicked act or thing”, so in basic terms…sin. He went on to speak about how iniquity is a mindset of habitual disobedience that separates us from God. Later, I began to think about what would be the opposite of this “wrong thinking and wrong living” and I came to the idea of “sanctification”. If you have been in a Christian or church environment since you were a child like I have, then you have surely, more than once, heard someone state that they, or someone else is, “Saved, Sanctified and filled with The Holy Spirit!” I used to think when the person was speaking about themselves in this way that it was a self-righteous proclamation and when they were referring to others, that it was a declaration of how “holy” that person was and it was usually reserved for the pastor or a church elder. I wonder how many of us really know that ALL Christians are sanctified and OUGHT to live as such…but it takes courage to live like this. Let’s unpack …shall we?
Sanctified or sanctifying
Well, we already know what it means to be ‘Saved’, don’t we? Some of us can say that we have accepted Jesus Christ as the Son of God, we believe that He came in human form to die for our sins, that He arose from the dead three days later and now sits at the right hand of God, the Father. If we have declared that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and asked Him into our hearts and lives, then WE ARE SAVED! Awesome! I started thinking what a wonderful feeling it is to know that we are saved, but how many of us accept that we are also sanctified by Christ and how many of us attempt to live according to that sanctification? So we know that to be sanctified in Christ is to be separated or “set apart”. This is a concept that I struggle with a lot. For as much as I love my God and want to please Him, there is that fleshly part of me that is not fully where it should be and I fall into sin all too easily. Now, I am not saying that any of us are ever going to be perfect and sin-less…we could NEVER follow the laws of God and actually NOT sin and He knew it, that’s why Jesus had to come to make us righteous (this is explained more in Romans 3:22-29 NLT, when you have some time, read it), but we are actually supposed to make EVERY effort to live differently than the rest of the unsaved world, and when we fall short, we repent (tell God we are sorry and mean it) and don’t continue to do the same stuff!
Oh boy…here we go!!!! Before I get too deep into the stuff that WE ALL do, that we KNOW we should NOT do (do you know those sinful things not only grieve The Holy Spirit, but also keeps us at a GREAT distance from God?) let me give you an example from my life.
Last year, I was invited to a sex toy party. Yes, you read that correctly! I am sure you’ve been to or have been invited to at least one in your life, at any rate, most of ya’ll know what I’m talking about. If you are truly unaware, it’s like a Tupperware or jewelry party, where a person hosts the party and invites their friends. The salesperson demonstrates the product to the guests and then people at the party (hopefully) buy the products and the host/hostess gets free stuff as a result of the sales, the salesperson makes a huge commission…but instead of selling Tupperware or jewelry…they are selling sex toys, candles, lotions, flavored body oils, etc.…you get the idea. It was marketed as an innocent gathering with great food and a wonderful hodgepodge of the hostess’s friends: people of varying sexual orientation, singles, cohabitating and married couples, all very nice people I am sure and it was promised to be an evening of fun and laughter with raw, honest discussions about sexuality and sexual pleasure within the confines of loving relationships….or “whatever else” one might be into. Harmless fun, right? Well maybe for some…but God had me in a place where I knew that even though I had great respect and love for the hostess, this was not an environment that I needed to be in. I agonized over it for weeks as she continuously reminded me to RSVP and kept re-assuring me that even though she knew I was a Christian, single and sexually abstinent, that I could still come to the party, have a good time and could at least “just buy a candle” …you know just to be social and be a part of the group. I wish I could tell ya’ll that I just had the guts to tell her I wasn’t interested and declined the invitation, but it took the wisdom of a great friend named Janedia to tell me, “Baby, now I don’t know why you are even thinking about going, you know that’s not what you are into. You are going to have to decide how YOU are going to live no matter what others are doing.” (Janedia is from East Texas, so you can imagine that last line being spoken in her sweet, Texas southern drawl.) Even after I conceded that The Holy Spirit was telling me that no, I could not go…I STILL didn’t have the courage to just decline the invite. So I told her I would come, waited until the day, didn’t go and then made up an excuse. Yep, such a coward! I wanted to be liked and accepted and not thought of as the “weird girl”, or the “holier than thou girl” the Jesus freak that thinks “she’s too good” and I wanted to be included and invited to other gatherings…so instead of standing my spiritual ground and saying no…I took the non-courageous way out. Truth is, I AM too good to live in sin and ignore the prompting of The Holy Spirit, and just because something is OK for others, does not mean it is OK for me if my Father tells me no! (of course, I came to this firm resolve after the party!)
It’s a spiritual training that we go through however, and yes, we all fail the tests…all the time! Ultimately though, I think God is trying to get us into the HABIT of doing what is right…no matter what else is going on around us. WE ARE DIFFERENT. Are we courageous enough to act different? Better yet, do we even WANT to be different? We want to claim we are sanctified…but really…are we brave enough to live sanctified, apart from the world…boldly…proudly? This is what being saved and sanctified is all about folks! We spend all of elementary school and most of high school trying not to be different and singled out and now God tells us, “NOPE…live holy and separated from the rest. Be different, stand out, I insist!” Paul explains it better than I can here in Ephesians 2: 1-5 NLT. He is telling us that before Christ came into our lives, we followed the way of the world, which is INDEED the way of Satan. Back before we were part of God’s family we satisfied our fleshly desires and cravings and evil thoughts with not a care or a clue about the damage it would do to our lives. So now…what is going on with us when we are now saved, but still live according to our flesh? Answer: WE ARE IN GREAT DANGER! In case you think I may not know what I’m talking about…click on over to Romans 1:18-21, these four verses are especially important to the meaning in my next paragraph, however keep reading as you have time, the whole chapter is very interesting and it is easily digestible in the NLT version of the bible. It’s deep reading but know this…IT IS THE TRUE WORD OF GOD and it explains a lot of what we now see in the world!
Here comes all the stuff I didn’t want to get into earlier, and you were hoping I’d forget. Why do Christians still want to do all the things we used to do and still do it with all the same people? Why do we lie, cheat, steal, hate, fornicate and cohabitate, (did I already say cheat?), gossip, cuss like a sailor for no good reason, do recreational drugs, drink to intoxication, watch and read smut that celebrates homosexuality, adultery, lust and murder…oh I could go on…but basically, you know all the stuff the rest of the world seems ok with doing, the stuff that “isn’t really hurting anyone”, one might say. Plus “it’s just the way the world is these days”! You probably also want to ask me this: “Glory, are you trying to suggest that it is so easy…we get saved and then all of a sudden we are supposed to be perfect?” ABSOLUTELY NOT! “Then how do we focus on doing what is right in the face of all the world’s temptation to do the wrong stuff every day? Especially since you just told us we would NEVER be able to NOT sin anyway…what’s the point of trying?”
I really like reading Romans and Ephesians in the bible, they were both written by a guy that was at first, pretty much a “religious zealot” that was really hung up on the “laws” that defined good and bad. When he was born, his mother named him Saul. He didn’t immediately understand who Jesus was and he wanted to kill everyone that believed differently than he did. Along the way of life, Jesus not only revealed Himself to him, saved him and changed his name to Paul to signify the transformation, but thought him worthy to teach about Christ and lead others in the right direction finally. In the New Living Translation bible, Ephesians, Chapter 4 starting at verse 17, there is a section entitled: “Instructions for Christian Living, and it goes through Chapter 5, verse 17”. Take a moment to read this. Now, let’s for a moment go back to the beginning of my post and remember what the pastor taught us about iniquity, iniquity is a mindset of habitual disobedience that separates us from God. So how does a person like Saul/Paul and Christian people like us get to a point where we are not in a habit of sin…which leaves us feeling “uncovered” and “disconnected” from God?
Saved, Check. Sanctified, Check. Enter the Holy Spirit.
Do you know that once you ask The Holy Spirit to come live inside of you…that once you are truly filled, that there is no longer room for wrong desires? Your actual cravings, wants and behavior will begin to change and lean towards the will of God because you will then no longer be seeking after unholy things. Ever heard someone say, “something doesn’t ‘sit well’ or ‘feel right’ with my spirit”? It doesn’t even become about what others think or what “appears” to be correct or socially acceptable. Being sensitive to The Holy Spirit means you will actually feel when something is not pleasing to God even when everyone else around you thinks it’s fine (even other Christians).
Do you realize that obeying The Holy Spirit can free you from relational bondage and stop you from getting into a mess you will have a difficult time dealing with or getting out of? (Think: The wrong job. The wrong relationship. The wrong friendship. The wrong place at the wrong time.) This is what people mean when they tell you to “pray” about your life and your decisions. What it does NOT mean is that you will get everything you pray for…your prayers must line up with God’s will. Hmmm…maybe you don’t know how to discern His will for your requests? Click this link, Romans 8:25-27 NLT, and read how The Holy Spirit can help get your prayers answered!
Following the leading of The Holy Spirit will convict you of your wrong thinking, methodically change your wrong-living and heal so much of your pain from being in a space where God would have never taken you in the first place! The Holy Spirit will show you what to do, show you what not to do and will get you on the path to living IN the world but not being OF worldly things.
Saved! Sanctified! Filled with The Holy Spirit! Do you have enough courage to live like this?
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.
Praying that this message glorifies God and helps someone today!