As Christian, we are set apart by God to glorify Him in our bodies (1 Cor. 6:19-20). The way we glorify God in our bodies is to become more like His Son, Jesus Christ. The way we become more like His Son is through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, which is known as Sanctification. In my next series of posts I want to explore the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Sanctification: A Definition
When I talk about sanctification, I simply mean the process by which we are set apart unto God for His use. There are two types of sanctification. The first is Definitive Sanctification, and the second is Progressive Sanctification. We will discuss Definitive Sanctification today, and leave it to my next post to discuss Progressive Sanctification.
Definitive Sanctification can be defined by saying our belief in the gospel occurs at a definitive moment in space time history through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He is the one who first sets us apart by opening our hearts to the gospel message, allowing us to understand it, and believe in it as our only hope of salvation (2 Thess. 2:13-14; 1 Peter 1:1-2; Jn 3:5-8; Titus 3:5).
Without an objective moment in time occurring where we are set apart through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we would not be able to begin to be more like Christ because we would be in bondage to our sin, as well as we would be spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-5; Col. 2:13-14). In Christ, we are made alive, we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). As those who have been made alive by the work of the Holy Spirit, we can begin to become more like Christ, but not before we are raised from the dead in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.
This means that we are only able to become more like Christ after we have been set apart by the work of the Holy Spirit. The gospel does not tell us that we have to first clean ourselves up before we come to Christ. It tells us that the only way we can believe in Christ is if we are made alive by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Believing the Holy Spirit is the one who awakens dead sinners hearts has radical implications in regards to our evangelism and preaching. By understanding it is the work of the Holy Spirit who awakens a sinners dead heart, we can say several things:
(1) We are freed from the pressure of feeling like we must close the deal every time talk with someone about Christ.
Rather than feeling like we cannot share the gospel with someone until we have our presentation fine tuned, we can share what we know, in the way that works best for us, trusting the Holy Spirit is the one who will close the deal by awakening their heart. No matter how good of a presentation we may give, or how persuasive of a closing argument we have, people will not believe the gospel unless the Holy Spirit has awakened them to it.
From experience you know this is true. Have you ever spent hours on end pleading and showing someone the truth of the gospel only to have them reject it? You answered all their questions, your presentation was solid, you provided them with example after example of how the gospel has changed your life and how you have more joy in Christ than you ever thought possible, but they still do not believe, they still are not ready to commit their lives to Christ. Why you ask? Because the Holy Spirit has not awakened them to the reality of the gospel.
So then, instead of trying to find the next best way to close the deal, be real with people. Share your heart and trust the Holy Spirit will use what you say, no matter how inadequate you believe it to be, to awaken their hearts to the gospel.
(2) We are freed from the belief that people’s blood is on our hands if we do not tell them about the gospel.
In saying this I do not mean to say that we should not seek to tell everyone we meet about the gospel. Rather, I mean that we have a different motivation for presenting the gospel to them. Our motivation is not out of guilt or fear, but out of gratitude for what God has done for us and love for that person. When we tell others about the gospel, we should not tell them the gospel simply to make ourselves feel better, we should present the gospel to them because we want them to experience the same joy, love, and freedom from sin that we experience in Christ as a new creation.
(3) We are freed from manufacturing a worship service that plays on people’s feelings and emotions.
Rather than manufacturing feelings in people, we are to clearly and boldly explain the gospel message, believing the Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to awaken ones heart to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
In my next post in this series, I will introduce and define the concept of Progressive Sanctification.
Jerry Bridges, The Transforming Power of the Gospel, Ch. 8