God's Son, Spirit, And Word Are At Work In Believers' Lives
Each Christian Is A Work In Progress
We are works in progress. Even though we wear Jesus the Christ, who is our righteousness (cf. Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 3:12), and even though we are justified or declared righteous, which means we are able to stand before God JUST as if we had never sinned (cf. Romans 4:24-25; Romans 5:1; Titus 3:5-7), the often untaught truth is that we are NOT fully holy. The other untaught truth is that not all of us who are calling ourselves Christians are being perfected. Indeed, only those of us who ARE BEING made holy (cf. Hebrews 2:11; Hebrews 10:14b) are the ones who are works in progress!
It is crucial that those of us who are works in progress understand that Jesus the Christ’s “imputed” righteousness does NOT save us, does NOT make us inwardly righteous, and does NOT make us inwardly holy. The writer of Hebrews, for example, makes it very clear that we are “…being made holy” (10:14b, NLT), which means we are in the purifying or sanctifying process (cf. Hebrews 2:11; Philippians 2:12-13). Now if we are going through a sanctifying process, then it should be evident to us that we still sin—inwardly and outwardly.
The Apostle Paul confirms this truth about born again and saved people who still struggle with sin. Using himself as an example of what ALL believers experience at one time or another, Apostle Paul makes it clear that self-determination or self-will is NOT a powerful enough force to wage war with our own sins, because the end result of our self-determination or our self-will always will be us struggling with our sin in our own strength! For this reason, the apostle says that what we truly must be Spirit-driven believers; that is to say, we must have the supernatural power (dunamis) of the Holy Spirit working in our lives, if we ever hope to become true overcomers (cf. Romans 7:15; Romans 8:2-6, 10-11). Therefore, according to God’s Word, while we participate in this purifying (sanctifying) process, by allowing the Holy Spirit to prompt, guide, teach, and conform us to the image of God’s Son, we can be assured that by God’s Grace, His Word, and the power of His Holy Spirit we eventually will become holy or perfected, sinless believers (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:14-15; Ephesians 5:26-27; Philippians 3:21; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 Peter 1:13-16).
Briefly, the Holy Spirit’s ministries are: to extend Jesus’ ministry and glorify Him (cf. John 16:7-15); to regenerate unbelievers’ spirits so that He can bring the lost to FAITH in Christ (cf. Ephesians 2:1, 5 and 8-9); to bring hearers of the Gospel under His influence by teaching them in the Word of God (cf. Romans 10:6-17); and to lead, guide and sanctify believers via an internal process of sanctification. Because sin continues to dwell in believers’ mind, will, and emotions, these specific areas must be purified (cf. Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23-24; Colossians 1:21-22; 1 Peter 1:13-16, 1 Peter 1:22).
Now as works in progress, we should know why we need the Holy Spirit’s progressive sanctification. We need the Holy Spirit’s constant refining and shaping, because before we can be wholly sanctified our “hearts” (our individual whole SOUL) must be made perfect. Moreover, since the perfection of our whole soul, body, and spirit does not occur instantaneously, at the moments when we are born again and saved, then it stands to reason that this perfection takes the progressive sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit to make us holy—to perfect our whole soul, body, and spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 Peter 1:15).
For sure, the main reason why we must cooperate with and surrender to the Holy Spirit’s progressive sanctification is because sin dwells in our “hearts,” even after we are born again and saved (cf. Proverbs 6:14; Matthew 15:18-20). Now the Scriptures use “heart” in many ways, for sometimes “heart” = our MIND or UNDERSTANDING, sometimes “heart” = our WILL or DETERMINATION, sometimes “heart” = our AFFECTIONS or EMOTIONS, sometimes “heart” = our CONSCIENCE, and sometimes “heart” = our whole SOUL. Put differently, the Scriptures tell us that our “heart” is the fountain and seat of our spiritual life, for our “heart” includes our thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors, conscience, and intellect. Now, because our whole soul, body, and spirit cannot be completely sanctified (purified, perfected, made holy) until our “hearts” are sanctified/purified, then it stands to reason that we not only must be sanctified/purified from the guilt of sin but also sanctified/purified from the power of sin!
The point here is that we born again and saved believers immediately have received positional sanctification through Jesus the Christ so that we can stand before God justified (made righteous) and sanctified (perfected), for the Apostle Paul writes:
God has united [us] with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:30, NLT (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2; the bracketed inserted word is this blogger’s emphasis)
Keep in mind that in order for God to look at our outer appearance, He has to be looking at sons and daughters who are outwardly righteous and holy, which the Holy Spirit accomplishes with His immediate supernatural work of positional justification and His initial supernatural work of progressive sanctification. However, even though God has called us to Himself so that, in addition to giving us the gifts of salvation and the Lord’s “imputed” righteousness, He also wants to give us His gift of fulfilled sanctification (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Yet before we can become the saints that God intends for us to be, His Word makes it clear that we must be progressively sanctified, which means that in us true works-in-progress believers God’s Holy Spirit constantly is working on making us holy. That is to say, even though through Jesus the Christ, God’s Grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit God instantly made our outer righteousness and sanctification immediately available to us, we must be full of the Holy Spirit (Baptized in the Holy Spirit) before we ever can cooperate with and surrender to the Holy Spirit’s supernatural workings, or before we even can have access to His mighty workings that clothe us with the supernatural power to be witnesses, the supernatural power to be ministers (servants), the supernatural power to be miracle workers, and the supernatural power to be changed in to the image of Jesus the Christ (cf. Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Mark 16:17-20; Luke 3:16; Luke 24:49; John 1:33; Acts 1:4-5, 8; Acts 5:12, 16; Romans 12:1-2; Colossians 3:10).
To be sure, there is “more” to being born again and saved than just receiving salvation and the indwelling Holy Spirit, and proof of this point is seen in the command Jesus the Christ gives His disciples in Acts 1:4. The Lord doesn’t command His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they are born again, or saved, or justified, or put in to the Body of Christ, because they already had been born again, saved, and justified, and therefore they were Body of Christ members who had the indwelling Holy Spirit (cf. John 20:22). That’s why, by commanding His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they are clothed with the Holy Spirit’s extraordinary power or dunamis, the Lord makes it very obvious that there is more than just salvation and the indwelling Holy Spirit that God wants to give His children (cf. Acts 1:8; Luke 24:49). By obeying Jesus the Christ, His disciples not only received the promised Baptism of the Holy Spirit (the promised dunamis that came in an initial infilling and in an indefinite amount of recurrent infillings) but also they received radically changed lives.
Likewise, this same promised “more” is for those of us who are today’s believers (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20); without a doubt, the Lord wants ALL of us to be filled with (baptized with) the promised Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 5:18). Furthermore, it is through our obedience to the indwelt Holy Spirit and the Word of God that the promised Baptism of Holy Spirit’s power (dunamis) is able to fill us, initially. This first infilling will cause us to work together with, while yielding our whole body, soul, spirit, and entire life to, the Holy Spirit’s mighty workings. Thus, our never-ending cooperation and surrender will allow the Holy Spirit’s progressive sanctification to work on the inside of us. That is to say, in due course, by God’s Grace, the power of the Holy Spirit, and our willing participation, we will be fully transformed in to the image of Jesus the Christ. Put differently, it takes much time before we consistently begin to behave, think, and speak like Jesus the Christ (cf. John 17:17; Romans 8:29; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:14-15; Ephesians 5:25-27; Colossians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:2-4)!
The bottom line is this: Even though God wants to sanctify our whole soul, body and spirit (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23), His Holy Spirit cannot complete the process of sanctification (holiness) until we cooperate with and surrender to Father God’s Holy Spirit, by first receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Certainly, only when we are full of the Holy Spirit is He then able to purify our MINDS by convincing us to think differently. In other words, being full of the Holy Spirit is the only way that we can receive the help we need to understand that we must change our individual mindsets … set our minds on the Holy Spirit’s desires (cf. Romans 8:5-8; Romans 12:1-2). The next thing that the infilling Holy Spirit does in us is to purify our WILLS, which He does by leading and prompting us to produce His fruit–the fruit of the Spirit—by convincing us about our need to deliver the works of our old sinful nature over to death so that we then can walk in the Spirit (cf. Romans 8:12-14; Galatians 5:16-25). Next, He purifies our EMOTIONS/AFFECTIONS by giving us God-centered emotions/affections, which is achieved once the infilling Holy Spirit puts God’s love in us, the love that motivates us to produce the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Romans 5:3-5; Galatians 5:22; 2 Thessalonians 3:5; James 1:2-4), and achieved by correcting our wrong emotions/affections with the Word of God that is in our “hearts” (cf. Romans 15:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12).
Once again, we immediately have been outwardly sanctified through Jesus the Christ so that we can stand before God justified (declared righteous; our positional sanctification; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30), sanctified (declared holy; our progressive sanctification; cf. John 17:17), and glorified (declared perfected; our final sanctification; cf. 1 John 3:2). In other words, once we are born again and saved, we are allowed to put on Jesus the Christ—allowed to wear Jesus the Christ, who not only is our justification or righteousness but also our sanctification or holiness. However, we know that we have to work out our own salvation by carrying the salvation that God put inside us to its ultimate conclusion, which means living a Christ-like life (cf. Philippians 2:12). We also know that we have to work on our inner righteousness (our own “heart’s” motives and desires for why we obey God and why we devote our lives to living for Jesus the Christ), making sure that our inner righteousness exceeds the hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees’ inner righteousness, and/or the inner righteousness of conscientious moralists (cf. Matthew 5:20; Titus 2:11-12). Therefore, it should stand to reason that we have to work on our inward holiness, as well.
As mentioned earlier, in order to release the Holy Spirit’s additional progressive sanctification, we must cooperate with and surrender to the indwelling Holy Spirit’s conviction about getting infilled by Him, which means we must accept God’s gift of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit so that we not only can receive His Spirit’s power (dunamis) but also so that we can cooperate with and surrender to the infilling Holy Spirit’s progressive sanctification. Why? Well, basically it is because we need both the indwelling (presence and authority) and infilling (power and ministry) of the Holy Spirit.
Likewise, we also need both the presence and authority of Jesus the Christ’s “imputed” righteousness and the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit in order to produce our own inward righteousness. We also need the presence and authority of God’s Holy Desires and Perfect Will in us and the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit so that our whole SOUL (our “hearts”), spirit, and body can be purified—can be made holy (cf. Ezekiel 36:26; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13; Hebrews 13:21)! Essentially, we need both the indwelling and infilling Holy Spirit before we can do our part in God’s plans for making us inwardly righteous and inwardly holy.
Now in today’s churches there are many “spiritual” leaders who understand justification, and they do an excellent job of teaching justification to their “church” members. However, too many of these spiritual leaders have a weak understanding about progressive sanctification and, therefore, they either do not teach or they only half-heartedly teach their members about the Holy Sprit’s process of sanctification. While these same spiritual leaders, those who have a weak understanding about progressive sanctification, are quick to point out that there is nothing anyone can do to be saved, their biggest failure is ignoring the need for them to teach believers in Christ how to live and walk in the Holy Spirit, once they have been born again and saved.
The reason why this last statement is so true is because these negligent spiritual leaders either are fearful about teaching their members controversial subject matter like the Baptism of Holy Spirit, or they are ignorant about the importance of being Baptized with the Holy Spirit, even though the Word of God clearly explains that this baptism is necessary so that believers will have the power and the desires to yield to ALL of the mighty workings of the Holy Spirit, to be witnesses for Jesus the Christ, to be effective ministers (servants), to be powerful miracle workers, and to be changed in to the image of Jesus the Christ.
Moreover, because these same spiritual leaders (and their church members) have a weak understanding about progressive sanctification, the process of sanctification often becomes nothing more to them than a list of moral directives or some vague notion concerning doing good works. For this reason, a clear distinction must be made between the indwelling and infilling Holy Spirit. The above reason also is why a clear distinction must be made between the work of the Holy Spirit in justification and the work of the Holy Spirit in progressive sanctification. Furthermore, if these distinctions are not taught, then the spiritual leaders with their weak understanding about progressive sanctification will no doubt be responsible for creating the last days’ lukewarm Laodicean Christians (cf. Revelation 3:14-22)!