Read: Psalm 51:5–8; 10
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
In our last message we described inherited depravity as “the self centeredness that resulted when Adam severed his relationship with God and forfeited the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit from his life through willful sin.”
We went on to observe that “as a result of Adam’s sin, God ceased being the unifying center of his life. Self took the place of God, and Adam became totally depraved—a condition of complete self-centeredness.”
We also contrasted mankind before the fall and after the fall. In this message, we wish to learn about God’s remedy for inherited depravity.
The New Birth: God’s Remedy for Inherited Depravity Begun
God’s remedy for inherited depravity is to restore in mankind the image of God (Col. 3:10). The first stages in this restoration occur at the new birth. When, by the grace of God, a repentant sinner exercises saving faith, God not only pardons his transgressions but actually makes him a new creature in Christ Jesus (Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17).
Simultaneous with this event many things happen to the new Christian, including adoption into the family of God (John 1:12; Gal. 4:5), and union with Christ (John 15; Rom. 6).
Because of our union with Christ we are declared to be dead to sin and freed from it (Rom. 6:2, 4, 7). The person we were in our unregenerate state, a person controlled by the “flesh,” is now said to be crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 2:20). The Christian is no longer under the control of the “flesh.”
As a result of his union with Christ, “the flesh with its affections and lusts” is crucified (Gal. 5:24). According to Paul, a Christian is “not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9).
The tyrannizing power of the “flesh,” as described in Romans 7:14–25, is broken. The Christian is to continue no longer in sin (Rom. 6:1–2). At the moment of the new birth, we put off the “old man” and put on the “new man” which is “created in righteousness and true holiness,” and subsequently we are being “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created” us (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).
Concomitant with and central to the restoration of God’s image in us comes the call to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves (Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18; Mat. 22:37–40). With the call comes God’s grace that enables us to begin to learn what is involved in a total love for God and a love for our neighbor as we love ourselves.
This aspect of the restoration of God’s image coincides with the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that begins in the new birth. First Corinthians 1:2, and 6:11 call believers “sanctified” in this sense (see also Acts 20:32; 26:18; Hebrews 10:10).
Progressive sanctification follows (Heb. 2:11). We are being sanctified as we continue our walk with Christ. As one walks in the light (1 John 1:7), the Holy Spirit will bring to the Christian’s attention the need to be entirely sanctified (1 Thes. 5:23–24).
This involves a deliberate and ongoing full consecration to God of one’s new life in Christ (Rom. 6:13; 12:1) wherein God cleanses the believer’s heart of the remaining self-centeredness. For some, the awareness of the need to be entirely sanctified will come through the reading or preaching of Scripture.
For others, it will come through an awareness of inward desires and longings that are displeasing to God and hinder one from loving God totally.
Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, describing his discovery of remaining self-centeredness in his life, wrote, “I was a believer; I knew Christ. But I kept a finger on a corner of my life and I wanted to do a little bargaining with God about what He did with me.” [See Dennis Kinlaw, We Live As Christ, (Nappanee, Indiana: Francis Asbury Press, 2001), 14].
It was through a growing awareness of not being totally surrendered to God in every respect that Dr. Kinlaw came to see his need for a thorough cleansing from remaining self-centeredness in his life. Whether one recognizes the problem of self-centeredness (inherited depravity) or not, God’s command that believers be “being filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) is His solution to this problem.
Being filled with the Spirit (i.e., being entirely sanctified) involves the cleansing of one’s inner attitude, disposition and motivation from the principle of self-centeredness through a full surrender to God (Rom. 12:1).
This is what I understand Paul to be talking about in 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24 when he prays that God would entirely sanctify His children.
Entire Sanctification: God’s Provision for Cleansing from Inherited Depravity
Is Paul implying in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 that after entire sanctification there will be no further progress in sanctification? Absolutely not.
When he uses the adverb entire, he is speaking of a work of God’s sanctifying grace that encompasses every part of man: “spirit, soul, and body.”
- The word spirit, in this context, refers to the inner chamber of your being (i.e., your heart), the control panel out of which your thoughts and motives proceed.
- The word soul includes your mind, will, and emotions. These must be cleansed of self-centeredness and consecrated for God’s glory.
- The word body refers to the physical, material, fleshly part of man that is to be used only for His honor and glory, in harmony with His Word.
- The term entire does not mean you become as sanctified (Christlike) as it is possible for a human to be (intensively sanctified). Rather it means every part of you is sanctified (extensively sanctified), spirit, soul, and body.
No aspect of your being is excluded from God’s work of entire sanctification.
The Cleansing of Inherited Depravity: Distinguishing the Principle from its Consequences
In entire sanctification, the remaining self-centeredness in the Christian’s life (inherited depravity) is cleansed (Acts 15:9) when we unconditionally surrender ourselves to God as a holy, living sacrifice, thereby yielding ourselves to the indwelling Spirit’s full control. The phrase “full control” is not speaking of the Holy Spirit “making” a Christian do something contrary to his will. There is nothing coercive about the Holy Spirit.
Rather, this speaks of a willing, ongoing, moment-by-moment surrender and obedience to whatever changes the Spirit wishes to make in the Christian’s life. When we exercise faith in His Word—by reckoning ourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God (Rom. 6:11, 13), God cleanses us of the remaining self-centeredness in our lives (1 John 3:3; 2 Cor. 7:1; Acts 15:9).
Why do we need ongoing cleansing after we are entirely sanctified?
At this point, it becomes very important to distinguish between God’s cleansing our hearts of the principle of self-centeredness at the moment of entire sanctification from the needed ongoing cleansing of the mental and emotional consequences of self-centeredness that occur as we continue to walk in the light after we are entirely sanctified.
There are programmed habits, ways of thinking, and responses to stimuli that became part of our personality while living under the tyranny of self-centeredness. These responses are usually acquired by learning how to get one’s “own way” as cleverly and craftily as possible while avoiding censure or punishment.
After conversion, the Holy Spirit works in the believer’s life to transform his thinking (Rom. 12:2), i.e., to renew him “in knowledge” (Col. 3:10) and to bring to his attention changes that need to be made.
The Holy Spirit will direct him and empower him to make these changes. This process continues after entire sanctification.
As long as the fully surrendered, entirely sanctified person walks in the light, he is not guilty of conscious or willful self-centeredness for he is being kept cleansed from all sin (1 John 1:7) and from God’s point of view is declared “blameless” (1 Thess. 3:13).
Further, the image of God has been restored in the believer’s life in the sense that his primary motive now is to please Jesus in everything (Col. 1:9) and to love God and others as he should.
The manifestations of this love will improve as the Christian continues to walk in the Spirit and continues to make the adjustments that the Holy Spirit indicates need to be made. (He usually reveals these needs through interaction with other people.)
The process of sanctification (making the Christian Christlike in every respect) continues after entire sanctification. We shall not be completely like Him until we see Him as He is at His Second Coming (1 John 3:1–3).
Originally published in God’s Revivalist. Used by permission.