One of the struggles for new christians, and even some old ones is understanding the doctrine of santification. This is important to know and believe, and helps us realize that learning and loving is a process. May this help all who struggle from time to time in our walk with the Lord.
Our Old Carnal Sinful Nature
The Christian makes progress in sanctification in his daily life as he yields to the Holy Spirit. He is in perpetual war against the old nature or flesh. The greater power in the conflict is the Spirit of God who indwells the true believer. The indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit is the secret to our spiritual growth in the likeness of Christ.
The apostle Paul recognized the true believer’s battle with sin in Galatians 5:16-17. The flesh and the spirit are in continuous war. The human body is not evil per se, but we do have an old nature with its continuing tendency to sin and rebellion against God. It is this old flesh nature or self that wars with the Spirit. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Galatians 5:16-17).
We have an old nature that has a continuing tendency to sin and rebel against God. The born again believer does have within him contrary desires and urges. The old fallen instincts of the Adamic nature are not yet destroyed. They constantly distract us from doing the will of God and cause us to sin.
However, we do have the indwelling Holy Spirit who constantly wages war against this old fallen nature. He is progressively working within us to renew us in the likeness of Christ.
When we are born again, a new nature or disposition is created within the soul. The work of the Holy Spirit in our progressive sanctification affects both this new disposition as well as the old self.
We have a responsibility to cooperate with the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit by which He delivers us from the pollution of sin, renews our whole person according to the image of God, and enable us to please Him in our daily lives.
It is by the work of sanctification that this “pollution” or corruption of our nature is in the process of being removed. Of course, it will not be totally removed until we see Jesus in His glory.
It is by progressive sanctification that God cures our sinning precisely by curing our sinful nature. He makes the tree good that the fruit may be good. Our personal sanctification is a progressive and gradual process, not an instantaneous one. In fact, it is a lifetime process which began with our spiritual regeneration and will continue until we see Jesus in glory.
The Holy Spirit lives within us in order to change us in the inner most depths of our person, not merely to influence our emotions and behaviors. He works in order to eradicate our sinfulness and not merely to counteract its effects. He is working toward a radical change in us (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 12:2).
God’s way of cleansing the stream is to cleanse the fountain. The Holy Spirit goes to the source of our problem. He is not content to attack the stream of our activities; He goes directly to the heart out of which the issues of life flow (Mk. 7:20-23). The Bible does not give us any promise that the fountain will be completely cleansed all at once, and therefore no promise that the stream will flow perfectly pure from the beginning. There is no promise of a once-for-all eradication of our old nature in this life. It does, however, teach a progressive sanctification of the believer in this life.
When we were born again, a change in direction and disposition took place in our lives. We are now a “new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). We now have a new direction, new disposition, new attitudes, etc. toward God.
Even though we are a new creation, we are not totally new. We still have in us an inclination toward sin, and we will until that day when “we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).
We do have “native tendencies toward evil” which consists of those old characteristics or attributes which incline the believer toward sin. It is our old nature or old self that we still retain even though we have experienced spiritual regeneration.
In the work of the Holy Spirit, this old nature is progressively being eradicated and the new nature is being “nourished” and perfected.
The more we can mature and grow in Christ likeness, the more we become aware of sin in our lives. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. But He also comforts our hearts with the knowledge that “there is now no condemnation for those in Christ.”
The apostle Paul is emphasizing a continual habitual action on the part of the believer as he conducts his daily “Walk by the Spirit.” Let this be your habitual manner of life. When we are under the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit, we “will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
Verse seventeen stresses the continual opposition of “the flesh against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.”
Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006