The Holy Spirit For Our Sanctification

The Holy Spirit affects us in three major ways:

  • The Holy Spirit with us
  • The Holy Spirit upon us
  • The Holy Spirit in us

This diversity shows how rich God is. And, just for discussion’s sake, which, amongst these three aspects, would you prefer to find the Holy Spirit ministering to you in if you were asked to choose only one?

Well, none is less needful, but we shall soon see why having the Holy Spirit in us is of the uttermost importance to the born-again believer.

The Holy Spirit with us. When the Holy Spirit comes to be with us He convicts us of many things, as we read in John 16:8-11. The Holy Spirit with us affects even the un-Godly as we see in verses 8-9:

“8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me…”

The ministry of the Holy Spirit with us is therefore broad and all-encompassing.

The Holy Spirit on us. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us, the first sign that He is upon us is that we speak in tongues. Speaking in tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and it has many benefits. In the first place, God, being Spirit, desires that we communicate with Him in spiritual language, and that is why He has given us the gift of tongues. It is far more edifying spiritually to speak to God in tongues than in any earthly language. That is what the Bible says in 1 Cor. 14:1-4.

Secondly, tongues are used to bring prophecy to the church. God uses the ministry of speaking in tongues to bring a direct message from His heart to the church. God then uses other ministries within the church to interpret those tongues. God is so rich!

One of the best examples of this in the Bible is the case of Balaam’s donkey. The donkey wasn’t human, but he spoke in human language when the Holy Spirit came upon him. Now, no donkey will inherit God’s heavenly Kingdom; but the Holy Spirit came upon the donkey and the donkey spoke in tongues and saved Balaam’s life!

As I said, Balaam’s donkey is not going to heaven. That means a donkey cannot be spiritual. Speaking in tongues, therefore, or prophesying in tongues does not mean you are spiritual. Sometimes someone – a preacher, or a believer – can have a rotten spiritual lifestyle, and he knows it. But yet he preaches and miracles happen in his services and, unfortunately, he believes that this makes him spiritual or acceptable to God. But no; that is just the Holy Spirit upon him operating on behalf of God. Again, God is so rich in grace He can allow these kinds of things to happen.

What makes a man acceptable to God, though, is something entirely different, and it is what we will look at next.

The Holy Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit in us is what pleases God most. Why? It is because the heart of man is the place where God has chosen to make His dwelling place. That is an incredible fact, but it is true. God has chosen to live in men’s hearts! When we say God has made the heart His dwelling place, it is talking about man’s spirit.

I am sure none of us would love to live in a dirty house. God therefore works very hard to clean His house. The Bible says,

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

A clean heart is a holy heart! People love talking about grace, but here and elsewhere, scripture makes it clear that grace comes with a responsibility. We are commanded to be holy if we ever hope to “see the Lord”! The permissive grace that many people love talking of is certainly not of God.

Something – a change – definitely needs to happen in our hearts. The Holy Spirit in us is where God operates upon our hearts to bring about this change. Here God reveals to us the reality of the spiritual life. He shows us, just as He did with the Apostle Paul, how much we must suffer for the gospel’s sake.

What does it mean to suffer for the gospel’s sake? It is the cleansing process. It is the uprooting of the old man of our carnal nature. True Christian life is a transformation. God wants our hearts to be transformed to become like His – pure and holy.

God knows, for example, that if I have envy in my heart I will not inherit His eternal life. But He knows exactly what is needed to transform me. God therefore gets to work to deal with my envy. He raises up a huge stumbling block in my life to deal with that envy. As long as I am willing, God will use that stumbling block to chip away at my envy down to its roots. God’s working in my life becomes my “thorn in the flesh”, but it produces the sweet fruit of a sanctified life.

It was for this reason that the early apostles welcomed suffering in their lives. They knew what it would do in them. It would transform them!

May we allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in us. He is there to sanctify us. Suffering – giving up our earthly rights – may last for a night, but the morning is coming. The reward for this sanctification is unfathomable.

[Below: The old Indian Quarter in Musoma Town]

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The Price for Spiritual Maturity

21 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.

22 And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.

23 And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.

24 But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side.

25 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again.

26 And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.

27 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.

28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?

29 And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.

30 And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.

31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.

32 And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:

33 And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive. Num. 22:21-33

Now, what in Hades was this donkey thinking, trying the patience of this great, anointed man of God? Apparently – and luckily for her – the prophet’s bodyguards were not armed, otherwise this particular donkey would have been shot immediately.

But Balaam was a blind prophet. Now, mind, he was a prophet all right, and he could prophesy all that the Lord told him to. But on another even more important level, he was blind. There are many great servants of God who will forfeit their due heavenly reward simply because they were blind to what God wanted to do in their lives.

Spiritual blindness made Balaam not to realize what his ass was doing. For, far from intending evil upon his master, we find out later that the donkey was instead focused on saving him!

I heard the true story of an airplane passenger who kept grumbling about this and that on the plane. When the plane hit a violent turbulence at a high attitude the stewardess approached the man, handed him his seatbelt and asked him to fasten it. The man threw off the belt in anger, let off some steam on the stewardess and stayed put, belt-less. Suddenly, a side door near him blew open with a loud explosion, and this man was instantly sucked out from his seat by the air pressure, never to be seen again.

When we are not seeing in the Spirit, we lash out at the circumstances that seem to come against us. That was what Balaam – and this airplane passenger – did. They did not know that the very circumstances that seemed to chafe them the wrong way were actually set by God to save them. The angel told Balaam:

“… the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive” (vs. 32-33)

That is us. Much of the time we impatiently rush at situations, and there die. We rage and huff and attack the very situation that has come to deal with our carnal nature. But the very situations that were contrary to us in the eyes of our flesh are more likely than not the situations that are working for our spiritual good. Had Balaam known this, he would not have struck his donkey. But because his ways were “perverse” before the Lord, he was spiritually blind, and he could not see in the Spirit.

God is in control of everything. He it is who allows every situation into our lives. Even if a sword were to be raised against us, still God would be in perfect control of that situation.

Whenever I find myself displeased at any situation, I have come to know that it is not the situation that is not right, but it is my heart that is. At that particular moment, I always know that something is not right in my heart. God was in that difficult situation, trying to save me spiritually; but my hard and rebellious heart “kicked against the pricks”, as it were (Acts 9:5).

That is why the gospel is all about obedience. Now, you cannot obey if you have a rebellious heart, can you? That is why we need humble hearts, that we might allow God to craft His handiwork in us and make us true sons and daughters in the Spirit through the cross.

[Below: God wants to form us into mature sons and daughters in the Spirit]

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