Entire Sanctification: Cleansing and Ongoing Obedience Part III
Scripture: 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 two messages we saw that the fall of Adam resulted in each of us being born with inherited depravity, which is an inward focus on self with the compulsive drive to have our own way (Isaiah 53:6).
God’s cure for this begins at the new birth, but a further cleansing occurs at the moment of entire sanctification.
Subsequent to entire sanctification, there is a need for a continual, on-going cleansing from the effects that self-centeredness has had on our thinking and our personality.
I. An Analogy to Illustrate the Need for On-Going Cleansing
The following analogy may help clarify the sense in which an entirely sanctified Christian is continually cleansed from self-centeredness. Consider a piece of thin plastic pipe that originally was straight but has become bent in upon itself, then hardened in this condition. The bend is analogous to inherited self-centeredness (Psa. 51:5; Isa 53:6).
In order to restore the pipe to its original straight condition, we can run hot water through it to soften it and allow gravity to pull the bend out of the pipe. The hot water is analogous to the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Remember that Jesus Himself used the metaphor of flowing water to represent the Holy Spirit in a person’s life (cf. John 7:38-39). When we were saved, the Holy Spirit entered our lives and began straightening the pipe (Rom. 8:9-11).
Some bend—i.e., self-centered ness—still remained, but it was no longer ruling our life. When we presented our bodies to God as a living, holy sacrifice, we chose to appropriate by faith what was declared to be true of us through our union with Christ—our death to sin and our freedom from it (Rom. 6:2, 7, 18).
We acted upon the exhortations to “reckon ourselves indeed dead unto sin but alive unto God” (Rom. 6:11) and to present ourselves to God as those alive from the dead and our members as instruments of righteousness to God (Rom. 6:13, 19).
We asked the Holy Spirit to take full, uncontested control of our life; and by faith we received the fullness of the Spirit. In our analogy, the fullness of the Spirit—His full control of us—is what was necessary to take the remaining bend out of the pipe. As long as the Holy Spirit has full control, the pipe will continue to be straight.
However, since self-centeredness (or inherited depravity) is not a “substance” or a “thing,” its cleansing does not produce a static state of being. Being cleansed of self-centeredness is not the equivalent of removing a tree stump from the ground. Once a tree stump has been removed, there is no danger of it sending forth any growth.
Nor is being cleansed of self centeredness analogous to the removal of cancer from the body. Rather, the cleansing of self- centeredness is the consequence of a dynamic relationship with the Holy Spirit that must be maintained moment-by-moment. Continual yielding to the Spirit’s control allows us to remain continually free from the inner bent to self and remain submissive to God.
However, if we resist the Spirit and don’t cooperate with His checks and promptings, just as the pipe will revert to its bent condition if the hot water no longer runs through it, we too will revert to living according to self-centered desires.
There is nothing “automatic” about maintaining a fully-surrendered, Spirit-filled life. Many times each day one must choose to make self-denying choices as he takes up his cross and follows Christ (Mat. 16:24).
Many times each day one must choose to make self-denying choices as he takes up his cross and follows Christ (Mat. 16:24).
II. Lingering Consequences of Self-Centeredness in the Entirely Sanctified Life
In our second message we distinguished between the principle of self centeredness and the acquired thought patterns and personality traits that it produced in our life.
After one has received entire sanctification by faith and experienced the Holy Spirit’s powerful cleansing from self-centeredness, there is continual need for an on-going cleansing of the mental and emotional consequences of self- centeredness. 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.
For example, some people grew up in an extremely competitive environment and were taught either by example or precept that “winning” is not only desirable but is crucial for self-esteem.
Such competitiveness becomes a compulsive, controlling, way of life and shows up in attitudes and activities associated with games, grades, and interpersonal relationships. It ends up permeating every aspect of life, including spiritual activities.
After entire sanctification, the Holy Spirit continues to work 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 further changes that need to be made in his thinking about himself (Rom. 12:3), other members of the body of Christ (Rom. 12:4-8), or about life in general (Rom. 12:9-21).
As the entirely sanctified person continues to walk in the light, the Holy Spirit will direct and empower him to make these changes. As long as he walks in the light, he will not be guilty of conscious, willful self-centeredness, for he is being 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 inward and outward 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.
III. Warning: A Return to Self-Centered Living is a Real Threat to the Entirely Sanctified
The warnings in Scripture to watch and pray and keep on the whole armor of God suggest that a return to self-centeredness is a real threat to the entirely sanctified believer (Eph. 6:10-20).
Paul exhorts us that as we yield to the Spirit and walk in the Spirit, we must continually put to death the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13). This implies that there is no deliverance in this life from the temptation to return to self-centered living and start living again in the flesh.
Maintaining flesh-free living is possible only in a vital relationship of walking in, and being led by, the Spirit—that is, living each moment in obedience to His voice as He speaks to us through His Word and through our conscience.
IV. Maintaining Entire Sanctification: A Dynamic Relationship of On-Going Submission to the Holy Spirit
The need for an entirely sanctified person to maintain a dynamic relationship of submissive obedience to the Holy Spirit can be illustrated by an analogy of driving a car.
To some people, the idea of a fully surrendered life would be the equivalent of removing ourselves from the driver’s seat and letting the Holy Spirit drive. That would eliminate the stress of decision making and let us take a passive role.
Instead, the Holy Spirit insists that we stay in the driver’s seat. But He is going to ride with us and tell us what to do. So He issues instructions through the Word and through our conscience in the form of promptings and checks; and as the driver, we must decide moment-by-moment whether or not we will submit to His control.
This analogy highlights the fact that the fullness of the Spirit is not a simplistic “let go and let God have His way,” a one-time decision that becomes automatic from that point forward.
There is nothing automatic about it, as we have said. A person who has fully surrendered to the control of the Holy Spirit must live out his surrender in moment-by-moment obedience.
As moment-by-moment he submits to the Spirit’s control, he experiences a moment-by-moment cleansing from self-centeredness.
When the Psalmist prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psa. 51:10), he chose a Hebrew verb (“create”) that is limited to God’s activity.
No one except God can create in a fallen creature a clean heart.
A clean heart is a heart that is purified not only from the guilt of sinful behavior, but also cleansed from the pollution of self-centeredness. Once God has created in us a clean heart, it remains clean only as we continue to walk in all the light that God’s Word and Spirit sheds on our pathway.
A clean heart begins with getting saved and is furthered by entire sanctification. After entire sanctification, it is maintained only by the on-going cleansing of the Holy Spirit, as we submit to Him.
Have you been entirely sanctified?
Have you maintained the dynamic relationship of on-going cleansing by a moment-by-moment obedient walk in the Spirit?
Dr. Allan P. Brown teaches such courses as Christian Beliefs, Doctrine of Holiness, Wisdom Literature, Hebrew, Preaching Holiness, Romans and Galatians, and Letters to the Hebrews.
He has been on faculty at GBSC since 1996 and is the author of several books and articles.
Dr. Brown also speaks at churches, camp meetings, revivals and more.