"And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18).
When a person first becomes a Christian, he is filled with the exhilaration of new life. The old has passed away and now before him is new life in Christ. Just to ponder our state as well as our relationship to God is enough to give us untold moments of adoration and praise to God. Nothing really trumps the change that happens in a person when they are converted to Christ. It does not get any better than this, or so we think at the time.
Every Christian begins his or her pilgrimage with a great deal of aspiration and determination to go forward for a glory of God. This is a noble ambition shared by everybody who was found Jesus Christ as Savior. We gather on Sundays and sing about it, and we fellowship together, sharing our testimonies of God's amazing grace.
Then we come to an unexpected wall.
We suddenly become aware of the fact that the Christian life, although the entrance into it is free, it comes with a heavy cost. Nobody talks about this prior to a person's conversion. They like to keep it in the positive and encourage people to come and enjoy the freedom we have in Christ. And it is true. We do have freedom in Christ. We cannot earn or work for our salvation. Then, it begins to settle in our heart that there is actually no way to live the Christian life in our own strength. Something seems to be wrong.
For many Christians the experience is pretty much the same. Up one day down the next. One little sliver of a victory followed by a whole series of failures. Yes, we keep a stiff upper lip and try to give a good performance, but those who have walked the same steps realize exactly what is going on.
It takes a while for a person to realize the Christian life is not of such a nature to be lived in the flesh. There is something supernatural about the Christian life, and those who try to live for Christ in their own strength often end in a miserable failure.
The apostle Paul says in Galatians 5:25, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." Paul is saying that our walk in Christ cannot be done in the flesh. Everything about our new walk in Christ is designed for walking in the Spirit.
Along the same line the apostle says, "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." That is the key. Walking in the Spirit.
But the question that must be answered is, what is the secret of walking in the Spirit? And the answer has to do with sanctification. Only a life truly sanctified unto the Lord can accomplish this feat. We all know what the flesh can do and how it can ruin a Christian's life. A Christian can go on for several years and then be overwhelmed by the flesh. The tendency is to become adjusted to our present circumstance of failure and live in that expectation.
This brings us to the crisis. Every believer comes to this point, however, many turn back and give up to the ways of the flesh. Few brave saints press on and discover that walking in the Spirit is one of the glorious aspects of the Christian life. This crisis brings us to a moment of absolute surrender upon which all other surrenders are based.
Many people focus on the crises experience and forget that there is life after the crisis. The crisis is a moment of absolute surrender of everything in our life followed by a life of consecration to God. We are radically set apart from sin and exclusively set apart unto God. And our life from that moment mirrors that surrender.
Some insist that when a person becomes a Christian they are then on automatic pilot. Everything just unfolds naturally and automatically. So much evidence to the contrary exists that that argument hardly is worth repeating. What is true is that most Christians make a total mess of their life. And the reason is simply because they are trying to do it in their own strength. They are trying to live a life that was never designed to be live in the power of the flesh. Everything about the Christian life is designed exclusively to be operated under the supervision of the Holy Spirit and in his power alone.
We must look beyond this crisis, of whatever proportion, and see what is the long-term effect in the believer's life. There are three areas of our life that is drastically changed by this crisis of sanctification.
Our Christian Walk
The first area our crisis affects has to do with our Christian walk.
Once a person becomes a Christian, they begin walking with the Lord. I like the word walk rather than run because walking carries with it the idea of something deliberate, on purpose and going in a straight direction. However, after walking with the Lord some obvious difficulties begin to develop. Unfortunately, many have perfected the zigzag walk in the Christian life.
Perhaps the primary difficulty is the lack of stamina. Jesus said to his disciples, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." And for all practical purposes, our Christian life is lived in the flesh. We certainly do have the will to follow the Lord but we lack the power.
This is the start of the crisis. At this point, many people will question whether they are a Christian or not. The old enemy of mansoul will jump in and provide argument to the contrary that we are not Christians and have never been. And it is at this point that some Christians just give up. But for those who press on there is a crisis of encounter.
Every crisis represents the destruction of something. And in the Christian life, this crisis of sanctification is the destruction of the life of flesh. Once we have really encountered Jesus Christ our Sanctifier and has destroyed our dependency and reliance upon the flesh, we then entered into a walk with the Lord that is from on high. No longer is our soul dragged down by the weariness of the flesh. No longer are we chained to our own resources. Now, we have experienced such an encounter with Christ that all our dependency on the past or the flesh or ourselves has been so utterly destroyed that we throw ourselves completely on the Lord Jesus Christ as our sufficiency.
What the apostle Paul said to the Galatians has happened to us. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I., but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God, who love me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
After the crisis of sanctification, we now experience walking in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit.
Our Christian Worship
The next area affected by the crisis has to do with our Christian worship.
It is my contention that worship flows out of our walk. The first thing we learn as a Christian is to walk. If we are walking in the flesh, our worship will be in the flesh. If, on the other hand, we are walking in the Spirit our worship will be of such a nature.
It is not hard to find worship in the flesh these days. In fact, it seems that no matter where you go there is such a display of the flesh in the church that it is hardly distinguishable from the world around us. The same music, the same presentation, the same everything. The only difference from Sunday morning worship and a Saturday night concert is - well sometimes, there is no difference between the two, except on Sunday morning someone will say a nice word about Jesus.
Worshiping in Spirit has everything to do with the exalting of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, "If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me." And Christ cannot be lifted up in the flesh. It is as we walk in the Spirit that Christ is exalted in our life. And as Christ is exalted in our life, there develops such a spirit of worship, adoration and praise that can only be a result of the Holy Spirit within us. Worshiping in the Spirit has everything to do with a life completely surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing else matters but Christ. And as we worship our hearts are lifted up into the very presence of the Lord.
Much that goes by the name of worship today has very little to do with experiencing the presence of God. Rather, it has everything to do with experiencing the culture around us. Often we bring the culture of the world into the church and then label it as worship. We have confused performance with worship.
Out of our Spirit filled walk will come Spirit filled worship acceptable unto God.
Our Christian Work
The third area affected by this crisis has to do with our Christian work.
Much passing for Christian work today is simply the endeavors of the flesh. Some of the things we are doing and called Christian work is the same as what anybody even an atheist is doing. Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, educating the uneducated. All of these things are splendid but which anybody can do them and sometimes do it better than the church. True ministry is the exercise of spiritual gifts.
Just as our worship flows out of our walk with Christ, so our work flows out of our worship. If we are not worshiping in the Spirit we can never work in the Spirit.
In some circles, it is the thing to work up our worship with some form of entertainment ambience. That kind of thing cannot be labeled as Christian work. Only that which really exalts the Lord Jesus Christ can be labeled as Christian worship. And then out of that worship will flow a worship that is honoring unto the Lord Jesus Christ. A work that needs the Holy Spirit in order to have it done. If it can be done in the flesh, it is not Christian work. Christian work that is acceptable to God is work done in the Spirit. Only as we have experienced the crisis of sanctification can this ever be a possibility in our life.
Two important events crown the life of the Christian. The first, is encountering Jesus Christ as Savior. Apart from this, nothing else really matters. But the second event in the life of the Christian is encountering Jesus Christ as Sanctifier. Dr. A.B. Simpson explained this is both a crisis and progressive work of the Holy Spirit. There is that crisis moment of experiencing the sanctifying work of Jesus Christ. Then after that there are those progressive moments of encountering Jesus Christ our Sanctifier in such a way that we go from glory to glory.
Rev. James L. Snyder