One of the main points of the Study is the necessity for believers to stay sanctified. Sanctification is the “key,” because sanctification (staying cleansed) leads to partaking of Christ’s Life; and partaking leads to overcoming the world, the flesh and the devil; and, overcoming leads to inheriting the coming kingdom.
So, learning “how” to be sanctified is critical. The following is the practical application of just how to do that. It’s the way we are to “put off” our sin and self and “put on” Christ.
The steps we are about to learn are not something I have made up or something I got in a “self help” book. These are the actual steps that the priests of Solomon’s Temple took in the Inner Court in order to cleanse themselves and the people.
Personal Cleansing Steps
In order to enter God’s presence, we must not only be “believers” with the Spirit of God in our hearts, we must also be clean. Even if we are true believing Christians, we cannot just walk into the Holy Place any time we feel like it. God is holy and will commune with us only when we, too, are holy. He cannot abide where there is any corruption, sin or self. Thus, in order to enter His presence and worship Him as He desires, we must first put off any sin and self and put on Christ.
The following is a brief overview of the three specific cleansing steps required to cleanse our hearts so that God’s Life can come forth.
1) The first step we must take in order to be a cleansed vessel, is to recognize and acknowledge any negative thoughts or emotions that have occurred. It’s important to “take these thoughts captive” as 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us, look at them and allow God to give us His discernment about them. We must not vent these things nor push them down into the hidden part of our soul, but simply ask the Lord to expose what’s really going on.
This is what the priests did at the Lavers of Bronze. The lavers themselves were made of women’s looking glass (mirrors of polished metal). Thus, as the priests bent over the lavers to wash their hands, what they actually saw was their own reflection in the mirrored lavers. The priest’s actions are symbolic of what the Lord requires us to do. We are to ask Him not only to expose what’s going on in our conscious thoughts and emotions-the surface things that we can see-but we must also ask Him to shed light on the buried things in our soul, the root causes that we cannot see.
Our surface emotions are often just the symptoms of a much deeper cause. If the real root problem can be exposed, and subsequently gotten rid of, then the surface emotions will not occur again either. However, if we only deal with the external emotions and never the root causes, the surface problems will continue to come back. Therefore, it’s essential that we always ask the Lord to expose any hidden root issues.
So whenever we find ourselves hurt, angry, resentful, envious, critical, self-centered, prideful, ungrateful, anxious, afraid, confused, bitter, judgmental or filled with any ungodly emotion, we must stop, get alone with the Lord and go through these steps. Ask the Lord to expose what is really going on. He is the only One who can cleanse our sin. And He’s also the only One who can take these things from us “as far as the east is from the west” and completely heal us.
The Importance of our Thoughts
Our “thoughts” are the most important ingredient of our makeup. This is where the battle is often waged. The reason our thoughts are so important is that they are the first to be triggered in the chain reaction of our soul: our thoughts spark our emotions; our emotions cause our desires and our choices; and our choices determine whose life will be lived in our souls-God’s Life or our own. This is why God tells us to first “take every thought captive.” (2 Corinthian 10:5)
It’s also important to understand that our first, original negative thought is not sin. It’s what we choose to do with that negative thought that makes it sin or not. If we immediately recognize its negative impact and give it over to the Lord, we have not sinned and His Life can continue to flow. If, however, we mull that negative thought over and over again in our minds, we will then need to confess it and repent of it, for it has already quenched God’s Spirit in us.
2) The second essential step is that we must now confess and repent of all that the Holy Spirit has shown us and, in addition, unconditionally forgive anyone who has wronged us. (This step is really part of step #1. But because so much goes on in this first step, I’ve taken the liberty to separate it into two steps.)
Confession simply means “owning” our sin and acknowledging that what we have done, either ignorantly or knowingly, has quenched God’s Spirit in us. It’s sin, therefore we must confess “ownership” of it. The Hebrew Bible translates confession as spreading our hands. In other words, we must come clean and confess all.
Repenting, then, means choosing to turn around from following what the negative thoughts and emotions are telling us and, instead, choosing to follow what God wants. This critical step of confession and repentance is our own responsibility. As 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, [then] He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”
This is the step, however, that many of us seem to leave out when we “give things over” to the Lord. Certainly, we acknowledge our hurts, fears and doubts to Him, but often we forget to admit our own responsibility in the situation. This is why so many of the things we’ve given to Him often seem to come back. If we don’t do our part by confessing and repenting of them, God is hindered from doing His-actually taking them away. (Psalm 103:12)
“Then I acknowledged my sin to you, my guilt I covered not…I said, “I confess my faults to the Lord”; and you took away the guilt of my sin.”
Part of this second step of confession and repentance is that we must also unconditionally forgive others for whatever ill they have done to us. Unforgiveness is one of the many things that quench God’s Spirit in us and block His Life from coming forth. Unforgiveness hinders God from working in us and through us. Therefore, the way we release God to change our situations is by unconditionally forgiving the other party, whether or not they have asked for it and whether or not they deserve forgiveness!
Now, don’t misunderstand what God is telling us, we are not pardoning these people by doing this. We don’t have the authority to do that. That’s God’s responsibility. He is the judge. When we unconditionally forgive others, we are simply releasing them to Him, so that He can judge them righteously and also so that our response to their sin won’t become a stumbling block in us.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
We are exploring the practical application of how we “put off” the flesh and “put on” Christ. The Scripture that explains this cleansing process is Ephesians 4:22-24, 31, which instructs us to “put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
Again, what does this really mean?
It means we must acknowledge, confess and repent of our sin and self, change our mind about following what they are telling us to do and then, ask the Spirit of God to permeate the situation. This inner cleansing is essential. It’s the “key” to our Christian walk. Without this sanctification (cleansing), God’s Life in us will be quenched in our hearts and unable to come forth.
Remember Psalm 24:3-4: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His Holy Place? He who hath clean hands, and a pure heart, who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.”
How we cleanse our hands and develop a pure heart can be patterned after the three steps the priests took-in the Inner Court of Solomon’s Temple-in order to deal with their sin and be reconciled to God. This is the blueprint God has laid out in Scripture for us to be cleansed and then, filled with the Spirit.
We talked about the first two steps of this process: 1) recognizing and acknowledging our negative thoughts and emotions and then, 2) confessing and repenting of them (these two steps occurred at the Lavers of Bronze in the Inner Court of Solomon’s Temple). Now, we want to continue to explore this cleansing process by understanding the last two steps.
3) Once God has revealed our ungodly thoughts and emotions and we have confessed our responsibility in them, the third essential step is that we must give everything that is not of faith over to Him. God will not violate our free will by forcibly taking these things from us; we must willingly sacrifice and choose to hand them over to Him. This is the “putting off” that Ephesians talks about.
Romans 12:1 tells us that God wants us to give to Him-to sacrifice to Him-everything in us that is not of faith, so that it can be purged and cleansed by His blood. This is exactly what the priests did at the Brazen Altar as they sacrificed their offerings to the Lord. 2 Chronicles 7:1 gives us a vivid picture of just what happened: “Now when Solomon had made an end to praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house.”
Being a living sacrifice means offering God the best of what we have to offer-ourselves! His Word tells us that offerings like this rise to Him as sweet smelling savor. (Exodus 29:18, 25)
This sweet savor was the difference between Cain and Abel’s offering. Abel followed God’s instructions and his sweet smelling sacrifice was accepted. Cain, on the other hand, didn’t obey God’s prescribed order and, thus, his offering was rejected. It had no sweet aroma.
Most of the things that we give to the Lord are “of the flesh” and we’ll experience them gone in a few days, if we are faithful to go through these three cleansing steps. However, some of the things that the Lord might expose could be long-standing strongholds of the enemy and he won’t let these kinds of things go easily. So don’t be dismayed if certain thoughts and feelings seem to reappear even after you have given them to God.
The truth is that the Lord takes our sin the moment we give it to Him (Psalm 103:12 tells us He takes it “as far as the east is from the west”), but often our feelings don’t align with those choices for awhile. And this is where Satan tries to make us think that God is not faithful and that He has not cleansed us.
Satan uses these “in-between times”-between the time we choose to give ourselves to God and the time the Lord finally aligns our feelings with our choices-to try to destroy us. God, on the other hand, lets us go as long as He knows is wise, to test us and to strengthen our faith. The question He is constantly asking us is: “Will you trust Me? Will you trust Me in spite of what you feel or think or see?”
4) The fourth essential step in dealing with our sin and self is that we must read God’s Word and replace the lies with His Truth. We must remember that God is the only One who can cleanse, sanctify and heal our souls completely by His Word.
Remember, it was at the Molten Sea-a huge bathtub that held thousands of baths-where the priests immersed themselves bodily in order to receive a total cleansing. At the Brazen Altar they had become blood-splattered while sacrificing their offerings. Now they needed a complete bodily bathing in order to be thoroughly cleansed.
In like manner, after we have confessed, repented and given all to the Lord, we too are “bloody” and “torn apart” and in desperate need of God’s complete healing power. Only reading or reciting Scriptures from the Word of God can totally restore us at this point. Only the Lord can wash us “with the washing of water by the Word.” (Ephesians 5:26)
It’s very helpful to memorize appropriate Scriptures for this particular step, so that if we are away from our Bibles, we can still put the Word of God back down in our innermost part where the lies have been. Scriptures like Psalm 32:5: “I have acknowledged my sin to you, my guilt I covered not… I said, “I confess my faults to the Lord; and you away the guilt of my sin.” All of Psalm 51 is good. Also 1 John 1:5-10, Galatians 2:20 and 2 Corinthians 7:1 are wonderful Scriptures to remember.
After we have gone through all four of these steps: recognized and acknowledged our sins, confessed and repented of them, given them over to God and read His Word, we can be confident that He will cleanse us, align our feelings with our faith choices and perform His will through us.
At this point, having put off our sin and self (our body is now cleansed and our spirit purified), we can now put on the “beauty of Christ’s holiness.” (Psalm 96:7-9; Psalm 29:2)
Just like the priests changed their clothes after they had cleansed themselves in the Inner Court, we too, have changed our clothes and can now boldly enter the Lord’s presence and worship Him.
Renewal, therefore, is essential to being a mirror that reflects every detail of Christ’s character to the world. It’s impossible to glorify Him unless we are, first of all, cleansed. Then, the “beauty of the Lord” can come forth.
Remember Matthew 23:25-26: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.”