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Sanctification as self-denial

BY RON BARTENAN ─ We talk often about salvation, but little about sanctification — when one is convicted in his or her heart of sin and, in penitent faith, puts on Christ in baptism, steps out into the world, having been washed in the blood of Christ, a new creature, saved from the guilt of sin (Romans 6:1-4). At that time our Lord has set the believer apart from the world to “walk in newness of life,”, which we refer to as sanctification. At such a time we begin to see in action one’s cooperation with God in one’s separation from sin and living a holy (sanctified) life.

When Jesus chose to surrender His life at Calvary’s cross, He was demonstrating His own sanctification—His denial of Himself. This was why He could admonish that any who would be His disciple must be willing to “deny himself and take up his cross” and follow Him (Mark 8:34). He made the ultimate denial of Himself when He denied Himself, taking our sins upon Himself, denying His own life for our salvation and sanctification. It was as Paul said: “Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Hebrews 13:12 declares, “Jesus … that He might sanctify the people with His own blood suffered without the gate.” As Christians, we are to be like those described in Revelation 12:11, who “overcame (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, (who) loved not their lives unto the death.”

Three examples stand out in my mind of those in Scripture who denied themselves.

The first one is Peter, the disciple who declared openly that he would never deny His Lord. Christ was on trial, being mocked, beaten, and falsely accused. What did Peter do? Did he mock Him? Beat Him? Accuse Him? None of these things. He did nothing to defend Him. He simply disowned Him, denying that he even knew Him. What could he have done? He could have given testimony as he would later do with the household of Cornelius, declaring “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). But No—he did not want to get involved. But are we not often caught off-guard, and prefer to stay in the shadows? If we are falsely accused or mocked for our faith, would we choose to defend ourselves by denial of the charges rather than by the denial of self? As the world’s culture worsens, sanctification will not allow the Christian to change with it, but to affirm the truth of God’s word.

In the Old Testament, Moses suffered a denial by his countrymen, as Stephen reminded the Jews, “This Moses they (the Jews) refused (denied), saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge?” (Acts 7:35). They did not yet accept Moses as a spokesman for God. We would do well to deny ourselves when we are tempted to slip into a pattern of ignoring the lordship of Christ. We should then remind ourselves, “Wait! Who made ME a ruler and judge of myself?” There is no room for self-justification. Proverbs 12:15 reminds us, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that listens to counsel is wise.” Proverbs 30:12 seems directed at our culture today when it says, “There is a generation that is right in its own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” To truly deny oneself, God’s word must overrule our preferences.

On the day of Pentecost, following the death, burial, resurrection of Christ and His ascension into heaven, Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 accused his audience, saying, “Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you” (v. 14). How had they denied Him? When Pilate let them pronounce judgment on Him, they had cried out, “Crucify Him!” They were saying, “We will not have this man reign over us” (Luke 19:14). Sanctification, as self-denial, calls for self-crucifixion and refusal of self-reign. As the Jews had swapped Christ for a murderer, we must reverse that by swapping self, with all of our sins, for Christ. Paul, referencing their acceptance of Christ in baptism, reminds the Roman Christians, “Knowing this, that our old man (self, as a sinner) is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (v. 6).

The bottom line is that sanctification means we, in accepting Christ, declare to ourselves, “I will not let this man (self) reign over me!”

Ron lives in Florida and is retired from preaching full-time. He send out “The Sower” by email, from which this article was taken.


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