The Spirit empowers sanctification

Jul 2012    

Aldersgate Rally 1

“BEFORE HIS CONVERSION, John Wesley got it the wrong way round,” opined the Rev Duleep Fernando, referring to Wesley’s attempts to be holy through reading the Bible, praying, and doing good works through his own effort.

However, Wesley’s Aldersgate experience assured him that he had been justified by faith in Christ, and thereafter his efforts at sanctification were greatly empowered by the Holy Spirit which dwelt in him. is led him to affirm the Methodist teaching that Sanctification (or growing in holiness) follows Justification (being made righteous before God) in a Christian’s life.

The Rev Fernando was speaking at the Aldersgate Rally 1, which was held on May 25 at Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church 2 (TA 2). His topic that evening was “Scriptural Holiness – The Sanctifying Spirit”, and he spoke of the struggle that Christians face as they strive to overcome the temptation to sin.

He said: “Justification gives us a standing before God where we are righteous and acceptable to Him.” However, he continued, this does not mean that we are dead to sin in the way a corpse is unresponsive to external stimuli.

“Our sinful nature is still there like a germ within us and can be activated to lead us to sin. So it’s not impossible to sin, but sin is inconsistent with our present condition, with our relation to God, who hates sin.”

How then can Christians grow in holiness? The Rev Fernando likened this struggle with sin to the story of a snail trying to climb the slippery side of a tank, slipping down nine inches whenever it had climbed 10, over and over again. He then pointed out the role of the Holy Spirit, which empowers the believer to overcome sin, just as a gush of water would lift up the snail and assist it in its climb.

This requires Christians to allow the Holy Spirit to fill them and control their lives. “ e true test for fullness”, said the speaker, “is whether we have the fruit of the Spirit”, which is the fruit of love with all its different characteristics. “Do we really love people – even the people we do not like?”

The work of the Holy Spirit transforms Christians to the image of Christ as they go on this journey of sanctification, and flows out through believers to transform their society through social holiness, standing against social evils and injustice, and showing the love of Christ to the poor and needy, just as Wesley did.

The Rev Khoo Kay Huat, a pastor of Covenant Community Methodist Church, facilitated the ensuing question-and-answer session, which saw several questions raised on how Christians can allow the Holy Spirit to control their lives, and live sanctified lives on earth.

In answer, the Rev Fernando encouraged the congregation to be committed to seeking greater love for God and others, be vigilant, apply the truths of Scripture to their lives, and encourage each other in groups like Wesley’s “class meetings” that remind members of their call to discipleship and commitment to holiness and witness.

Grace Toh is the Assistant Editor of Methodist Message.


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