Sanctification is to become more and more like God and it takes a combination of mortification and vivification. In his sermon last weekend, Pastor Kong Hee taught what mortification means and four steps to achieving it.
Among Apostle Peter’s last words to Christians all around the world are: “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” (2 Pet 3:18)
Over the weekend of Feb 6 and 7, City Harvest Church’s senior pastor, Kong Hee shared that the Christian life begins with a new birth and that alone shows that growth is God’s central concern. However, many believers think that growing in grace and growing spiritually in God is something that comes automatically.
“It doesn’t happen this way. The devil Satan deceives us into thinking it does,” preached Pastor Kong. “If you are not intentional in wanting to grow, instead of growing the full stature of Jesus, you will actually shrink behind your roles.”
Last week, Pastor Kong shared about holiness which is the process of becoming more like Jesus. This week, he drew connections between the words “holiness” and “sanctify”. The Greek word for “holiness” is hagios, and the corresponding Greek verb for hagios is hagiazo, which is “sanctify”. This means that sanctification is the verb of holiness.
He went on to explain that “sanctification” means being set apart for God Himself. It is not about what one does or does not do, but about drawing close to God, fellowshipping with Him, and partnering with Him to serve Him and do His will.
The definition for “sanctification”, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, is the work of God’s free grace, whereby people are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness.
Breaking down this definition, Pastor Kong shared that the “whole man” is referring to spirit, soul, and body; the “image of God” is referring to Christlikeness; to “die unto sin” is mortification; and to “live unto righteousness” is vivification.
As such, a combination of mortification and vivification allows Christians to become more and more like God–which is to be sanctified.
Referring to 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV), Pastor Kong preached that God saved His people to sanctify them so that every day they will die more and more unto sins, and live more and more for righteousness.
“This is more important than any healing we can have, than any blessing or any provision or any success,” he added. It is the most important agenda of God’s plan in a Christian’s life.
WHAT IS MORTIFICATION?
When one has a deadly virus in his or her body, the only way to be cured is to kill the virus.
“Every sin that we struggle with is more deadly and dangerous than a virus,” said Pastor Kong. “Because a virus can kill a physical body in this lifetime, but sin can destroy our soul forever and ever.”
In Colossians 3:5, Paul wrote that the only way to deal with sin is to “mortify”, which is to “put to death”. Mortification means killing every evil and self-indulgent habit each time it shows itself in one’s life.
Christians are saved by grace, through faith, and in Christ. Born again as the child of the Most High, they have to live in a way befitting of spiritual royalties. “Having received all these privileges, now you must therefore mortify the sins inside you,” preached the pastor.
In the gospel, Jesus told all Christians to take up their cross daily. Romans 8:13 (NIV) also wrote the word “mortify” in present continuous tense, reminding Christians to put to death their sins not only once, but repeatedly every single day.
The same verse promised an abundant life when believers mortify their sins. However, this cannot be done by their own strength but is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“When we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, we will live life to the fullest,” said Pastor Kong. “We are able to partner with Him, be filled with His anointing, know His mind, walk in revelation, and we are able to enjoy Him every single day of our lives.”
Galatians 5:7 also warned that the flesh wars against the Spirit. Many believers may think that spiritual warfare is always external, for example, casting out demons or coming against principalities and power.
“But the greatest spiritual warfare that you and I will ever face is internal. It is to become the person God wants you to be, so you can fellowship with Him, serve Him and enjoy Him,” said Pastor Kong, who went on to introduce four steps to waging effective spiritual warfare.
FOUR STEPS TO MORTIFICATION
1. Know our enemy
When the Bible writes “sins” (plural), it refers to sinful deeds. But the singular noun “sin” is used when referring to principal power on the inside–the power of sin. That is the internal enemy Christians fight against.
The sinful nature that all mankind inherited from Adam is also called the “sin factory”, which is the source of sinful thoughts and behaviours, such as sexual gratification, gambling and anger.
Pastor Kong said that one of the mightiest and holiest man who ever lived, Apostle Paul, is brutally honest about this. He wrote in Romans 7:14-15, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”
Paul concluded that it is impossible in this lifetime to get rid of the “body of death”, which is the mortal body because that only happens when one dies.
“We want to be totally free from sin, but we can never grasp it in this life time totally. But we will try to get closer and closer, and the way we do it is by mortification,” encouraged Pastor Kong.
2. Know our objective
Believers need to be clear of their game plan, which is to drain the life out of sin. This is such that while the flesh is present, it is powerless and therefore unable to provoke one to sin.
Jesus mentioned that sometimes, sinful habits can be so entrenched in people that they become a part of their lives. To get rid of these habits, it is similar to plucking one’s eye or cutting one’s hand (Mt 5:29-30). Drug addicts, for example, find it difficult to break free from drugs.
“Mortification can be a very painful thing, a very difficult thing. You want to kill it? Your flesh will fight back. The power of sin inside you will fight tooth and nail,” said Pastor Kong.
He encouraged the congregation to keep applying the power of the Holy Spirit because when deliverance comes, one will be able to be completely set free from a particular area of his or her life.
3. Know our superiority
Christians need to claim the victory of Jesus, who has already broken the power of sin in the believer’s life.
When Christians are born again, there is a change of DNA and sin ceases to have dominion over them (Rom 6:14). It is no longer in their nature to sin, because that is against the nature of God.
“In fact, if you sin after you become a Christian, you can never sin with all your heart,” the pastor preached. As such, believers must not let the devil deceive them into thinking that it is impossible for them to be free from sin.
Pastor Kong also shared that some people choose not to give their hearts to Jesus until their last days, as they want to “enjoy” their lives first. However, the truth is that when one is more like Jesus Christ, he or she will have greater joy, and deeper and more lasting satisfaction or fulfilment.
“No matter how deeply sin is entrenched in your life today, no matter how bad those habits may be, if you keep applying the pressure of the Holy Spirit, eventually that sin has to go,” he said.
4. Know our resources
The best way to overcome the power of the flesh is to grow the fruits of the Spirit, and one must intentionally develop virtues that are totally opposite to the sins. For someone whose problem is greed, he or she has to strive to become the most generous person around; while for someone who is prideful, the key is to be humble and serve without gaining recognition for it.
Besides developing the fruits of the Spirit in one’s life, it is also important to be vigilant. Believers are called to watch and pray, lest they enter into temptation (Mk 14:38). A person must run as far away as possible from temptation and from thoughts that could lead to temptation.
“If you expect God to kill lust by His sovereign power on the inside of you…and yet you indulge in porn, and you expose yourself to people, to things, to movies, to books, that will stir up those cravings, you are being presumptuous,” explained Pastor Kong. “You are testing God. The Bible says don’t test God. You’ve got to be ruthless in starving sin, starve it to death, starve those habits to death.”
Lastly, prayer is the greatest weapon against the devil and sin. Christians usually pray against external powers and principalities, but seldom pray about their internal struggles.
“Unless you pray for a breakthrough, it will not happen.” Pastor Kong said, reminding the congregation that Jesus Christ is the great high priest who was tempted at all points, yet without sin. He encouraged the church to come boldly to His throne of praise, to receive mercy and grace to help in time of need.
In closing, Pastor Kong prayed for the congregation to surrender their sins completely to God, and for God to do a great work of change in their lives.