Sanctification and the Holy Spirit: Theme #7 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Sanctification and the Holy Spirit: Theme #7 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Written by Andrew J. Miller |
Thursday, December 28, 2023

We rely on the Spirit to apply to us all the blessings of Jesus. Jesus accomplishes redemption and the Spirit applies it to us. Christ’s death purchased life, and that life is manifested in us by the power of the Spirit, who is a person, who will do what He wills, not just a power like “the force” from Star Wars. We can do nothing apart from the Holy Spirit, applying to us the blessings won by Christ.

One astonishing yet unappreciated truth of Christianity is that salvation in Jesus Christ contains not just future heavenly life but also present transformation by the Spirit. God changes the believer to be more like Himself.

It’s a good thing, too, because day after day we bring misery on ourselves by our sin. Taking a page from our first parents, we shift the blame for the problems of our world. Like Adam blaming God and Eve in Genesis 3:12, we point the finger and try to exonerate ourselves. We blame our circumstances for our unhappiness. While certainly the problems posed by circumstances and others are significant and not to be downplayed, the Bible reminds us that our sin is the greatest contributor to our own misery. Poor politicians or policies, severe poverty, bad health, an unhealthy marriage—these are all true difficulties that should be addressed as appropriate. Yet, as 17th century persecuted Scottish minister Robert Fleming wrote, “In the worst of times, there is still more cause to complain of an evil heart than of an evil world.” Or as Martin Luther said, “I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, self.”

The Bible confirms this: we can’t blame others (James 4:1-4), or God himself—he tells his people of his generosity and desire to bless: “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. But My people would not heed My voice, And Israel would have none of Me” (Psalm 81:10-11).

This means that sanctification—God putting our sin to death and making us love what he loves—is of tremendous benefit to us! As our gracious Triune God sanctifies us little by little, we treasure him above all, and are less troubled by our circumstances. “A man that has God for his portion is [unequalled]…he is the rarest and the happiest man in the world…Nothing can make that man miserable that has God for his portion…” As we grow in sanctification, we grow in joy and peace. Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 90 asks and answers: “What is the rising-to-life of the new self?

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