Hi all! First, let me thank all of you who have contributed to this discussion. I read most of it and am so impressed with not only the depth and precision of each of your responses, but also the manner and humility/sensitivity with which they were made - not always an easy thing to pull off in a forum like this, with this format. It makes me proud to know that there are fellow sojourners “out there” of your quality, and it gives me confidence that the Kingdom is being represented well, both in spirit (and Spirit, since that’s our topic!) and in truth. The quality of this exchange, to me, is a great example of the way the Spirit moves in Christians’ lives the majority of the time - in the day to day (mundane even) sanctifying of His people.
Until more recent years, I had largely considered the Spirit’s sanctification in our lives more in terms of His practical cleansing of our souls and lives in preparing us for Heaven (after the once-and-for-all act of justification had been made). In more recent years, that understanding has expanded and taken a fuller perspective, which is now being seared in as we attempt to raise our newly adopted (6 weeks) 14 year old daughter from China. Having already raised four biological children (ages 25 - 18), the comparing and contrasting of this parenting experience has deepened not only the practical understanding of raising adopted older children (with roots already established and the trunk and branches already strong and heading in certain directions), but also the broader vision and goal desired from a parent’s perspective.
The indwelling of the Spirit in our lives, His sanctification, and what His vision for our lives encompasses, now means more to me, with the added understanding that He is also preparing us to live in God’s family not only with a propositional, promissory assurance, but an existential experiential one as well. I’d love to share on this a little further, analogizing this to our salvation process, for those of you willing to read. As those adopted from the outside into God’s family (Jn. 1:12; Eph. 1:5, 1Jn. 3:1 and Lk. 11:13; Gal. 4:7), I think there are several parallels. I’ll try my best to illustrate.
My daughter is now fully a Hsieh in the legal sense. The cost and requirements have been fully rendered and the legal authorities have declared her ours; our home is her home; she has full access and rights to the Hsieh “kingdom” (and I definitely use that term loosely). This is analogous to justification - where God legally declares us righteous and a member of His family. That’s a once for all done deal. But there’s oh so much more to be done for the experience and way of living to match our legal status.
At the moment, my daughter is a Hsieh, but honestly, she doesn’t yet feel like one, nor does she think like one, sound like one, nor act like one. And it’s not like it’s been a straight shot towards becoming one either. There has been much push/pull, much conversation (over our translation apps - we don’t speak Chinese and she doesn’t speak English), much give/take in trying to merge our cultures together. Not only is her national culture different, but so is her personal culture, as well as being a teenage girl (another issue in and of itself!). She’s a Hsieh, but she doesn’t yet resemble one. Sanctification will need to be done in learning how to become a Hsieh, not legally, but in practice and in heart.
That is totally our story too, isn’t it? As adopted children of God, most of us were probably adopted into His family as “older children” as it were, with lives already having been lived out, patterns set, views formed, etc. We came into His family with a manner and way all our own. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is our assurance that this sanctification process will be completed, and that we will one day not only know intellectually that we are in God’s family, but will one day also “feel” like we belong. We’ll start to know more and more how our Father thinks, feels, and approaches different areas of life; and we’ll begin thinking, feeling, and approaching those areas in a more similar way. The Spirit’s work in our sanctification will bring us to a point that we’ll not only be able to affirm that we are members of His family because He said so propositionally, but also because we will feel experientially what we know to be true propositionally.
Whatever else we can say about the Spirit’s gifting, baptism, power, etc., I believe in large part it all serves bringing our salvation to fruition, from justification to sanctification to eventual glorification, a la Rom. 8:30 and Phil. 1:6.; with glorification not only being our spotlessness, but the fruition of the work done in our lives on earth to bring us to becoming like Christ, not for our own isolated “personal” glorification as much as for what that means in terms of towards the completion of His family.
My last comment is that my understanding of Scripture leads me to believe that the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in our lives begins not at our surrendering our lives to Christ, but in fact prior to that; that the reason that we can even surrender to Christ in the first place is because of the Spirit’s gracious unilateral work in our lives to bring spiritual birth (Jn. 3) to those spiritually dead (Eph. 2), and in doing so, we then had “eyes to see” and a heart for God … for the first time in our lives (Rom. 3:10++). It is then that we surrendered our lives to the Lord - a fruit of, not the root of, the Spirit in our lives. At least that’s how I understand it and believe it works.
Don’t know if anyone read this far down, but, again, I’m so appreciative of the obvious work of the Spirit’s work in your lives and count it a privilege to be your brother in Christ. Thanks to the RZIM staff for your work in bringing growth and perspective to His family!