Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians—and for all believers, including you and me—is that we would daily decrease so that Christ may daily increase in us. God is not satisfied with our partial sanctification. As Paul writes, God wishes us to be sanctified "through and through" (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Christ, living in us, must completely take over every part of our lives. We must come to a point where we can honestly say, "Not an inch of my life is withheld from the Lord's control. I am completely submitted to Him."
That's what Paul means when he says, "[W]e take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). Sanctification cannot begin on the outside. It must begin within us, at the level of our thoughts, then radiate outward to our actions. Sanctification is an inside job. It starts deep within the soul and spirit, and then it moves to the body.
When the Holy Spirit dwells in your spirit, then your body will respond in obedience.
Your spirit is the most distinct and individual part of you. It's the dimension of you that connects with the Holy Spirit when you come to Christ. When the Holy Spirit dwells in your spirit, then your body will respond in obedience.
The ancient Greeks thought that the body is evil but the soul is good. So they let their bodies be involved in all sorts of immorality. As long as they were thinking lofty thoughts, they could do whatever they wanted with their bodies. It's a compartmentalized way of thinking—and it's completely unbiblical.
The Scriptures present an integrated view of our humanity. Yes, there is a spirit dimension, a soul dimension, and a physical dimension to our being—but we don't compartmentalize these different parts of ourselves, and we don't dismiss one dimension as less important than any other. The Word of God teaches that our thoughts produce our actions and our body is no less important than our soul and spirit. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
How do we become sanctified through and through? Is it a matter of human effort, willpower, and trying harder to be good? No. Righteousness comes only from God. As Paul says, "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:24). Our job is to live in total dependence upon Him.
Prayer: Lord, help me to decrease so that Christ may increase in me. Thank You for continuing to work in my life to sanctify me and set me apart for Your glory. Help me to submit entirely—soul, spirit, and body—to You. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
*Excerpt adapted from Fearless Living in Troubled Times by Michael Youssef © 2017. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR. Used by permission.