Based on the Bible’s testimony, we have various possibilities for special experiences with God. However, a spiritual experience is only genuine if it has been searched for and attained in a biblical way. God’s Word therefore shows us the way to rebirth, special faith experiences, spiritual maturity, sanctification, and last but not least, eternal salvation.
Sanctification is a special blessing from God. The first requirement is assurance of salvation. Only children of God can have this assurance, since assurance is tied together with an experience. Only those who have sought forgiveness through faith and repentance and attained the salvation of their soul can possess this assurance of salvation. The Holy Spirit also gives us the assurance that we are children of God. Paul writes: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God…The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:14,16).
Jesus’ disciples had this certainty because He called them “My brothers and sisters” (see Matthew 12:49-50). He further testified: “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth, Your Word is truth” (John 17:16-17). In any case, the prerequisite for being a child of God and the assurance of salvation had been met.
The second condition is child-like, faith-filled pleading. One does not have to fight for spiritual experiences, nor can they be forced and arbitrarily invoked. Jesus simply says: “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Luke 11: 9), and again: “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24).
With regard to the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus also recommended this path to His disciples when He said: “How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13)
The disciples acted precisely according to this instruction, for they stayed in the upper room in Jerusalem and remained united in prayer and supplication, waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit which had been promised to them. However, not only they, but God also acted according to His word, fulfilling the promise as we read: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4).
The third condition is personal sacrifice to God. Jesus taught us what this meant through His prayer struggle in Gethsemane. In His high priestly prayer, He prayed: “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself” (John 17:19), and in Gethsemane, He gave Himself up entirely to the will of the Father.
Before He sacrificed His body on the cross, He sacrificed His will. And we must also become a complete self-sacrifice for Him. Regarding this consecration and surrender to God, the letter to the Hebrews says: “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). This means: On the basis of God’s will, who required the sacrifice of Jesus for our redemption and sanctification, He also demands the sacrifice of our body and will so we can be sanctified.
The most crucial step in experiencing sanctification of the heart is the real, complete sacrifice of self to God. At the same time, this seems to be the biggest obstacle that distracts or holds back many born-again believers from this experience. In Acts 8:14-15 ,we read of the Samarians who, after becoming believers through Philip’s preaching, had Peter and John come to them and pray that they might receive the Holy Spirit.
Fourthly, the work of sanctification is done by God. Jesus asked the Father to sanctify His disciples. In the same way, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely…He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24), namely sanctify you.
We recognize that God does the work of sanctification. However, sanctification, like the experience of salvation, has a human and a divine side. God works the part that we cannot do, and we have to do what God will not do for us.
When we are ready to follow the biblical path and fulfill the conditions, God is willing to do the work of sanctification on our hearts. Therefore, dear child of God, press on persistently, and you will receive all the blessings of salvation. God bless your soul!