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, “We 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.

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.

Learn more in Dr. Michael Youssef’s sermon series Until Christ Returns: Living Confidently in Turbulent Times: LISTEN NOW | WATCH NOW


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About The Author

Dr. Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Even before he was born, it is clear that God had a vision for Michael Youssef. His mother was in poor health when she became pregnant with Michael, and because his life was in danger at the time of birth, the doctor recommended terminating the pregnancy. An abortion was scheduled. But God intervened and sent the family pastor to reassure them that God was involved in this pregnancy. He told them not to be afraid and that the child would be "born to serve the Lord." Michael's parents accepted the pastor's message as a message from God and obeyed. His mother gave birth, and lived to see him give his life to the Lord at the age of sixteen.

Believing that God had called him out of Egypt, Michael sought an exit visa in a time in which no university student was allowed to have a passport or leave the country. God intervened again, and miraculously he managed to acquire a visa. He immigrated to Australia, where he studied at Moore Theological College in Sydney, was ordained as a pastor, and met Elizabeth who became his wife.

The Youssefs came to America in 1977, and in 1978 Michael received a master's degree in theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in California. Then he earned a doctorate in social anthropology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Michael served nearly ten years in the Haggai Institute, traveling around the world more than 32 times, teaching courses in evangelism and leadership. He rose to the position of Managing Director at the age of 31 years. The family settled in Atlanta, and in 1984, Michael became a citizen of the United States, making his dream of many years come true.

He founded The Church of The Apostles in 1987 with fewer than 40 adults with the mission of "Equipping the Saints and Searching for the Lost". The church has since grown to be a congregation of over 3,000 people today. This church has driven the international ministry of Leading the Way. While it is heard by millions at home and abroad, behind every message preached through radio waves, is the heart of a pastor, willing to nurture and care for these people. Clearly God has uniquely equipped Dr. Youssef to speak to a global audience. The path he has taken has given him an understanding and firm grasp of the Scriptures that transcend cultures. He preaches, teaches and calls with a sincere, based on the authority of the inerrant, inspired Word of God. With his personal knowledge of the Holy Land, its history and culture, Dr. Michael Youssef transmits life to listeners all over the world.

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