“That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour.” -1 Thess .4:4 “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” – Prov. 25:28
The two ideas are tantamount to the same thing, you know—possessing (having control of) your vessel and ruling your spirit. And they are both activities we like to assume is a job we can passively hand over to the Holy Spirit. Having Him as a permanent Resident within these vessels of clay we call our bodies is what puts muscle in our resolve; however, as these two verses attest, God insists that we make the decision to put that muscle to good use.
The verse in First Thessalonians suggests that personal sanctification involves a willful choice on the part of the believer. This is not the sanctification by the Holy Spirit that sets us apart for Heaven (“…God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation though sanctification of the Spirit…” 2 Thess. 2:13); but rather, it’s the sanctification that sets us aside for God to use (“If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use...” (2 Tim. 2:13). In addition, as the verse tells us, this “vessel-possessing” is not a given in the Christian life. If it’s possible to know how to do it, as Paul says, it’s also possible not to know how to do it.
I think I hear a rumble within the ranks. “So, how do you do it?” I hear you say. Well, I could give you a list or a set of guidelines, and if I said it really well, I could probably sell lots of books! But there are two little words in the verse that stop me: “…his vessel.” You see, I don’t live in your vessel; I live in mine. I may not always possess my vessel as I should, but I’ve lived with me long enough, and experienced enough trial and error, to have a pretty good idea of what it takes to have victory over sin in my own life. I can’t plead either ignorance or inexperience! I could tell you the things that motivate me toward personal holiness—like the love of God, and the dread of bringing reproach upon His name, for example; but I’ve come to believe this:
Each of us must cultivate a relationship with God that finds its own reasons for faithfulness.
So this isn’t written so much to instruct you, as it is to inspire you—us—in the hard but important business of biblically maintaining the vessels in which God has given us to live. The verse in Proverbs gives us an idea of what’s at stake here. If a person who lacks rule over his or her spirit is like a city with crumbling walls, those of us who don’t take seriously personal sanctification will always be fair game for the enemy. And make no mistake, he may not strike immediately, but he always does eventually. Now is the time to keep the walls of separation between Satan and us in good repair. Now is the time to make sure we know how to possess our vessels “in sanctification and honour.” And it is a matter of honor.
“If you want to reach your spiritual potential, you must learn to tell your body it can’t have everything it wants.” – Pastor Perry Kallis