Sanctification: The Process of True Biblical Change - Part 2

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  February 26, 2006
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Well as you know, I'm not normally given to doing any sales, and I don't intend to start tonight, but I do want to tell you that I encourage you very strongly to get the CD's or go online and download these messages on sanctification. Let me say, as we begin tonight, that there is no truth that has been more life-transforming for me personally than understanding what I'm sharing with you last time we discussed sanctification, especially tonight and next Sunday night. So, if you have to miss, get the CD, go online and get the message because I can tell you personally, I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to share it with you because I stumbled and staggered around in my Christian life and experience for several years before I really came to grasp and understand these truths that I'm going to share with you. They are truly life-transforming.

We're talking about "progressive sanctification", that is, the process of true biblical change. Now let me just remind you in brief review of what we talked about last time. True biblical change is not these things: It is not participating in spiritual activities. It's not having emotional experiences. True biblical change is not keeping a set of rules and regulations because they tend to focus on less important issues. The law, any sort of law, simply awakens the flesh rather than defeating it and dealing with it. And the flesh ultimately has no power to control itself. So, these things which are often put forth as some mechanism by which you can become more like Jesus Christ are in fact utterly defeating.

True biblical change, we can also say, is not merely avoiding overtly sinful actions. The Pharisees did that. Simply avoiding the "worst" sins is not what sanctification is about, nor is it simply performing the right actions. Again, the Pharisees were very good at this as have many other hypocrites through the history of the church. That is not true biblical change.

It's not accumulating knowledge about spiritual things. This is one that's a real temptation for us in a Bible church. We want to know, we want to learn the Bible, but these things are not what sanctification is. Some of these things can aid in sanctification, they can be a help, some of them can't, but none of them are sanctification.

That brings us then to what is the nature of true biblical change or "sanctification". We said the word "sanctification" or "sanctify" is used in two senses in the New Testament. One of those is to consecrate, to set apart from a common to a sacred use, "to set apart for God's service". That is really a reference to our "definitive sanctification", our "positional sanctification", that is, at the moment of salvation you and I were set apart from all that we were unto God to be God's own privileged possession.

But there's another way this word "sanctify" is used in the New Testament and that means "to actually make holy, to purify, to render clean in a moral sense". This is a work that God does within us. This is what we're talking about when we talk about true biblical change. This is progressive sanctification, that is, it progresses through our lives. It starts at the moment of salvation, and it runs its course through the rest of our natural lives. Practically, we are being made holy in an ongoing process.

So, exactly, what is sanctification? Louis Berkhof defines it this way.

It is the work of God's free grace by which His Spirit continuously delivers the justified sinner [we've already been justified, this is after that beginning with that,] delivers the justified sinner) from the pollution of sin, renews his whole nature in the image of God, and enables him more and more to die to sin and to live unto righteousness. [That is sanctification. That is the process.]

Now we began last time to condense all that the Scripture says about this important doctrine into nine basic biblical propositions. We began to look at them as I said in some detail last time. I want us to review briefly. We talked of the first three, we dealt with the first three last time, but let me just review them for you so those of you who weren't here can catch up with us.

When you look at the data that the Scripture records regarding sanctification, this is what you find.

Number one, that sanctification is made possible by the work of Christ. It's of God's grace. We never earn sanctification by our obedience or by our efforts. It is, instead, an expression of God's grace doing His work in our lives.

We also discovered last week that sanctification, and this is crucial, is completely a work of God. In other words, let me say it differently. We cannot produce true biblical change in ourselves. You cannot change yourself at the heart level. Oh, you and I can modify our behavior, but we can't produce that true change that we were talking about in our definition where we are set apart further from the pollution of sin and we are renewed after the image of God's own Son. We cannot, regardless of our efforts, regardless of our energies, work that in ourselves. Only God can do it.

We saw that the Father is involved in this process, the Son is involved in this process, as well as the Holy Spirit. And of course, the context of John 17, where we began to look last time where Christ says, "Sanctify them in the truth", that's a prayer. It's a prayer for God to work the sanctifying process in the lives of the disciples. It is a work of God. And we looked at a number of other texts that drive home this truth. First Thessalonians 5:23 says that God is the One who will sanctify you holy. Let me read it again because I think it's so important. Hodge writes this:

The mere power of truth, argument, motive, persuasion or eloquence cannot produce holiness of heart and life, nor can these effects be produced by the power of the will or by all the resources of man, however protracted or skillful in their application. [You can be a wonderful Bible student, a wonderful warrior in prayer, but you cannot produce change in your heart. Only God can do that. He goes on to say:] They are gifts of God, the fruits of the Spirit. Paul may plant and Apollos water, but it is God who gives the increase.

So, sanctification is completely a work of God in the sense that only God can produce true biblical change in us. That's not to say we don't have a role, and we'll talk about that in just a moment. We do, but our role is not to change ourselves. We don't have the capacity to do that. God alone can change us.

That brings us to number three. Our third biblical proposition is that sanctification involves maximum human effort. Now that seems to contradict, on the face of it, the last one, that it's completely a work of God, but it doesn't. While we cannot change ourselves, we are still called to engage ourselves in the pursuit of holiness, in the pursuit of sanctification. It's not something (in other words, sanctification is not something) that we receive from God, and He just sort of zaps us with it. Sanctification is not a spiritual zap. There is effort to be expended; in fact, there is maximum human effort.

I called your attention last time to 1 Timothy 4:7 where Paul tells Timothy that he is to discipline himself. You and I have had the opportunity over the last couple of weeks to watch the Winter Olympics, or at least some of them. You probably read news reports at least. Here are athletes who have trained hours every day for years to compete in the Games. That is the very expression, that sort of athletic energy and endeavor that Paul uses in 1 Timothy 4:7 when he says we are to discipline ourselves. It's the Greek word from which we get our word "gymnasium". You get the picture of the word. It has the idea of strained effort, and he tells Timothy discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. So, while God must change us, we are not unengaged from the process. We must expend maximum human effort.

But as I reminded you at the very end last time, it's very important to remember that our effort doesn't earn or achieve sanctification. It is still a work of God's grace. Listen carefully, this is key. We expend the effort, but God produces the change. We expend the effort, but God produces the change. Now that's where we left off last time.

Let's look at the rest of our nine propositions. Number four, sanctification is a process. It doesn't happen suddenly. I wish I could tell you that it did. I wish I could tell you it was like turning on a light switch, but it doesn't work that way. Sanctification is a process. It's not an experience; it slowly portrays itself in our lives.

Let's look at a couple of these texts. Turn with me to Ephesians, Ephesians 4:15. Paul here is laying out the plan for the church, how the church functions, and he says here is the end game, here's the goal of the church. "We're to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ." We're to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ. It's the picture of growth. We understand the concept of growth. Growth doesn't happen suddenly overnight. Growth is a process that plays itself out over time.

The same thing, excuse me, is over in 2 Peter 3, 2 Peter 3:18, "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Grow.

But I think the best picture of this concept of sanctification being a process occurs in 1 John. Turn with me to 1 John 2, and notice verse 12. First John 2:12, John says,

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who's been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Now what's going on here? John takes the church to which he writes, and he breaks down the congregation into these three basic groups. He says, there are, among those reading this letter, children. Children simply know the Father. They know they have a Father, and they know who He is. They know that their sins have been forgiven, and that's about all they know. They're children.

And then there are young men among you, he says, young men who have come to know the truth. And by knowing the truth, you've been strong and you've overcome the evil one. You see the process of spiritual growth as it plays out begins with the simple knowledge that your sins are forgiven. And then you begin to embrace and understand the truth, that's why exposing yourself to the truth is so important. Because you began that process of growth, you become a young man, now spiritually strong, now able to defeat your own temptation and inner corruption, able, to some degree, to say no to all that your heart wants you to do, able now to defeat error and to understand it. You're no longer as Ephesians 4 says children tossed here and fro by every wind of doctrine. You have that stability.

And then he says, finally, there's a group among you of fathers, spiritual fathers. And who are the spiritual fathers? They're the ones who, and this is a deep knowledge, an intimate knowledge, they're the ones who know God. I mean they really know God. Their focus is no longer on their simple forgiveness, nor is their focus exclusively on the knowledge of the Word, but their focus has come to be the person of God Himself.

And John says all those are among you. And guess what? All of those are among us tonight. You fall into one of those categories that John has laid out for us here. And you know what that tells us about sanctification? It tells us, because the Spirit uses the imagery of physical growth and development and maturing physically, he uses that in the spiritual world. It tells us that spiritual growth mirrors the same kind of process that physical growth takes.

Those little children that we dedicated tonight, their parents will not go in their bedrooms tomorrow morning to find them fathers. We know that, we understand that. It's a process, many years that it takes for these little ones physically to mature and grow into adults. The same thing is true spiritually. I wish I could give you an instant microwaveable cure for sanctification, but it doesn't exist. It's a process, the same as growing physically. And you can't short circuit it no matter how hard you try. It's a process.

Number five, sanctification is a constant war within. You know, again there are some people who think that they're going to arrive spiritually at some plateau, at some new level of spirituality where they're going to coast along in this state of constant spiritual high. Listen, the Scripture is very clear. Yes, there will be, if you're a true believer, a decreasing pattern of sin and an increasing pattern of righteousness in your life, but it will never come without a struggle. Your entire life from now until the moment you die will be a spiritual battle. And don't think that means there's something wrong with you. This is what it is to be a Christian. This is the heart of sanctification. It is a war, and it will never cease to be a war. The only problem is if you run up the white flag of surrender. And if you're a believer, you're not going to do that. You may be tempted to. You may find great frustration in yourself, but it will always be a war within. You will never be without conflict in this life.

Look at Galatians 5, Galatians 5:17. "The flesh," which is that unredeemed part of us that finds its beachhead in our bodies, we are a new man, but we still retain the flesh. "… [And] the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh [the Holy Spirit within us is at war with our flesh]; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please."

Paul understood this. You as I have found great comfort in his words in Romans 7, where the apostle Paul describes the war that he felt within. Romans 7:14, he turns here at this point in the chapter from his spiritual autobiography in the past, that is his conversion and what his life was like before he came to faith in Christ, and he catapults us into the present.

For we know [he says] that the Law is spiritual [and then he turns personal], but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing [Paul says], I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

Now this isn't excuse to give in to your flesh. That's not what Paul was saying. Paul always is encouraging us to grow and to fight and to battle with our corruptions. But what I want you to understand and find comfort in is that if you don't find yourself tonight at some heightened spiritual state of victory in which you're living on this plane of spiritual calm, join the club. There is no such person. It will always be, it was for the apostle Paul, a war, a constant war within. He goes on in verses 21 to 25.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man. [You see, he was a new person. He loved God's law, he had the great desire to obey it, and yet his flesh was still with him, and it waged war against him, and sometimes made him prisoner.] "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" [This was Paul's current state when he wrote this epistle. His heart, like yours, was engaged in a war, a war with his own sin.]

Number six, sanctification is only complete when you die or Christ returns. Again, there's no shortcut, there's no perfection in this life. There are some who teach perfectionism. They teach that you can reach a certain level of plateau in this life in which you are not engaged in active sinning. But notice Philippians 2, Philippians: 3:12. Paul says,

"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect (the apostle Paul says I'm not there), but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ…. (And he goes on to explain what that is. He says), Brethren, I don't regard myself as having laid hold of it yet (he still hasn't explained what 'it' is, but he'll get there); but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead (here it is, verse 14), I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus."

You know what the prize of the call, the upward call in Christ Jesus is? It's Christ's likeness. That's what he's saying. I haven't arrived, but I'm striving, I'm pressing, I'm leaning toward the goal with all of my might like the runner who comes to the tape and is just trying to best his competition, leaning with all of his might to get to the finish line. But he says I haven't, I haven't. It's not going to happen in this life.

I mentioned the perfectionists. My father-in-law, who was a pastor and Bible professor for many years, tells the story of interacting with a lady who claimed to be a perfectionist, that is, she believed that she had arrived at a level of spiritual perfection in this life and that she didn't actively sin. Well as it turns out, this particular lady also struggled with gluttony and with anger. And so, this probably wasn't something he should have done, but he told us the story that he went up to her table one day while she was eating, he and a fellow student, with the sole purpose of provoking her to anger.

Now again, that wasn't the right thing to do, but he wanted to illustrate a point to her, and as it turned out, he illustrated it, or I should say she illustrated it very well, that she had not yet attained to a level of perfection because she got angry. She said in the end of it when they asked if anger was a sin after she had pretty well told them what she thought, she said I don't sin, I just make mistakes. You see, what has to happen for anyone to believe that they're perfect in this life is they have to "redefine", they have to lower the standard in some way. They make it only willful or known acts of sin because it doesn't happen. It's only complete, sanctification is, when you die or Christ returns.

Number seven, sanctification is a means to an end. It is not an end in itself. You know, I think sometimes we're tempted to pursue sanctification for ourselves. I'm just sick of the person I am. I'm embarrassed by this sinful habit I have. And we just want out of it for those reasons. Sanctification is not an end in and of itself; it is a means to an end, and that end is to enable us to live to the glory of and in fellowship with God.

Look at 1 Peter 1. First Peter 1:13.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former … [cravings] which were yours in your ignorance (that is, when you were before Christ, when you were without Christ), but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in your behavior; because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."

You know what Peter is saying here? He's saying you're children, and you have a new Father. Your Father has adopted you. Start acting like your Father so that you can enjoy the relationship that you ought to have with Him. He goes on to say, "If you address as Father the One who impartially judges, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth." It's a means to an end. The Father is holy so we need to be with the goal of glorifying Him as well as resembling Him, wearing the family name well.

Number eight, sanctification, and this is crucial, is a renovation of the heart, not merely change in our behavior or self-reformation. It is a renovation of the inner man or of the whole person. Listen, unbelievers can stop certain sins. When word spread about AIDS back at the end of the last century, there were homosexuals who stopped some of their worst and most overt sinful behavior out of fear of contracting AIDS. That's not sanctification. We're talking about a clean heart versus clean clothes. We're talking about a marble statue versus a man. They're worlds apart. Self-reformation and sanctification have nothing in common. It is a renovation at the most basic heart level.

Look at Christ's words in Matthew 12. Matthew 12:33. Jesus is making the point here that words reveal who we really are. He says,

"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? [For out of the mouth, or I should say] for the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil."

You know what Jesus is saying here? It's the same thing He said in other places when He said that sin doesn't enter in from the outside and condemn a man or pollute the man, but rather it's the sinful heart that's within him that expresses itself, that's what He's saying here. He's saying listen, you can't deal even with your words. You can't change your words (why?) because it's simply revealing what's in your heart. Oh, you may control them when you're around the pastor. You may control them when you're around somebody else that matters, but you can't change yourself at the most basic level. Sanctification is a change in the fountain, not the stream. Sanctification is a change in the heart, not in the external behavior, the true, genuine renovation of a man. Listen to Hodge again. He says,

External reformation falls very far short of sanctification. It may leave a man's inward character in the sight of God unchanged. He may remain destitute of love to God, of faith in Christ and of all holy exercises and affections. Sanctification in its essential nature is not external holy acts, but such a change in the state of the soul that sinful acts become more infrequent and holy acts more and more habitual and controlling.

In other words, God so changes your heart that the actions and the words follow. That's what sanctification is. And by the way, we'll develop this more, Lord willing next week, when we get to the very practical steps of sanctification.

Number nine, our sanctification is guaranteed. I love this one. It's guaranteed. It's going to happen. How do I know that? Well, Scripture makes it clear that it's the goal of our salvation. This is why God saved us. Ephesians 5. Ephesians 5:25.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her [here's why Jesus sacrificed Himself, gave Himself up of course is a reference to the cross. Why did He do that?], so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, … that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

Listen, Christ set out on a mission. And His death was not the end of that mission; it was part of that mission leading to our ultimate sanctification when we would resemble Him.

But turn to Romans 8 because Paul puts it here in straightforward language. Romans 8:29, Those whom God, [and we dealt with this text when we dealt with election, but notice the flow here.]

For those whom God foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son." [That's where it started. When God chose you in eternity past, He had one specific thing in mind, and that was that you would be like Jesus Christ and that you would bring honor to Jesus Christ. And therefore, he sets out on this process.] "… these whom He predestined (verse 30), He called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

And as I've mentioned to you many times, "glorified" is in the same tense as all those things in the past because it's so certain. It's going to happen. And it's so certain he can speak of it as if it already happened. It's guaranteed.

There's another reason it's guaranteed, and that's because the Father always hears Christ. And in John 17:17, where we looked extensively last time, the text says as He prays to God, "Father, sanctify them through the truth; Your word is truth." And the Father always hears Jesus Christ. So, every believer will arrive at sanctification.

So, what does it look like? Let me show what you, the biblical perspective looks like. I know that's a little small, but I'll walk you through it. This is what, this comes from a chart. I'll show you all of it in a few minutes. It's the biblical view is what this particular resource calls the "Reformed perspective", that is reformed in the sense of following the leaders of the Reformation. It really graphs what we have just learned in those nine propositions I showed you. Notice you have the cross. That represents coming to genuine faith in Christ, repentance and faith. At that moment, of course, is regeneration. Regeneration, then comes the gift of faith and repentance and all the order that we talked about in the "ordo salutis".

But notice at that moment growth in holiness begins, and that growth in holiness happens through the use of the spiritual disciplines. You'll notice that line is generally in an upward direction, and yet there are sags and valleys, just as there are in our own growth as believers. But the pattern, the progress is upward. This is what the Bible pictures sanctification to be. So, Christ has introduced the nature of true biblical change to us. Turn back to John chapter 17. He's introduced the nature of true biblical change. It's the work of God's free grace by which His Spirit continually delivers the justified sinner from the pollution of sin, renews the whole nature in the image of God, and enables him more and more to die to sin and to live unto righteousness.

But that brings us to our next part of John 17:17. Now that we know what sanctification's all about, what are the objects of sanctification? Who experiences that kind of transformation? What are the objects of true biblical change? Notice verse 17, He simply refers to the objects of change there as "them". "Sanctify them." Who's He talking about? Well, you'll notice back in verse 9, He's obviously talking about the disciples. The same thing in verse 12, "while I was with them", so He's speaking now historically about the apostles, the disciples that He chose on one occasion and who stayed with Him throughout His life.

But then notice that in verse 20, He adds the rest of us. He says, "I do not ask on behalf of these alone." I'm not just praying this, Father, about the eleven, the twelve minus Judas. He says no, but I'm also praying these things, "for those who will believe in Me through their word." What's the disciples' word? The New Testament. That's you and me. We have believed in Jesus through the word of the disciples, through the word of the apostles. So, Jesus is saying, sanctify them, and by them, I mean my apostles but I don't just mean them, I mean all of those who will ever come to faith through their word. That's all of us. This is Christ's goal for every one of us. As we just saw in Romans 8, this is true of every Christian. It's impossible to separate justification from sanctification and glorification. The process moves inexorably on.

But turn to Ephesians 2, let me show you this in a different context. We love Ephesians 2:8. After having described the reality that we were dead in sin, verse 1, and then in verse 5, even when we were dead, God made us alive with Christ. Verse 8, how did that happen? By grace. "By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." So here is salvation.

But notice it's connected to, it's joined to verse 10. "Because we are His workmanship [literally His masterpiece] created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." You see, the same God who reached down and saved us by His grace, who gave us the faith and repentance to believe and embrace His Son is the same God who had already determined that we would begin to produce good works as a result because we are His masterpiece.

So, Christ introduces us to the nature of true biblical change. It's the doctrine called sanctification. And the objects of that change are every believer. Now the rest of verse 17 of John 17 answers the crucial question of how. How does God produce this radical change, the means of biblical change? And I'm just going to begin to get started on this, we'll come back and look at it in more detail next time, but notice John 17:17. He says, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." Notice the little word "in". That in the Greek text is a word that can mean "in" as it's translated here and usually does, but here are several other verses where it can mean "through" or "by means of". And even though the translators translated it with "in", you have to interpret it, and it really takes on this flavor, this meaning: "by means of," "through" the truth. Sanctify them "by means of the truth".

Now folks, this is an absolutely crucial point. And that point is that "God uses means". We're really going to stop here and camp the rest of tonight and next week because this is crucial for you to understand. God uses means. What do I mean by that? Well there are some unbiblical views of sanctification that deny that God uses means. Let me show you several of them. These views believe that God acts directly on our souls, completely without our effort. What are they?

First of all, and again I know these are small, but it's the only way I could get them all on the screen. So, if you can't see it, I'll maybe print them out for next time so you can see them. I've taken this chart from a helpful book by Wayne House on Charts of Theology. Here is one view of sanctification. It's called the Wesleyan perfectionism. It's embraced by people like John Wesley, John Fletcher, Methodism, Nazarene Church, the Salvation Army, and Holiness churches, Pentecostal type churches. What they teach is that in a moment of spiritual crisis, God suddenly and radically delivers us either from all our sinful tendencies or from one particular dominating sin. In other words, there's this sort of crisis moment after conversion at some point when I suddenly am catapulted to a new level of spirituality.

You see it portrayed here on the chart. The cross represents again salvation, and then you see a flat line. That salvation represents the first work of grace, and then there comes a point at some point later in the life when there is total surrender to God. Some refer to this as a second work of grace or faith in the Holy Spirit, and that catapults you immediately up to a higher level of spirituality, a state of Christian perfection, that is, when you enjoy perfect love toward God and man. This is the view of sanctification that Methodism, Wesleyan, Pentecostal theology teaches.

It is a second blessing or a second work of grace. In a simple act of faith, I receive spiritual victory just like I received salvation.

In fact, many who teach this will use the illustration of two coins, which I'm totally without in my pockets tonight. But if I happen to have two coins in my pocket, they would say, at salvation, you take out one of those coins and you cash it in. And then you wander around aimlessly for months, weeks, perhaps years, and realize "oh my goodness, I have another coin in my pocket!" And you reach in and pull out the coin of total surrender. And when that happens, you are suddenly launched to a higher and deeper level of spirituality. How I wish I could tell you that was true.

And let me tell you, if you were raised in the South, or you were raised in Arminian-type churches or particularly in Baptist churches, but not simply Baptist churches. Many others teach this, have been influenced by I should say, this sort of approach where you read a book, and it urges you to embrace some total surrender. This is where you get the rededication you hear people talk in their testimonies about rededication. You know, I was saved when I was five, and then I lived like a pagan for fifteen years. And then I reached a point of crisis, and I, it was rededication. I committed myself to Christ and my life was different after that. I have no doubt that something happened in their lives. My guess is that they weren't a believer all of those years, and there came a point when they genuinely came to faith in Christ. But this is how it's sometimes explained.

A second false view of sanctification is Keswick teaching, K-E-S-W-I-C-K. Hannah Smith, Andrew Murray, Watchman Nee, Ian Thomas are a few of the names of the guys who embraced this. As a young Christian, I was heavily influenced by this view of sanctification. And honestly, it shipwrecked my spiritual life for a number of years. The problem, Keswick teachers say, the problem, the reason you're having the struggle you're having with sin is because you're trying to do it. Stop trying to do it! And here's their favorite phrase. "Let go and let God!" Perhaps you've heard yourself say that, or you've heard somebody you respect say that. That is a flawed view of sanctification.

Notice how this plays out. You see, again, there's the cross representing conversion. There's the point at which a person accepts Christ. And then it's flat lined for a while. There's no spiritual growth. They live as a defeated Christian until they come to understand that the problem is they've been trying to do it. And they come to this truth, and suddenly in a moment's time, they let go, and let God. They stop trying, and they surrender themselves to God. There's a moment of consecration, of total surrender, and again, they are catapulted to a higher level of spirituality and they reach the victorious life. It doesn't mean they're perfect, but it means they're living at a totally different level than they lived before. Overnight, because they came to this point of total surrender or consecration, inward rest and outward victory as it's described.

The first major step, the Keswick teaching would say, is total surrender to God or abandonment to God. They say I must recognize my own inability and stop trying to change. I need to just pray for God to change me, but do nothing else. And at some point, when I've really come to the full knowledge of this, when its truth really breaks on my balding pate, then I will reach victorious living. They use that word a lot, victorious life, the victorious living, if you ever read their stuff. That's kind of a catch word as well as "let go and let God". This stuff is deadly to your spiritual life because it has you chasing down some lost hope that you can shortcut the process by some prayer you pray. You can shortcut the growth to maturity by total surrender.

There's a third flawed approach that bears some resemblance to the Wesleyan and Keswick model. It's at the bottom here. Skip the Reformed perspective there in the middle, we looked at that already. Go to the bottom graph. It's called the Chaferian perspective, of course after Lewis Sperry Chafer of Dallas Seminary fame. Also, Charles Ryrie embraces it as has John Walvoord in the past. This view does not reject the use of means. They believe that there are spiritual disciplines, there is the Scripture involved, etc. But like the other two that we talked about, this view does embrace the view that at some point after conversion, there is a second spiritual crisis that catapults the Christian to a new level.

You can see here that you accept Christ as your Savior, and they build this on one passage primarily, First Corinthians 3, the carnal man. And they say that a man comes to Christ as Savior, and he lives for days or weeks or months or even years, in some cases, his entire life as a carnal man. But then there comes a point at some time in most Christians' lives, although not every Christian's life, when the Christian accepts Jesus now not only as Savior, but as Lord. You can see how it's a marrying of some biblical doctrine and the means of sanctification with some of these other views. And then suddenly growth begins as a result of that spiritual experience, the use of spiritual disciplines, the man becomes a spiritual man now, instead of a carnal man, because of that crisis of recognizing Jesus as Lord, and he begins to grow upward toward holiness.

Compare that to the one just above it, the Reformed, or what I believe is the biblical view as we looked at those biblical propositions. You can see that at the moment of salvation, the moment of regeneration, a pattern of spiritual growth begins. It's not perfect, it's not always upward, but the trend is upward whereas this other view, the Chaferian perspective, is that there can be deadness for years, flat line for years, and then there comes a point of crisis in which a person accepts Jesus as Lord.

Now, what do all of those views, those wrong views share in common? What are the common denominators? They all see sanctification, or several of them, two of them in this case, see sanctification as something God does directly without any means or human effort. The first two we talked about. God just acts directly on the soul and He doesn't use means, and there's no human effort. It's as simple as a prayer. All three of these views that I've shared with you, these false views, believe that something happens suddenly in a moment of crisis. In a moment of crisis, I go from spiritual defeat to being a spiritual man, to being in spiritual victory. And they all assume, to some degree, that there is a lack of power, particularly the first two. There's some lack of power. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In Ephesians 1, in fact, let's turn there. Ephesians 1:18. Paul prays for the Ephesians, and he says,

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. [And watch verse 19], I want you to know] … the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at the heavenly places [in Christ Jesus].

Now what's he saying here? He's saying I want you to come to understand the power that's really at work in you. It's the same power that God raised Jesus from the dead with; it's that same power, and it's at work in you. You see the real issue is not a lack of power; it's our relationship to the truth, either a lack of knowledge of the truth, in some cases, or a lack of obedience to it, in others.

Let me close with this powerful quote from the pen of J.C. Ryle in his book Holiness. Listen to what he writes:

Many admire growth in grace in others, and they wish they themselves were like them, but they seem to suppose that those who grow are what they are by some special gift or grant from God, and that as this gift is not bestowed on them, they must be content to sit still. [Ryle writes,] Growth in grace is bound up in the use of means within the reach of all believers and as a general rule, growing souls are what they are because they use these means.

What are the means? Come back next week, and we'll find out together.

Let's pray together.

Our Father, I pray that tonight You would have used Your Word to destroy all of the false models of sanctification that have been taught and that our minds have been exposed to and that at one stage or another we have embraced. Lord, forgive us for not coming to Your Word and to Your truth to build our Christian lives upon.

Lord, thank You, that You are the One who does the work of sanctification. But Lord, help us to expend maximum effort. And even as we expend maximum effort, Lord, let us remember that we expend the effort and as we expend the effort, as we use the means, the tools that You have given to us, You do something that we could never do. In the process of our struggling to obey, You change us at the most basic heart level.

Father, help all of us to understand these truths, to go over them and over them until they're part of our being. Help us to be immune to those wrong, misguided teachings of sanctification. And help us instead, Father, to pursue You, to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness, and even as we do, to depend completely on You to produce a change in our most inner man that will become obvious to all over time.

Lord, help us to grow from spiritual infancy into spiritual manhood and ultimately Lord, help us to grow into spiritual fathers who know You at the deepest and most intimate level.

But Lord, help us to remember that it won't be perfect in this life and that we can't shortcut the process. Thank You for the tools and means You've given us. I pray that You would cement these truths in our minds for the glory of Christ, the advance of Your kingdom in each of our hearts.

We pray it in His name. Amen.