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|The Nashville Statement
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
My complete profile...
Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich
His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole
[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos
Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead
There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
| An Answer to Brad
Carnal Christianity Part III
How Sanctification Works...
|Although Brad Williams has in the meta of my previous post, politely suggested that I am full of beans, he did give me some room to save face depending on what my understanding of Sanctification is.
I really don't like the way John Piper teaches "Christian Hedonism" - it isn't how I would do it. It is not that he is wrong, but that the way he describes it is so tangential to how I would describe it that I think it opens the door to confusion and misunderstanding a little wider than I am comfortable with. I respect however, that God can use wind to blow out a flame just as easily as rain - and in the strength of my faith in God to teach the same truths in many ways, I keep my opinion from becoming anything more than a personal preference.
My point is that sometimes we approach the same truth from such radically different angles that we throw off others who do not share our own "bent." It is this same charity that I believe Brad is extending to me in the meta of my previous post when after stating that he heartily disagrees with me, he leaves some room for discussion, and if I read him correctly, that room lies in my understanding of sanctification. His comment in the meta, which I am responding to here (because it is too long for the meta, and because it is pertinent to this discussion) follows:
I think I heartily disagree with you...Maybe. Could you define sanctification?
My reply, though addressed to Brad (I just copied and pasted my reply here) fits into this topic quite neatly, and I am thankful for the direction this is going. So here is my reply to Brad's question, my hope is that it edifies. Some truths are so simply once you get them - but they seem so slippery when you try to articulate them because the language we use in describing anything spiritual is so entirely pregnant with theological baggage that 90% of the struggle is trying to avoid being misunderstood by using language will be assumed to have more meaning that I intend to put in it - nevertheless we work with what we have - if I am misunderstood, it will just give us more opportunity to talk about a thing that is entirely worthy of our time anyways. With that thought I paste away...
Brad - I appreciate the magnitude by which we may have our differences in this matter. Had you asked me a few years ago whom Paul was speaking of in Romans I would have said he was speaking of himself, and I don't think I would have been very open to any contrary opinion. That is =not= to suggest for a second that my change in opinion necessarily reflects my having come to a superior understanding - perhaps it means that I am slipping further from the truth - but one thing is certain, my current understanding of Romans 7 harmonizes seamlessly with my understanding of the remainder of what scripture teaches, and because I find no contradiction in this understanding of the truth, I find nothing in it to persuade me against it. Which is just a round about way of saying, don't feel bad if you don't agree with me (not that I think you would feel bad), rather if you see something that stands out as false, direct me to it - perhaps you will bring something to light that I hadn't already considered.
Anyways, perhaps it is easier to describe what sanctification is -not- first, by contrasting it with how false religions (such as Buddhism, Islam, Mormonism, or even secular humanism) believe sanctification works in their religion.
In all false religions, they way you "sanctify" yourself is by suppressing your natural tendency to sin, in some of these religions you thereafter give credit for this "sanctification" to whatever deity you worship as though they were the ones who gave you strength to do so.
TO be sure, in every false way "sanctification" is something that -you- do to your self, all -by- yourself. Efforts to break sinful habits are nothing more than attempting to restrain the beast within from acting outwardly, they do not change the beast within, but are directed at restraint and control. Really most false ways have this in common - a form of asceticism. They deny themselves through sheer effort; they program themselves to be content through auto-suggestion, and as they get better and better at it, their outward conduct begins to resemble a sort of holiness - which is the very thing they mistake it for. This approximation makes no one holy - it just makes you look as though you were holy. The tree is still producing bad fruit, it is just that the fruit is being snipped off as fast as it is produced.
Asceticism is not sanctification, it is a form of godliness that has no real power to affect what is truly wrong. All asceticism does is pretend the problem is gone when it is still there and being suppressed through sheer effort.
False religion has no power to make you truly love God or your neighbor, false religion cannot stop you from wanting to lust, or from being bitter or envious; it cannot deal with the inside of the cup, but it can sure put a shine on the outside! That is why people see no difference between a moral Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, or Secular Humanist - they all can become morally upstanding (on the outside). But God, we are told in scripture, does a work on the inside of the cup, and when God begins to clean the inside of the cup the outside naturally follows suit. That is the difference between Christian sanctification and worldly counterfeits - no counterfeit (be it in a false religion, or even in a genuine Christian who knows no better) can produce a clean inside of the cup because only God can change the leopard's spots.
While every false religion gives you some method or methods to reduce the outward symptoms of sin (that is, to snip the fruit of the tree off as it grows) - no false religion can actually change the nature of the fruit that is being produced, no false religion can change bitter water to sweet.
Genuine sanctification therefore, is something that God does to us, and not something we do to ourselves. It isn't forensic either - justification is forensic, but sanctification is experiential. I want to be clear on this also - sanctification is -not- merely our external obedience - yet external obedience always flows from sanctification.
We are not sanctified -by- obeying rather we are sanctified by surrendering to God. That is a very important distinction, because I can "obey" without being surrendered to God - and that is not a picture of bondservice, it pictures a mercenary heart who would try and earn sanctification rather than receive it.
Now here is the meat of it - there is no such thing as a partial submission to God, we are either entirely submitted and therefore in bondservice, or we are somewhat rebellious and therefore entirely independent, but deceived into imagining that we are "mostly obedient."
The problem they have when they try to understand sanctification is that they think that as you become more sanctified, you get better and better at suppressing sin - they think that sanctification means that you, as a believer, always desire to sin, but get better at denying yourself the pleasure.
That isn't sanctification, it is asceticism. God's solution isn't to strengthen our wills so that we are better able to suppress sin - His solution is to destroy that which disobeys. Sanctification therefore is the process by which God destroys whatever is genuinely put on the altar.
Sanctification therefore is not something I do through the might of my own arm, but something that is done to me - I don't make myself holy, God destroys in me all that is not holy as I surrender myself to Him to do so. Here too many make the mistake and think that we offer this or that to God and ask him to take it away from us - NO - that is not it. What we offer is ourselves - we recognize that the problem is not "what we do" it is "who we are" - that what is wrong is not our conduct, but our person - us - our "who-we-are-ness" - that is what we must surrender. Not that we say - take this sin away, but that we have a heart that say, I am a sinner, and unless -You- destroy me in Christ, I will never be free. It is a willingness to unite with Christ in death. It is the deepest Christian teaching, but it is also the most foundational to genuine spiritual life.
I don't consecrate what I do - I consecrate "myself" to God. That is the difference. I don't set aside "what I do" to God, I give myself to God. The Holy Spirit cannot do anything in me if I do not surrender to Him. It isn't that obeying the rules (against my will) sanctifies me - as though the act of "doing good" were what was changing me - (as if all of sanctification boiled down to fostering good habits and breaking bad ones), rather it is that unless I am walking in the Spirit (that is surrendering myself to the death that God has united me to Christ in), God cannot be at liberty to work freely in me. If I am unwilling to surrender my life to God, then I am unwilling to have God sanctify me.
Sanctification begins and ends with the cross of Christ. Not some mystical weirdness - as though I have to get into the right frame of mind or hear voices or all manner of oddity - it is not that I try and "kill" myself or slay myself in the Spirit - it is agreeing with God against myself. When I begin to agree with God against myself, I begin to honestly surrender myself to the cross of Christ, and then, and only then is God at liberty to destroy in me what I myself cannot change. That is sanctification.
posted by Daniel @
Do you not like Piper's description because it sounds so "you centric"?
I was following you along pretty good until you said the part about a person must surrender to God. It seems to me that human initiated surrender is no different than human initiated obedience. In other words you seem to be saying sanctification cannot proceed until a person surrenders himself to Christ by his own strength.
Perhaps this surrender is something that is a result of regeneration and the Holy Spirit enables a person to be active in the process. It is a responding to and feeding off of the continuing grace of sanctification.
At any rate you have certainly identified the false legalistic way of sanctification (do's and don'ts). As you seem to be saying, true sanctification should be from new inward desires and not outward conformity and this is a work of the Holy Spirit.
Am I totally confused about your point or am I getting warm?
Frank - exactly.
Jazzy - if you are confused it is probably my fault. you said:
It seems to me that human initiated surrender is no different than human initiated obedience. In other words you seem to be saying sanctification cannot proceed until a person surrenders himself to Christ by his own strength.
You make an astute observation, and answering it reminds me of trying to explain to an Arminian that predestination doesn't cancel out free will.
No one can really surrender unless God grants them the grace to do so, but anyone who is not willing to pursue it with their whole heart, is not going to find it. Anyone can temporarily and/or superficially try to conform to a standard of conduct - but doing so in a vacuum is not what Christ died to provide us.
The point is not to swap one human effort for another, it is to articulate the error of pursuing godliness at the expense of, or apart from, pursuing God.
The standard for Christianity is not outward "service" - that was Judaism looked like. The Christian is called to (and graced with the privilege of) bondservice.
My wife prefers me to "make it concrete" when I discuss such things - that is, she has a hard time seeing how a thing works itself out practically unless I give a "real world" example. So I will try and do that, and see if that helps.
Joe Christian is a sincere believer. He heard the gospel as a young man, and gave his life to Christ absolutely and utterly - his genuine and utter surrender was initiated by God, but that didn't mean Joe was sat as a passive passenger for the ride - his conversion was the single most hardest thing he ever went through - in the moment of his first surrender - the moment he was saved, he made a profoundly difficult choice - on the one hand he wanted with all his heart to live his own life by his own rules, and to enjoy it as best he could in whatever way seemed to please him - and at the end of which he knew he would forfeit that life because in order to have it he would have to forsake what was in the other hand - living his life utterly for, and at the beck and call of Jesus Christ his Lord. In that aweful moment a war raged inside him, but just as a damn bursts, so too he suddenly found himself able to turn in faith to Christ - to trust him with his life and after life. Surrender and faith mixed together and he was saved.
Notwithstanding, Joe gave into a temptation the very next day, and because of his ignorance and shame, he ran from Christ like Adam ran from God in the garden. The enemy quickly seized the opportunity and convinced Joe that he had not only lost his salvation - but that salvation was thereafter impossible - that he had blown his one and only shot. In the strength of that lie Joe runs from God and doesn't look back for years.
Eventually however, God reigns Joe in, and teaches him the truth about his own salvation. But Joe has been so far gone for so long, he isn't interested in simply "playing" Christian - he wants it all - he wants to know God as fully and as thoroughly as a man can no God - to be as holy as a man can be this side of heaven. The only problem is that Joe has become quite comfortable in his sin, and while he desires to be holy, he doesn't desire it so much to actually give up all his sin. He -is- willing to, say, stop running amber lights - and 99% of the time he stops his care when the traffic light goes amber - but if Joe is in a hurry, well... he can be excused if he steps on the gas to get through the occasional light. Joe doesn't speed anymore, but if he is following someone who annoys him, well, he can punch it over the speed limit - just to get past them. He gives God a real, tangible "obedience" - only it suffers from one small but critical flaw - it is only available when Joe is "willing" and it only goes as far as Joe is "willing" to let it. Joe has given God everything =but= the reins. Joe has his focus on what he is giving up to God, and as long as his focus is there he will never understand that his focus ought to be on what he is =not= giving up to God - and that is absolute control of his life.
God has no interest in Joe's sacrifices (obedience) if they always and ever come out of a heart that refuses to draw near to God.
Surrender is different than obedience because while genuine surrender produces "bond service" obedience, yet an external obedience does not, nor cannot produce (nor is it indicative of) genuine surrender.
There is a world of difference between taming the beast and slaying it. Obedience without surrender is suppressing and restraining something that remains alive - but surrender is not merely taming the beast, but offering it up to be slain. It doesn't slay the beast itself, but surrenders the beast to the cross.
I feel my words are quite inadequate, and I am probably just confusing you more by coming at it from a different angle. Let me know if that clears it up at all or just muddles it worse.
I think I now see your point here. I will meditate on it a bit and see if I have any more questions or comments. Thanks for pursuing this subject as I really want to understand the dynamics of how it all works better.
I agree with a good deal of what you've said. I especially agree that sanctification comes through faith and not by works. That is agreement to be excited about!
Here's where I think I need some clarity. You write:
there is no such thing as a partial submission to God, we are either entirely submitted and therefore in bondservice, or we are somewhat rebellious and therefore entirely independent, but deceived into imagining that we are "mostly obedient."
Here's one of the places of disagreement. I simply disagree that "partial submission" is impossible. If I may, I would phrase it this way, I would say that imperfect obedience is altogether possible. For example, I believe that it is entirely possible for me to preach a sermon that I sincerely desire its purpose to be God-honoring. However, it may also be that while I am preaching such a "great" sermon, that I feel personal, and sinful, pride in my prowess at articulation. Isn't it possible for the sermon to be edifying and truly faithful and yet I still taint the "work" with pride?
The reason that I believe this to be possible is because I am truly free from sin and yet I am being freed from sin at the same time. If not for salvation, I would never have had a desire to preach a God-honoring sermon in the first place, and yet I find that even when I go to do the good thing, evil is present with me.
This is not an excuse for sin. And I'm certainly not advocating that one has to sin. But the fact is, to our utter shame and horror and disgrace, that we do sin. It is utterly abhorrent that Christians are, as you so rightly point out, not bound by sin to sin and yet they still sin. In short, I agree with Luther that I am simultaneously just and sinner.
Unless I am misunderstanding you, then I cannot see that sanctification can be a process in your understanding. If it is, then what are you in process of being "freed" from? If you are free from all sin, then why do you still sin? From whence comes the impulse? Can you say that you are, even now, entirely submitted to God? If not, then are you then saying that you are utterly disobedient? It seems under your system that a believer is either sinlessly perfect or utterly disobedient.
I'll tell you how I understand the vestiges of sin that still dwell in me the best way that I can. When I was a kid, I hated onions on my pizza but my dad, to my great dismay, always insisted on ordering them. His retort to my complaint was that "I could just pick them off." Well, yeah. The problem is that even after they were gone, I could still taste the taint of onion.
Now, I hate sin, and by God's grace the penalty and bondage to sin was once the scourge of my soul has been lifted. However, sin so permeated my being that even with it gone I can still taste onion...err..sin, in many of my "deeds" in retrospect. Sanctification, I believe, is the process of taint cleansing, and it works only by faith. That is why, oddly, I love the law. It points out areas of onion taint that need faith scrubbing.
I regret that I have not been able to read the last few posts in their entirety. (Man am I a slow reader... I feel like a third-grader sitting in a tenth-grade class.) I'm just briefly hovering here between other stuff.
But was that a toilet? Classy. I gotta get me one.
Brad - I am not ignoring your post - I am writing up a reply. I have just been swamped lately...
It's a horrible reality that some people have to work for a living.;) No problem.