Q How is sanctification different from the Calvinist doctrine of eternal security ?
A Sanctification means God makes us excited about living like Christ. Eternal security is the teaching that once God chooses (elects) us, we cannot lose His gift of salvation. Both doctrines relate to God setting us apart to become His Body, but the two doctrines part company at the point of security. Sanctification does indeed give us security in God, but if we choose to leave His company we lose salvation, as the Bible makes clear (Hebrews 6:66; 10:38) and as John Wesley taught.
Calvinists explain their belief in eternal security by an analogy: one born into a family, no matter how badly he lives, cannot possibly make himself unborn. New birth, then, is eternal safety in God's family. Wesleyans believe this interpretation of security overextends a good metaphor.
Q If I am sanctified, does that mean I will be free. from sin?
A I am free not to sin. That is divine.
Take my heart! for I cannot give it Thee; Keep it! for I cannot keep it for Thee. -St. Augustine
Surrender lets God take our hearts. The moment we snatch it back, attempting to run our own lives, the door once more opens to sin. When we revert to self-centeredness, God no longer claims complete control. Catch the deep meaning in these lines from St. Theresa, written in her prayer book:
Let nothing disturb thee, Nothing affright thee; An things are passing; God never changeth; Patient endurance Attaineth to all things; Who God possesseth In nothing is wanting; Alone God suffceth
The Christian, like all persons, will live in a sinful world and will always face the possibility of sinning. But complete surrender to God ensures His control. If you let God control your daily life, you will be free of sin's bondage.
Q Wesley used the term Christian perfection. Is this related to sanctification ?
A Yes. Sanctification is the crisis and process; Christian perfection is the goal. However, we must remember that terms like sanctification, entire sanctification, and perfection communicated with freshness and clarity in John Wesley's day. These words come across to moderns with a different impact. Christian perfection, unless understood, makes people feel sanctity is impossible. Today, expressions such as "Spirit-filled," "the life that wins," and "I can do all things through Christ" describe the victorious life that is possible through sanctification.
One way of maintaining perspective in this matter is to see possibilities and options. Here lies the practical thrust of Christian perfection. Suppose a challenge faces me. I will open my mind to the infusion of God's creative possibilities and expect ideas I had not thought about before. I am working toward the "perfect" solution, and with God's grace I intend to get as near it as I can.
Take, for example, the executive who managed nearly one hundred employees. Every person who worked for him, he discovered, cheated on his or her spouse. But, resolutely, he refused to cheat. His aim was just plain morality. Wesley would call that perfection. With the Holy Spirit's power, such perfection becomes possible.
Q Will everyone who seeks sanctification receive it?
A Remember that God seeks you before you seek Him. Our part in sanctification lies not in initiative, but in the simpler act of response.
But once you accept Christ as your Saviour, you will probably seek a deeper relationship. Maturity, circumstances, crisis, self-awareness, and the specific convicting power of God urge you to assess what God wants you to be. Seeing stimulates seeking. That seeking may become urgent, for the conscientious Christian wants more than anything to please God, to make life count. God always honors sincere searching.
But you cannot remain a seeker. You must translate looking into acceptance of the fullness of God's Spirit. Acceptance comes in faith, often cold, unfeeling faith. Once you take that crucial step, you know on the basis of God's Word that He accepts your complete surrender.
This is Don Demaray's final installment of "Life in the Spirit "