Posts Tagged ‘Sanctification’

Bleep! Why Christians Shouldn’t Cuss | The Cripplegate

Our words put us in cahoots with others who use those words indiscriminately. A guy at my gym swears like a sailor, as do his companions. But when he heard a pastor drop a curse word, he considered that solecism to be a justification for a slew of other infractions: “You see, when a Christian hits his thumb he cusses just like I do. He’s obviously harboring stuff inside that he doesn’t show unless his guard is down.”In the end language is to be used for what glorifies God. A handy rule may be that if you aren’t prepared to use a particular word in your prayer to God then you shouldn’t be using it in your conversations with others.So, what shall Christians do about swearing? Frankly, we need to give a…hoot.

via Bleep! Why Christians Shouldn’t Cuss | The Cripplegate.

This is as good an explanation as I could give. It’s difficult to tell non-Christians exactly why Christians feel that foul language is bad. If we cant say it to God in prayer, we probably shouldn’t be saying it.

simul iustus et peccator,




Image by Savio Sebastian through a CC license.

It’s not legalism or works-righteousness that drives the Christian to obey The Lord, but love and gratitude.

John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

“The imputing of Christ’s righteousness to us in justification ensures that there is nothing we can do to attain or maintain our just standing before God. But that should not hinder us from a bold call to obedience as well. Those who obey, do so, not not in order to be saved or maintain that standing, but BECAUSE they are saved… because we are born again. And when we fail to obey, thanks be to God, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, who forgives us our sins. Those who have the Holy Spirit will mourn over their sin. If we do not judge ourselves God will discipline us so that we will not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:31)”

-John Hyndrex


Stripped image of John Wesley

Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Please catch up on my previous posts in this series. I am in the middle of explaining my journey into the Word of Faith Movement, and my journey out of it. Both have been painful experiences.

There are many befouled tributaries which feed the polluted streams of the Word of Faith River. One of the subtler  influences on myself has been Watchman Nee. Don’t get me wrong, there is much of his writing that bears the stamp of Biblical Christianity. By the same token, there is much that bears the stamp of outright mysticism on the one hand, and a lack of clarity on the other.

One of the streams of influence on Nee was the Deeper Life movement, or the Keswick movement, as it is now known. I will spend some time discussing the foundations of this movement, and its influence on Rev. Nee, and thus on myself.

No theological movement happens in a vacuum, or a completely sterile condition. You have to look backwards, towards the earlier movements and revivals to appreciate the Keswick movement.

Wesleyan Perfectionism

Wesleyan perfectionism has influenced 2 centuries of revivalism and theology. It is not my point here to explain the subtleties of Wesleyan theology, but to point out its influence on later theological streams.

John Wesley (1703–91) introduced a theological perspective on Christian Sanctification he named “Christian Perfection”. By narrowly defining sin as “a voluntary transgression of a known law”, he was able to commit the fallacy of equivocation and redefine the doctrine of Original Sin. He limits sin to only intentional sinful acts. 

I need to be honest up front and declare my hostility towards Wesley’s view of sanctification. I believe John Wesley was probably one of the greatest Evangelists in the last 300 years, but his theology of Sanctification should be viewed with caution. I believe his brother Charles had a more thorough theology (which he amply demonstrates in his hymns), than his brother John. If that angers you, I apologize for making you angry, but not for the statement.

By his narrowly defined view of “sin”, Wesley could ignore the involuntary transgressions even saved men commit, and still use the term “sinless perfection”. I will deal with this noxious little ditty in another post, but suffice it to say that this redefinition of sin very much reminds me of the Roman Catholic definition of Mortal and Venial sins.  I am well aware of Wesley’s subtle use of the term “perfection”, but he still lowered the bar on calling sin what it is- sin. Pelagians, semi-Pelagians, and Arminians all elevate the freewill of man to near Divine status, and downplay man’s enslavement to sin. At least that’s this former Wesleyan’s view, for what it’s worth. Classical Wesleyans are more moderate about Christian perfection than later Wesleyans.

I’m sorry, but the very moment you bring Christians, and perfection into contact in this life, it’s likely to spontaneously combust.

Theology of Avoiding the Ditches

I have learned to steer my rickety little Clampett mobile down the theological road carefully. I am a theologian of “avoiding the ditches”. I have a steering wheel with way too much play in it, and I have been guilty of plowing a few ditches in my life. So , pardon my rabbit trails.

Antinomianism is the belief that man has no need of the Law of God after regeneration. “We have Grace…Woo hoo, let’s live it up”! Another ditch is legalism. “Let’s build an electrified fence with flame-throwers and machine guns, no smoking and no drinking signs, and absolutely no dancing”. Neither of these approaches work. I have found that only the proper distinction between Law and Gospel, knowing the solas of the Reformation, and the understanding the three uses of the Law, will keep us out of these ditches.

I will not solve the argument between Wesleyans and the Reformers. It’s been going on since Augustine and Pelagius, and I don’t

Saint Augustine of Hippo, a seminal thinker on...

Saint Augustine of Hippo, a seminal thinker on the concept of just war (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

have the time. I once was a Wesleyan, but now I’m found a Reformed believer. You’ll have to accept that and love me and read on, or not.

My point is that Wesley’s views on sanctification, and in turn, justification, bears significantly on the rise of the Holiness Movement, and consequently, the Keswick movement. Distinctions can be made between Sanctification and Justification, but not separation. 

This redefinition by Wesley led to a huge chasm between Justification and Sanctification. It led to a second work of grace, that he called Christian Perfection, Salvation from all willful sin, entire sanctification, perfect love, holiness, purity of intention, full salvation, second blessing, second rest, etc. You will see these terms used throughout the Holiness Movement, the Keswick Movement, the Pentecostal Movement, and on and on, ad nauseam.

I don’t deny the need for personal holiness. Good works are a necessary result of Justification. For goodness’ sake, the Puritans were deeply concerned with personal piety. Nor do I necessarily deny secondary Christian experiences. Every Christian has had one or several of those “egad!” moments, some more than one. I am not denying personal crisis experiences. It’s just when folks start making certain experiences normative for everyone that I get snarky. I have seen firsthand what happens when one group of Christians look down on others because they didn’t speak in tongues, or lift their hands when they worship, or sit quietly in their pew. I have also the other side, which deny even that such a thing as healing is possible, or that being affected emotionally in a service is wrong, or even that to pray expectantly for anything is presumptuous. Same road, different ditches.

All that the separation of Justification and Sanctification does is create two groups of Christians – those who are “in the know”, and have this second blessing, and those who are not “in the know”, and are a second class Christian. You see this attitude everywhere in Holiness, Keswick, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, and Charismatic writings. My brush may be broad, but I dare you to tell me I’m messing up the paint job. 

Wesley and the Crisis Event

I believe that John Wesley held a subdued form of this theological elitism. His disciples, however, took it and ran…”Katie bar the door”. It was Asa Mahan and Phoebe Palmer who took Wesley’s money and ran…and run they did. Mahan’s connection to

English: Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875) ...

English: Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875) Português: O teólogo estadunidense Charles Finney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wesley and Adrian College made him influential. Add to that Palmer’s “Tuesday Meetings”, and Charles Finney with his “New Measures”, and you have a perfect storm. It was Mahan who introduced the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, by a book of that very name.

The emphasis on a crisis event, further promulgated by John William Felcher, became the focal point of later Wesleyan theology, unlike Wesley’s own process-crisis-process theology. The blending of Wesleyan perfectionism, through Adam Clarke (Ever heard of the Adam Clarke’s Commentary?), and American revivalism promoted by Finney, led to the Holiness movement.

In my next post in this series, I will introduce the other major influence on Watchman Nee, and in turn, myself: Hannah Whitall Smith, and the Holiness movement.

I hope these posts are being helpful. If nothing else, they will give my kids an explanation for their dad’s strange love/hate relationship with “Spirit-filled” churches.

If you would like deeper reading on what we’ve covered here, I’d suggest the following:

The Keswick Movement In Precept And Practice, by A.T. Pierson


Asa Mahan and the Development of American Holiness Theology, by Donald W. Dayton

The Heresy of Perfectionism, by R.C. Sproul

Systematic Theology, By Charles G. Finney

Various Christian Traditions Views on Perfection, Perfectionism by R. L. Shelton

Until next time, simul iustus et peccator.

May the Shwartz be with you,

Eric “Yogurt” Adams

Michael Patton answers an email from a believer who is struggling with sin. I like the honesty, and transparency of Mr. Patton in his response. Most of us try to appear more holy than we actually are, and end up hindering the growth of younger Christians by not being honest about the ongoing struggle with sin. We don’t need to give salacious details of our struggle, but we do need to be honest about our battles. May we be edified in our endeavor to mortify the sin in our lives, in the light of our identification with Christ in His Death, Burial, Resurrection, and Ascension.

“…There are still sins in my life that I can’t seem to get rid of. I just prayed last night with the same zeal that God would change me. Sure, the sins are not evident and destructive like sleeping around, but they are, for some reason, just as disheartening. I often wonder why God does not answer sincere requests for things that are good. He is slow. Often, very slow. John Piper once said, “I don’t doubt God due to the problem of evil. When I doubt God it is due to the slowness of my sanctification.” I am glad he said that. It helps me a great deal. My sanctification is so slow. I mean, like, come on Lord. Just sanctify me completely and instantly once I ask. What gives? But he does not. Even the great Apostle Paul says that he did not do the things he wanted to do, but continually practiced the very things he hated. Read Roman 7:15-24. We will always struggle with sin this side of heaven.

So, in one sense I am saying “Join the crowd.” However, there are things that cause me to have victory in my life more than others. The basic principle I try to live by (though it does not always work!), is that I have to quit dwelling on getting rid of the sin and focus my attention toward other things. Dwelling on getting rid of the sin can sometimes, ironically, give it greater control over your life. One wise pastor mentor of mine once told me that there are two ways to get the air out of a glass bottle: 1) Try to suck it out or 2) fill it with something else. I think when we focus on our sin, it is like trying to suck the air out of a bottle. However, when we fill our lives with other things, we will look back after a while and see that the sin just naturally went away. I suppose that this is part of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we are, we cannot sin (Gal. 5:16Eph. 5:18).

A few words of advice:

  1. If you have the opportunity, make a big change. This could be moving, getting a new job, or going on a long vacation. Sometimes our ruts have more power because they are built in to such a habit which can be facilitated some by our surroundings.
  2. Make sure that you are surrounding yourself with the right people. This is not so they can ask you about your sin every day (as I said, this sometimes makes things worse), but so that you can be inspired by new examples. This could relate to #1 as you may have to get away from some bad examples.
  3. Don’t give yourself the opportunities to sin. Sometimes this comes in idle times. Being idle is the handmaiden of sin. Make sure you stay busy. If you don’t have a job, find ways to volunteer until you find one. Just make sure you are not sitting around staring at the wall. Stay busy.
  4. Run from those things that aggravate sin. Joseph ran from the wife of a man who wanted to sleep with him (Gen. 39:7). I don’t figure this was because he was so stong. It was probably because he knew he was so weak. Get rid of those things in your house or life that instigate this sin. Run from them. I had to run from my drinking buddies, whom I loved dearly, in order to even begin to recover. Some people need to get rid of friends too. Others need to get rid of cable, the internet, clear out their food pantry, or quit their job. It may seem drastic, but it’s the whole “If your hand causes you to stumble . . .” stuff Jesus talked about (Matt. 5:30).
  5. If possible, get involved at a deeper level at your local church. It is harder to sin when people are relying on you to stay strong. When you are the only one you disappoint when you fall into sin, it will be very hard to remain consistent. After all, it is easy to get used to letting ourselves down. It is harder to let the Body of Christ down.
  6. Never give up. One person has once said that the Christian life is a life of new beginnings every morning. You may live with this sin for a long time. It may plague you the rest of your life. But never give up the battle. Never quit bringing it to the Lord. He may allow it for a humbling weakness. I don’t know why he works the way he does, but I do know that giving up is not an option. If you have to pick yourself up off the ground and make a new beginning every morning for the rest of your life, join with me and do it!
  7. Finally, and most importantly, don’t quit accepting the grace and forgiveness of God. He forgives us an infinite amount of times (Matt. 18:22). I know how hard it get to accept God’s grace after the twenty-thousanth time I have fallen into the same sin. I know how you just want to say, “Just forget it. I am not asking for your grace again. I am too ashamed.” Don’tever go there. God’s grace is enough to forgive you this time and the twenty-million times that follow. God’s grace is a radical, unbelievable, strange, and inexhaustible grace.

Remain encouraged my friend. There are few people who I know who are not in an ongoing battle with some sin. Those who say are not . . .well . . . they are lying!”


simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams
Rossville, GA