One Thing at a Time“For we know that our old self was crucified with him” (Romans 6:6 NIV)
Thanksgiving is the only response when we see how the Holy Spirit has helped the Church to see Scriptural holiness clearer over the ages. The ancient and medieval Christians saw holiness as something that was primarily offered in grace bestowed through the Church with a focus on holy living. Works were overly emphasized. The Reformation redirected that thrust towards grace received by an individual through faith. Our tradition built upon that helpful correction that not only is a person justified by faith, but they must be sanctified by faith as well.
The discussion on how we are sanctified continues. One group is concerned that sanctification can be misunderstood as the “eradication” of a root of sin that was almost physical in its reality. They, rightly, react to sin as a “thing.” On the other hand, there are those who emphasize holy love in a relational sense. They are committed to a reoriented heart out of which personal relationships are restored both with God and others. But that position does not focus on how a person must be radically changed in order to love as God does. The result is a minimizing of the experience of sanctification. The emphasis on loving relationships is marvelous but to diminish the radical surgery necessary to enable a heart bent on itself to truly seek another’s best is a pipe dream. True, some did misuse material language to talk about what entire sanctification required. And it is very possible that those who talked about love actually never dealt with our sin nature. Growth doesn’t change us. Some part of us must be crucified.
A Possible Solution
Rather than choosing one side and castigating the other, we can seek the Holy Spirit, once again, to teach us what it realistically means to become holy as He is holy. What if we could reduce the focus on sin as a tangible substance without giving up the full reality of a sin nature that must be destroyed if there is ever going to be real change in our hearts? If we claim that Jesus has brought us from the dead into His life, couldn’t we also claim that He is able to set us free from our sinful nature? Our nature is only changed by the Spirit’s re-creation.
We must refuse to capitulate to the evangelical testimony of being pardoned, hopefully, growing as best we can till we see Jesus. Could there be a way for us to reclaim the Scriptural language of “putting to death” that which is our sinful nature? And might we be able to connect that undeniable death to our way with the complete reordering of our loves? We believe that the Holy Spirit can remove whatever in us opposes God’s perfect will and He can infuse us with real holy love.
We need a new paradigm for the message of sanctification in our day. That must be worked out in our hearts, families, corps, divisions and territories. Our neighbors must see that Jesus can truly turn us inside out. The world must witness people who are filled to overflowing with the Spirit of Holy Love.
Church history shows us that we seem to learn one thing at a time. Could it be in this that the love which motivated our God to redeem the world might be received by faith in our hearts, expelling everything that is unlike Him and issuing into hearts overwhelmed and overflowing with actual love? Thanks be to God. He gives us the victory!