Introduction To Book Three – Holiness
Ron Christian, Compiler
God has provided a double care for a double problem. Man's problem is twofold – outward practice of willful sins, and an inward attitude of self-centeredness and pride and rebellion. Man's need is twofold: forgiveness for what he has done, and deliverance from what he is. God's provision is twofold: reconciliation of the sinner to the Savior, and empowerment of the believer for victorious living.
"There sin abounds, both in its outward practice and in its inner attitudes, the grace of God super abounds. There is no guilt so great but what God's forgiving grace is greater. There are no willfulness and self-centeredness so strong but what God's cleansing power is stronger. God is able to "save to the uttermost." This salvation includes forgiveness of all volitional sins and also cleansing from all inherited sin. It is God alone who can forgive the guilty sinner and who can deliver the self-centered believer.
It is God's will (and command) that all believers be 'sanctified'. Sanctification (from a biblical understanding) means both 'separation' and 'purity'. If 'sanctification' means 'separation', then the sinner who experiences the new birth is 'sanctified' in at least an initial way. A sinner separates himself from an outward practice of willful transgressions against the known laws of God. The Bible says, regarding separation from a practice of sin: "Therefore come out from them and be separate. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:17-18, NIV)
A new convert is one who has made" a moral U-turn." He has repented of his sins and has chosen to follow Jesus Christ. He no longer practices sin. He is new in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). He has separated himself from a life of sinning, and is thus 'sanctified' in one sense of the term.
Initial sanctification, we have noted, is that beginning separation from a life of sinning, sometimes called conversion. What is 'full' or 'entire' sanctification? Following is a definition of entire sanctification, as explained by one 'holiness denomination'. "We believe entire sanctification to be that work of the Holy Spirit, subsequent to regeneration, by which the fully consecrated believer, upon exercise of faith in the atoning blood of Christ, is cleansed in that moment from all inward sin and empowered for service. The resulting relationship is attested by the witness of the Holy Spirit and is maintained by faith and obedience. Entire sanctification enables the believer to love God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind, and his neighbor as himself and it prepares him for greater growth in grace." (Doctrinal Statement of Free Methodist Church)
Initial sanctification means separation from an outward practice of sinning, resulting in conversion, reconciliation, and regeneration. Entire or full sanctification means inward cleansing from a spirit of self-sufficiency and self-centeredness, resulting in Jesus becoming the Lord of one's mind, affections and will. Notes Donald Bastian: "Holiness of heart suggests that, at the center of one's being, Jesus Christ rules in the power of the Holy Spirit. Holiness of life suggests that, as a consequence, one's daily walk increasingly reflects Christ's kind of concerns and conduct at the personal, family, and social levels." (Adventures in Church Membership; pg. 84)
God is faithful in dealing with His people. It is God's intention not only to enter your life in conversion, but also to sit on the throne of your heart, as a result of your full consecration. He wants to make you, not only a citizen of the kingdom, but also a soldier of the cross. He not only wants to create within you a desire to serve Him, but He wants to impart power to you to enable you to serve Him. He who imparted His love to you at the time of your new birth wants also to perfect His love in you at the time of your full sanctification. He not only wants to save you from the wrath to come, but He also wants to bring you into full harmony with the nature of God. It is God's will not only to take the repentant sinner out of the "world" of evil practices, but it is also God's will to take the "world" of carnal pleasures out of the heart of surrendered believers. Justification (being converted) admits you into the family of God on earth; entire sanctification (being filled with the Spirit) fits you for the society of God in heaven. The Holy Spirit wishes to become not only Resident in your heart at the time of your conversion, but the Holy Spirit wishes to become President of your heart at the time of your inner cleansing. It is God's intention not only to save you from the guilt of sin, but also to cleanse you from the pollution of sin. God not only wants to cleanse your conscious mind, but he wants also to cleanse your subconscious mind.
Notes E. Stanley Jones: '''The soul gets on by a series of crises.' I've found it so. In conversion there is the sudden, or gradual, rise to a new level of life, a life as different from the ordinary man as the ordinary man is different from the animal. Then after the rise life is on a permanently higher level. But on that new level there usually ensues an experience of ups and downs, of alternate encouragement and discouragement, of victory and defeat. It was so with me. For a year I lived under cloudless skies. The sun of my happiness seemed to have risen in the heavens to stay there forever. But after a year of unalloyed joy I found something alien began to rise from the cellar of my life. I felt there was something down there not in alignment with the new life I had found – ugly tempers, moodiness, deep down conflicts. The general tenor of life was victory, but there were disturbing intrusions from the depths. I was becoming a house divided against itself. I was puzzled, confused, hurt with a tinge of disappointment. Was this the best that Christianity could do – to leave me wrestling with myself; or with something alien to myself!' What was this dark something within?
"I was in a crisis. I was stymied by this inner conflict. And then a door out of the conflict
opened, opened through a book. I began to read 'The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life', by HannaH Whitehall Smith, a Quaker. It told of complete victory for the person. My heart was kindled with desire as I read it. God spoke to me: 'Now is the time to find.' I tried to read on, but the words were blurred. I saw I was in a controversy with God, so I closed the book, dropped on my knees beside my bed, and said: 'Now Lord, what shall I do?'And he replied: 'Will you give me your all?' And after a moment's hesitation I replied: 'Yes, Lord, of course I will give you my all, all I know and all I don't know'. Then he replied: 'Then take my all, take the Holy Spirit. I paused for a moment: my all for his all; my all was myself; his all was himself, the Holy Spirit. I saw as in a flash the offer. I eagerly replied: 'I will take the Holy Spirit'. I arose from my knees, with no evidence, save his word. I walked out on the naked promise of that Word. His character was behind that Word. I could trust him with my all and I could trust him to give me his all. I walked around the room repeating my acceptance. The doubts began to close in on me. I walked around the room pushing away with my hands the menacing doubts. When suddenly I was filled – filled with the Holy Spirit. Wave after wave of the Spirit seemed to be going through me as a cleansing fire. I could only walk the floor with the tears of joy flowing down my cheeks. I could do nothing but praise him – and did. I knew this was no passing emotion; the Holy Spirit had come to abide with me forever." (A Song of Ascents; pg. 51-53)
To be filled with the Holy Spirit, is to be filled with God's love. "God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:5, NIV) Holiness is not a mere negative experience of cleansing from sin, but holiness is a positive experience of empowerment to love! Holiness in the life of a believer is best seen by a supreme love for God and by an unselfish caring for others. To the extent that a believer is actively practicing love, to that same extent is he genuinely experiencing God's sanctifying power in his life!
Commander Brengle, of the Salvation Army, began his little book with this startling sentence: "On January 9,1885, at about nine o'clock in the morning, God sanctified my soul. It was a Heaven of love that came into my heart. I walked out over Boston Column before breakfast, weeping for joy and praising God. Oh, how I loved! In that hour I knew Jesus, and I loved Him till it seemed my heart would break in love. I loved the sparrows, I loved the dogs, I loved the horses, I loved the little urchins on the streets . . . I loved the whole world. "
Love is the very essence of the Christian life and is the capstone of all the Christian graces. Said John Wesley: "Religion is the most simple thing that can be conceived. It is only humble, gentle, patient love."
Initial sanctification and full (entire) sanctification (which we have thus far been describing) are usually decisive, dated, and dramatic experiences of commitment to Christ, whereas 'progressive sanctification' is an ongoing and gradual experience of
daily commitments to Christ, resulting in the believer's character progressively being perfected. The Holy Spirit daily and continually cleanses the believer from anything which is a hindrance to spiritual growth. The Holy Spirit constantly works in the lives of believers to bring them into full harmony with the will of God. A picture of the ongoing cleansing and perfecting work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers is seen in the picture of the Vine and the branches. Said Jesus, "I am the true Vine, and my Father is the Gardener. He lops off any branch that doesn't produce. And he prunes those branches that bear fruit for even larger crops. He has already tended you by pruning you back for greater strength and usefulness by means of the commands] gave you. Take care to live in me, and let me live in you. For a branch can't produce fruit when severed from the vine. Nor can you be fruitful apart from me." (John 15:1-4, Living Bible)
Being "born of the Spirit" is a description of conversion or initial sanctification. Being "filled with the Spirit" is a description of full (entire) sanctification. Learning to "walk in the Spirit" is a description of progressive sanctification. A. B. Simpson (the founder of the 'Christian and Missionary Alliance' Church) describes the 'dynamic' of this 'life in the Spirit' (progressive sanctification). "When I at last got my eyes off my sanctification, and my experience of IT, and just placed my eyes on the Christ in me, I found instead of an experience, the Christ larger than the moment's need, the Christ that had all that I should ever need who was given to me at once, and forever! I had not only what I could hold that little hour, but also in Him, all that I should need the next and the next and so on, until sometimes I get a glimpse of what it will be a million years afterwards when we shall 'shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of our Father' (Matthew 13:43), and have 'all the fullness of God'.
"I never had more holiness or healing at one time than I needed for that hour. He said, 'My child, you must come to Me for the next breath, because I love you so dearly 1 want you to come all the time. If I gave you a great supply, you would do without Me, and would not come to Me so often; now you have to come to Me every second, and lie on My breast every moment.' He gave me a great fortune, placed thousands and millions at credit, but He gave me a check book with this one condition. 'You never can draw more than you need at the time.' Every time a check was wanted, however, there was the name of Jesus upon it, and so it brought more glory to Him, kept His name before the heavenly world and God was glorified in His Son.
"I had to learn to take from Him my spiritual life every second; to breathe Himself in as I breathed and breathe myself out. So, moment by moment for the spirit, and moment by moment for the body, we must receive. You say, 'Is not that a terrible bondage, to be always on the strain'? What! On the strain with one you love; your dearest Friend? Oh, no! It comes so naturally, so spontaneously, so like a fountain, without consciousness, without effort, for life is always easy and overflowing.
"Now, thank God, I have Him; not only what I have room for, but that which I have not room for, but for which I shall have room, moment by moment, as I go into the eternity before me. I am like the little bottle in the sea, as full as it can get. The bottle is in the sea, and the sea is in the bottle; so I am in Christ, and Christ is in me. Besides that bottleful in the sea, there is a whole ocean beyond; the difference is, that the bottle has to be filled over again, every day, evermore." (A pamphlet entitled 'Himself' by A.B. Simpson)
Initial sanctification, full (entire) sanctification, progressive sanctification – all provided by the blessed Holy Spirit who is more eager to impart these gifts to humans (to you and to me) then we are ready or able to receive them! The Giver (the Holy Spirit) is now making the Gift (of the fullness of the Holy Spirit) available to you! Through full surrender and faith, are you willing to receive His Gift? "God, who called you to become his child, will do all this for you, just as he promised." (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
FOR A PERFECT HEART
O for a heart to praise my God, A heart from sin set free; A heart that always feels thy blood, So freely spilt for me: A heart resigned, submissive, meek, My great Redeemer's throne; Where only Christ is heard to speak, Where Jesus reigns alone. O for a lowly, contrite heart, Believing, true, and clean; Which neither life nor death can part From Him that dwells within: A heart in every thought renewed, And full of love divine; Perfect, and right, and pure, and good, A copy, Lord, of thine. Thy nature, gracious Lord, impart; Come quickly from above, Write thy new name upon my heart, Thy new, best name of love.
– Charles Wesley –