Many in the holiness tradition appear to believe that being entirely sanctified takes care of the fight against sin. How many of us have heard it preached that if you are entirely sanctified, you won’t get angry, or the world will lose its appeal, or the sin-habits of the past will be immediately and automatically eradicated from your life?
If such things were true, then Romans 12:1 should not be followed by Romans 12:2. Romans 6:11-13 should not be followed by Romans 8:13 or 13:14. Galatians 5:16-17 and 5:24 shouldn’t be in the same chapter. Jesus shouldn’t have described following him as taking up a cross daily (Luke 9:23).
He certainly should not have advocated—twice!—plucking out an eye or cutting off a hand, if that’s what it takes to avoid hell (Matt. 5:29; 18:8-9).
What am I talking about? I’m talking about Scripture’s consistent teaching that Spirit-empowered victory requires vigorous, even desperate, human measures. Jesus’s gracious “go and sin no more” to the woman taken in adultery must be played in surround-sound with other properly placed biblical “speakers”—
- “make no provision for the flesh” (Rom. 13:14),
- “flee youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22),
- “put off the old person you used to be” (Eph. 4:22-24),
- “bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33),
- “put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13),
- “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13),
- “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38),
- “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16),
- “exhort one another daily that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13),
- “admonish one another” (Col. 1:28; 3:16),
- “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed” (Jam. 5:16).
Spirit-empowered victory requires vigorous, even desperate, human measures.
What does this set of texts teach us about living a wholly sanctified life?
First, we must be clear-eyed and bone-crunchingly honest with ourselves! We are susceptible to being squeezed into the world’s mold (Rom. 12:2a).
Our entirely sanctified minds are still in need of transformation from unChristlike thinking to Christlike thinking (Rom. 12:2b).
Our flesh must not be given opportunity, or it will bear its fruit (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 5:16-19). There is much in an entirely sanctified person to which he must die daily (Luke 9:23). A wholly sanctified person may need to take drastic physical, relational, or vocational measures to cut out of his life anything that provides an off-ramp from the highway of holiness (Matt. 18:8-9).
I don’t know how many young men have sat across from me and confessed to committing fornication through pornography. But most of them have seemed shocked when I tell them their smartphone needs to go. They hesitate when I say that they need to place restrictive filtering on their internet (e.g., k9.com) and install accountability software (e.g., x3watch.com) on all their devices.
Totally unplugging from the internet seems unthinkable. Jesus didn’t think so. Unplugging the net is kid’s stuff compared to plucking out an eye! If you can’t do _____ (you fill in the blank) and be holy in your thoughts, holy in your time-use, holy in your relationships, then cut it off! Jesus thought whatever it takes to avoid sin is worth avoiding hell.
Second, these texts teach us that living a wholly sanctified life is not done alone. Accountability is not a last-ditch rescue measure. It is Scripture’s expected norm for godly men and women (2 Tim. 2:22; Heb. 3:13; 12:12-13; Col. 3:16).
We must invite into our lives fellow-pilgrims who will exhort us to guard again sin’s deceitfulness.
Originally published in God’s Revivalist. Used by permission.