How fast do you fold?

Modern literature and movies are riddled with references to the tension of a card game around a splintered wooden table with squinted eyes ferreting out any weakness among the opponents. How fast would you give in? Temptation is rather the same…the more I squirm under its stare, the faster I am likely to just give in and get it over with, to God’s grief and my chagrin.

Is it possible to be perfect? The Bible is full of instruction to being holy, refined, pure – putting away lifestyles of sin and following Christ’s example when we are saved.This is where the Nazarene doctrine of Entire Sanctification comes into play with the assertion that there is a time in a believer’s life where they are perfected by the Holy Spirit. It is described as a greater surrender where the Holy Spirit eliminates the sin nature, and the believer is filled with a desire to love God with all of their being and their neighbors as well. They can still sin, but do not have the craving for it.

Nah, it can’t be true…no one is perfect! And then it made me wonder, do we give up too easily, lay down our cards and fold? Do we surrender to sin too quickly? This doctrine does not claim perfection, but marks a significant milestone on the way to being made in Christ’s likeness. I know many people who would say that they have recommitted their lives to Christ, myself included. But is there a time where we could suddenly be free from a desire for sin?

I do not know yet. The verses are hard to interpret one way or another without a deeper examination of context, and maybe even some word studies. But as I was reading, I came across these words from Paul:

“12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3.

Colossians 3 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

1 Thessalonians 5,23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” 

This is one of the closing thoughts of 1 Thessalonians, and it shows the partnership needed for our hearts to be submitted in faith to God’s plan, who works in our hearts to broaden our understanding of how He is working in the world. 

No matter if we can be “entirely sanctified” or not, we are called to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22). And that is a journey we will continue to pursue for eternity as our eyes open to the riches of His glory.

God, it is a good thing I do not bet. Because I would lose a lot of money from backing out, giving up, doing what feels good in the moment. God, please help me to better understand the life You want me to pursue, and what points I can expect to reach on the way (entire sanctification?). But most important, please help me to fall more deeply in love with You in wonder at what You do, and how You radically love. Amen.

Here are a couple of articles I read to better understand the definition of Entire Sanctification. They represent some of the information available and helped my general understanding of this topic:

http://www.theopedia.com/wesleyan-perfectionism

https://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/entire.htm

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