These weekly posts show the Triad teachings. Starting at week 1 and progressing through the weeks will help you see the logic of the series.
In this Triad blog site we will follow a sequence of essays that deal with sanctification.
“Sanctification” is often thought of as merely “moral reform”. In truth though, biblical sanctification is “becoming Holy” or “becoming Christ-like”. Consequently, these essays will go beyond moral issues and explore a wide spectrum of teachings usually discussed under the heading of “spiritual formation”.
Note that off to the right of each essay there is a list that helps you find which weeks discuss 4 different topics: 1. Repentance and Dedication, 2. Inner Healing, 3. Deliverance and 4. Transformation.
Woven in to this sequence of essays on the process of sanctification, are large topics such as “The Law”, “Grace”, “Confession”, “Contrition”, “Repentance”, “Spiritual Warfare” and the “Dual Nature” of the Christian.
So, if you find yourself still trapped in sinful behavior, even though you are “saved”, or even if you live in a monastery, but have failed to gain union with God, then keep reading.
Purification is a long process. Even though we enter God’s family instantly, by grace, when we are born again, purification takes time and requires effort. In Protestant terms we would say that justification is by faith alone but sanctification takes both faith and works. The monastic system does not use the word “sanctification” but instead sees itself as a journey that leads to “union” with God. This is a union of wills, and (as with Protestant sanctification) does not imagine itself as “being perfect” but instead says that a person can be yielded to the will of God and walk in God’s will. The monastic journey is a life long journey. The monastic apologetic reflects the length of this process by describing itself as a journey where the monastic progresses through the 3 stages: purification to illumination to union.
All 3 of these stages have active and passive components. That is, active meaning the choices we make (so we are active) and passive meaning the choices God makes.
These are often mixed in experience, like a dance with God, where we do our
part and He does his part in a fluid continuum. But it is useful to look at
active and passive purification separately.
In Protestant terms we would say that sanctification requires both grace and works. We would also say that our effort to obey is not legal but relational. That is, “what the Law could not do, in that it was weakened by the flesh, God did…that those who walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh…may fullfill the Law.”
We will start with active purification. Active purification occurs when a person
chooses to follow God and changes their life style accordingly. This can
include radical life style choices, such as entering the ministry, or a
monastery, or the mission field. But it always includes moral choices and moral
purification. Therefore we will start with active moral choices.
Active moral choices are best looked at in 2 categories:
- The written Word of God.
Thus we start (Week 1) with active moral choices using the written word of God:
The concept here is pretty straightforward. God reveals to us what He wants us to do (or not do) and we obey Him. This method is limited by our weakness and inability to do what we should, but if we don’t try and fail we cannot go further.
The idea that a born again Christian has to make moral choices is often resisted on the basis that effort is works and that works is legalism. It is true that if a
person tried to obey God by merely using will power to obey His commands, and if that person was trying to obey God in order to be worthy of adoption as a
child of God, then that would be legalism. However, we are teaching that
someone who is already born again needs to obey God but that this obedience
will not be accomplished by active means alone. But active moral choices are
needed in order to show a person just how difficult it is to actually obey God.
In Protestant terms we say that the law (of God) reveals His holiness and
reveals our unholiness. That is why Paul says that “I wouldn’t even know sin if
I hadn’t known the law”, and why he concludes with the lament “Oh, wretched man that I am”. That is also why the law brings us to grace; because we see
firsthand just how bad we are. The Law is our schoolmaster.
In the monastic system different terms are used to say the same thing. For
example, as stated above, a person has to enter into active purification by
choosing a Godly life style. However, this attempt to obey the law of God by
making active choices will eventually fail, and the monastic will have to move
to passive purification. That is, when a sincere Christian fails at moral
reform then they become desperate and turn to God for help. God helps them by humbling them and then emptying them. Then He can fill them with strength. This process is called passive purification because God does the work.
Therefore what is needed for the start of purification is a whole hearted attempt to obey what God has commanded.
Let’s say we read in the Bible that we should not commit fornication or adultery. (Or, if this is not an issue to you then choose “do not let the sun go down on your anger”, or “do not desire to be rich”, or “obey your employer and work as unto the Lord”, “do not gossip”, “do not lord it over those who are submitted to you” or “forgive those who transgress against you”, etc). If we take these commands seriously and compare our lives to the commanded life we will see a great gap. A good way to start is to study the Bible and reflect on each command. Many of the letters of the apostles are divided into several chapters
of theology followed by several chapters of practical commands. Studying these
commands is a useful way to assess yourself.
Thus we start by taking an honest moral inventory, watching our self, and see if we are obeying the command or not. We think about it. We are honest with our self.
If we are not obeying the command then we take steps to do so. We get radical in our effort: “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off”. We keep a performance record. We monitor progress. We change.
Next week (Week 2) we will look at active moral choices using the conscience.