Tag Archives: sanctification

Great holiness song

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard this song on the radio but for some reason it’s come to mind a couple of times lately.  It comes from David Baroni’s “Promised Land” project and it’s called “Took me out of Egypt.”  The message of the song is powerful.  The singer thanks God for freedom from the old way of life – “Egypt” yet finds another level of slavery, this on the inside. I love the words of this song and these are, I think at the heart of the matter:

Lord You took me out of Egypt
Now take Egypt out of me
You delivered me from Pharaoh now set me free from me
Let my heart become a promised land
Where the desert used to be
Lord You took me out of Egypt
Now take Egypt out of me

Thank God for his deliverance from the old way of life, it’s a transformation that makes all things new.  However, in that delivered life, over time, the believer is dismayed to find that something of the old way remains.  There’s competition for the Lordship of one’s life.  Will it be God’s way or mine?  This song describes the believer coming to a decision.  Self must bow to the Lordship of Christ.  The prayer then, is “Lord, you took me out of the old life but something of that old life remains in me.  Now, I ask that you will do a deeper work in my heart that I might be not only free from the consequences of my sin, but from the nature of sin and self.  Take the throne of my heart.”

I love the message of this song and even more, I love what the Lord does in the lives of those who come to that place of full surrender.

Here’s a short sample of the song, “Took me out of Egypt.”

So what does the holiness message look like here in the early years of the 21st Century?

First, I think the basic message is still sound. When I preach about a deeper experience in which the heart is filled with God’s love I find a receptive audience. Sometimes, it’s hard for me, who heard and responded to this message early on, to remember what a powerful message of hope it is. However, when I proclaim it and see people respond, it reminds me that it’s a wonderful, positive message.

Second, I think people are still very interested in outward manifestations of the inward work. However, the old approach is giving way to a more Biblical view of what that is. It used to be about (1) emotions and (2) legalism. There was an expectation that folks who “got it” would have a shouting spell and then settle down to walking the straight and narrow. Now, though, folks expect to see more compassion for the hurting – greater loving Christ-likeness – in the lives of those who have “gone deeper” in the things of God.

Third, I think people respond to genuine passion. They’re interested in being part of something worth dying for. Our doctrinal debates are mildly interesting to them, but they want to hear about a relationship with the Lord that’s about life and death. Others, they see, are happily content to get a stamp on their ticket to heaven, but they want to be part of something that demands their all.

A message of full surrender, based on a genuine hunger for all of God, and evidenced by Christ-like love and compassion is the one I think will touch lives today.

So what makes a Nazarene a Nazarene?

I’ve heard versions of this question for many years. Usually it is something like, “So how is your church different than…” then they name some church they know something about.

Honestly, I think that if we can’t answer that question and name something that makes us unique we need to shut down and go join whatever group it is that indistinguishable from us.

At one time, many answered that question with stuff we had no business thinking: we’re different than the Baptists or Methodists or Presbyterians became we DON’T go to movies or let our women cut their hair or let our women wear pants, etc. That kind of stuff was never an acceptable claim to uniqueness and, over time, we not only quit saying it, but we quit doing it too. (Although we have lots of folks who (seriously) need counseling to this very day.)

The more legitimate answer was “We believe there is a deeper work of God, after our salvation experience, in which he purifies our hearts and fills us with his love.”

I think that the first error was an honest but misguided effort to live out the actual reason we exist in the first place: heart holiness.

These days some of our best thinkers are tackling that “deeper work” in an effort to better articulate it to our world. I’m not against that. After all, the Church wrestled with, and restated the doctrine of the Trinity for 500 years before it decided it had it right. Surely the holiness folk ought to revisit our “deeper work” doctrine as we near our 100 year anniversary.

That isn’t to say I am unconcerned. As we put “sanctification” on the table it causes confusion for the folks at the grassroots level, including the pastors. If we aren’t careful, while the “big guys” are debating the finer points of the doctrine, we locals will drift to being just “general Christians” able to unplug from our denomination and plug into just about anybody else. Something that is already happening. They remember the Nazarenes fondly but don’t value our distinctiveness enough to forgive our past legalism or to put up with our smaller program, etc.

Wesley started out to Christianize Christianity. He had a mission and a purpose. We Nazarenes started out to proclaim holiness: to “Girdle the Globe” (anybody remember that song?) with that message. If that “deeper work” becomes something less that our driving purpose, a doctrinal antique to us, who are we?

Is the Post-modern, Emergent Church going to ruin Christianity?

I’m not worried.

I think I’m too deeply entrenched in doing things the way I’ve done them to remake my thought process and become someone I am not. But I’m not threatened by post-moderns or emergent Christians or whatever other buzz word is in use today.

If the post-mods I’ve been in contact with are any indication of what is happening in the COtN I think everything will turn out okay.

For one thing, I don’t think they are trying to do anything I can’t live with. For another, I don’t think they are trying to do as much as they think they are. For them its all very revolutionary but, hey, I grew up in the 1960’s. I don’t think they are going to do anything more revolutionary than my generation did.

For instance, my generation wrestled a 150 year old worship format away from “those in control” and got everyone to singing worship choruses and clapping their hands. We thought we were going to save Christianity by doing it.

In the end, we didn’t save or improve Christianity at all and what we thought was new and different will only be a blip on the history of the Church.

Now we are told that the 20-year olds are going to take the Church into new territory. My instincts say, “been there done that.”

But know what? I hope they do. I’d rather see something happen within Christianity that makes the Church truly relevant to our society than see things stay the same as they are. I’d rather see Christians get a grasp on holy living than just give lip service to something that they have doubts about.

For instance, I believe in a second definite work of grace in which the Lord purifies the heart by faith. If they have to mess with that clear statement to arrive at the same experience okay, mess with it. God isn’t bound by our language or our expectations anyway. At the end of the day, the Lord will respond to their full surrender by doing what he has done for people making that same surrender through the history of Christianity. He doesn’t tailer his work in people’s hearts based on their expectations or lack thereof anyway.

So, fire away PM’s and EC’s or whatever you are going by. Don’t blame me if I don’t jump on your bandwagon. I don’t think this fish will learn to fly at this stage. Tell you what, though, I’m not going to fight you and say you can’t be saved or can’t be a member of the same church as me. And, even if I won’t be one of you, I really do hope you are used of God to reach a lost world.

If the sea change is a big as you say it is, one of these days you’re going to be considered much more of a fuddy-duddy than I am now.

In God

I’ve been rereading Richard Foster’s “Freedom of Simplicity” and, while I won’t burden him with this thought, I will credit him with having sparked it. Foster talks about the “Divine Center” and describes how everything in our lives must be oriented toward that Center. Otherwise, he says, all the elements of our lives will vie for dominance and our lives will be filled with indecision and struggle. This struggle isn’t so much a battle between good and evil. Instead, it is a struggle between good and best.

Foster calls us to surrender all there is about us to God, and thus, put him at the Center of our lives. When we do that, all the “good” things are properly aligned with His purposes for us.

As a believer in a deeper work of God that enables us to walk in the Spirit I love the picture here of my Centering on the Lord. We tend to express our Christianity from the “me” point of view: “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus” and “Come in and be Lord of my life.” Actually, it might be better for us to think less about Jesus coming into us as our coming into Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t want to make me into a better person. He wants to make me into new a new person. That doesn’t happen by his giving me a spiritual tune up or even by his moving into the mess that is my life. It happens when I surrender self to him and begin, by his grace, to live a life that is in orbit around that “Divine Center.”

I think this is a terrific view of entire sanctification. I surrender all rights to myself and, instead of thinking it is all about me, I move into the Lord, immersed in his purposes for me.

Heart Purity and Imperfect Humanity

On thing that I think confuses a lot of people is the relationship of humanity to sin. When we mistake human frailty for rebellious sin we have a recipe for absolute confusion on the topic.

And, the truth is, that no one can watch another’s life and see their spiritual condition. Two people can respond to the same situation in very different ways and how they respond is not a reflection of their state of grace.

For instance, in the Bible we have two “sanctified” men being hit unjustly. One of those men is Jesus, who “answered not a word.” No doubt, Jesus lived up to his own Sermon on the Mount, turning the other cheek.

The other man is the Apostle Paul. When he is arrested, the priest orders him to be struck in the face. Paul, instead of turning the other cheek curses him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!” Then when it is pointed out to him that he has spoken thus to the High Priest, he immediately apologizes because he knows the Scriptures say that one is not to speak ill of the leader of the people.

The situations are similar, but reactions are not, but they both came from men with pure hearts. How can that be?

Jesus’ response is an example of a human being with a pure heart responding perfectly. Paul’s is an example of a human being with a pure heart responding imperfectly. When Paul realizes that, in his humanity, he has said something improper, he doesn’t get angry and refuse to admit his mistake. Instead, he acts to make it right.

Jesus is our finest example and his behavior is our goal.

Paul is an example of a man who has a pure heart but is still a work in progress. He is also an example of how a sanctified Christian responds when, due to his humanity, he has failed.

Preaching on Second Blessing Holiness

Sermon mode: ON
I have been preaching a series of messages on the “Deeper Life.” It is a careful approach to our cardinal doctrine of entire sanctification.

The thing that comes to mind is how powerfully this message resonates in the lives of people. There is such a hungering for God — a longing for a deeper relationship with him.

Also, I have had such a strong sense of being “carried along” by the Holy Spirit as I preach along these lines. Numerous people have remarked on this anointing. I think the Lord is pleased with this theme.

Over the years I have envisioned the Nazarenes in town being known as such positive things as being the “praying church” or the “loving church” or the “caring church.” I certainly want all these things — but once again I have been reminded that, before all else, we are a holiness church. Without this distinctive we find ourselves just blending into the religious background.

All my life I have heard it said that the Church of the Nazarene was raised up to preach second blessing holiness. Today, at 33 years of ministry and counting, I am more convinced of that than ever.

We need to preach it carefully, correctly, and faithfully!
Sermon mode: OFF

Thanks for reading!