What is sanctification, you may ask? According to the Church of the Nazarene Manual, sanctification is “the work of God which transforms believers into the likeness of Christ.” In other words, sanctification is the process of becoming more like Jesus, more holy, more loving, and more obedient to God’s will.
But how does this process happen? How can we be sanctified? This is where the Wesleyan view differs from some other views. You see, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and a great revivalist preacher, taught that sanctification is not only a gradual and lifelong process but also a distinct and instantaneous work of God’s grace. He believed there is a moment in the Christian life when God cleanses the heart from all sin and fills it with pure love to God and man. He called this experience “Christian perfection” or “entire sanctification.”
Now, this may sound too good to be true. How can anyone be perfect or entirely sanctified in this life? How can anyone be free from all sin and love God with all their heart? Well, Wesley was careful to explain what he meant by these terms. He did not mean that an entirely sanctified person is flawless or infallible. He did not mean that they never make mistakes or have weaknesses. He did not mean that they were above temptation or immune to suffering. He did not mean that they have reached the end of their spiritual growth or have no need for further grace.
What he did mean was that a person who is entirely sanctified has a pure intention of pleasing God in all things. They have a single eye for God’s glory and a single desire for His will. They have no known sin in their life, no willful disobedience or rebellion against God. They have no sinful habits or inclinations that they indulge in or tolerate. They have no divided affections or attachments that compete with their love for God. They have a constant peace and joy in the Holy Spirit and a fervent zeal for good works.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Doesn’t that sound like something you would want for yourself? I know I do! And the good news is that this experience is available for every believer who seeks it with all their heart. Wesley taught that entire sanctification is offered by simple faith, just like justification and regeneration. He taught that it is not something we must wait for until we die or until Christ returns. He taught that it is not something we have to earn by our own efforts or merit by our own works. He taught that it is a free gift of God’s grace that He bestows on those who ask Him for it.
So, how can we receive this gift? How can we be entirely sanctified? First of all, we need to realize our need for it. We need to acknowledge our sinfulness and our helplessness apart from God’s grace. We need to confess our sins and repent of them. We need to renounce anything that hinders our love for God and our neighbor. We need to surrender our whole being to God and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to Him.
Secondly, we need to believe God’s promise for it. We need to trust His word and power to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and fill us with His love. We need to accept His invitation and His provision for holiness. We need to rely on His faithfulness and His goodness to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Thirdly, we need to claim it by faith. We need to ask God for this blessing with earnestness and sincerity. We need to receive it by faith as He gives it to us. We need to thank Him for it with gratitude and praise. We need to testify of it with boldness and humility.
And finally, we need to live it by grace. We need to abide in Christ and let Him abide in us. We need to walk in the Spirit and let Him guide us into all truth. We need to grow in grace and let Him transform us into His image. We need to bear fruit for His glory and let Him use