Wesleyan Theology II - Lesson 10

The Process of Sanctification

Wesley describes salvation and sanctification by writing, “God worketh in you; therefore you can work…God worketh in you, therefore you must work.” In the process of sanctification, we are becoming increasingly holy. The process of sanctification involves changes in degree. The process begins when we are justified. The believer is gradually dying to the carnal nature. The Christian life is a journey of holiness. The goal is holy love. As believers experience the love of God, they will love God and show love to their neighbor. Wesley teaches that when you believe in God, you have a disposition toward God, which is a sure trust and confidence in God which causes changes in your life. Dispositions are more consistent than emotions. Practicing sin makes you less free. Holiness leads to freedom and happiness.

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology II
Lesson 10
Watching Now
The Process of Sanctification


A. Sanctification as a Process: Changes in Degree

B. Virtue, character formation and teleology

C. The Importance of Inward Religion

D. Dispositions or tempers of the heart


  • John Wesley did theology in service to the church in mission. Brunner and Tillich are theologians that lived recently that developed a systematic approach. Wesley refers to his study of theology as practical divinity. He views it as participatory so that the truths of Scripture are actualized in practice and in community, not just an individual intellectual exercise. Wesley emphasized the doctrines of sin and salvation in his study and preaching by addressing how you become a Christian and how you remain a Christian. Wesley is described as being a, “conjunctive” theologian, which means he has a, “both-and” approach  as compared to an, “either-or” approach to theological ideas. He is looking for balance. Free grace is the work of God alone. Wesley describes cooperant grace as, “God works, therefore you can work; God works, therefore you must work.” Grace is the normative context of the moral law of God. Wesley teaches that we relate to God by both free grace and cooperant grace.

  • Repentance before justification. Because of who God is, he wills the salvation of all humanity. Grace is free for all. In his sermon, “Free Grace,” Wesley argues against limited atonement but affirms election and God’s foreknowledge. To Wesley, “Awakening” refers to a person receiving grace so they begin to discern the things of God. This is the transition from the natural state where people where a person is dead to things of God, to being awakened to God and fearing him. Moving from a state of “sleep” to being “awakened” to an awareness of God. Wesley makes a distinction between the, “natural person,” a “person under the law,” and a “person under grace.” Wesley describes conviction the holy spirit and the moral law working together, resulting in convincing grace. Sovereignty is a relational attribute because it’s how he relates to nature. Love is an essential attribute of God. Humans still have freedom as part of the way they are created in the image of God. Wesley teaches that all the elect are born of God but not all who are born of God are elect. Some who are born of God, fall away. If we live a life of Christian discipleship, it will change us.

  • The Holy Spirit begins to give the awakened conscience an inward “check” using the moral law. God uses the word and the Spirit to shed increasing light on the conscience to reveal shafts of the righteousness and justice of God. Repentance means a change of mind or change of direction. Wesley described repentance as the “porch” of religion. Wesley said that the only requirement to be part of a Methodist society was a desire to flee the wrath to come. He would then encourage you to leave off evil, do good and use the means of grace, which he equated with repentance. The three principal aspects of repentance are conviction, poverty of spirit and rejection of self-righteousness and self-justification. Repentance occurs prior to justification. Repentance will result in outward expressions of inward contrition and grace. The general means of grace are prayer, searching the Scripture, communicating, the Lord’s Supper and fasting. Prudential means of grace are practices that foster the love of God. They may differ from one person to another. It requires reason, reflection and honesty.

  • Focus on the insights of John Wesley on practical theology. Wesley teaches that people are justified by faith alone and that conviction of sin and repentance comes before justification. Conviction and repentance are important in the salvation process but not in the same sense or the same degree as faith. Wesley refers to the grace from which salvation comes as being, “free in all,” meaning that it does not depend on human power or merit. A person can be redeemed if he will, but not when he will. Wesley views the process of salvation as the conjunction of cooperant and free grace. The faith that justifies goes beyond believing that God exists and the knowledge of God’s character. It is also more than the faith of a devil. It is more than the faith of the apostles while Jesus was on earth. The nature of faith is a spiritual sense by which we understand spiritual things. Faith requires both, “belief that” and “belief in”

  • Justification is the work God does for us, sanctification is the work God does in us. Justification makes us children of God, and sanctification is the process of becoming saints. Justification is based on the atoning work of Christ and entails the forgiveness of sin and freedom from guilt. Wesley teaches that when you are justified, you are forgiven of past sins. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers because of what Jesus did. He applied imputation to justification only, not sanctification because he was concerned about people taking this as a license to sin. Sola Fide is the teaching that faith is not only the necessary condition of justification, but it is also a sufficient condition. Wesley teaches that justification and regeneration occur simultaneously, never one without the other. Wesley held not one but two aspects of his doctrine of salvation in tension: both process and instantaneousness, divine and human cooperation as well as the work of God alone.

  • Wesley teaches that justifying grace is imputed by God and regenerating grace is imparted by God. When Wesley refers to, “divine empowerment,” he means that the Holy Spirit gives believers the power to live in obedience to God. Wesley describes regeneration as the great work which God does in us, in renewing our fallen nature and the beginning of sanctification. Regeneration itself is a result of free grace. Only God can make a soul holy and fill it with the Holy Spirit. He also emphasizes the importance of holy living. “Faith alone, working by love, aimed at holy living.” Wesley linked regeneration with the doctrine of original sin. Since we were born in sin, we must be born again. Wesley describes the new birth as a vast change from darkness to light. Orthodoxy is important, but it’s crucial that regeneration also leads to life transformation.

  • Regeneration is an instantaneous supernatural change that begins the process of sanctification. It is God alone who forgives sin and makes a person holy. The first “liberty” of the gospel is freedom from the guilt of sin. The second “liberty” of the gospel is the deliverance from the power and dominion of sin. The marks of the new birth are faith, hope and love. Wesley defines sin as a willful transgression of a known law of God. Wesley is not saying that one who is regenerated will never sin again, but open, willful sin and rejecting God should be the exception rather than the rule. Obedience of faith refers to the power of someone who is regenerated to obey the commandments of God. The greatest freedom of all is the freedom to love God and love our neighbor.

  • Assurance is an essential part of the conversion experience. Our sins are forgiven and we are children of God. Biblical texts that teach assurance are Romans 8:15-16, Galatians 4:5-8 and 1 John 2:12-14. According to Roman Catholic theology articulated at the council of Trent, assurance is not a normative component of God’s promise of salvation. The Roman Catholic church teaches that assurance is corporate and focuses on apostolic succession and the sacraments. Wesley describes the direct witness of assurance as an inward impression on the soul of believers by the Holy Spirit, who testifies to the spirit of the person that they are a child of God. The realization of the direct witness of the spirit will be different for each individual and will be memorable but may not be dramatic. Wesley considers conscience as a supernatural faculty that God has restored.

  • Indirect witnesses to our new birth are the keeping of the commandments of God and fruit of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are diverse but they are all given by the Holy Spirit. Wesley emphasizes the importance of both direct and indirect witness.

  • Wesley describes salvation and sanctification by writing, “God worketh in you; therefore you can work…God worketh in you, therefore you must work.” In the process of sanctification, we are becoming increasingly holy. The process of sanctification involves changes in degree. The process begins when we are justified. The believer is gradually dying to the carnal nature. The Christian life is a journey of holiness. The goal is holy love. As believers experience the love of God, they will love God and show love to their neighbor. Wesley teaches that when you believe in God, you have a disposition toward God, which is a sure trust and confidence in God which causes changes in your life. Dispositions are more consistent than emotions. Practicing sin makes you less free. Holiness leads to freedom and happiness.

  • Self-denial involves being willing to follow grace, to follow God’s will rather than yours, recognizing that your nature is corrupt and to deny ourselves is to deny our will where it contradicts God’s will. Taking up your cross includes being willing to endure suffering. Wesley teaches that repentance is important in terms of individual sins at salvation and also of the sin nature. Evangelical repentance is repentance of the sin nature. Wesley urged people to minister to both peoples’ bodies and souls.

  • In this lesson, John Wesley's theology on entire sanctification emphasizes the distinction between gradual sanctification as a process and instantaneous entire sanctification, with a focus on the idea that entire sanctification is an utter gift of God received by faith alone, demonstrating a balanced view of cooperative and free grace.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Collins reviews John Wesley's doctrine on entire sanctification. He explains that it is not sinless perfection but a state of love where believers are free from the power and being of sin, emphasizing the need for continual growth in grace.
  • Wesley wanted to reform the church of England, not begin a new denomination. The fundamental nature of the Church is a community of people-centered on Christ. The Greek word in the New Testament that refers to the Church is ekklesia. The Church was born at Pentecost. The relation of the church to Israel and the inclusion of Gentiles in the church were two foundational questions in the early Church. The Church is composed of all believers throughout the world as well as believers meeting in local communities. There is one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all. The importance of unity in the Church is stressed in the Gospel of John and in other writings in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit animates individuals and also the body of Christ corporately.

  • It’s not possible to for people to be holy without the Holy Spirit. The Church should live in an attitude of humility and be open to repentance and reform when there is sin and evil discovered. There institutional church should have disciplinary mechanisms to deal with sin and evil. Ecclesiastical synonyms for catholic are universal, global, ecumenical and extensive. The apostolic testimony is passed down through the centuries. Apostolic succession divides the Church because of the view of the sacraments, especially the Lord’s Supper. The creeds in the reformation era articulated Protestant theology. The church is where the pure Word of God is preached and the sacraments are duly administered. Methodism is a reforming movement with the theme of real Christianity vs. people who lived by displaying the form of Christianity but lacked the power. Methodist bands and select societies were modeled after Moravian small groups. The soul and the body make a man, the spirit and discipline make a Christian. The general rules of the United Societies were agree to avoid evil, do good to your neighbor and employ the means of grace. The goal was to foster a spirit of repentance. They emphasized Scriptural Christianity. Wesley’s purpose was that Methodism become a reforming order within the church, not a separate denomination.

  • Worship is a response to God because God has already acted. Gathering together is important for the faith community to fellowship together. The minister welcomes everyone to invite them to worship God. In worship, we encounter the Word of God as it is read and declared, by response in prayer and in the creeds and confessions. In communion, we are responding to the gift that God has given us. When we go out from a worship service, we are salt and light to the world. Worship is essentially responding in acknowledgment of what God has done. A sacrament is an outward expression of an inward grace that is received by faith. Luther described a sacrament as containing the three elements of a sign, signification, and promise. For baptism, the sign is the water, the signification is dying and rising with Christ and the promise is forgiveness of sin and renewal of your nature. Wesley considered baptism to be associated but distinct from the new birth. Baptism is an outward sign of the inward work of the new birth.

  • Wesley’s view of baptism is both sacramental and “evangelical.” Wesley considers the Lord’s Supper as a means of grace because it is, “food for the journey. In the early church, believers were required to be baptized before they could receive the Lord’s Supper. The sign is the bread and wine, the signification is the body and blood of Jesus and the promise is the forgiveness of sins and renewal of our nature. Luther describe’s the Lord’s Supper as a testament. Wesley says that there is a spiritual presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice, but it does bring the meanings of the death of Jesus into the community of faith in a tangible way. Wesley thought that each person should receive the Lord’s Supper as often as possible.

  • Eschatology comes from a Greek word meaning, “last things.” Aristotle describes physical death is when the body is separated from the soul. Spiritual death is when the soul is separated from the sanctifying presence of God. Eternal death is the eternal separation of the soul from God. Some people teach that the term “sleep” in Scripture to describe death, means cessation of consciousness and is not used metaphorically of the dead body. A belief in the unending existence of the soul raises the question of its habitat and activities in the state between death and the resurrection, generally referred to as the intermediate state. It seems then that there is a particular judgment at death that will be consummated later on in a general judgment. Jesus promised that he would come again to earth and it will be personal, visible, physical and literal.

  • The second coming of Christ will take some people by surprise, but the faithful will be prepared. It will be visible and obvious to everyone. Believers will be raised from the dead to be with Christ. Postmillennialism teaches that things keep getting better and the second coming of Christ will come after the millennium. Premillennialism teaches that things get worse and Christ comes before the millennium. Amillennialism sees the thousand-year reign as a symbol and not a reality. There will be a final judgment that will display the attributes of God, where Jesus will be seen as the king of kings. The final judgment will bring justice and reveal the character of each person. Heaven is where the glory of God is expressed. There will be a new heaven and a new earth.

Holy Love is an overarching theme of John Wesley's preaching and theology. Join Dr. Kenneth Collins as he explores topics ranging from grace, repentance, justification, regeneration, assurance, sanctification, the church and sacraments, and eschatology, by using Scripture, historical context, and the writings and the sermons of John Wesley. 

Wesleyan Theology II
Dr. Ken Collins
The Process of Sanctification
Lesson Transcript


We are now going to take up in a more developed way the process of sanctification. Okay. And one of Wesley's more well developed ways of understanding grace and one that is embedded in the very structure of the auto silhouette is in a graphic way in terms of divine and human cooperation is found in the phrase which we mentioned earlier. God works in you. Therefore, you can work. Again to use Wesley's language. God works in you. Therefore, you must work. Okay. And so these two councils, which are found in an important sermon by Wesley, that sermon, of course, on working out our own salvation, we see these two basic maxims. The first dressing ability God works there for you can work. The second, stressing the imperative. God works. Therefore you must work. That these are not understood in any sort of self-righteous way. But. This council flows out of the prevention, cooperating grace of God which precedes that. And so when we consider the cluster of doctrines associated with entire sanctification, for example, such as conviction, evangelical repentance and works suitable for repentance, when we take those into account, it is grace in this first sense of divine and human cooperation informed by the activity of God that is in view. And so let me put that in other words, we have someone who is already justified and born of God. They are now receiving the further grace of God. So here is co-opting grace, but the grace that they are receiving is sanctifying grace because they are holding their children of God. So the divine human cooperation that we see playing out here in the Christian journey is one of co-opting grace, whereby it is sanctifying grace that is being understood, at least at this point, in a synergistic manner and assist synergistic manner.


Okay. And so there is an emphasis in Wesley's theology on activity, on working with God prior to entire sanctification. Okay. And. We can do and we can work because the sanctifying grace of God, that grace which makes holy precedes us. And so we are growing in holiness incrementally. So by degree, from one degree of grace to another, we are becoming increasingly, increasingly holy. Okay. Now, when we look at sanctification as a process, what we are going to see are changes in degree, changes in degree. And so if we take a look at the first when we take a look at an early Methodist conference, one that met in August of 1745, it raised the question, when does inward sanctification begin? And the answer to that question was, quote, In the moment we are justified. The seed of every virtue is then sown in the soul. From that time, the believer gradually dies to sin and grows in grace. Yet sin remains in him. The seed of all sin till he is sanctified throughout, in spirit, soul and body. Okay, so Wesley is talking here about initial sanctification, but also the need for ongoing sanctification because sin yet remains in the hearts of believers. And here we're thinking largely of inbred sin or the carnal nature. It remains, but it does not. It does not reign. And so this is a very interesting answer that the conference offered to an important question after justification and the new birth, because these two works of grace ever occur simultaneously, the seed of every virtue is then sown in the soul. Put another way. Initial sanctification has begun with the reception of free grace, and now with the seeds implanted in the soul, they will grow. How will they grow incrementally? They'll grow into incrementally by degrees, with changes over time in the process of sanctification.


And so sanctification is a process. And this really marks much of the Christian life, much of Christian discipleship, the process of sanctification, the transformation of degree whereby believers, genuine believers, become holier, they become holier, they will become more patient, more kind, more loving. We can view this, of course, in another way and say that the believer is gradually dying to sin. Now, what do we mean here by sin in this context? We mean inbred sin, the carnal nature. Because even in a child of God, sin remains. That is, the carnal nature remains, but it does not reign. Sin in this context then refers not to actual sins, plural, because the believer is free from the power and dominion of those actual sense. But the believer is not free from original sin, singular or inbred sin, even the carnal nature. Okay. And so we therefore have observed that the seed of every virtue has been implanted in the soul. And then we also see the seed of sin as well, even in terms of the carnal nature. And so this is going to make up, in a real sense, the struggle. The challenge of the Christian life. Remember I said earlier, sort of half, half jokingly, half facetiously, that, you know, evangelicals know how to bring people into the church. But then once they get them there, they don't know what to do with them. Well, here is what you do with that, because there is a Christian life to be lived, The carnal nature remains. We therefore need to chart a course by which we will grow in grace that the seed of every virtue will be enhanced. That will grow in holiness by degree. Okay. And so Wesley's order salute is his order of salvation lays out the pathway, the pathway of the Christian journey.


And it takes into account the ongoing carnal nature that remains in the children of God. Okay. And if we were to neglect this in the church, if we were to neglect that the children of God yet have a carnal nature that remains, our ministry would be akin to malpractice because we are not properly recognizing the true condition of those who are among us. Okay. And so we can view the serious Christian life as a journey and as a journey of holiness. I think that's a good way to view the Christian life, that it is a journey of holiness in which this seeds implanted in the soul at the new birth, the seeds of holiness planted in the soul at the new birth, and understood as virtues are pointing beyond themselves to the high calling that we have. And that is the a perfection in love to love God with all our heart and all our mind. Put another way, the seeds of every virtue inculcated at the new birth can be understood as they grow, As they increase, as the habituation of. Grace that grace is growing more abundantly being received. We are being transformed by degrees. We are developing patterns, ongoing patterns that endure over time, patterns of faith and obedience and holiness. This is what discipleship looks like. And it's an exciting journey. It's an exciting journey indeed. And this journey is bringing us closer to our high end, namely the knowledge and love of God that was manifested in Christ, Jesus, our Lord, this very precious image in which we have been created. And so Wesley's emphasis on the process of sanctification is so very important because it's going to describe much of the Christian life and with the implanting of the seed of every virtue at the new birth, those virtues are going to point beyond themselves and direct us to the end or goal of religion.


And the end or goal of religion, of course, is holy love. It is holiness or holy love. Okay. And so in this context, then, as we're charting the Christian journey, growing from one degree of grace to the other, that Wesley is going to underscore the importance of what he calls what he terms inward religion, inward religion. And so let me lift up a few things from Wesley's writings so we get a feel for this, precisely what he's saying. Quote. In the year 1726. I met with campus is Christian Patton. He means Thomas our campuses. Imitation of Christ. That's what he calls Thomas campuses imitation of Christ. And at that time, Wesley saw, quote, the nature and extent of inward religion. The religion of the heart now appeared to me in a stronger light than it had ever done before. I saw that giving even all my life to God, supposing that this were possible and to do this and go, No father would profit me nothing unless I gave my heart all my heart to him. Wesley writes. So here we see that Wesley is affirming the importance of inward religion in the Christian journey. Then there is another excerpt from Wesley that bears mentioning. Listen to this quote, The sum of our doctrine with regard to inward religion is comprised in two points. One, the loving God with all our hearts and the loving our neighbor as ourselves. And with regard to outward religion and to more, the doing all to the glory of God and to doing all what we would desire in life. Circumstances should be done to us. And that's simply another way of saying the golden rule. Another way of expressing the love of neighbor. And so Wesley is underscoring the importance of inward religion that believers might experience the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, which they enjoy.


And believers so transformed will love God because God first love them. And this love will constrain them to love their neighbors as their selves. And therefore they will enjoy every holy, every heavenly temper. Something else Wesley says on this head. He writes, Nay, you will not be content with a taste of inward religion. This it as please God to give you already you know in Him, in whom you have believed you have tasted of the powers of the world to come. A taste of love cannot suffice. Wesley continues your soul for all his fullness, cries. And so here we're getting a sense of the believer, though they have been genuinely transformed in the graces of justification and the new birth desire to love God more, to love God more deeply, to love God more greatly. And so Wesley writes along these lines in a letter, Cry on Never Cease mine, not those who rebuke you that you should hold your peace cry so much the more Jesus of Nazareth. Take away all my sins. Leave none remaining. Speak thy word only and I shall be healed. And so we see once again, Wesley, stressing the importance of religion, inward religion, the renewal of our souls in righteousness and true holiness. Again, Wesley notes that in inward religion in its various branches will include inward tempers contained in holiness, a holiness without which no one will see the Lord. And then he also writes about affections. Affections which, when flowing from their proper fountain, from a living faith in God through Jesus Christ, are intrinsically and essentially good, intrinsically and essentially good. And so here we see Wesley again and again focusing on inward religion, the transformation of the Christian life in terms of the heart, in terms of the tempers and dispositions of the heart.


And I'm going. You read one last excerpt from Wesley's writings on this score Before I begin to open up, what does Wesley mean precisely by dispositions and tempers of the heart, which make up much of what he has to say about inward religion. Okay. And so this is what Wesley writes, quote. And inward religion, you have not you have not the faith that works by love. Your faith is no living saving principle. It is not the apostles faith. The substance of things hoped for or the evidence of things not seen. And so, once again, Wesley is underscoring here the importance of inward religion. Okay. And what we're going to see in the present context when we're talking about a child of God who is already justified and born of God. We're going to be talking about inward religion in terms of the transformation of being that will wash or cleanse the carnal nature, the carnal nature, that inbred inward principle of unholy ness that must be cleansed away. Okay. There's actually a couple of things that I should mention now that we're talking about the cleansing of the heart on the on the way to heart purity. There has been a discussion in the past in broader Western circles on this matter of of inbred sin and the cleansing of the heart from inbred sin. And there's been a discussion that sin is relational, to be sure, but there's also been a discussion that Scripture uses images like washing, cleansing, purifying, circumcising, etc., etc.. So what's going on here? Well, to simply, well, simply state this without getting into all the details of the controversy and discussion, we understand that sin is a relationship of it is a missing of the market, is a perverted relationship.


It is things gone wrong. We're not rightly related to God. Okay. So we have that on the table. That's very clear. However, when the scripture talks about sin, because where human beings embodied souls were not disembodied spirits, and because we're explaining spiritual things which are invisible and difficult to comprehend, that scripture is naturally going to use metaphorical language to describe sin and the cleansing of sin. So, you know, we have the images and the metaphor of washing, cleaning, cleansing, purifying, even circumcising, cutting away all of this. And it looks like on one level, a kind of reification. We're thinking that sin is an object, like a ballpoint pen is an object. And that's not the case. But everyone should realize that when Scripture uses the language of washing, cleansing, circumcising, it's a metaphor. It's a metaphor. And so long as we have that in place, I think we'll understand what's going to be said in the days ahead. As we talk about the process of sanctification, the heart becoming increasingly purified on the way to entire sanctification. Now, before we do that, we have to talk about dispositions and tempers of the heart and get that on the table so that we understand what we have in mind here when we're using this kind of language. And so in Wesley's sermon, Salvation by Faith, which was delivered in Saint Mary's Oxford shortly after his aldersgate experience. Wesley specifically links saving faith with a disposition of the heart, as revealed in his following observation. Quote, It meaning faith is not barely a speculative, rational thing a cold, lifeless ascent, a train of ideas in. The head, but also a disposition. There's that language, a disposition of a heart. Such an understanding of faith, which highlights its participatory aspects as well as its depth, is reiterated in another key sermon produced later in Wesley's career.


It's entitled Marks of the New Birth. And in that sermon, Wesley elaborates, This is what he writes, quote, The true living Christian faith, which whosoever hath is born of God, is not only an ascent, an act of understanding, but a disposition which God hath wrought in his heart. A sure trust and confidence in God that through the merits of God, his sins are forgiven and he reconciled to the favor of God. Well, in this context, the disposition of the heart is equated with a sure trust and confidence in God, indicating that a disposition so understood is an orientation. It's an orientation of the human heart towards an object. In this case, trust in God. God is the object. Such usage was fairly common in the 18th century, and Wesley was probably familiar with the letter of Chatham to his nephew in 1754, which underscored the objects taken by as well as the gold directed ness of all the dispositions. And listen to what Chatham wrote quote, Go on, my dear child, Chatham exhorted in the admirable dispositions you have towards all right and good. But there is a second movement implied here as well, not simply an inclination towards diverse objects, God and goodness and righteousness, but also a transformation of being a modification of the heart as a result of such an orientation. Okay. And so what are we saying? Put this in other words. There's a two sided ness of the dispositions. There's an orientation towards the realized consequences of such an orientation would be a second matter, and both of these must ever be taken into account if we are to understand the process of sanctification in terms of the transformation of our dispositions and tempers of the heart. Okay. Let me put that in other words, because I realize I'm hitting you with a lot.


Wesley uses that word disposition and temper interchangeably. You know, sometimes he used the word dis disposition. At other times he uses the word. Temper. Now, what do we mean by a disposition? Let's put it in simpler language. Well, just pick the word apart. A disposition. We are disposed toward something. Meaning we're directed towards something where oriented towards something. Now, of course, in the Christian life, we have to be directed and oriented. To whom? To God. Of course. B oriented and directed to God. And as we live out our Christian life in that way. In other words, in that direction, in that orientation, there are going to be consequences for doing that. And those are the two things that we mean by disposition. Okay. Now, let me let me give you an example. Let me give you an example to flesh this out a little better for you so that you don't confuse what we're saying here with respect to dispositions in terms of feelings. For example, okay. Because a feeling is different than a disposition. Feelings come and go. I mean, we can have all sorts of feelings. Last night I felt not very well actually. I felt pretty sick after eating dinner. But I feel well today. Okay. So that changed. I felt one thing, but I don't feel that thing anymore. Dispositions are not like that. They are habituated. They endure over time. So let me give you an example. Let's say, for instance, that there is a doctoral student and she is working on a dissertation on the theology of John Wesley, and she's working very hard and she comes home Friday night to have supper with her husband and she's very tired. Her dissertation supervisor has been very hard on her.


He's been very demanding, requiring many revisions of her dissertation. And she is very tired. Well, as she's sitting at dinner with her husband, she doesn't feel much love right now. She feels tired. She feels worn out. But watch this. She is still related to that man in a special way. She is still oriented towards that man in a special way, even though her feelings are of tiredness. That's what we mean by a disposition. They are long lived, They are habituated. They endure over time. They endure over time. And so the process of sanctification whereby the Holy Spirit is working in our lives and is transforming our lives, transforming our disposition, our orientation towards God, and bringing a flush of consequences into our lives. This is what we mean by a disposition. It's not fleeting like a feeling. Feelings come and go. Feelings are fleeting. They're ephemeral. Dispositions are not like that. They're habituated. They are long lived. They endure over time. And so with this language in place now of disposition, you can see what the process of salvation looks like. You can see what the process of salvation looks like. In one sense, salvation is the transformation of the dispositions of our heart over time, the transformation of the dispositions of our heart over time, whereby we become increasingly holier. Okay. So if you ask the question, what does the ongoing ness of salvation look like for the Christian believer? Wesley has an answer to that on this level. In terms of the dispositions that they are being transformed, they're being changed, they're being modified from grace to grace, increasing in degrees of holiness. Now an additional clue to what constitutes a disposition is revealed in Wesley's little essay, a dialog between an and to Know me and his Friend, which was written, by the way, in 1745.


Where Wesley points out that faith cannot exist for a moment without, quote, certain inherent qualities and dispositions. That is the love of God and of all mankind, which make us meet for the kingdom of heaven. Wesley writes. Thus, just as faith represents a disposition for Wesley, so does love as well. In other words, and to use the words here of Clapper, quote, Love and other emotions are more than feelings or sensations. They are standing dispositions which characterize a person over time dispositions them. They are not ephemeral. As one might initially supposed, they are more constant and enduring than the vagaries of feelings and emotions. They are, to use Wesley's own words, inherent qualities. End of quote. And so here I think we're now getting a sense, a rich sense of what we mean by a disposition of the heart. The emphasis here is on real inherent change in the heart, in the form of godly dispositions, as evidenced in Wesley's understanding of holiness, where a premium is placed on imparting righteousness. And so, for example, if we were to take a look at another of Wesley's works, you know, his dialog between an Antonio man and his friend, if we went to look at this once more, we would notice that Wesley replies to the and to know me and claim that, quote, We are not made good or holy by any inward qualities or dispositions. He replied to that with a measure of exasperation. And so he wrote, I hope not, he retorted, You talk as gross nonsense and contradiction as ever came out of the mouth of man. Wesley exclaims, Because for Wesley, the inward qualities of love that is loneliness and meekness. They are the very substance of holiness or sanctification, whether initial or entire.


So, for example, with respect to initial sanctification, which is our language for the new birth, that is in terms of the tempers in that context. In other words, the temper is associated with regeneration. Wesley associates those holy dispositions with what he calls real, true, proper scriptural Christianity. And so, for example, if we look at his Sermon on the Mount discourse, the six, he elaborates This is what Wesley writes, quote, in the preceding chapter, and here he's referring to the fifth chapter of Matthew. Our Lord has fully described inward religion. See, there's that inward religion again in its various branches. He has laid before us. What has he laid before us? Those dispositions of soul which constitute real Christianity. The tempers contained in that holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. And so with respect to entire sanctification, as we think further out beyond the process of sanctification, when Wesley describes the circumcision of the heart in his classic sermon by the same name which was drafted in 1733, he underscores that it represents circumcision of the heart. It represents listen to this language and habitual disposition of the soul, which in the sacred writings is termed holiness and which directly implies the being endowed with those virtues which were also in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Okay. And beyond this, later in His career, Wesley once again explores the circumcision of the heart. I mean, this is biblical language here. Circumcision of the heart, which is simply another name for perfect love. But this time he's exploring it in his sermon on the discoveries of faith, where he indicates that it entails, quote, the planting of all good dispositions in place. Clearly implied in that other expression, to love the Lord, your God with all your heart and with all your soul.


And so what we're seeing them in Wesley's theology, especially since he's focusing on the dispositions and tempers of the heart salvation. In a real sense, the ongoing ness of salvation is the transformation of those dispositions that they be rightly oriented towards God so that the proper consequences of that orientation will. Be enjoyed over time. And we see this as the fruits of the Christian life, the fruits of discipleship, the fruits of the serious Christian life. So then in a theology such as Wesley's, which highlights the disposing power of the tempers and affections as well as a grace restored liberty and the availability of justifying and sanctifying grace. Two major interpretive errors are possible here. On the one hand, to stress the process of the inculcation of holy tempers to the virtue neglect of the decisive activity of God may result in being told that today is not, after all, the day of salvation, but that one must be further prepared in terms of tempers and affections in order to receive the sanctifying grace of God. Worse yet, sinners may be left in the virtual state of hopelessness, where the sins of the past and the orienting tempers left in their wake are judged to be more potent than the present activity of God. But then, on the other hand, to stress the truth that now is the day of salvation. That justification and the new birth can occur in a relatively short period of time, through the grace of God may result in a presumptuous and mischievous fanaticism where the tempers and affections of the heart after years of sin remain unholy despite claims to the contrary. And so what I'm trying to get you to see here is, on the one hand, the disposing power of the dispositions of the heart, and that can be understood in a negative way in terms of sin.


If the dispositions of the heart have been conformed by sin, if the objects at which we are aiming are evil. But then there will be a difference between the dispositions of the heart. Think of the complex that makes up the will. If those dispositions, if we are rightly oriented to a God of holy love. That ongoing orientation will bear fruit in the Christian in the Christian life. The evil deposit of the dispositions is never so great that the grace of God cannot break through. And for Westley, the positive nature of the dispositions is never so great that the believer could not fall from grace. That's another thing to be said as as well. And so though God can free the long suffering sinner in a moment and God can God's grace is greater, God's grace is always greater, can free the long suffering sinner in a moment without the creation and maturation of various tempers as a prerequisite. Nevertheless, and here this part because this is an important part, it is exceedingly dangerous to continue in the practice of sin and thereby neglect the creation of positive tempers. And that's exceedingly dangerous due to the formative nature of the tempers. And I mean, we can think about this very practically. I realize I'm using the theological language here of disposition, tempers, etc.. But I mean, we can think of negative examples and positive examples that, let's say someone is participating in an evil activity and they're doing that over time. Okay, What's happening? Habits are becoming habituated. Orientation dispositions are becoming habituated over time. They are becoming stronger and stronger and stronger. That person is now less free, less free to do otherwise. Now, can the grace of God break through? The answer is yes, because the grace of God is greater.


However, you must bear in mind the deceitfulness of sin and and the seriousness of continuing unabated in the practice of sin and the consequences that that can have for a life. So, for example, and to use a difficult example, we have someone who is doing heroin. They're doing heroin ongoing this. So they know it's evil, they know it's bad, They continue to do it, and then they come to a point where they're experiencing bondage and slavery and they want to be. Free. Can they get free? Yes, they can get free by the grace of God. But one must see the grace of God. But one must also see the power of those dispositions. Okay, I see that very clearly. And then if we look at it in a positive context, talking about a Christian now, someone who is a child of God, their dispositions now they are rightly oriented towards God and that orientation towards God is going to lead to the inculcation of holy virtues. Every seed of holiness is going to be sown in their souls, you know, as at the new birth, that as they increase and grow in holiness by degrees, though, those tempers and dispositions are going to become stronger. They are going to become more weighty, if you will. Okay. Now watch this. Watch this. The believer, the serious Christian believer who is walking on the path of discipleship is now less free, less free to sin. Why are they less free to send? Because of the predisposing power of the dispositions of the heart that have been inculcated over time, that have been habituated in the life of the church through the use of the means of grace, through the service of the poor. They are far less likely to depart from the living God because they have been rightly disposed to a God of holy love over a long period of time.


And they have built up the habits. Yes, the habits of holiness. And so therefore, they are less free to sin with the high hand, just as the person who was doing evil over time was less free, you know, in terms of what they got involved in. And so there's actually a lot to consider here under this heading. And so I think I'll stop there and take some questions in terms of anything you have to say. So would you say that the habits that increase our disposition, our trust and confidence in God are both individual and community? To where we cultivate those things in our individual lives by living, by faith, by reading the word by. Um, living out the things that God puts in our lives individually and then also living that out in community. Yes, I think that's a helpful way of thinking about it. Let's start out with the dispositions or tempers. What are those dispositions and tempers? Well, they make up. What do they make up? They make up the will. They make up the will. The will is something that is personal. The will is something that is personal. Okay. And so we're talking about a transformation of being by the grace of God at this level, meaning that our will is being transformed. It's being transformed in terms of what it is disposed towards, what it is oriented in. Now, I hear in your question that there is a communal context in which this takes place, and the answer is yes. Yes, there is that as we participate in the life of the church, as we participate in the sacraments of the church, engage in prayer, reading scriptures, serving our neighbor, that our dispositions of our heart are being transformed by these means of grace, such that we are becoming different people over time.


We are growing in holiness by degree. So in answer to your question, yes, it is both personal and social dispositions themselves because they make up the will are personal. They represent the throne room of our being that God touches us there inwardly. That's why we talked at great length on the importance of inward religion, because that's now where we're moving, that God has to transform us through grace at the throne room of our being in terms of our will, in terms of the dispositions and orientations that make up the will, what we desire, what we give ourselves to, what we're directed towards. Nevertheless, though, it is a deeply personal work like a circumcision. Therefore it is also played out in the broader context of community, and indeed community is the best place for the inculcation of the holy virtues of. Of love. Yeah. Yeah. You know all this talk about sanctification. I was just thinking at a more practical level. Why do so few people pursue it? Why do so so few people? And why don't you think about a life of holiness? Yeah, I mean, you think about, you know, a church and the percentage of people that are there that it appears we don't know the heart, but appears that they're just kind of checking off the check box. And then there's so few people that are actually really involved in discipleship and, and mentoring and being disabled and mentored and growing. It's it's not exactly we've been talking about just as you're talking about sanctification in the process. It just I just curious if any personal reflections on why so few people actually pursue it. Well, you know, that's that's a very, very good question. And it's something I've actually thought about because I don't see holiness oftentimes lifted up in the church.


And that's unfortunate. And so I see that. At least in part. Part of the problem here is leadership that. We're not teaching it and preaching it in the churches. We're not showing. And this is very serious because Jesus Christ himself said, without holiness, no one will see the Lord. So this obviously is a serious topic. Why do we avoid this? Well, because if we talk about holiness in the church, well, then we're going to be talking about sin. And lots of people don't want to talk about sending church. And so, you know, you have this issue. But watch this. You know, Wesley was very clear. And even beyond Wesley, we can look at other theologians. We can look at scripture. What is holiness. And if we pursue holiness, what's going to be the consequence of that? And Wesley sees an intimate relation between holiness and happiness, Genuine, real happiness. Now, sometimes we can't see that so clearly when we view it positively. But look at it negatively. Look at on holiness, envy, revenge, jealousy. Could anyone be happy so long as those unholy tempers dominated the heart? Of course not. Of course you can't be happy. And so I think in the church today, we have lost a rich appreciation. That holiness and happiness go hand in hand. We may think that holiness somehow or other leads to a kind of Dao or religion. You know, a restricted unhappy on joyous on, you know. And we have those images in our mind, but they're false because holiness is exciting. Holiness has very much to do with beauty. The beauty of God and holiness has very much to do with happiness. And so in answer to your question, I think I fault the leadership. I feel the the ministers in the pulpit, the teachers behind the lectern, that they're not doing their job well enough because folk in the church should be hankering after a God of holy love and want to be transformed in that image of holiness whereby they will assuredly become beautiful.


Yes, they'll become beautiful. I really like how you described. The freedom or the lack of freedom, and how the sinner, because of the habits of the heart, right, is enslaved a sin? Yes. And as they get further down that particular spiral, they're less free to do good, Right? And for the saint has to develop the habits of hard that are good. They you're less free to sin. That's right. And I just think rather than Christianity being pictured as a thou shalt not kind of thing, it's really about freedom. Oh, it's a freedom that leads to holiness, leads to happiness, I think is a really helpful way to look at things. Yeah. And I want to pick up on your point because I think it's a very good one. Young people today, this is this is what they tell me. Even Albert Outlaw mentioned this before he died. Young people today do not respond to appeals to guilt. In other words, preach the law, preach, you know, preach the moral law, try to prick the conscience, get them guilty. They don't respond to that. They don't respond to it. Because what'll happen is and I've seen this I've seen this in the classroom. What happens is, oh, if you knew the home I grew up in. You know, so they're passing the moral buck there that they're not guilty because they're passing it on to the circumstances out of which they came. And so they don't respond to that. I mean, Luther in the 16th century was terribly guilty. I mean, his conscience was anguished until he could find that release in faith in Jesus Christ. But that that's not playing out today. But watch this. And it relates to your observation here. Students, students in my classrooms today, they know what bondage is.


They know they know what slavery is, and therefore, they greatly value freedom. So if you come along and start talking about a gospel of liberty, real liberty, setting the captives free, you've got their attention. You've got their attention. And and, you know, we have the goods in the church because the gospel is about liberty. It's about freedom in so many ways, in so many forms. It's about freedom from the guilt of sin. How many people wake up each morning with a load of guilt on their backs and they're going to carried around all day and they're going to go to bed with that load of guilt on their backs and it's crippling their existence. It really is. Or we have freedom from the power and dominion of sin through the regenerating graces of God. That's a tremendous liberty to enjoy that the things that once held us deeply and enslaved us, we've been set free not of ourselves, but through God's grace in us. Okay. And then we also have the freedom. And it's a great freedom. The freedom to love. The freedom to love God, the freedom to love our neighbor. That's a huge freedom. The person who is jealous or is envious, they don't have that freedom and they live a diminished life, such a crop down life. And so we have to invite them to the more the beauty, the goodness that's in the gospel. And it comes about by grace. So maybe some of our work has to be to really challenge some of these misunderstandings about holiness, as if it were, you know, not a desirable thing, that it's a restricted thing. It's a wonderful thing. It's a beautiful thing. It has to do with freedom. It has to do with love.


It has to do with God. And it has to do with beauty. Mm hmm. Yeah. I was thinking over the break, and it kind of relates to this, too, but. I think the way we view sin or the way we don't view the severity of SEN has a lot to do with why we don't pursue holiness. And it's thinking about how. Damaging it is to our relationship with God. I think if we knew that, if we understood the vast enormity of the consequences of our son in terms of our relationship, we will want to pursue that or be more aware of our actions throughout the day. But. Or to set it another way. The only way to really pursue holiness is to know the depths of sin. That if you're not really convinced of how bad bad can be, you won't be enticed to the beauty of holiness. There's another way to say the same thing. Yeah, yeah. And I, I follow that. I, I, I see that, um, we were talking before, during lunch. However, I'm going to bring in another example to illustrate what we're talking about here. And we were talking about bondage and freedom in our conversation and we were actually talking about 12 step programs and we were talking about the example of alcoholics, for example, you know, men or women who have suffered under that bondage, and it's wreaked havoc in their lives. And they can see all the negative consequences of that. And sure, after a period of time, those negative consequences are going to be very real. But then we made the observation that as great as it is, when they get sober and it's a wonderful thing, it's a wonderful thing, we rejoice in that. And I, as a good Wesleyan, would see that as an expression of the pervading grace of God by which they got free.


That doesn't mean they're redeemed. That doesn't mean they're redeemed. They may be. They may not. The thing is, have they believed salvific early on? Jesus Christ? If so, then they are redeemed because they have received the forgiveness of sins and they have been transformed in their nature whereby they become holy. But for many it will simply be getting free from alcohol. Okay. And that doesn't mean you redeem, because there are so many people who've never had a problem with alcohol in their sinners and they need a God of holy love. And you can take that with any of the evils that 12 step programs deal with. And the same sort of logic will or will apply. We rejoice with you that you get free, but that doesn't mean you're redeemed, because to be redeemed is to receive the forgiveness of sins and to be made wholly, to be holy. That's very much part and parcel of what it means to be redeemed. So these are good conversations and I hear what's coming out of out of what you're saying is that over time the consequences should speak loudly. But it's amazing. I know of of instances, people I can think of, the consequences were huge. They continued on and they continued on. I can think of one case in particular, continued on to death. Yeah. I mean, they died in their addiction. Yeah, they did.