Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message on Healing; Date: 8 August 10

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Healing As Holiness

 

Can I please have a show of hands – who is suffering from a sickness this morning? What ailments are weighing us down – the flu, chest infection, head-aches, blood disorders, arth ritis, depression, cancer? Look around you – do you think that right now – this morning – God desires the healing of all that are sick among us? Do you have faith? Are you certain (you know that you know) that God commands us (his church) to effect the healing of all those that have put up their hands in Jesus’ name?

Yes or no? There are plenty of Christians – in fact: more Christians than not – that argue with passion against faith for healing in this life and much of what they are saying makes a lot of sense because it is based on the undeniable data of human experience. It doesn’t seem to work. So many times – even among us – Christians pray for healing and nothing seems to happen. [You fast and pray – you get your hopes up – and the person still does not recover.] How can this be? Faced with this dilemma (and the disappointment of unanswered prayer) most Christians come to the conclusion that – on second thought – maybe we are not meant to have faith assurance for healing in this life. Healing is for heaven but not for now.

Even the greatest faith healers in the church often seemed to die before their time which only reinforced negative conclusions. For instance, I quote what one pastor wrote in this matter:

 

Earl Jackson: Word Faith Movement – “Name It And Claim It” (www.revearljackson.com/uploads/3/2/2/5/322557/word__faith_-_name_it_and_claim_it__ehj.pdf, 2009): “ … Benny Hinn – … May 26, 1983 plane crash – six people injured and admitted to hospital. Hinn healed none of them. He reported no miracles. He [himself] was treated for being in a state of shock. He and his wife were also admitted to Florida Hospital in Orlando and stayed three days. No miracles were reported in the hospital either.

           Wife Suzanne Hinn. Has been on psychiatric medication since 1996. The atonement [the victory that Jesus accomplished on the cross] does not work for Benny Hinn, why should we believe it will work for his followers? …

Kathryn Kuhlman – One of the most famous healers in American History. Died in 1976 from a disease which she battled for 20 years. She died of heart disease in Ann Arbor Michigan. The atonement did not heal Kathryn Kuhlman. Why should we believe that it will heal us?

John G. Lake – Founder of the healing rooms movement. Documented over 100,000 healings in first five years alone. Died of a stroke after four days of hospitalization and round the clock prayer by his followers. The Atonement did not heal John G. Lake. It doesn’t heal us either …

Mack Timberlake – In April 1997, Bishop Mack Timberlake, Jr., was diagnosed with fourth stage throat cancer and was only given 4 weeks to live. But he rose up and declared, ‘I'll live and not die, in Jesus’ name!’ Guess what? He’s dead! The atonement did not heal him ...

John Wimber – Leader in what is known as ‘The signs & Wonders Movement’. Wrote book called ‘Power Healing’. Suffered throughout his latter years with obesity, angina, heart disease, and when he was finally diagnosed with cancer he underwent Chemo-therapy, and died from a cancerous hemorrhage. No healing in the atonement. No Power-healing. Only Chemo! … ”

 

How is our faith level now? Human experience cannot be denied and there are further – more sophisticated – arguments. In this life – so say many – healing from sickness is the same as healing from sin. It’s not going to happen. Christ died to free us from sin but what does your experience tell you? Every day – we still sin. Therefore, based on our experience – and I now quote the same pastor from before: “ … [Jesus’] death has not yet actually freed us from sin. If we were actually freed from sin, then we would be sinless. But we are not, and we cannot be sinless in this life. [Deliverance does not occur till we get to heaven.]”

Do you understand the argument and do you agree with it? In this life – healing from sickness is the same as healing from sin. Both are yet unattainable.

However, can I suggest to you that this is Christian teaching (theology) at its worst – based on experience but denying all of the promises of God. This is the kind of Christian teaching which keeps everyone comfortable – (don’t worry about being defeated by sickness and sin) – but stunts the growth of faith and holiness and damns the church to operate without any power.

The truth is far more positive. Yes – in this life – healing from sickness is the same as healing from sin. Both are attainable. At least we can grow into attaining a greater measure of healing on both counts. Victory will come over sickness as over sin.

When I contemplate the healing will of God, I always keep the healing of sickness and sin together and it encourages me because I accept that my own personal holiness involves a process of growing in maturity and therefore I am not surprised when the same applies to healing over sickness. There is a process of growing in the healing ministry and the two are even connected because – many a time – the more I am being healed of sin, the more I can also have the healing of sickness.

 For instance, the Bible says – James 5:14-16: “Is any one of you sick? … the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well … If he has sinned [please note: not all sickness is related to sin but ‘if he has sinned’ … ] … confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effectiveAccording to these Bible verses – on occasion – as sin is healed – as sin is confessed and forgiven – so the body is healed from sickness. And – further confirming the connection between growing in healing from sin and sickness – it is the prayer of a righteous person – the prayer of a person already being healed and purified from sin – that is powerful and effective in the healing ministry.

For me this is the greatest encouragement to persevere with healing prayer in the face of many disappointments. The healing of sin – on many levels – is the same as the healing of sickness. What applies to the one, applies to the other. The Bible teaches that both healings are promised to us on account of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. [Matthew 8:16-17: “ … Jesus healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.’”] We cannot give up on either of them. Both are attainable but they both involve our growing in maturity – a process of manifesting the healing of sin and sickness in our lives.

We are going to unpack this now because it could just be – (and this is where the church has lost so much of its grounding in Bible truth) – that many Christians object even more aggressively to the healing from sin in this life than any other kind of healing. Can you overcome sin in this life? Think about it! Can you stop sinning – no more lying, stealing, lustful glances, and so on? Yes or no? The answer will determine what you think about the healing of the body.

I read from the Bible – Matthew 17:14-21: “When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. ‘Lord, have mercy on my son,’ he said. ‘He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.’ ‘O unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? Bring the boy to me.’ Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment … ”

Jesus expected both from his disciples and the people. 1) They were to be a believing and righteous generation (rather than an unbelieving and perverse one) and 2) they were to heal the boy. However, these days many of us in the church say: “Not every boy is going to be healed in this life and – with all respect – we are always going to remain an unbelieving and perverse generation. We are human. We are poor miserable sinners. Therefore, Jesus – please – do not get angry with us but keep forgiving us – we keep sinning and you keep forgiving – because we know that you died for this reason.” Is this you? You may not have spelled it out for yourself in this way but most of us – myself included – we love the idea of forgiveness from sin but have less confidence in the notion that Jesus died so that we would sin no more. Do you believe that – even now – the sin in your life will be conquered for obedience to the perfect will of God?

For John Wesley – a church father from the 1700s – this was absolutely central in his teaching and subsequently it became the grand inheritance of the Methodist denomination but – so scholars agree – nothing caused Wesley so much trouble and controversy as his teaching about Christian Perfection. Wesley believed that God could do more with sin than forgive it. He was sure that there is a transforming power in grace – a growth in holiness towards Christian Perfection.

Charles Finney – another church father from the 1800s – ran into the same problem. Listen to his account (abbreviate and retell in your own words):

 

… During this winter, the Lord gave my own soul a very thorough overhauling, and a fresh baptism of his Spirit. I boarded at the Marlborough hotel, and my study and bedroom were in one corner of the chapel building. My mind was greatly drawn out in prayer, for a long time; as indeed it always has been, when I have labored in Boston. I have been favored there, uniformly, with a great deal of the spirit of prayer. But this winter, in particular, my mind was exceedingly exercised on the question of personal holiness; and in respect to the state of the church, their want of power with God; the weakness of the orthodox churches in Boston, the weakness of their faith, and their want of power in the midst of such a community. The fact that they were making little or no progress in overcoming the errors of city, greatly affected my mind.

I gave myself to a great deal of prayer. After my evening services, I would retire as early as I well could; but rose at four o’clock in the morning, because I could sleep no longer, and immediately went to the study, and engaged in prayer. And so deeply was my mind exercised, and so absorbed in prayer, that I frequently continued from the time I arose, at four o’clock, till the gong called to breakfast, at eight o’clock. My days were spent, so far as I could get time, in searching the Scriptures. I read nothing else, all that winter, but my Bible; and a great deal of it seemed new to me.

Again the Lord took me, as it were, from Genesis to Revelation. He led me to see the connection of things, the promises, threatenings, the prophecies and their fulfillment; and indeed, the whole Scripture seemed to me all ablaze with light, and not only light, but it seemed as if God’s word was instinct with the very life of God.

After praying in this way for weeks and months, one morning while I was engaged in prayer, the thought occurred to me, what if, after all this divine teaching, my will is not carried, and this teaching takes effect only in my sensibility? May it not be that my sensibility is affected, by these revelations from reading the Bible, and that my heart is not really subdued by them? At this point several passages of scripture occurred to me, much as this: “Line must be upon line, line upon line, precept upon precept, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little, that they might go and fall backward, and be snared and taken.” The thought that I might be deceiving myself, when it first occurred to me, stung me almost like an adder. It created a pang that I cannot describe. The passages of Scripture that occurred to me, in that direction, for a few moments greatly increased my distress. But directly I was enabled to fall back upon the perfect will of God. I said to the Lord, that if he saw it was wise and best, and that his honor demanded that I should be left to be deluded, and go down to hell, I accepted his will, and I said to him, “Do with me as seemeth thee good.”

Just before this occurrence, I had a great struggle to consecrate myself to God, in a higher sense than I had ever before seen to be my duty, or conceived as possible. I had often before, laid my family all upon the altar of God, and left them to be disposed of at his discretion. But at this time that I now speak of, I had had a great struggle about giving up my wife to the will of God. She was in very feeble health, and it was very evident that she could not live long. I had never before seen so clearly, what was implied in laying her, and all that I possessed, upon the altar of God; and for hours I struggled upon my knees, to give her up unqualifiedly to the will of God. But I found myself unable to do it. I was so shocked and surprised at this, that I perspired profusely with agony. I struggled and prayed until I was exhausted, and found myself entirely unable to give her altogether up to God’s will, in such a way as to make no objection to his disposing of her just as he pleased.

This troubled me much. I wrote to my wife, telling her what a struggle I had, and the concern that I had felt at not being willing to commit her, without reserve, to the perfect will of God. This was but a very short time before I had this temptation, as it now seems to me to have been, of which I have spoken, when those passages of Scripture came up distressingly to my mind, and when the bitterness, almost of death seemed, for a few moments, to possess me, at the thought that my religion might be of the sensibility only, and that God’s teaching might have taken effect only in my feeling. But as I said, I was enabled, after struggling for a few moments with this discouragement and bitterness, which I have since attributed to a fiery dart of Satan, to fall back, in a deeper sense than I had ever done before upon the infinitely blessed and perfect will of God. I then told the Lord that I had such confidence in him, that I felt perfectly willing, to give myself, my wife and my family, all to be disposed of according to his own wisdom.

I then had a deeper view of what was implied in consecration to God, than ever before. I spent a long time upon my knees, in considering the matter all over, and giving up everything to the will of God; the interests of the church, the progress of religion, the conversion of the world, and the salvation or damnation of my own soul, as the will of God might decide.

Indeed I recollect, that I went so far as to say to the Lord, with all my heart, that he might do anything with me or mine, to which his blessed will could consent; that I had such perfect confidence in his goodness and love, as to believe that he could consent to do nothing, to which I could object. I felt a kind of holy boldness, in telling him to do with me just as seemed to him good; that he could not do anything that was not perfectly wise and good; and therefore, I had the best of grounds for accepting whatever he could counsel it to, in respect to me and mine. So deep and perfect a resting in the will of God, I had never before known.

What has appeared strange to me is this, that I could not get hold of my former hope; nor could I recollect, with any freshness, any of the former seasons of communion and divine assurance that I had experienced. I may say that I gave up my hope, and rested everything upon a new foundation.

I mean, I gave up my hope from any past experience, and recollect telling the Lord, that I did not know whether he intended to save me or not. Nor did I feel concerned to know. I was willing to abide the event. I said that if I found that he kept me, and worked in me by his Spirit, and was preparing me for heaven, working holiness and eternal life in my soul, I should take it for granted that he intended to save me; that if, on the other hand, I found myself empty of divine strength and light and love, I should conclude that he saw it wise and expedient to send me to hell; and that in either event I would accept his will. My mind settled into a perfect stillness.

This was early in the morning; and through the whole of that day, I seemed to be in a state of perfect rest, body and soul. The question frequently arose in my mind, during the day, “Do you still adhere to your consecration, and abide in the will of God?” I said without hesitation, “Yes, I take nothing back. I have no reason for taking anything back; I went no farther in pledges and professions than was reasonable. I have no reason for taking anything back; I do not want to take anything back.” The thought that I might be lost, did not distress me. Indeed, think as I might, during that whole day, I could not find in my mind the least fear, the least disturbing emotion. Nothing troubled me. I was neither elated nor depressed; I was neither, as I could see, joyful or sorrowful. My confidence in God was perfect, my acceptance of his will was perfect, and my mind was as calm as heaven.

Just at evening, the question arose in my mind, “What if God should send me to hell, what then?” “Why, I would not object to it.” “But can he send a person to hell,” was the next inquiry, “who accepts his will, in the sense in which you do?” This inquiry was no sooner raised in my mind than settled. I said, “No, it is impossible. Hell could be no hell to me, if I accepted God’s perfect will.” This sprung a vein of joy in my mind, that kept developing more and more, for weeks and months, and indeed I may say, for years. For years my mind was too fall of joy to feel much exercised with anxiety on any subject. My prayer that had been so fervent, and protracted during so long a period, seemed all to run out into, “Thy will be done.” It seemed as if my desires were all met. What I had been praying for, for myself, I had received in a way that I least expected.

Holiness to the Lord seemed to be inscribed on all the exercises of my mind. I had such strong faith that God would accomplish all his perfect will, that I could not be careful about anything. The great anxieties about which my mind had been exercised, during my seasons of agonizing prayer, seemed to be set aside; so that for a long time, when I went to God, to commune with him — as I did very, very frequently — I would fall on my knees, and find it impossible to ask for anything, with any earnestness, except that his will might be done in earth as it is done in heaven. My prayers were swallowed up in that; and I often found myself smiling, as it were, in the face of God, and saying that I did not want anything. I was very sure that he would accomplish all his wise and good pleasure; and with that my soul was entirely satisfied.

Here I lost that great struggle in which I had been engaged, for so long a time, and began to preach to the congregation, in accordance with this my new and enlarged experience. There was a considerable number in the church, and that attended my preaching, who understood me; and they saw from my preaching what had been, and what was, passing in my mind. I presume the people were more sensible than I was myself, of the great change in my manner of preaching. Of course, my mind was too full of the subject to preach anything except a full and present salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.

At this time it seemed as if my soul was wedded to Christ, in a sense in which I had never had any thought or conception of before. The language of the Song of Solomon, was as natural to me as my breath. I thought I could understand well the state of mind he was in, when he wrote that song; and concluded then, as I have ever thought since, that song was unwritten by him, after he had been reclaimed from his great backsliding. I not only had all the freshness of my first love, but a vast accession to it.

Indeed the Lord lifted me so much above anything that I had experienced before, and taught me so much of the meaning of the Bible, of Christ’s relations, and power, and willingness, that I often found myself saying to him, “I had not known or conceived that any such thing was true.” I then realized what is meant by the saying, that he “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” He did at that time teach me, indefinitely above all that I had ever asked or thought. I had no conception of the length and breadth, and height and depth, and efficiency of his grace.

It seemed then to me that that passage, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” meant so much, that it was wonderful I had never understood it before. I found myself exclaiming, “Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!” as these revelations were made to me. I could understand then what was meant by the prophet when he said, “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.” I spent nearly all the remaining part of the winter, till I was obliged to return home, in instructing the people in regard to the fullness there is in Christ.

But I found that I preached over the heads of the majority of the people. They did not understand me. There was, indeed, a goodly number that did; and they were wonderfully blessed in their souls, and made more progress in the divine life, as I have reason to believe, than in all their lives before …

Some of them could see where I was. One evening I recollect that Deacon P— and Deacon S—, after hearing my preaching, and seeing the effect upon the congregation, came up to me, after I came out of the pulpit, and said, “Why, you are a great way ahead of us in this city, and a great way ahead of our ministers. How can we get our ministers to come and hear these truths?” I replied, “I do not know. But I wish they could see things as I do; for it does seem to me infinitely important that there should be a higher standard of holiness in Boston.” They seemed exceedingly anxious to have those truths laid before the people in general. They were good men, as the Boston people well know; but what pains they really took, to get their ministers and people to attend, I cannot say.

I labored that winter mostly for a revival of religion among Christians. The Lord prepared me to do so, by the great work he wrought in my own soul.

Although I had much of the divine life working within me; yet, as I said, so far did what I experienced that winter, exceed all that I had before experienced, that at times I could not realize that I had ever before been truly in communion with God.

To be sure I had been, often and for a long time; and this I knew when I reflected upon it, and remembered through what I had so often passed. It appeared to me, that winter, that probably when we get to heaven, our views and joys, and holy exercises, will so far surpass anything that we have ever experienced in this life, that we shall be hardly able to recognize the fact that we had any religion, while in this world. I had in fact oftentimes experienced inexpressible joys, and very deep communion with God; but all this had fallen so into the shade, under my enlarged experience, that frequently I would tell the Lord that I had never before had any conception of the wonderful things revealed in his blessed Gospel, and the wonderful grace there is in Christ Jesus. This language, I knew when I reflected upon it, was comparative; but still all my former experiences, for the time, seemed to be sealed up, and almost lost sight of.

As the great excitement of that season subsided, and my mind became more calm, I saw more clearly the different steps of my Christian experience, and came to recognize the connection of things, as all wrought by God from beginning to end. But since then I have never had those great struggles, and long protracted seasons of agonizing prayer, that I had often experienced. It is quite another thing to prevail with God, in my own experience, from what it was before. I can come to God with more calmness, because with more perfect confidence. He enables me now to rest in him, and let everything sink into his perfect will, with much more readiness, than ever before the experience of that winter.

I have felt since then a religious freedom, a religious buoyancy and delight in God, and in his word, a steadiness of faith, a Christian liberty and overflowing love, this I had only experienced, I may say, occasionally before. I do not mean that such exercises had been rare to me before; for they had been frequent and often repeated, but never abiding as they have been since. My bondage seemed to be, at that time, entirely broken; and since then, I have had the freedom of a child with a loving parent. It seems to me that I can find God within me, in such a sense, that I can rest upon him and be quiet, lay my heart in his hand, and nestle down in his perfect will, and have no carefulness or anxiety.

I speak of these exercises as habitual, since that period, but I cannot affirm that they have been altogether unbroken; for in 1860, during a period of sickness, I had a season of great depression, and wonderful humiliation.

But the Lord brought me out of it, into an established peace and rest.

A few years after this season of refreshing, that beloved wife, of whom I have spoken, died. This was to me a great affliction. However, I did not feel any murmuring, or the least resistance to the will of God …

These are experiences in which I have lived, a great deal, since that time.

But in preaching, I have found that nowhere can I preach those truths, on which my own soul delights to live, and be understood, except it be by a very small number. I have never found that more than a very few, even of my own people, appreciate and receive those views of God and Christ, and the fullness of his free salvation, upon which my own soul still delights to feed. Everywhere, I am obliged to come down to where the people are, in order to make them understand me; and in every place where I have preached, for many years, I have found the churches in so low a state, as to be utterly incapable of apprehending and appreciating, what I regard as the most precious truths of the whole Gospel.

When preaching to impenitent sinners, I am obliged, of course, to go back to first principles. In my own experience, I have so long passed these outposts and first principles, that I cannot live upon those truths. I, however, have to preach them to the impenitent, to secure their conversion. When I preach the Gospel, I can preach the atonement, conversion, and many of the prominent views of the Gospel, that are appreciated and accepted, by those who are young in the religious life; and by those also, who have been long in the church of God, and have made very little advancement in the knowledge of Christ. But it is only now and then, that I find it really profitable to the people of God, to pour out to them the fullness that my own soul sees in Christ. In this place, there is a larger number of persons, by far, that understand me, and devour that class of truths, than I have found elsewhere; but even here, the majority of professors of religion, do not understandingly embrace those truths. They do not object, they do not oppose; and so far as they understand, they are convinced. But as a matter of experience, they are ignorant of the power of the highest and most precious truths of the Gospel of salvation, in Christ Jesus.

I said that this winter in Boston, was spent mostly in preaching to professed Christians, and that many of them were greatly blessed in their souls. I felt very confident that, unless the foundations could be relayed in some sense, and that unless the Christians in Boston took on a higher type of Christian living, they never could prevail against Unitarianism. I knew that the orthodox ministers had been preaching orthodoxy, as opposed to Unitarianism, for many years; and that all that could be accomplished by discussion, had been accomplished. But I felt that what Unitarians needed, was to see Christians live out the pure Gospel of Christ. They needed to hear them say, and prove what they said by their lives, that Jesus Christ was a divine Savior, and able to save them from all sin. Their professions of faith in Christ, did not accord with their experiences. They could not say that they found Christ in their experience, what they preached him to be. There is needed the testimony of God’s living witnesses, the testimony of experience, to convince the Unitarians; and mere reasonings and arguments, however conclusive, will never overcome their errors and their prejudices … [1]

 

 

  Charles Finney – one winter – was greatly excercised on the question of personal holiness and his quest was also fueled by the apparent weakness of the church. How could there be more victory over sin in one’s own life and the wider community – more faith, more progress and power in the church? After much praying he was confronted by the question whether his own will was really surrendered to the will of God. Was he only feeling positive about the Christian faith but was not committed to obey? He struggled to consecrate himself to God but he did “in a higher sense than he had ever before seen to be his duty, or conceived as possible”. He surrendered his wife to God and even his inheritance in heaven with the result that – by God’s unexpected doing – “holiness to the Lord seemed to be inscribed on all the exercises of his mind” and “the language of the Song of Solomon became as natural to him as his breath”. For him everything about God became absolutely wonderful but when he preached what he had experienced from the Bible, he found that his preaching went over the heads of the majority. Only a very small number understood him. He wrote: “ … in every place where I have preached, for many years, I have found the churches in so low a state, as to be utterly incapable of apprehending and appreciating, what I regard as the most precious truths of the whole Gospel … ”

One winter Charles Finney had been exercised on the question of personal holiness and then God let him experience radical consecration – radical surrender – with the wonderful fruit of a whole new level of freedom from sin, holiness, love and joy. Yet, so few other Christians could relate to the experience and therefore remained in a low state where the church was beaten down by a lack of power.

When the teaching of a greater measure of holiness finally broke through in Finney’s ministry, it did so with much fruit. He writes (abbreviate and retell in your own words):

 

When the question of entire sanctification first came up here for public discussion, and when the subject first attracted the general attention of the church, we were in the midst of a powerful revival. When the revival was going on hopefully, one day President Mahan had been preaching a searching discourse. I observed in the course of his preaching that he had left one point untouched, that appeared to me of great importance in that connection. He would often ask me when he closed his sermon if I had any remarks to make, and he did on this occasion. I arose and pressed the point that he had omitted. It was the distinction between desire and will. From the course of thought he had presented, and from the attitude in which I saw that the congregation was at the time, I saw, or thought I saw, that the pressing of that distinction just at that point would throw much light upon the question whether they were really Christians or not, whether they were really consecrated persons, or whether they merely had desires without being in fact willing to do the will of God. When this distinction was made clear just in that connection, I recollect the Holy Spirit fell upon the congregation in a most remarkable manner. A large number of persons dropped down their heads, and some of them groaned so that they could be heard all over the house. It cut up the false hopes of deceived professors on every side. Several of them arose on the spot, and said that they had been deceived, and that they could see wherein; and this was carried to such an extent as greatly astonished me, and indeed produced a general feeling of astonishment, I think, in the congregation. However, it was reality, and very plainly a revelation of the state of the heart of the people made by the Spirit of God.

The work went on with power; and old professors either obtained a new hope or were reconverted in such numbers, that a very great and important change came over the whole community. President Mahan had been greatly blessed among others, with some of our professors. Brother Mahan came manifestly into an entirely new form of Christian experience at that time. In a meeting a few days after this, one of our theological students arose and put the inquiry, whether the Gospel did not provide for Christians all the conditions of an established faith, and hope, and love; whether there was not something better and higher than Christians had generally experienced; in short, whether sanctification was not attainable in this life, that is sanctification in such a sense that Christians could have unbroken peace, and not come into condemnation, or have the feeling of condemnation or a consciousness of sin. Brother Mahan immediately answered, “Yes.” What occurred at this meeting brought the question of sanctification prominently before us as a practical question. We had no theories on the subject, no philosophy to maintain, but simply took it up as a Bible question. In this form it existed amongst us as an experimental truth, which we did not attempt to reduce to a theological formula, nor did we attempt to explain its philosophy until years afterwards. But the discussion and settling of this question here was a great blessing to us, and to a great number of our students who are now scattered in various parts of the United States, and in missionary stations in different parts of the world

 

How are we taking this in? Wesley and Finney may have had their experiences and we can acknowledge them but can we share their optimism in overcoming sin with the same joy and feelings of love? And could it be that what released the Holy Spirit among them, would also release more of the Holy Spirit among us? Do we also need to cut up the false hope of people in the church (good members even) that desire to be Christians but on the whole are most unwilling to let go of sin in their life? These are the questions: Can we grow in holiness? Is it actually expected and necessary for salvation? Can we be healed from sin and if so – coming back to the underlying theme of this message – can we therefore also be healed from sickness in the body?

This is fundamental teaching on the Christian faith. The Bible is under no illusion that there is any human on earth that is without sin. We are not – you are not – but – at the same – perfection is what God commands from man, woman and child, and he himself demonstrated that – at least in theory – this is possible because the Son of God – Jesus Christ – himself became a human and was without sin. Jesus Christ was God with God the Father in heaven but he came from heaven to earth when a woman gave birth to him as a human baby and then – for the entire length of his time on earth – he did not make use of his divine nature but was human like us which included the whole range of temptations that we also face. I read from the Bible – Philippians 2:6-8: “Who, being in very nature God … made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man … ” Hebrews 4:15: “ … we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin

Looking at Jesus Christ we have to say that complete healing of sin in our lives is possible because he did it – for us – and he did not cheat. For instance, when he was tempted by lust, he did not just supernaturally switch off his sex drive. When he was tempted by hunger, he did not just secretly snack on supernatural manna. [When he was tempted, he was as dependent as we are on the power of the Holy Spirit.] He suffered what we suffer – yet was without sin, which qualified him to be the perfect sacrifice for our salvation. One man was perfect – Jesus Christ – and then he made us all perfect when he offered himself to God for us.

I read again from the Bible – 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Hebrews 2:14-18: “ … Jesus also became a human being, so that by going through death as a man he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil … It is plain that for this purpose he did not become an angel; he became a man, in actual fact a descendant of Abraham. It was imperative that he should be made like his brothers [fellow humans] in every respect … to make atonement for the sins of the people … ” [JB Phillips].

The Bible’s core teaching on salvation demands that we recognize: In Jesus the holy requirements of God’s law were fulfilled in a human person. He did it – for us – so that now we could follow in his footsteps.

We take this in slowly. Jesus was a man – a human person – without sin, which qualified him to become the perfect sacrifice for our sin. As he died on the cross an exchange happened and this exchange is at the core of our salvation. On the cross of Jesus Christ our sin became his and his life without sin became ours. I repeat one Bible verse from before – 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of GodAnd one more reference – Colossians 1:20-23: “ … [God the Father] was making peace through the blood [of Jesus Christ], shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation … ”

The perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross made us holy in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation but this needs a few more words of explanation. You can be holy and free from the blemishes of sin right now. If your head is full of shameful memories, all you need to do is call upon Jesus and trust him. Believe that he also died for you and that on account of his sacrifice on the cross you will be forgiven. Then, God will forgive you which means that he will wash you clean from all sin. What God forgives, is taken away from you and – then – every day you can go back to this. Every new sin can and will be taken away in the same way. Look to Jesus – 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness

Without this we would not be saved. If we were not able to receive forgiveness from Jesus every new day, none of us would make it to heaven because every new day there are new sins but – and this is the next step – there should be fewer sins than before. As God forgives us, he does not just cleanse us from our sins, he also empowers us to sin no more – Ephesians 2:8-10: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship [his masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to doBy grace – by God’s undeserved love – we are becoming something new: his workmanship. In other Bible passages the talk is about receiving a new nature from God – 2 Corinthians 5:17: “ … if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has comeAnd as we are this new creation – God’s workmanship – there is something in his new design for us that wants to obey him – do good works – and sin no more: “ … we are God’s workmanship [his masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to doAlso – 2 Philippians 2:13: “ … it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose

How this works in practice is how it worked for Jesus when he was a human person on earth. We – as God’s workmanship and new creation – receive the gift of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of holiness – the very Spirit of God – who then empowers us to overcome sin and be holy.

Please note – (there are many that go wrong here) – we can do absolutely nothing by ourselves. Our victory over sin depends on the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. It is a free gift which first grants us the forgiveness of sins and then – through the Holy Spirit – grants us the power – (that is: God’s power, not ours) – to live out the victory over sin. The more we learn to rely on the Holy Spirit, the more we will see the victory over sin manifest in our lives.

Listen to the Bible – Romans 6:1-2: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning … ? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:11-14: … count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness … sin shall not be your master … ” Romans 8:1-17: “ … through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free … You . are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you … if Christ is in you … your spirit is alive … if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live … ” Galatians 5:16-26: “ … live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other … But . you are led by the Spirit … Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit … ”

This is what makes a Christian. According to the Bible a Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ who is forgiven and then lives as a forgiven person – that is: with power to stay away from sin. Therefore Jesus said – Matthew 28:19-20: “ … go and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you … ” He also said – Matthew 5:20 – and this is radical: “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of other moral people [original: the Pharisees and the teachers of the law], you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven

The Bible is blunt – 1 John 3:4-10: “ … No one who lives in Jesus Christ keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray … He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God … ”

John Wesley and Charles Finney took such radical Bible verses seriously. A Christian is a disciple who is growing in practical holiness. A Christian is one that is making a commitment to stop sinning. How far can we go? The Bible would seem to suggest that far more is possible than we believe (or want). Jesus encourages us – Luke 22:40: “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 1 Corinthians 10:13: “ … God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it

Have we made our point? Sin can be overcome and – coming back once more to the underlying theme of this message – therefore – sickness can also be overcome. What applies to the one, applies to the other. Both are attainable. [Cf. This is also not surprising because Jesus’ saving work on the cross includes both: the victory over sin and sickness. See Matthew 8:16-17: “ … Jesus healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.’”] When Jesus confronted his disciples and the crowd because they could not heal a sick boy, he was right to become indignant and he was right, saying to them: “O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you? Bring the boy to me” (Matthew 17:14-21). Jesus has a right to expect from us – his disciples – that we stop our unbelief and sinful perversion and that we heal the sick boys in our midst. The power is there. The promises are there. His sacrifice on the cross provides far more than we could ever imagine.

Please – as I said in the beginning – for me the parallel between the healing of sin and the healing of sickness is the greatest encouragement to keep persevering with healing prayer. I am not weighed down by the fact that in both instances a process of maturity is involved. I think – and I hope that you agree with me – that this is an exciting journey. The promises of God are exciting and their fulfillment will come. More and more the victory over sin and sickness will manifest in our lives.

God made provision for the journey when we keep stumbling and falling. His grace is new every morning. Forgiveness is fresh every day. I repeat a Bible passage from the beginning – James 5:14-16: “Is any one of you sick? … If he has sinned [please note: not all sickness is related to sin but ‘if he has sinned’ … ] … confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective

Jesus told us to heal the sick (Matthew 10:7-8: “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons … ”) and I end with hammering what this looked like in Jesus’ ministry which is the model for our own ministry. Be encouraged. Have faith.

Matthew 4:23-25: “Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness among people … people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them … ” / Matthew 12:15: “ … Jesus … healed all their sick.” / Luke 4:16-44: “ … [Jesus said:] The Spirit of the Lord is on me … to preach good news to the poor … and recovery of sight for the blind … On the Sabbath he began to teach the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority … people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them … ” (cf. Luke 6:17-19; Acts 10:38) / Luke 9:11: “ … He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” / Luke 9:1-2: “ . Jesus … sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” / Mark 6:12-13: “The disciples of Jesus went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” / Acts 5:12-16: “ … bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.” / Acts 8:4-8: “ … Philip proclaimed . Christ … With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed … ” / Acts 28:7-10: “ … When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured … ”

We now pray for those that have raised their hands earlier. Amen.

 



[1] … The lectures on revivals of religion were preached while I was still pastor of the Presbyterian church in Chatham St. Chapel. The two following winters I preached lectures to Christians in the Broadway Tabernacle which were also reported by Brother Leavitt, and published in the New York Evangelist. These also have been printed in a volume in this country and in Europe. Those sermons to Christians were very much the result of a searching that was going on in my own mind. I mean, that the Spirit of God was showing me many things in regard to the question of sanctification that led me to preach those sermons to Christians. Many Christians regarded those lectures as rather an exhibition of the law than of the Gospel. But I did not, and do not, so regard them. For me the law and Gospel have but one rule of life; and every violation of the spirit of the law is also a violation of the Spirit of the Gospel. But I have long been satisfied that the higher forms of Christian experience are attained only as a result of a terribly searching application of God's law to the human conscience and heart.

The result of my labors up to that time had shown me more clearly than I had known before the great weakness of Christians, and that the older members of the church as a general thing were making very little progress in grace. I found that they would fall back from a revival state, even sooner than young converts, by far. It had been so in the revival in which I myself was converted. And I had often observed that many of the older members of the church would fall back into a state of comparative apathy and indifference much sooner than young converts. I saw clearly that this was owing to their early teaching; that is, to the views which they had been led to entertain when they were young converts. I was also led into a state of great dissatisfaction with my own want of stability in faith and love. To be candid and tell the truth, I must say to the praise of God's grace that He did not suffer me to backslide to anything like the same extent to which manifestly many Christians did backslide. But I often felt myself weak in the presence of temptation; and needed frequently to hold days of fasting and prayer, and to spend much time in overhauling my own religious life in order to retain that communion with God, and that hold upon the divine strength, that would enable me efficiently to labor for the promotion of revivals of religion.

In looking at the state of the Christian church as it had been revealed to me in my revival labors, I was led earnestly to inquire whether there was not something higher and more enduring than the Christian church was aware of; whether there were not promises, and means provided in the Gospel, for the establishment of Christians in altogether a higher form of Christian life. I had known considerable of the view of sanctification entertained by our Methodist brethren. But as their view of sanctification seemed to me to relate almost altogether to states of the sensibility, I could not receive their teaching. However, I gave myself earnestly to search the Scriptures, and to read whatever came to hand upon the subject, until my mind was satisfied that an altogether higher and more stable form of Christian life was attainable, and was the privilege of all Christians. This led me to preach in the Broadway Tabernacle two sermons on Christian perfection. Those sermons are now included in the volume of lectures preached to Christians. In those sermons I defined what Christian perfection was, and endeavored to show that it is attainable in this life, and the sense in which it is attainable. I said those sermons were published in the New York Evangelist. So far as I know they did not startle the Christian church as anything heretical; for until some time after I came to Oberlin I never heard the question of the truth of those sermons raised in any quarter. But about this time the question of Christian perfection in the Antinomian sense of the term, came to be agitated a good deal at New Haven, at Albany, and somewhat in New York City. I examined their views. I read and examined pretty thoroughly their periodical entitled, “The Perfectionist.” But I could not accept their peculiar views. Yet I was satisfied that the doctrine of sanctification in this life, and entire sanctification in the sense that it was the privilege of Christians to live without known sin, was a doctrine taught in the Bible, and that abundant means were provided for the securing of that attainment.

The last winter that I spent in New York the Lord was pleased to visit my soul with a great refreshing. After a season of great searching of heart He brought me, as He has often done, into a large place, and gave me much of that divine sweetness in my soul of which President Edwards speaks as an experience of his own soul. That winter I had a thorough breaking up, so much so that sometimes for a considerable period I could not refrain from loud weeping in view of my own sins, and of the love of God in Christ. Such seasons were frequent that winter, and resulted in the great renewal of my spiritual strength, and enlargement of my views in regard to the privileges of Christians and the abundance of the grace of God. It is well-known that my own views on the subject of sanctification have been the subject of a good deal of criticism …