Nineteen Questions-2. Are You Going On to Perfection?

I was 15 years old—attending my first ever session of Annual Conference when I first heard this question. The question struck me as odd at first. I was a new Christian and to that point everything had been about my conversion experience. All I knew is that I was a sinner saved by grace—the idea of “going on to perfection” seemed out of place.

The more I learned about God, and the more I learned about the Wesleyan movement, however, the more I fell in love with the doctrine of perfection in love. Perfection is central to the DNA of the Wesleyan tradition.

John Wesley, in his sermon Christian Perfection, said it this way “By perfection I mean the humble, gentle, patient love of God, and our neighbors, ruling our tempers, words, and actions.” For Wesley, perfection was synonymous with holiness or total sanctification.

Wesley made this emphasis that was really a re-emphasis on the Holy Spirit. In the reformation there was so much emphasis on conversion and justification through faith in Christ alone, and rightly so as Christology needed to be brought back to the center, that the work of the Holy Spirit in the human heart was completely de-emphasized. Wesley was bringing into focus the fullness of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit works in our lives to bring us to perfection.

Going on to perfection is the post-conversion process of the Holy Spirit re-orienting our lives away from sin and toward holiness. Dr. Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary, wrote that perfection “doesn’t mean your life is free from sin. But it does mean that sin becomes your mortal enemy, not your secret lover.”[1]

I can look back over my own life and see where God’s sanctifying grace has been at work through the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit moving me on to perfection.image1.JPG By the grace and mercy of God, I am not the person I was when Christ found me, I’m not the person I was five years ago, I’m not the person I was last week. I have come to celebrate the process of going on to perfection by rejoicing in all the small victories where I can see that my heart has been re-oriented away from sin, where I can say that I am more loving, more Christ-like, more even-tempered. I am far from perfection (just ask my wife), but the Holy Spirit continues to work in my heart and life and move me toward it.

Are you going on to perfection? I am, by the grace of God.

[1] Tennent, Timothy C. Awakening Holiness. Wilmore, KY: Seedbed, 2011. E-Book. P.36

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