Sanctification Lessons
Overcoming the Power of Sin

     

Looking back on almost fifty years of ministry - twenty-eight years as senior pastor of a fairly good size church - I’ve reached the conclusion that there are three topics the evangelical church has not dealt with very effectively: (1) evangelism - the need to encourage believers to consistently share their faith; (2) prophecy - the need to set the many calamitous events now taking place in the world within a prophetic framework; and, lastly, (3) sanctification - the need to teach believers how to overcome the power of sin, especially compulsive sin. 
     It’s the third topic - teaching believers how to overcome the power of sin - that I believe is especially relevant for Gen-Xers, Millennials and the up-coming generation, Gen Z, meaning anyone born since the mid-1990s. The immorality now inundating American society has trapped hundreds of thousands of them in addictive sins that are ruining their lives. 
     This page includes a brief description of several of the beginning lessons I’ll be teaching on sanctification - with a special emphasis on overcoming the power of a compulsive sin. It should give you an idea what to expect in taking this class.​ I’ll be setting aside lots of time during each session for discussion and questions. Each of the lessons briefly described below will require several weeks to cover. They are not one-week lessons.

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Many Christians are unaware that the Bible lays bare humanity’s basic psychology - from Adam and Eve, our primordial parents, up to and including you and me. It describes what makes all of us tick - the common dynamic that governs how we all think and behave - that over-rides our ethnic and cultural differences, including the many unique peculiarities arising from our often “poles apart” upbringings. Not surprisingly, it’s a dynamic that’s rooted in our response to sin. In this lesson, you will learn that there are five wounds that sin inflicts:
  • Guilt and the fear of impending judgment.
  • A gnawing sense of being at risk and vulnerable.
  • Alienation and estrangement - the sense of being unwelcome, unwanted, and excluded.
  • The sense of being stained and polluted along with a sense that life is meaningless and lacks purpose.
  • Anger and bitterness - the sense that injustice will always prevail and will go unpunished.

Psychology of a Sinner

Psychology of a Sinner

Press this link to view a video that explains the meaning and significance of the five wounds that sin inflicts. We will be spending a good amount of time on this lesson. It sets the stage for all the others. There's little doubt that simply one or two sessions of our class will be sufficient. 

It’s not possible for a believer to effectively under-take the difficult, arduous task of overcoming a compulsive sin without first fully grasping the truth that God is not about to hurl him headlong into hell if he occasionally fails; that he has been transferred from a state of wrath to a state of grace; that the wrath of God is not hanging over his head like the Sword of Damocles. A believer must understand that he is forever established in a state of grace..

Peace with God

God can never love us any less or any more than he loves us now. That’s the truth Paul wants us to wrap our minds and hearts ever so tightly around in Romans Chapter Five, before taking up the topic of sanctification beginning in Romans Chapters Six and Seven. Why? Because we can’t press forward our sanctification unless we truly believe it - unless we’re able to walk in it. Let me underscore that again: unless we’re convinced - truly convinced - that God loves us, even knowing that we will occasionally fail to be obedient, we will never be able to press forward our sanctification - meaning overcome the power of whatever compulsive sin might be plaguing us.

The Love of God Is
Not at Issue

This lesson underscores the truth that sanctification, meaning deliverance from the power of sin, is hard work. It’s very much different from justification - meaning deliverance from the penatly of sin. Justification is a one-time event that requires nothing on the part of a believer other than embracing it through faith. (“For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, least any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9). Sanctification, on the other hand, is a process extending over many years, not a one-time event. It can be summed up in three words: ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​“work it out.”  We begin our study of sanctification with this truth: that overcoming the power of a compuslve sin will not be easy. Once this truth is fully rooted in the minds and hearts of believers, we can get down to work.
In this lesson we will be examining exactly why any kind of relationship - including a relationship with God - requires personal autonomy and its concomitant, the right - indeed, the need - to choose. Choice is what gives rise to a sense of self, without which a genuine relationship is impossible. Choice is a relationship’s fundamental predicate. (“I choose to be with you.”) That’s a lesson taught at the very outset of the Biblical narrative - where God puts Adam and Eve before the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and tells them to choose - actually choose - not to eat of it. Every step forward in sanctification - every step forward in overcoming the power of a compulsive sin - is based on a personal choice to crucify the flesh - to choose what’s good and eschew what’s evil. Sanctification is not automatic - and much of the difficulty believers encounter in overcoming the power of a compulsive sin is their misplaced hope that a way will be found to make sanctification “automatic” - requiring no real effort on their part. And nothing could be further from the truth. What salvation does is give us the power to follow through on any choice we make to obey, not to relieve us of making that choice, and, yes, of undergoing the suffering it often entails.

It's Your Choice!

Doubleminded

In this lesson, we will be examining the need for a believer to be both unwavering and relentless in his pursuit of sanctification; that to be doubleminded dooms any possibility that sanctification will take hold. The Apostle James tells us in his epistle that a doubleminded man can expect ​​​​nothing from the Lord; that God does not waste his time on any believer who “wants it both ways” - meaning a believer who in his struggle against a compulsive sin continues to toy with it, continues to flirt with it. A believer must expunge from his life whatever situations tempt him to succumb to that sin. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 13:14: “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof.” “No provision” means exactly that - “no provision.” I can’t begin to tell you how many persons I’ve counseled over my fifty years in ministry who don’t take this matter seriously - and then wonder why they have never overcome the power of sin in their lives. Here a believer must reach out to other believers. Overcoming a doubleminded pursuit of sanctification requires the church. It can’t be managed alone.

The Mystery of

It’s often claimed that Romans 7:7-24 can’t possibly be a description of Paul’s life following his conversion; that the struggle against sin it describes there is the very struggle Chapter Six seems to assure us that salvation has freed us from. But that can’t possible be true. Paul’s plaintive cry in verse 15 is not the cry of an unregenrate man, but of a man who desperately wants to walk in holiness. It’s a longing that never describes the mind and heart of an unregenerate man. It’s the cry of a man who has been justified and who is now struggling to make good his sanctification. It’s a cry that every justified believer has uttered from time to time. Here in this lesson, we will learn that the law actually arouses sin, implying, of course, that using the law to achieve sanctification serves only to strengthen sin’s grip on our lives. It’s a mistake that every believer occasionally makes. Romans 7:7-24 confirms the lesson Paul teaches in Romans 7:1-6 - that we have died to the law that we might be free to marry Christ; that grace through faith is now the key to sanctification, not the law - exactly the truth Paul tells us back in Romans 1:16-17 is the theme of the entire book.

Romans 7

Building a Fence

Anyone who over many long years has excused his sin - meaning rationalized it - whatever it might be - suffers from a darkened heart, meaning a desensitized, seared conscience. It no longer prompts sufficient revulsion and disgust to turn him back from committing the sin that has him so terribly entangled and trapped. What, then, can such a believer substitute in its place? The answer is fellow-believers. Anyone whose conscience has been seared must begin building a fence around himself composed of fellow-believers who ​​​​​​​​​​​intrusively draw up alongside him. They, then, substitute for his darkened conscience, holding him steady, and thereby giving his conscience time to regain its vigor. Here we have a a truth that’s easy to understand, but very difficult to walk out. Why? Because walking it out requires you to trust those who walk it out with you; and that’s very hard for anyone suffering from a compulsive sin.
This lesson teaches that overcoming the power of a compulsive sin entails more than cultivating a personal walk with Christ; it requires the church as well. Here again we have a lesson that’s very difficult for most believers to walk out - not because it’s difficult to understand intellectually, but because it’s so intimidating. The overarching principle governing church life is dependency - and that’s a very frightening thought for many believers - especially for Gen-Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers, many of whom have been raised in broken homes and betrayed by authority figures they should have been able to count on. Control is their watchword, not dependency.

Sanctification
How it works

Both Paul and James, in their respective epistles, Romans Five and James One, tell us that there is a sequence of events or steps that produces sanctification; and it begins with tribuation. Tribulation produces endurance; endurance produces character; and character produces hope. James takes it further, admonishing the believer to “Let endurance complete its work” - meaning enduring tribulation, by means of the grace imparted to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is the key to sanctification and to over-coming the power of a compulsive sin. It’s important to get to this lesson right away. Believers need to know what makes sancti-fication actually work - why sanctification hasn’t taken hold in their lives, and how to rectify that failure.

Called to Heroism

Band of Brothers was a 2001 American war drama miniseries based on historian Stephen Ambrose’s 1993 non-fiction book of the same name. The series dramatizes the history of Easy Company, 101st Airborne Division, from jump training in the United States through many of the major battles in Europe. The theme of both the book and the miniseries revolves around the brotherhood formed in combat - a brotherhood that purifies a soldier and lifts him beyond himself. And so it is in the spiritual realm as well. The kind of bonding with fellow-believers required to overcome the power of sin can only be forged in spiritual warfare. This lesson will focus on what exactly spiritual warfare is, what it entails, and why it’s so necessary to press believers plagued by besetting sins into spiritual warfare alongside other fellow-believers. And to do so right away.

Forgiveness

A compulsive sin is often rooted in bitterness - which is itself frequently the result of a traumatic injustice that’s never been resolved. The Bible provides specific instructions concerning forgiveness: (1) what it is and (2) how to use it to avoid becoming bitter. Unfortunately, it’s not usually taught with the precision it requires. The English word “forgive” translates the Greek word “ἀφίημι.” It means to “release” - always in a two-fold sense: first from wrath; and second from aleination. The first is always unconditional (e.g., Mark 11:25) and the second is always conditional (e.g., Luke 17:3). Knowing when and under what circumstances one is meant and not the other is key to breaking free from the bondage of bitterness and, in so doing, vitiating the hold of a compulsive sin.