My Story of Entire Sanctification
Updated: Nov 7
I expect some readers of this blog are confused about what entire sanctification means. I would like to tell my story of how I experienced, drifted from, and learned to maintain, the experience that John Wesley taught as entire sanctification.
While testimonies are not the best way to teach theology, sometimes a look at how it works itself out in someone’s life can be helpful. To that end, I’m sharing my story here of how God led me personally toward the doctrine of entire sanctification.
I was raised in a holiness pastor’s home.
I heard the possibility of being entirely sanctified preached on a regular basis growing up. While some from my background have talked about entire sanctification as confusing, etc. I never felt this way growing up. My parents kept it relatively simple and unencumbered with baggage of extreme behavior or emotionalism.
I view my journey in holiness in "seasons" of my life.
Entirely Sanctified In High School
I first surrendered my will as fully as I knew how to Christ’s Lordship as a sophomore in HS, after hearing a message by Rev. Marc Sankey on Romans 12:1. As I stood during the invitation, I thought “That’s right... it makes sense to fully surrender my life, all my strengths and blessings to Jesus. I should do it someday.”
In that moment, I felt as though the Holy Spirit prompted me, “Why not now?” and I obeyed. I went home that day knowing that God had accepted my sacrifice of all, and that he had taken it and made it holy to himself. This is what entire sanctification means...
a full surrender of self and will to Christ,
who makes it holy in a deeper way than at the moment of justification,
through the power of the filling of the Holy Spirit.
As I grew older there were more issue to surrender, and yet I always viewed these as continuing results of my earlier surrender.
There were moments of surrender about girls (what high school boy hasn’t gone through that?), career (preaching wasn’t my first choice!), and my definition of success (I wanted to pastor a BIG church).
Can One Lose Entire Sanctification?
As a young pastor at my church in South OKC, I neglected to walk in the Spirit, and fell into pornography after getting high-speed internet for the first time at age 25. Through the faithful discipline of the Lord, I regularly came back repentant, but I lost the assurance of entire sanctification. I was no longer confident that my will was fully surrendered and made completely holy by his control.
I believe that it is possible to lose entire sanctification through ignoring God's discipline over areas of disobedience, and a lack of willingness to deal with leftover patterns of self-centeredness. This results in a heart that is “re-bent” toward self & sin. I won’t fully develop that theology here, but that’s what I believe happened to me.
A time of Seeking to Restore the Assurance of Being Sanctified Through and Through
A couple years later, in a time of frustration and I began to seek again during a 40-day season of fasting and prayer. I would fast lunch each day and pray over my church and ministry.
One particular day, I felt especially frustrated and as I walked into my office, the Lord “highlighted” the book Holiness and Power by A.M. Hills on my bookshelf. It was as if the Holy Spirit said, "This is what you're lacking most at this moment." I spent the rest of the day and most of the next reading the book (which had been on my shelf, but unread), and seeking the Lord.
On the 3rd day, reaching the end of all that I knew to surrender, told the Lord if there was anything else that he wanted me to yield to him, to show me. I knew that we are entirely sanctified by trusting the work of Christ (and not by any surrender of my own).
So I pled with the Lord that if there was anything else I had yet to surrender, show me. If not, I was ready to put my faith in him that the work was (again) done in my heart. Sensing nothing but peace and surrender, I prayed in full consecration to the Lord on the 4th day. I placed my trust in Christ to be my "righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." (1 Cor 1:29-31)
The hymn writer was correct about the source of our power to live in full sanctification:
Not our own righteousness,
but Christ within
Living and reigning
and saving from sin.”
A renewal of the Covenant of Entire sanctification
There was one more season a few years into my ministry, where I felt as though I had failed to progressively be sanctified by putting to death an area of selfishness the Lord had faithfully pointed out to me in my life over time. (I won't take space to explain it here, because it might seem trivial and unimportant. But the truth is: nothing the Holy Spirit highlights to us in a life that is entirely sanctified ought to be considered unimportant!)
I went into a season of frustration and uncertainty, where I was not at all certain of my yieldedness to Christ and his present entire sanctification. This culiminated in a 3-day prayer retreat where I repented of grieving the Spirit and re-affirmed my covenant with Him. At the end of that time of blessing and brokenness, I again laid hold by faith of the promises of God for entire sanctification.
It is important to note that living in this covenant is an ongoing life. There is nothing in the Scripture that teaches that there is no need for ongoing covenant renewal. In fact, I'd argue that this is perfectly consistent with the teachings of Scripture and the experience of God's people -- both in Scripture and through the centuries.
I am living with a present assurance of entire sanctification
I believe that Christ reigns supreme in my heart today, and both saves me from sin and keeps me clean in “spirit, soul and body” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-34) until the coming of Christ.
I am unaware of any area in my life that I am not in full submission to the will of Christ. This does not, of course, mean that I am beyond improvement or growth, but that my will is bent away from sin and fully bent toward Christ through the filling, controlling, indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
A hymn on entire sanctification
John and Charles Wesley wrote powerful poetry expressing the theology of entire sanctification. This is probably my favorite hymn text expressing the idea. (Can be sung to the tune of "My Faith Has Found a Resting Place.")
INFINITE Power, eternal Lord,
How sovereign is thy hand!
All nature rose to obey thy word,
And moves at thy command.
With steady course the shining sun
Keeps his appointed way;
And all the hours obedient run
The circle of the day.
But, ah! how wide my spirit flies,
And wanders from her God!
My soul forgets the heavenly prize,
And treads the downward road...
Shall creatures of a meaner frame
Pay all their dues to thee?
Creatures that never knew thy name,
That ne'er were loved like me?
Great God! create my soul anew,
Conform my heart to thine;
Melt down my will, and let it flow,
And take the mold divine.
Then shall my feet no more depart,
Nor my affections rove;
Devotion shall be all my heart,
And all my passions, love.
There are many other hymns on entire sanctification, which bring excellent aspects of the theology of holiness, but this one is a favorite of mine.
Resources on Entire Sanctification
Preaching on Entire Sanctification
I taught a workshop on how to the Bible's terms for entire sanctification at the School of the Prophets conference.
Sermons On Entire Sanctification
Many examples of holiness preaching can be found at Classic Holiness Sermons.
If you wish to hear a sermon on the topic, I am embedding a message on it below from my Youtube Channel.
A Series of Sermons on Entire Sanctification
If you are looking for a series of messages that will teach entire sanctification to your congregation, I would recommend this youtube playlist.
If you're a pastor, these sermons are downloadable. Contact me at email@example.com and ask.
Books on Entire Sanctification
There are a huge number of books written on this topic. However, as the cultural narrative of "nobody's perfect" took hold, many of these books began to go out of print. There are a number on Amazon, however. Additionally, the Schmul Publishing Company has re-printed many of them.
Sunday School Curriculum That Supports Entire Sanctification
While they do not have a separate course on this topic, the Herald and Banner Press is a company whose materials teach entire sanctification.
Did John Wesley Teach Entire Sanctification?
John Wesley did teach entire sanctification. The doctrine continued to develop after his death, but he did clearly teach the doctrine.
Video Courses on Entire Sanctification
If you are interested in learning more about the Scriptural passages on entire sanctification, I would commend to you my Pursuing Holiness program, and the accompanying 40 days of holiness spiritual growth journey.