Normative Christian Experience Map 2
Reconnoitering Map 2: across the top of the map you will see it what happens after one acknowledges there need for a Savior, believes that Jesus is the Savior they need commits themselves to discipleship and asks God to accept their faith. This is labeled “Surrendering Faith” the last stage of prevenient grace.
Continuing across the top there are 3 stages of spiritual maturity. The dashed line has three divisions labeled Child-like Faith, Adolescent-like Faith, and Adult-like faith. Below the line, the stick figures represent characteristics of these various stages. Please note the diagonal line that runs upwards through the illustration. This line represents sanctifying grace. The first dashed line as you approach the bottom of the diagram is labeled “Justifying Grace,” and below this line, there is another labeled “The House of Religion.” Both these lines continue throughout the disciple’s life. At the bottom of the diagram are two hearts representing the yet another way of explaining the transformational changes that occur as one matures in the faith.
When you come to the place in your spiritual journey where the Holy Spirit’s prevenient grace matures into surrendering faith an incredible spiritual transformation occurs.
The person that was entangled in sin is now set forgiven on the account of Christ. We call this justifying grace. Justifying Grace is what God does for us. God gives three things to the believer.
The first gift of justifying grace is the forgiveness of actual sins.
Colossians 2:13-14 (NIV)
“When you were dead in your sins …God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, … he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”
“God’s forgiveness is not just a casual statement; it is the complete blotting out of all the dirt and degradation of our past and present. The only reason our sins can be forgiven is that, on the Cross, Jesus Christ made atonement.” (Billy Graham)
God wipes your slate clean. You are no longer condemned by your sins. You are no longer spiritually dead you are now spiritually alive.
The second gift of justifying grace is the reconciliation of your estranged relationship with God. (Rom 5:10-11, 2 Cor. 5:18-19 Eph 2:16)
Colossians 1:22 (NIV)
“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—“
This takes care of your original sin problem. We have come to understand original sin as estrangement from a right relationship with God, others, earth and self [as reflected in the results of the Fall]. In that instant of surrendering faith your estranged relationship with God is reconciled. The hostility, the enmity, the alienation comes to an immediate end. The believer is no longer rejected, the believer is accepted.
The third gift of justifying grace is your adoption. (Rom 8:15-17, Gal 4:6-7)
Ephesians 1:5 (NLT)
“His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.”
An adopted child can always boast that her parents choose her. Adopt means “make your own.” God makes you His child, welcoming you into His family.
Justification restores you to the favors of God. It creates for you a right relationship with God. It is a relative change, a change of position, of status. God declares you to be righteous. Justifying grace is what God does for you to make you right with Him. Justifying grace results in a relative change of relationship.
A note must be made about the tension between “what is” and “what is yet to be.” When one experiences justifying grace the believer is declared righteous and holy. God’s declaration makes it so. But in practice, a believer’s thought and behavior fall short of that declaration. What has been declared is true now but has yet to come into full fruition. One can say “I was saved, I am saved, I am being saved” and each tense (past, present, future) is completely true simultaneously. It is with this tension that we enter the House of Religion, the Kingdom of God.
Romans 8:16-17 (NIV)
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
God does something for us, this is represented by the stick figure set free under the title Born Again. God also does something in us, the Holy Spirit empowers us with sanctifying grace.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (Living)
When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!
With justifying grace God declares us to be righteous, with sanctifying grace God begins a process of transformation to make us what He has declared us to be. Justification is the gateway to sanctification. It is sanctifying grace that transforms us into Christ’s likeness.
Look at our stick figure again:
Note the change of heart. Whereas before justification and the new birth, the exalted I of egoism resided alone in the heart now there is a cross representing the Holy Spirit. This is a depiction of initial sanctification, of regeneration, becoming a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
1 Peter 1:23 (NIV)
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
What exactly is egoism? Egoism is humanity’s innate propensity to be their own god (“you will be like God” Genesis 3:5), to be the arbitrator of their own morality (“knowing good and evil” Genesis 3:5), no longer caring about the other (Genesis 3:12), no longer taking responsibility for their own actions. In the Garden humanity’s supreme love relationship was with God, now it is with one’s self. “I will do what I want when I want, to whom I want, no matter the consequences for others or myself.” One’s actions are motivated by what dividends are paid to “me, myself, and I,” and what can be manipulated to “my” advantage. The Apostle Paul wrote of this heart disease, he used the Greek word “sarx.” This word has been translated as flesh, sinful nature, sin nature, the sinful self, in the streets where humanity lives it simply means the self-centered on the self.
Galatians 5:17 (NIV)
For the sinful nature [the sarx] desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
This conflict between submission to God in the Spirit and rebellion against God in the sarx is a problem that will be dealt with as we explore that diagonal line through our map which represents sanctifying grace, the grace that transforms a disciple into what God has already declared them to be.
There are three levels of spiritual maturity in this life: Child-like Faith, Adolescent-like Faith and Adult-like Faith. These levels are loosely based on a passage in 1 John. “I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:12-13 (NIV)
Let us start again at the moment of the new birth but this time with the lens of sanctifying grace. You have lived on the porch of religion, moving from the repentance of a slave to surrendering faith. You have realized that God loves you personally, specifically, and you have responded to God’s love:
Accepting the fact that you need a savior.
Believing that the savor you need is Jesus.
Committing yourself to be a disciple of Jesus.
Asking God to accept your faith.
In that instant, you come spiritually alive in Christ. We used this stick figure to represent that experience:
1 Corinthians 6:11 (NLT)
“… now your sins have been washed away, and you have been set apart for God. You have been made right with God because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you.
In that instant, you enter into the first phase of sanctifying grace which is called Child-like Faith. Notice the stick figure that represents Child-like faith, life is good.
Child-like faith is an experience. This experience is characterized by a spiritual euphoria. There is this exhilaration, this excitement about one’s new life in Christ. This jubilation occurs because this whole new world opens up. Before you were spiritually dead, now you are spiritually alive. The burden of past mistakes and sins is lifted. You have a new understanding of about your life; about spiritual things; about God.
Ephesians 1:18-19 (The Message)
“…to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him--endless energy, boundless strength!
You have a new joy about your life. You’re rejoicing, there is jubilation—you feel great, there is a spiritual emotional high.
1 Peter 1:8 (NLT)
You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him, you trust him; and even now you are happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy.
You have a new peace, a sense of contentment, of tranquility—you are worry-free.
Philippines 4:7 (NCV)
And God's peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
You have a new love, you know that God loves you and experiencing that knowledge fills you with reciprocating love, so it gushes out all over.
Romans 5:5 (NLT)
“…For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
This childlike faith is characterized by a zealous quest for knowledge about spiritual things and learning more about your new relationship with God. There is a great hunger for doing the things that draw you closer to God. You are ravenous for God and His Kingdom. You feel free and liberation is wonderful.
1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV)
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
No one knows how long this phase will last. Eventually, it must come to an end. The reason why it must come to an end is that a sin problem remains to be dealt with. The “sarx” still remains in the command and control center of our lives and it is at war with the Spirit. It is when you begin to recognize this war, “that you do not do what you want” you’ve matured into an Adolescent-like faith.
There are three experiences of Adolescent-like faith: Conviction, The Repentance of a Believer, and Consecrating Faith. The first experience of Adolescent-like faith is a conviction. The Holy Spirit reveals to you that your love is divided. There is a tug of war going on in your heart. You find yourself wanting to worship God and God alone. You want to want what God wants, be what God wants, do what God wants—but time and time again —a little “I’ gets in the way.
Galatians 5:17 (NLT)
The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict.
You are torn between doing life your way and doing life God’s way. This is an inner battle.
The “sarx,” this “sin that remains” [refer to A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, Chapter 5] is a state of mind, a mindset, an attitude, a propensity. There is an inner conflict of motivations, your loyalty is divided, your devotion is mixed.
The stick figure below depicts the experience. Notice the hands on the hips, a definite stance.
The illustration of riding a roller coaster can be helpful with understanding what is going on in this stage of spiritual development. The ups are when you’re doing life God’s way because you want to do it God’s way. You embrace His will as your own. The downs are when you are begrudgingly, kicking and screaming as if you are being forced to do life God’s way because you desperately want to do it your own way. The ups are when your heart is with God, the downs are when your heart is with the “sarx.” You know that this inner war is keeping you from living life to the full. Up and down on the roller coaster of adolescent like faith, peace, joy, and love are elusive, you feel defeated, maybe even wondering if you experienced justifying grace to begin with.
This realization brings you to the second experience of Adolescent like faith— the repentance of a believer. Recall that one of the experiences of prevenient grace is repentance. We called that repentance the repentance of a slave. The Holy Spirit convicted you of our sins and you set about trying to clean up our act, trying to make yourself acceptable to God. This repentance was motivated by fear of punishment, “If I don’t get right with God I’m going to Hell.” The repentance of a believer is motivated by sorrow. You are sorry that your inner attitude is keeping you from a deeper relationship with God. Pride, stubbornness, self-will, vanity, self-promotion, and self-preference is always messing up your relationship with God and others. So you go to work on yourself, sincere acts to be better accompany this repentance. You practice the spiritual disciplines more seriously. You try harder. You’re determined to fix your self, to live up to the declaration that God declared you to be, righteous, holy, and pure.
Notice the stick figure— That stick figure has got all kinds of tools in the toolbox. You go to leadership seminars, and prayer groups, and bible studies, and mission trips hoping from one mountain top experience to the next. You are going to pound away on this problem until you get your attitude right.
Even though all those tools they’re important. Even though you have to use them, (you need to use them), even though you’re doing exactly what the scripture tells you:
Colossians 3:5 & Romans 8:13-14 (NIV)
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature”… “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
It’s not enough, you may do better for a while but sooner or later it's back to knowing that you are falling short of the glory of God.
Even though you are using those tools there is another subtle trap here. This desire for a radical change of heart is motivated by the Holy Spirit but the self-makeover plan is motivated by egoism. It’s egoism disguise. It’s egoism covertly trying to stay in control. It’s doing what you think is right to make yourself into what God has declared us to be. “I’m going to get my heart right with God if it’s the last thing I do.” Do you hear a little of that exalted “I” in that statement? You’re not going to be able to fix your problem with those tools. The tools serve another purpose, the tools make you realize that what you really need is divine intervention. Only God has the solution to your problem. Only God can perform the kind of radical heart surgery that rectifies this sarx attitude, this mindset of egoism.
When the Holy Spirit convinces you that only God can rectify your propensity, your leaning, your attitude, towards self-sovereignty, then you are transitioning from the repentance of a believer to consecrating faith when you will be leaning on grace once again. Consecrating faith is the third experience of Adolescent-like faith.
Consecrate means set apart exclusively. The result of consecration means that you have decided that when faced with a decision between doing God’s will and doing your own that you are going to choose to do God’s will, even if it means you do it kicking and screaming. Consecration means you want God’s will for your life, and you want to do it God’s way, that you are “all in” with God. You want God to be God, to reign supremely in your life, you want to be a loyal and trustworthy servant. You want to be so in love with God that is it is your joy in life to do what He wants you to do. You are sick and tired of an unrighteous love for self always getting in the way of becoming the person God created you to be. Consecrate means exclusively devoted to God. You believe that God can change that heart of yours so that it is exclusively devoted to Him. So once again in faith (faith is trust and confidence in God that motivates you to action) you call out to God to deal with this “sin that remains,” this “sarx” that hijacks your best intentions.
Consecrating faith is the experience of knowing that God wants to give you a pure heart. In that old hymn of the Church written by Charles Wesely, “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing,” Romans 8:3-4 influenced the lyric, “He breaks the power of canceled sin. Sin was forgiven, canceled when you experienced justifying grace. The power of the “exalted I” remained and was able to hijack your best intentions. That power of the “sarx” to hijack your intentions so that you do not do what you want (Gal 5:17 (NIV) is broken. Now when tempted you will be free to choose what you will do.
1 Peter 1:14-16 (NIV)
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
Consecrating faith is the experience of knowing that God not only wants you to have a pure heart but that God can give you a pure heart.
Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Consecrating faith is the experience of knowing that God not only does God wants you to have a pure heart and not only that God can give you a pure heart, but that God can do it now.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NIV)
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Consecrating faith is the experience of knowing that God is willing, able and ready, and knowing thus you cry out to God—
Psalms 51:10 (KJV)
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
God responds to your faith, your request for His intervention, your plea for He to take His rightful place in your life, and God the Holy Spirit transitions us from and Adolescent-like faith to and Adult-like faith.
The Apostle Paul speaks of the result of consecrating faith, the experience of Adult-like faith--
Galatians 2:20 (NIV)
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Now for the first time, exercising Adult-like faith you can truly keep the greatest of the commandments:
Matthew 22:36-39 (NIV)
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
Here’s yet another stick figure, this one depicting the next stage of spiritual development which we have called an adult life faith:
In the Church of the Nazarene, we call this the second work of grace, often referred to as being entirely sanctified. That term entirely sanctified sounds like the work is completed. The completed work is that the “sarx” can no longer hijack your best intentions, you have become the responsible party for your own choices. The sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit is the power to transform you into the image of Jesus. So this process continues, once “sanctified” the believer continues to grow in grace, to mature in the faith, becoming increasingly more like Jesus.