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Christianity is sprinkled with all kinds of cute little clichés, but the problem with this one, as with many, is that it’s simply not biblical. In fact, the “let go, let God” theology directly contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture regarding the Christian life. Actually, it comes from an entire theological system that has a faulty view of Christian sanctification, known as “Keswick” or “Higher Life” theology, which is largely based on a Wesleyan “second blessing” experience (it’s similar to Wesleyan theology, but not exactly the same).
The Keswick view of sanctification teaches that every believer can experience a unique post-salvation enlightenment, allowing the Christian to enter into a state of a consistent, victorious life of obedience. This doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t sin at all (depending on who you ask), but that this personal “revival” results in you sinning a lot less. It’s almost “name it and claim it” theology, except you’re not asking for things so much as a superior level of Christ-likeness. It’s rampant in the testimonies of thousands:
I got saved when I was ten, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I dedicated my life to Christ.
Now, let me clarify, we should pray that the Lord will remove sin in our lives, and continue removing sin in our lives. That is biblical. But the difference between biblical sanctification and Keswick theology, is the difference between passive and active sanctification. Keswick theology has a passive view of sanctification, where, after this second blessing experience, sanctification happens by a passive trust in the work of God. Hence, “Let go, let God.” There’s no need for self-discipline, no need for accountability, no need for the pursuit of holiness because God will do everything for you. Biblically though, we know that sanctification is both an active work of God, in conjunction with our active work by means of the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is what the Westminster Confession states regarding a biblical understanding of sanctification:
I. They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
II. This sanctification is throughout in the whole man, yet imperfect in this life; there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.
III. In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail, yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
When we are regenerated, we are given new life in Christ, granting us the desire to do righteous works. Our minds have a new capacity, upon being filled with the Spirit (at the moment of salvation), to be controlled by divine thoughts (1 Cor. 2:11-12; Rom. 1:16; Lk. 10:27). So, the source of our strength is through the Spirit, but we are the ones who must actively pursue righteousness, and as a result, we will grow more in righteousness.
This kind of language is especially prevalent throughout the Pastoral Epistles, but I think the paradox of this relationship is most clearly expressed in 2 Timothy 2:1.
You therefore, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
Paul is imprisoned, soon to be martyred for the cause of Christ and he wants to make sure that his disciple Timothy, his son in the faith remains faithful to the Gospel, so the verb “be strong” is written here as a present, passive, imperative. In other words, it’s a command for Timothy to continue being strong, while indicating that the source of Timothy’s strength was not from within himself, but in the grace that is in Christ. Paul then goes on to illustrate his point… and Timothy must be like the soldier, the athlete, and the hard working farmer. No one would argue that all three have actively labor hard and discipline themselves for success in their professions.
Keswick theology, on the other hand, does just that. You benefit from the work of God’s grace, but without having to labor hard, or disciplining yourself to be godly. It emphasizes personal experience creating two categories of Christians, categories not present in Scripture. In fact, as you know, the Keswick and Wesleyan systems are the source of much of the modern charismatic theology, since use the miraculous sign gifts, like speaking in tongues, reflects that you’ve received the “second filling” of the Holy Spirit, thus achieving a higher-level of sanctification.
So, do we just “let go and let God?”
Hardly think so.
Be like the Bereans, and let Scripture guide your view of sanctification rather than the hundreds of popular Christian clichés.