Whatever Happened to Sanctification (or Mortification, or Vivification or Glorification)? Or Strange Days Indeed…Most Peculiar, Mama!


John Lennon famously sang that,

“Everybody’s talking and no one say a word; always something happening and nothing going on; there’s always something cooking and nothing in the pot; everybody’s running and no one makes a move; everybody’s flying and no one leaves the ground.”

Everyone wants Christianity to translate into immediately known categories. Everyone wants the relevancy of “changed lives” and those lives to “change the world,” whatever that really means. The result can be Christians holding out more a pagan theology than a Christian one when it comes to just what is happening in the mystery of God’s inner work. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain and forget the fact that Christians appear no different than pagans, or that said mystery is created and confirmed in such uncharismatic elements like words, water, bread and wine. Forget all that and force a theology of glory that suggests we can indeed transcend our own humanity in one way or another. There are all sorts of ways to have your best life now, from the crass to sophisticated and all stops in between. That is a lot of flying for never leaving the ground.

But like someone recently said in making the point that personal transformation is just plain different from the work of God,

“The new birth – conversion and repentance – now that’s a completely different kettle of fish. God assails me from out of nowhere in judgment by His Word and Spirit; nails me, brings me to the point of agreeing with His judgment about me, and then executes me. And then through that pulls me out through the other side alive with Christ out at the other end as new creatures (sic)… It’s called mortification (dying to self) and vivification (living to God in Jesus Christ). And it doesn’t just happen once, but every day until we’re glorified. Furthermore, it’s something that God does to us through His Word of Law and Gospel. Not something that we can do for ourselves, through our own clever programs.”

Could it be that the “before and after shot” of the new birth properly understood is not quite as attractive and winsome as we naturally think? Could it be that despite the call to stomp on his records in 1966 that by the time 1984 rolled around Lennon’s dumber statements about Christianity were made up for by a grasp on the apparent conflict between the theology of glory and that of the Cross?

“Everyone’s a winner and no one seems to lose. There’s a little yellow idol to the north of Katmandu.”

Little idol indeed.

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11 Responses to Whatever Happened to Sanctification (or Mortification, or Vivification or Glorification)? Or Strange Days Indeed…Most Peculiar, Mama!

  1. Rick says:

    Nice title.

    Lennon also said, “‘I don’t believe in The Beatles, I just believe in me.’ Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I’d still have to bum rides off people. ”

    So then there is the Reformed pastor/theologian who holds to the doctrines of grace and would even say he agrees with you and the White Horse commentary quoted above, yet, concerned with how Christians live and are viewed by the world, and how this will win or not win others, will find a way to preach that one’s own obedience merits something before the throne on the last day, like say, a better reward in heaven – it’s a veiled theology of glory. And it’s poo.

  2. Zrim says:

    Kukukachoo, Eggman.

    I plead ignorance to this hypothetical pastor. What’s that about looking in mirrors and forgetting once walking away? Talk about a theology formally held to which doesn’t inform one’s actions.

    When it comes to winning heavenly rewards, all I want is in. I’ll leave the jewels to the pious and take my seat outside the gates. But as long as I am in I’ll be quiet.

  3. sean says:

    Ah man, do I have to give the walrus any credit? I just don’t wanna. I wanna dislike who I dislike, and I want to do it without any reference to any objective fact that may intrude upon my bias.

  4. Zrim says:


    Well, it is just a song employed to make a point. Maybe I am guilty of a Po-Mo reading in which the author never meant any of what I conclude?

    That said, yes, you must pay homage to the Walrus. There is indeed a lot happening with nothing going on. Well, nothing that can be easily seen, that is.

  5. Zrim says:

    The sick feeling will pass, just relax and you too can become comfortably numb. (I have to keep these posts relevant to pop music somehow.)

  6. Zrim says:

    Sean, sean, sean, will will you ever learn that gambling and rock ‘n roll are not conducive to your best life now? Throw off your shackles and embrace the soft legalisms which are the key to your health, wealth and wholeness. Sarcasm also keeps us from actualization.

  7. sean says:

    “Sarcasm also keeps us from actualization.”

    Oh no. It’s sort of like dividing the world between those who delight in “Best in Show” and those who don’t. If sarcasm is wrong I don’t want to be right. No matter what some dutch theologians may think about sarcasm being detrimental to “good order.”

  8. Zrim says:


    I think the world is divided up between those who like Neil Diamond and those who don’t.

    BTW, I am a “Best In Show” champion. Christopher Guest is pure genius.

  9. sean says:


    I had little doubt.

    “I’m just going to stay out here until I get another message”

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