My new book The Gospel According to Satan officially releases tomorrow (1/14). Below is an exclusive excerpt . . .
An early proponent of Keswick theology once wrote, “Christians need not sin, and if they allow the Holy Spirit to ‘operate invariably’ they will not sin.” There are numerous problems in this one sentence, not least of which is that it represents a fundamental misunderstanding about how sanctification works in a Christian’s life. Another issue is the idea that Christians can reach a point of sinlessness (or near-sinlessness). But a big problem hiding behind the others is one that is repeated in countless Christian sermons, books, social media thoughts, and even songs. It is the notion of “letting God.”
We must “allow the Holy Spirit” to operate, this thinking goes.
I don’t know if you noticed, but this sounds a lot like the Holy Spirit is our servant, a cosmic butler of sorts, rather than—oh, I don’t know—the third Person of the Trinity and thus our God.
I get the heebie-jeebies when I come across language like this, which is a lot more often than I would like. Christians who ought to know better routinely begin statements with phrases like “God can’t” or “God needs.” We are told that we need to “let God” do all manner of things before he can guide us, bless us, reward us, etc.
To all of this we ought to say that any God who needs us to activate him is not much of a god at all.
God says, “Look, I am the LORD, the God over every creature. Is anything too difficult for me?” (Jer. 32:27). He doesn’t need our help. And he doesn’t need our permission.
One reason the serpent wished Adam and Eve to elevate their conceptions of themselves to god-like status is because he wishes by implication to demote the one true God to man-like status. Satan loves “let God” language because he loves the idea of a deficient God. He will support any doctrine of God that is weak and unbiblical.
The true God is sovereign over all. If he does not do something, it is because ultimately he has willed not to do it. The blessings we receive in response to our honoring God are themselves foreordained. Even the faith we exercise to receive his salvation, which was until then withheld, is itself a gift from him (Eph. 2:8). And contrary to higher life teaching, the power we need to pursue holiness, choose obedience, and participate in our sanctification is granted entirely by God’s grace.
“I labor for this,” Paul writes in Colossians 1:29, “striving with his strength that works powerfully in me” (emphasis added). And when he tells us in Philippians 2:12 to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” he adds: “For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose” (2:13, emphasis added).
Still, the language of “letting God” persists. A simple Google search of incomplete phrases like “you have to let God” and “God can’t bless you unless” returns an abundance of distressing results, including from high-profile evangelical leaders and otherwise reliable Christian resources.
It sounds true. But why? It sounds true, because we have smuggled a cause-and-effect kind of spirituality into our Christian thinking, which is more akin to the idea of karma and grossly misunderstands that God declares the end from the beginning and does whatever he pleases (Is. 46:10).
The devil is actively trying to get us to think we can dethrone the true Sovereign and enthrone ourselves. And the full counsel of the true gospel is the right antidote to “let go and let God” thinking, because only the gospel reminds us that God is sovereign over us and our circumstances—including our good works (Eph. 2:10)—while at the same time empowering us for these good works.
"You have to let go and let God" is just one lie that sounds like the truth covered in my new book The Gospel According to Satan. Today is the last day to pre-order and receive free extras, including a discussion guide and exclusive video teaching from me. More info on the book and preorder details here.