Can a Christian actually live without willingly or knowingly succumbing to the temptation to sin? Can he or she achieve what might be considered perfection in this life? John Wesley argues for this idea in his Plain Account of Christian Perfection—that Christians can attain what he calls “entire sanctification” in this life.
But does this view deal honestly with the insidious nature of sin? Does it square with the witness of Scripture. Many would say no. I really appreciate how Stephen Neill puts it (as quoted by Anthony Hoekema):
In certain circles, perfection is interpreted as meaning no more than the avoidance of all known or conscious sin. This is by no means a contemptible ideal. But how far short it falls of an understanding of the depths and realities of our problems! … How often we find that we have done wrong without at the time being aware that we were doing it! … To go one stage deeper yet, which of us will venture to claim that the motives which impel us to action are always free from an admixture of dross, perhaps unobserved at the time, but painfully evident to us when we have leisure to be completely honest with ourselves? Over nearly forty years there comes back to me a beautiful description of a preacher returning from the University Church at Oxford with a bulky manuscript under his arm, bursting with pride because he had just preached so excellent a sermon on humility!
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). When we assume we can consciously live without knowingly sinning, we grossly underestimate the nature of sin itself. Our enemy within is far more cunning that we often give it credit for. Keep watch, “sin is crouching at the door.” Don’t give it an opportunity by deceiving yourself.