Saturday, March 22, 2014
Holiness: The Endangered Species in Christian Living
For years liberal theology, the academy, and a plethora of movements in the Christian community have managed to shift the focus of the Christian church from simple biblical truths and godly living to a variety of other issues. Christians have been distracted by psychology, social justice, politics, dominion thinking, seekers, emergents, the restless, and philosophy, just to name a few. We have been busy feeling good about ourselves, thinking of God in the same vein as we think of our fallen, wicked, materialistic daddy, repositioning sin, learning how not to trust the bible, increasing the age of the earth, doing away with hell, redefining marriage, and even reducing Jesus to just an amazing man, but a man nonetheless. We have been diligently destroying every shred of orthodoxy ever discovered across the history of Christianity. To inherit a tradition is simply naïve, unpopular, and rather boring. In the process of all this, we have lost our way and become nothing more than just one more social network among thousands of social networks. We are not a counter-culture movement at all. Rather, we want as much of the culture as we can possibly get our hands on. One of the first things I learned, as a new Christian in the late 70s was that God is holy and so too are His followers. To be a Christian in that day was to live a holy life. Gone are the days when Christians speak about holiness with that kind of soberness and conviction. But there is this book, called the Bible. The Bible still talks to us about holiness with absolute soberness, and conviction and if we know what is good for us; we will listen.
There is an antinomianism in modern Christianity that could come from no other source than the devil himself. It is the duty of every Christian, pastor, elder, and professor to recognize this thinking and do something about it. Does the NT really speak to us about love, about social justice, about not being judgmental, about being accepting and tolerant of all views and lifestyles? There is nothing remotely resembling the message that some people claim is the message of the ancient NT writers in first-century Christianity.
For example, in Gal. 5:19-21, Paul lists a number of behaviors that he finds completely unacceptable and off-limits for any Christian. He places sexual immorality at the top of his list. This not only includes sex outside of biblical marriage, but gay sex as well. Yet I read an article today about the numbers of Christian women who claim to love Christ but are reading or have read the 50 Shades of Grey pornography. The contradiction is obvious. At the end of this list, Paul informs the Galatian Christians that the ones practicing these things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Again, in his writings to the Corinthian Christians, Paul constructs another list of forbidden practices. At 1 Cor. 6:9, Paul in his rebuke of the practice of taking fellow Christians to court informs the Corinthians that unrighteous people will not inherit the Kingdom of God. He then adds; neither fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, and, homosexuals. In addition he lists such sins as drunkenness, and covetousness. He then says, such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of God. Contrast this Christian teaching with the modern claims of supposed Christians. Entire denominations are ordaining homosexual men to lead their churches. Others are marrying homosexual couples without apology. Of course some scholars attempt to take the basic Christian teaching on holiness and make it much more complex than it is. Satan has filled their arrogant noodles with all sorts of conjecture and speculation about how nothing could ever be as simple as the Bible, at face value, seems to teach that it is.
The basic problem is found in how modern Christians view sin. J.C. Ryle, in his work on Holiness, wrote, "The plain truth is that a right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it, such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are words and names which convey no meaning to the mind." [J.C. Ryle, Holiness, 1] Our view of sin must change if we are to understand the nature of what it means to be a Christian. We have not joined some religious social club. Something extraordinary and radical has taken place in our lives. We were dead in trespasses and sin but now we are alive unto God.
Peter provides some very sober words regarding how Christians must conduct their lives. First, Christians are to prepare their minds for action. The Christian mind is their greatest weapon in their fight not only against temptation to lust, lie, cheat, and steal, it is their greatest tool for honoring God. The significance of the mind cannot be overstated in Christian life. When we think poorly about behavior, we sin. When we think poorly about God, we commit heresy. When we think poorly about Scripture, we are deceived. When we think autonomously, we are idolaters. Holiness is rooted in the mind as much as it is expressed everywhere else in the human person. The mind that was blind is now made to see, not only the light of truth, but how that light should produce good thoughts, good deeds, and good thinking in the life of the Christian.
Next, Peter tells his audience not to be conformed to the former lusts of the flesh. This is a common theme throughout the NT. Lusts were as prevalent then as they are today. The Christian is given the charge to discipline those things out of his or her life. Peter says we are to keep sober. The idea to be in charge of one's thought processes, even to not think in an irrational way. Why are we to do these things? Peter says, because it is written, "You shall be holy for I am holy." In other words, we are to be like God.
Jesus said, "He who does not take up his cross daily and follow me is not worthy of me." (Matt. 10:38) One blogger, convinced that Christians should not judge the world wrote that if we just love the world they way Jesus did, they would come running to Christianity. This blogger surely does not understand the nature of sin. Jesus preached repentance from sin. Jesus said He came to bring division. Jesus said the world stands already condemned. And the world did not come running to Him. They butchered Him upon a cross in the most humiliating execution at their disposal. The life of the Christian is a life of holiness. It is a life of self-denial. Paul said, I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me! And the life I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) Christian, your life is not your own. You have been bought with a price. It is hid with Christ in God. Act like it.