Thursday, July 26

Thoughts on Holiness and the Gospel

I have never understood holiness. Growing up in church there seemed to be two ways to address the topic: either holiness really meant works, things we had to do if we were Christians or we were backslidden and in need of consistently rededicating our lives or re-receiving salvation. Alternatively, holiness meant works and those were bad because we are saved by grace only so the topic was avoided. It was not uncommon to attend a church or youth group where leaders were having sex outside of marriage, taking smoke breaks (and letting me join them), gossiping members never being addressed, divorce, and the ever growing number of “church-splits”. This is still the case, I do not mean to imply we have really grown out of this but actually I feel the opposite. These types of things are normal in the Church and seem to be less addressed now then they were growing up.

To be clear, I do not equate holiness with not doing things your not suppose to do. I think holiness is so much bigger than that, and I am coming to believe that holiness has much more to do with our heart than our outward actions. Jesus said that its not what goes into a person that really defiles them but what comes out because what comes out shows what our hearts are really like (Matt.15:11). When we willfully take part of things that separate us from God, it becomes evident that our hearts are not fully seeking God.

Again, I know we are all in process; some things change immediately when we submit our life to God and recognize Jesus Christ as our Lord. Some things take time and revelation from the Spirit for us to walk in freedom. Currently, it seems we do not consider holiness as something we have an active role in or something we actually need to pursue. It is fine to be a Christian and go to hooters, enjoy the view and too many beers, then sleep it off the next morning; otherwise, we are adding something to the grace of Christ. I think we have gone so far from the transforming Gospel message that if many Christians heard it they would reject it on the spot. To accept the Grace of God means admitting that we need the Grace of God because there is sin in our life, it also means that we are accepting His Grace to bring change in those areas of our life. It is a transforming Gospel and our lives should be evident of that growing transformation.

Is it wrong to go have a beer, I do not think so, I am not talking about legalistic behavior, which leads to works, self-righteousness, and pride. What I am talking about is how we live matters! The Gospel message has been so watered down in so many churches across America and because discipleship involves building people up as well as calling things out, and people do not really like to be called out, we have stopped discipling, so what did we expect to happen.

Guys like Jim Elliot were willing to give up everything, including marriage (and sex) to follow the call of God on their life. They were willing to go to a brutal people and face death to share the love of Jesus. They knew that these people were so brutal because they did not know the love of God. In addition, their families were willing to give up everything to share the Gospel with them. Now, it was not in Gods plan for Jim to remain single, but I wonder today how many young men or women would be willing to give up sex, marriage, possible family, all for the call of God. Willing to give up the comforts of home and xbox and friends for the sake of the call of God, if that’s what it required. Hudson Taylor gave up money, chose to sleep on a mat on the floor and reduce his meals to that of the average Asian so that he would be prepared for life in China. Personally, I kind of squirm to think of giving up my mattress and going down to one meal a day of a biscuit and maybe some fruit.

Bonhoeffer used the term cheap grace… because true real grace does cost us something. Salvation costs us as well. That does not mean we earn it but it does mean that we have to give up all of our rights, and surrender our life to Christ. We accept Him as Savior and Lord. Currently it seems we are quite happy to accept Him as Savior and our ticket to a bright eternity, but have neglected what it means for Him to be Lord of our life as well.

If holiness is a matter of the heart and what flows out it was evident in the life of those we see as hero’s of the faith. We all know they had faults and that is not the issue but the driving force of their heart was love and obedience to the Father. That to me is holiness, desiring and seeking God, following what He says and repenting when fail.

My prayer for myself and for the body of Christ is that we learn what it means to accept Christ as Savior and Lord, to surrender our life to Him, to preach and teach the full Gospel message, to teach Biblical principals and hold each other accountable when our lives do not line up with the way. It will be offensive. Many may leave the Church. Nevertheless, maybe we are due for a sifting. Maybe we need to really understand where we are and how much of the Gospel we really believe and are willing to submit to. Jesus sifted the crowd, I believe He did this for their sake so that they would not be deceived but know where they really stand. I want to know where I really stand. I want to the know areas of my heart that do not desire holiness so I can repend and submit them to the Father and allow His grace to empower me to live out the righteousness I receive by faith.
The Gospel is hard, its offensive, it requires all of us but, in the process we gain all of who He is and enter into union with the Holy Trinity of God!