Holy, holy, holy,is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.Isa. 6:3
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.Eph. 4:24
There is a great emphasis in today’s Evangelical culture on the love of God.The Bible states quite plainly and boldly that “God is love.”However, the holiness of God, which is equally a part of His essential nature is not emphasized nearly as often as love from contemporary pulpits.In order to know God properly for who He is and what He requires of man, one must understand both aspects of His being, His holiness as well as His love.In order to distinguish divine love from human affection the holiness of God must be seen clearly and understood correctly.A Christian cannot practice love, truly and spiritually without being holy.There is a sense in which all genuine Christians have been made righteous and holy in that these qualities have been imputed to him by means of Christ’s shed blood.But that imputed righteousness must be authenticated by a practical outworking of holiness in the life of everyone who professes to know God in Christ.Practical holiness, therefore is not optional for the believer, but rather a command, a necessity and his destiny.
As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.1Pet. -16
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son…Rom.
It must be emphasized that love and holiness cannot be separated, nor can they be isolated in the life of a Christian, one to the exclusion of the other.Any attempt to do so is to miss the essence of Biblical Christianity and to misunderstand the very nature of God, who is both holy and loving.This is, perhaps the great error of today’s generation of Christians.The basic Gospel message is, indeed a statement of both the love and the holiness of God.“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” Why was it necessary for God to give His Son as a propitiation for our sins?Simply because God is holy and He cannot tolerate sin.The act of sending Christ to die for sin is a demonstration of His great love in view of His absolute and uncompromising holiness.It therefore would behoove us, as supposed followers of God in Christ, to search out and to dwell on this truth of the importance of holiness, and to find out what holiness truly is.
Probably the most basic idea in holiness as set forth in Scripture is God’s utter apartness, or separation from His creation.
Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness…?Ex. 15:11
Being entirely unique, God is utterly perfect, utterly pure and absolutely consistent in all of His moral and spiritual traits.His holiness is said to beautiful and we are commanded to worship Him in “the beauty of holiness.”Whereas creation is tainted with sin, an absolute moral purity emanates from God’s being as a result of his separateness from nature.This fact is, in one sense incomprehensible to the fallen human mind, and yet humanity is accountable for its lack of holiness and obedience to their Creator by virtue of the conscience that He has instilled in them.Rom. .By sending His Son into the world to die for fallen man, God stated, among other things His desire and intention to restore all of nature, including mankind to a state of holiness consistent with His nature.He didn’t go to the extremity of sending His Son to die on the cross so that those He redeemed could continue on in the unholiness of their sin and selfishness.See Romans chapter six.
What then is holiness, and why is it so misunderstood, mischaracterized, de-emphasized and even disparaged today?In this essay we wish to deal with the first part of the question, “What is true holiness?” and leave the second part, that is the “why’s of its absence” for another message at another time.Holiness is simply being Christ-like in a thoroughly consistent way.The natural (carnal) response to the call to holiness is that Christ was divine and we are merely human, thus making the consistent holiness that Christ exhibited impossible for the Christian to achieve here on the earth.A number of statements in the New Testament refute this assertion.
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.2Pet. 1:4
While we as redeemed mortals may not achieve absolute perfection while living on the earth, we are, nevertheless commanded to strive for holiness in our lives while journeying to heaven.Excuses for carnal, unholy living amongst Christians (again, this is not our subject here) abound in today’s church culture.It is the practical lifestyle of the Christian, and how it can and must conform to the will and even to the nature of God that we are concerned with in this message.A host of passages in the Old as well as in the New Testament come to mind.Holiness is both an inward disposition in the believer, as well as an outward way of living and behaving.Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, the pure in heart, etc.”See Matthew Chapter 5.These are the inward characteristics possessed and nurtured by the one who desires holiness.If these inclinations are truly present in the heart and soul of a man or a woman, then obedience to the imperatives and commandments of Scripture are only a natural out-flowing of that person’s life.For a man to love his wife, a wife to submit to her husband, and for a child to obey his parents from the heart are all impossible apart from the transformation of the new birth and divine impartation of these qualities to the individual.Even then, obedience to the commands of Scripture are not automatic.The exertion of faith is continuously necessary in order to cultivate the fruit of holiness in the life of the believer.This is salvation (or sanctification, if you will) by faith, not by works.A works-oriented salvation would be characterized by good works performed for the purpose of earning righteousness, rather than expressing the righteousness that has been imparted to the Christian by virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Since God is separate from His creation, and entirely apart from it in a moral and spiritual sense, so holiness for the child of God is an utter apartness from the world around him.This is not isolation in the sense of monasticism, asceticism, or mysticism in any way, but an inward apartness that manifests in a practical separateness from the culture of this present world.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.Rom. 12:2
The Christian is in the world, but he does not think, act or conform to the world in his habits, tastes, dress or any of the other patterns set around him.He doesn’t reason pragmatically in order to compromise his testimony to the world by the way he lives.He is willing to be misunderstood and even persecuted and rejected by the people of the world because of his distinctness, and for his stand on righteousness.Moreover, it is in his response to this misunderstanding and persecution, by not retaliating against it that he truly testifies to the grace of God.
“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”Rom. .
It must also be emphasized that holiness is not mere social, religious or political conservatism.Many a “conservative” Christian and “conservative” church are dead in their carnal, unholy, and self-oriented manner of thinking and living.However, there is a certain conservatism that a truly holy person manifests in his life.His dress, and all of his activity reflect this.Nevertheless, being conservative cannot be equated with being separated in the Biblical sense.On the other hand, pragmatic compromise with the world for the supposed sake of “winning them to Christ” is equally unholy and displeasing to the holy God.Fervent love for one another and for those outside the household of God must, therefore be under-girded with a steadfast commitment to holy living, and holy communication of uncompromised truth.When delivering the Gospel to the non-believer, the faithful Christian presents a balanced message, incorporating both the judgment and wrath of God, as well as His love for all men.Giving sandwiches to the lost, who are hungry without telling them of their need for repentance is not love in the spiritual sense.It is human pity, not godly compassion.The true disciple of Christ holds steadfastly onto both of the aspects of holiness and love as he travels the narrow way to his destiny in God’s everlasting kingdom.Because he knows and loves God, and truly loves his neighbor, he speaks the truth to him in love.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.Heb. 12:14
 Monasticism and asceticismboth refer to an extremely austere lifestyle entailing denial of nearly all physical and mental pleasures in order to achieve a greater level of spiritual freedom and elevation.Mysticism connotes a spirituality based upon an inward experience achieved throughmeditation and contemplation.
If any[man] come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have [sufficient] to finish [it]?Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish [it], all that behold [it] begin to mock him,Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.Luke 14:26-33
The term “disciple” in its noun form is rarely used today amongst Christians, at least to my hearing.I don’t think I have heard someone referred to as a disciple, or in an evangelistic outreach that a person needs to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.The words “Christian” or “believer” are the common terms used to describe persons in the contemporary churches who profess to know Christ, even though “disciple” is the definitive word used by Christ in the Gospels to describe one of His followers, or would-be followers.A word search in the Bible (KJV) yields a differing proportion of the use of these terms.The word "believer" is used twice in the singular form, in Acts and First Timothy, and not at all in the plural."Christian" is found twice in the singular, in Acts and I Peter respectively, and once in the plural in Acts. The word "disciple," however can be found about 29 times in the singular in the Bible, and about 232 times in the plural, once in Isaiah and the remaining times in the Gospels and Acts.
I believe that there are at least two distinct reasons for the reversed imbalance in the use of these terms amongst contemporary American Christians.First, there is a simple, linguistic ease that accompanies the word "Christian."It seems to cover the full range of persons associated with what has culturally and religiously been labeled as "Christianity," or all of the religious groups who profess some relationship to the historic Jesus Christ.But the deeper and more essential reason may be that becoming a disciple, in the strict, disciplined devotedness that this term implies is no longer thought to be absolutely necessary as accompanying conversion and salvation.The Gospel has undergone a shift in definition in the past half to three quarters of a century.Whereas the command to repent before a holy God and have faith in the atoning work of Christ was the historic message delivered to the world, today a very simplistic formula is given for would-be converts:“simply believe.”Those who state or imply that a full, radical change of lifestyle is needed upon conversion are accused of proclaiming a “works gospel,” or one requiring some kind of good deeds in order to be saved.The more recent gospel proclaimers have so intimidated those who would present the whole message proclaimed by Christ and His apostles, that they have effectively silenced them, and supplanted the Biblical Gospel with their newer, abbreviated version.Even a cursory look at the literature commonly used in evangelism today by well-respected denominational and para-church groups would confirm this assertion.
“Just ‘believe’ in what Jesus did for you on the cross, and go on your happy way to heaven.Never mind the ongoing problem of sin in your life, and all of the Biblical commands for holiness, because you are always going to sin no matter how hard you try to overcome it.Perfectionism is a false idea promoted by legalistic, works-oriented believers.”This statement is the sum total of counsel given to those who would come to Christ as new born babes in today’s Evangelical culture.Certainly, a form of discipleship is taught in today’s churches, but, again it is a very simplistic, hollow, and non-essential “form of godliness.”“Read your Bible, pray every day, and find a Bible-oriented church to be a part of,” goes the rhetoric.I suppose that with this advice, shallow and lacking teeth in its imperatives as it is, a new believer (not necessarily a "disciple") could conceivably set out on a course for heaven.The trouble with such spineless gospel preaching is that the hard sayings of Christ must somehow be dealt with in such a manner as to either negate them altogether, or spiritualize them in the mind of the new convert.By this I mean that the new believer sees such commands to forsake all to follow Jesus, and to take up the cross of self-denial as merely metaphorical imperatives rather than real and practical ones.For a preacher, whether he is professional or otherwise to incorporate these New Testament sayings of Christ into his Gospel presentation would be tantamount to high heresy, and place him in danger of excommunication by the bishops of today’s "Evangelical Rome."Hopefully, my facetiousness here conveys the fact of a serious, and actual condition in the church world today.
Dispensationalism as well as Some Forms of “Calvinism” are both Partly Responsible for the Problem
Though several of the many theological systems devised by man appear to have good as well as bad points, it appears to me that “Dispensationalism” must take the most blame for the present undermining the historic Gospel and supplanting it with an easy, “no-cost” message, often devoid of the need for persevering commitment rooted in genuine repentance.Sadly, these folks have been looked up to as being very conservative in their religious, social and political outlook and practice, and yet their pet doctrines have, likely done more harm to the body of Christ than many other teachings coming on the modern scene. While strict dispensationlism, in its common variety certainly does not justify or condone spiritual laziness and loose living, the implications of dividing the Gospel into two distinct gospels for two distinct groups, Jews and Gentiles are really quite devastating to the essential message.All the commands of Christ and His early disciples can be easily dismissed for our modern world in Dispensationalism, because “they were given to the Jews, who were under the Law.”We, on the other hand, it is asserted are under "grace," and, therefore need only to believe on what Jesus did on the cross in order to be saved.All of the various commands given in the New Testament to crucify the flesh, live a consistently holy and blameless life are, by implication only options to strive for if one has the inclination for the “deeper life” with God.But to lay them on one’s fellow believers as necessary, as Christ did is certainly inappropriate.In the first place, they are virtually impossible to comply with (so they say), and in the second place implying their necessity would not be a sign of openness to “seekers,” which would surely drive multitudes of them away to the more “seeker-friendly” churches. Alas, it can now be seen why this non-discipleship gospel has become so necessary in our modern, self-oriented culture.The practical requirement for being a disciple of Christ and all that is implied in it, in terms of separation from the world and separation to God have thus, been effectively eliminated from, not only the message of today’s churches, but the very lives of their people.
Now, I wouldn’t want to place all of the blame for the present sad state of affairs in the body of Christ solely upon these dear saints who advocate and promote their Dispensational doctrine.All quarters of the church have had their compromises in order please men and gain members and followers.Those in the “Reformed” quarter of the church are really just as guilty of promoting spiritual-religious complacency as their Dispensational brothers.The so-called “five points of Calvinism” contain the essential doctrines of election and of “sovereign grace.”Among these are the “perseverance of the saints,” which asserts that the true elect shall persevere in their faith unto the end of their salvation.The problem with their teaching is that perseverance is assumed, but not necessarily commanded, again likely because of the desire to make the Gospel appealing to the masses.The concept of “grace” to the modern churches seems to imply an almost automatic, willing compliance with the commands of Christ, with no self-mortification necessary.Obedience, therefore becomes however one chooses to obey whatever ones chooses to believe must be obeyed.The early Puritan forebears of these modern Calvinists, as well as the early Baptists were, however not so soft with their hearers.
The irony of all this, however is that the most conservative elements in the church today, many of whom consider themselves to be “fundamentalist” in the faith, adhering to the supposed basic tenants of Biblical Christianity may, unwittingly be undermining the very truths that they so staunchly uphold.While many "fundamentalists" and other “conservatives” have become so busy criticizing and correcting the glaring faults of other segments of Christianity, i.e. the “new revelations” of the Charismatics, the sensuous music, dress and lifestyles of nearly all other Evangelicals (including many “fundamentalists”), or the infant baptism, amillennialism and lack of rapture in the teachings of the Reformed churches, that they have failed to remove the doctrinal beam out of their own eye.Truly, the systems and concepts devised by men are all bruised, shaking and broken reeds upon which they often try to stand.The teaching of the whole counsel of Scripture is clear that there is but one doctrine, as Paul states it, “...the doctrine which is according to godliness...”1Tim. 6:3.While justification before a holy God is without merit or works on the part of the one being justified, discipleship, practical holiness, bearing the cross, or whatever other language is used to describe God’s requirement for us to live a life of repentance, true faith and full obedience to all of His moral commands is not optional for the professing Christian.One wonders what kind of tribulation, moral failures in the churches or persecution of the churches will it take to get this truth into our adolescent Evangelical heads in the wicked time in which we now live?
I suppose I could go on to harping about all of the compromises of the present program-oriented churches, as I often do.I'll spare my readers of that. My point is simply this:Isn’t it time to go back and see what Jesus and His apostles taught about the Christian life, and to put aside all of our contemporary notions of what His Gospel really is?Let's try something new and quote their words in presenting the Gospel to the lost world around us and in exhorting each other concerning Christian living.Sure, there were false believers in early New Testament times, wolves in sheep’s clothing, who taught wrong gospels.There were carnally oriented, professing "Christians", and perhaps even entire assemblies of them, who believed, like many today that they could just kick back and live self-oriented, cross-less lives and be assured of heaven. But the call has, from the very beginning been the same.”Come, deny yourself, take up the cross, die to self, crucify the flesh and follow me!”I realize that this is a hard message to preach to a self-oriented generation in this modern world.But if we are obedient to our Master, we’ll proclaim this very message faithfully until He returns.Mary Poppins sang, “A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down...” In this case, the leaven of a little sugar only diminishes the potency of the powerful medicine that has been entrusted to us.Let’s give the Gospel in its full strength to a dying world, and allow God be responsible for the results.
The disciple is not above [his] master, nor the servant above his lord.It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more [shall they call] them of his household?Matt. 10:24,25
“... it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.1Pet. 1:16”
Holiness is not the exclusive property of those groups and movements who teach it and seek to promote it.Nor is it a concept or a practice that is limited to those with an Arminian theological persuasion, which is generally held by those professing holiness of life and heart in their Christian experience.Holiness rightly belongs to and is required of all who claim to know Christ in the orthodox, historical and re-born way.Some of the greatest proponents of practical holiness as taught and commanded in the New Testament were English Reformers, Non-Conformists (in relation to the Church of England) and Puritans of that same era.A later preacher of holiness was the Englishman, Charles Spurgeon.These men were essentially Calvinistic in their theological underpinnings, and yet the practical teachings and exhortations of their contemporary descendants often bear little likeness to what they taught in the past. Today’s “Reformed” pastors are generally in agreement with those classic doctrines of election and grace as enumerated in the Westminster Confession, but often their parishioners live no differently than many of their Evangelical, Baptist and Charismatic brethren.What would be the advantage then, of teaching a “superior” doctrinal system, if the people receiving it do not show more of Christ to the world than their non-Reformed brethren?True Biblical separation in contemporary churches in America has long gone by the wayside, to be replaced with a pragmatism that easily blends elements of Biblical truth with world-originated concepts for Christian living.
It is very interesting how we cherish our diverse doctrines today, as though they were banners of the different sports teams of our various educational institutions.“I am Calivinist!”I’m a dispensationalist!”“I believe in the gifts of the Spirit for today!”But the Apostle Paul condemns the Corinthians for this very partisanship:
For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?1Cor. 3:3,4
Rather, Paul instructs Timothy in the simple doctrine of holiness:
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness...1Tim 6:3
Why doesn’t the apostle spell out this “doctrine of godliness” for us in a systematic manner, as our scholarly theologians have, so painstakingly done for us?We know that Paul did write a very systematized and comprehensive treatise on Christian doctrine in the first eight chapters of his Epistle to the Romans.But, I fear that we have missed the very essence of what He was conveying when I observe what is generally occurring in the churches today.I see the prideful adherence to doctrinal systems largely formulated by men, while at the same time there are great masses who attend these “sound” churches that are leading morally, very compromised lives, and increasingly being led astray by creeping “doctrines of demons” (yoga, psychology, Catholic Mysticism, ecumenism, etc.) at the very same time.Any doctrine or doctrinal system that does not engender or produce practical holiness in the lives of Christians is false, no matter how “orthodox” it may seem, or how much it may conform to some “confession” or convention in theory.If our emphasis on “election” or “eternal security,” at the expense of godliness and holiness, and somehow leads us into a state of spiritual lethargy, then it is wrong doctrine!
A superficial interest in the things of God accompanied by a preoccupation with worldly entertainment, sports and music, as well as manifestations of carnality such as gossip, cliques, immodest (and gender inappropriate) dress, etc., plainly reveal the spiritual condition of the church today.Bible Studies in which deeper teachings on practical godliness are often glossed over with an imbalance toward “positional” truths to the exclusion of practical, righteous living do nothing but help to foster a self-justified spiritual complacency in our contemporary churches.My spirit groans within me as I see the fruit of this in the lives of people subject to diluted instruction on holiness presented by men who lack the true power of holiness in their lives.These are blatant signs of an anemic Christianity hiding behind a fragile and bloodless cross positioned on their steeples, and hanging at the front of their sanctuaries.
The Biblical argument for holiness is often countered with a distinction between inward and outward righteousness.I ask you, can one exist without the other?Can we say that we truly belong to Christ and love Him, while simultaneously living in a manner that is inconsistent with that profession of faith, and clearly after the old, Adamic nature?I do not assert that a genuine believer is not capable of slipping into sin, but living in a continuous state of double-mindedness before God and others is certainly not pleasing to Him, nor is it worthy of the calling upon his life.Furthermore, to teach professing Christians a doctrine that is entirely centered around the unmerited gift of justification from sin, while withholding the corresponding obligation of that justified one to live up to the privilege of that salvation, is to do much harm to all believers, whether they are genuine or not.
Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.2Tim. 2:19
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.Rom. 8:12-14
Holiness of living is not some option presented to the Christian upon his rebirth in the spirit.Rather, it is a necessity for a number of reasons.First, it is a confirmation of a genuine conversion of the heart.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall...2Pet. 1:10
The reality that inward desires having changed, and that outward living must conform to the new desires for righteous living is, part and parcel to the authentic Christian message and experience.The notion, and the erroneous teaching that (supposed) holiness of heart can exist apart from godly behavior that emanates from it is clearly a false, antinomian gospel. The New Testament Scripture reasons along these lines:
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.Jas. 2:14-26
Therefore, the imperative for practical holiness to accompany positional sanctification and inward piety does not negate justification by grace, nor the sovereign election of the believer by God.These truths, which are established throughout the New Testament, all stand together and cannot be taught individually, in total isolation from each other.To do so would be to nullify vast portions of the Bible, and to radically alter and cheapen the essential nature of saving grace.Taken together they comprise the “whole counsel of God.”
Obedience to God’s moral precepts is not Optional
Consistent holiness of living is not some option for the one professing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as many churches and their doctrines seem to imply.God says that we are to be holy in allmanner of conversation. 1Pet. 1:15,16We don’t grow in holiness merely by the intellectual study of positional truths to stimulate our idle, curious minds.We study the Bible so that we can obey it, as the very commands of God to us.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?Rom. 6:12-16
The obedience spoken of in these verses is not merely mental assent to propositional truth, or the impartation of some supposed positional sanctification.Rather, it is an obligation to the one who has been truly justified by faith to live a practically righteous life consistent with the legal righteousness that has been freely imparted to him.How sad it is that such a simple truth has eluded an entire generation of modern believers and their shepherds!One is embarrassed on their behalf of the necessity to impart these fundamental elements of the Gospel that were not overlooked by true saints in former periods of Church history.Where have we come in our contemporary understanding of grace and the very essence of what the Gospel is?Have the persecutions, the reformations and the revivals that preceded us in history truly blossomed into this distorted and cheapened message that booms from pulpits, Bible schools and radio air waves across our land today?I should hope not!On the contrary, the everlasting Gospel of God is powerful to the overcoming of sin and all manner of self-oriented, carnal living and shall ultimately reign in His true saints!To early Christians, martyrs and saints throughout the ages, this was an undisputed given. The death to self as typified in Christ’s command to take up the cross and follow Him in discipleship was understood implicitly and taught explicitly as non-optional to the believer’s walk..There is, however, a certain distortion of the concept of grace in today’s version of the Gospel.In the contemporary message, death to self and the true surrender in all areas of the believer’s life that this death entails seem to be either an option for him, or in some circles condemned as a form of unnecessary “works.”Jesus said that the way to the kingdom would be difficult.Why do we make it easier than it actually is for our brothers and sisters, by leading them to believe that there is no cost to discipleship?Is that God’s version of Grace, or is it ours?While the Christian life is one of joy and security in Christ, it is likewise one of obedience, surrender, self-denial and separation (holiness) from and forsaking of the world and all of its security, comforts and affirmation.
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.Luke 14:26,27, 33
Legalism or True Grace?
“Legalism” is another defense employed against the preaching and teaching of practical holiness.“You’re coming to us with a “works salvation,” they say, justifying their “freedom in Christ.”But Paul counters this in the very epistle in which he refutes Jewish ceremonialism (legalism):
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.Gal. 5:13
The Christian is free from the law in the sense that he may not use it as a means of self-justification or self-sanctification, but its moral precepts are timeless and binding upon all men.Adultery, coveting, murder are offenses against God now, as they were under the Old New Covenant.Jesus gave a new, inward accountability to the Commandments in His Sermon on the Mount, whereby He both established the law and fulfills it.
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.Mat 5:17)
He fulfilled the law by dying on the cross vicariously on behalf of His elect children, and He affirms its validity here also by approving of its precepts.
Along this line, Paul, likewise establishes the (moral) law:
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.Rom. 7:12
The term legalism, while having a valid New Testament definition and application to the use of the works of the law in justifying and sanctifying the Christian is, often used as a rationale for a lawless doctrine and a self-oriented, unaccountable lifestyle.The proponents of abortion reason that this heinous act is a “personal decision,” and affects no one else.We know this is not true, and yet we often reason concerning the supposedly “personal choices” in our Christian lives in this same manner.The various interests we have, the things we involve ourselves in and the way we appear in dress and conduct before others certainly does matter to God, and does affect others around us, whether we will acknowledge it or not.The choices we make in these areas affect us, individually, as well as our testimony to Christ.These “personal choices” are, either made out of a heart surrendered to God, or one that is in rebellion toward Him, and is very inconsiderate of others in a number of ways.
We are not to be like the people of this world, either inwardly or outwardly.See Romans 12, verses one and two.Picking on people for their outward habits and appearance can, indeed be harsh, judgmental and, what we often call “legalistic.”Christians need to cultivate discernment about what is right and wrong, and have the freedom to make decisions about their lives in this regard.At the same time God has standards in all areas of living that we must seek to follow, and seek to help each other to obey, first by example, and, if necessary by encouragement and exhortation.The Devil’s game is to get God’s people to deny Him, not only verbally, but by the way we live.The church has become a muddied pool of fresh and foul water, simultaneously.A merely outward conformity to Christ, without a true, inward devotion and love for Him is dead religion.Correspondingly, a supposedly inward devotion to Him without outward obedience in even the supposedly small and “personal” areas of our lives is a human fantasy, a lie.True devotion must exist in the heart and in the life in order for God to be pleased, and for the world to behold Christ in His people.For Christians to hold each other to God’s standards as set forth in Scripture is not legalism, but rather, a part of the separation that a holy God requires of His holy people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.2Cor. 6:17-7:1
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God...Heb. 12:14,15
While grace is free in its justifying pardon for sin, both in the offer and in the receiving of it by the penitent sinner, our Lord and His apostles clearly taught that the recipients of that grace owe a debt of gratitude to the One who freely gave this gift of pardon.Out of this gratitude springs an obedience rooted in faith.Whether that obedience comes spontaneously or not, it must be manifested in the Christian.
If we, supposedly possess the freely given righteousness of God by faith, then we must acknowledge our indebtedness to Him by the way we live out our lives.This debt consists in cross-bearing discipleship, godliness of living, separation from the world and a clear denial of self and the security that this present world offers.All this amounts to a witness before a perverse and wicked generation, which is a testimony of holiness in our lives to the God Who is, by nature holy.Whereas our justification cost Christ His all, our sanctification entails a cost to us of all that this life and world affords.Label that how you will, but it is what the Scriptures teach.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom Ihave suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.Phil. 3:8-11
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.Luke 14:26,27
So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.Luke 14:33
Are we prepared to give such a testimony to the love and power of the One Who died to make us free in order to make us sons and daughters of the living God, to dwell with Him in righteousness and holiness forever?May He grant to present day professors of Jesus Christ the understanding of their need for practical holiness and consistent godly living in the coming days!
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification... 1Thess. 4:3
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.Titus 2:11-15
Antinomian, n.Eccl. Hist.One who holds that, under the gospel dispensation, the moral law is of no use or obligation, faith alone being necessary to salvation.Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionaryc. 1961
And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. Mark 1:17
I have been blessed to have an excellent employee, and his name is Max.Aside from being as good an employee as I can imagine, Max is an accomplished fisherman.If you knew him you would agree with me, and even say that I understate Max’s fishing qualities.I have not met another person who loves, enjoys and involves himself in the sport of fishing more than this man.His very nature exudes the fishing instinct.Well, I learned the other day that Max and another man who has worked for me briefly in the past were planning a fishing trip this past week-end,so I sort of invited myself along.For years my secret admiration for fishermen and a desire to really learn the sport myself has been incubating in my soul.This summer, it finally came to fruition on a job for a customer of mine who has a cabin in Buena Vista.There just happens to be a small lake on the property where the cabin is, and it is stocked with fish just waiting to be caught.Max and I were summoned to go up to this place to do some repairs and some painting on this cabin.Well, needless to say, we did a little fishing when the day’s work had ended each evening.Max did most of the catching but I landed a couple, which was enough to infect me with a very bad case ofthe fishing virus.Later, this customer was gracious enough to allow some friends and me to return to the cabin for a week-end and, yes more fish were hauled out of this lake, both by myself as well as by the entire family that accompanied me there.
Now this past week-end was the time for the big fisherman (that’s me) to go out again and prove his newly acquired skills in this ancient art.And so I did.Max, Kevin and I drove to a somewhat remote and somewhat secret spot underneath a nearby mountain. We hiked up high and descended to a series of reservoirs with a fairly small lake in betwixt them and proceeded to hook our prey.Max, of course pulled out the first one, which turned out to be the largest of the day, and I almost immediately snagged the next one, which was a brown trout nearly as large as Max’s.The remainder of the afternoon was pure enjoyment with varying degrees of excitement and placidness.I’ve learned at this advanced age that there are few joys in life (I say this facetiously) that compare with seeing one’s fishing line begin to slowly “dance” in the water, and then, begin to resist my pull, with the ensuing contest between the fish and I as I pull him in.On one occasion back in Buena Vista the fish jumped off my hook somehow, and I immediately cast my pole to the ground and prostrated my self on the edge of the water, grabbed him and tossed him up on the road.Where have I been all of these years?
After some time together with these others on this little mountain lake, they decided to check out one of the nearby larger reservoirs.I went to the other side of the lake where the thick forest bordered and shaded the shoreline, and enjoyed the solitude there for maybe a couple of hours.I remember distinctly praying that God would show me how to be an effective fisher of men.Shortly after this, another little fellow decided to take hold on my bait and the contest was on again, with me the victor.What worldly fishermen call “luck,” which in reality is God sending fish to bite onto my hook was happening before my novice eyes.What a blissful scene it was.I was sitting and standing alternately on a mucky-sandy little beach next to beautiful virgin forest, having forgotten the world and all of my cares, just being there with the fish, the Lord and nature.Later, when I ran out of bait, I went searching for and found the other guys, and shortly thereafter left for home alone, as they decided to stay and cook up their catch.
Some analogies between the two kinds of fishing have come to mind through this experience and other thoughts I have had recently.Fishing (for fish) is a fun sport, but real fishermen take it quite seriously.Those bumper stickers about wives being missed because they departed from their double-minded husbands who loved fishing more than they, could be quite true.Point #2:Besides being a passion, fishing must be done intelligently in order for a consistent harvest of fish.True, one might go out, toss a hook and line in some body of water and inadvertently snag a fish.But for the most part, a certain study of the situation and conditions must be conducted, and a knowledge of the adversary (the fish) must be obtained.And, Point #3 (although there are surely many more) persistence, patience and perseverance are necessary qualities for anyone one who would continue on in this sport.Some degree of money and time must be invested, as well.Max, on his painter’s wage was able, recently to purchase a used fishing boat equipped with a fairly strong motor, for a relatively inexpensive price.Max is a serious fisherman, and our roles were reversed on our little trip this week-end, as he led the venture.
I cannot help but compare my newly found hobby of fishing with what I have experienced in the past and observe in the very present of the larger church’s efforts at fishing for the souls of men. You, reader are probably expecting some strong criticism here.I don’t really have to say a word about this, because I’m sure that we all feel that our efforts in this area have been pitifully lacking in every way.I think I can say with honesty and quite accurately that, apart from our gimmickry in appealing to the felt needs of people in our communities for enlarging our would-be mega-churches, contemporary Christians have, fairly well given up on concerted evangelistic enterprises.I hope that is not too harsh an assessment, although there are sure exceptions to this everywhere.Being wise and active in not only delivering a word to those without Christ, but willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to, not only win them, but to disciple them personally is the calling upon every believer. Because of our economic relationship, I have been able to disciple Max, even to engaging in extended Bible studies with him.
The analogy breaks down, however at some point between the two kinds of fishing.Just landing the sinner “on the shore” (bringing him to a church meeting) is usually not enough.Even leading him (hopefully under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit) in some “sinner’s prayer” is not enough either.In the past several years I’ve had the honor of knowing and meeting with a man named Jim Downing, one of the few remaining Navigators, who worked with the organization’s founder, Dawson Trotman.Mr. Downing (as I call him) has imparted a wealth of knowledge to me in the “art of disciple-making.”I’ve learned however, that people in our (and every) generation need more than facts and principles to study in becoming a true follower of Jesus.Like Paul, we are passing on a kind of life, not just information, but a treasure that cost Christ His all on the cross, and, indeed costs us our all as we give it out to others.
For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.So then death worketh in us, but life in you.2Cor. 4:12
Our teaching must, of course be Biblically accurate, but even more so, it needs to be accompanied by an example of the dying and living of Christ within us. We need to be always ready for that line to start dancing in the water, and then be fully prepared to fight our newly won catch safely to shores of heaven.This, my friends is no light matter!It is a joyous, albeit solemn calling from which there is no vacation.We see, from the painful struggles of our own journey to the kingdom, and from the deathliness from which we, ourselves have been delivered how important is this vocation.Would that we truly become effective fishermen and fisherwomen, not just randomly for excitement and sport, but because the lives of our neighbors hang in the balance.Would any of you care to join me in my next fishing trip?
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all [men], that I might by all means save some.And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with [you].1Cor. 9:22,23*
*This passage of the New Testament does not imply, as some seem to assert that some form of compromise of Biblical truth may be necessary in the winning of the lost for the sake of church growth.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.John 12:24,25
Imagine waking some morning to extremely painful symptoms in one part of your body, and rushing to a nearby hospital emergency room for help to find the medical staff unwilling to treat your wound.Further, when speaking to the triage nurse, she informs you that the only cure for your ailment is death, which the sooner administered the better you might obtain the cure.I know this sounds quite ridiculous, but there is an analogy here for our church, and for God’s churches everywhere.I hear it frequently stated that Christian churches ought to be hospitals, places where the wounded and weary of this world can come for healing of their spiritual and emotional injuries and maladies.Those who make this assertion are often quick to criticize the more conservative churches, whom they say, often with accuracy, that Christianity is not a system of do’s and don’ts, but a religion of love and acceptance by God.This is partly, not completely true of what the assembly of God’s holy, called out people are to be.Let me explain.
These progressive “Evangelicals” who reject the rigid fundamentalism of the past have come to an interpretation of the Gospel that is more palatable to the contemporary world than what was proclaimed by Jesus and His early disciples.Whereas, mankind has always, since its fall into sin experienced a myriad of sufferings of infinite variety, modern civilization, with its complexity and sophistication seems to have produced pressures and problems heretofore unheard of on the earth, so they say.In order to more effectively address these social and psychological issues, these contemporary Christians have devised ways that are seemingly more efficient to the overcoming of the same.Of course, the Bible, which is the very word of God is not entirely neglected in this modern approach to modern problems in modern society.That would be contrary to their stated belief in the sufficiency of God’s word for all of man’s needs.Rather, the pure truth of the Gospel is carefully mixed in a variety of concoctions of human remedies, such as the supposed “science” of psychology, and carefully blended with scriptural concepts so as to enhance the healing power of God’s word.Numerous religious programs are devised as well, in order to meet the totality of the needs of the Christian and prospective Christian and his family.By these essential means outreach is made to the “un-churched” of the community, who are placed in a statistical category known as “seekers.” Thus, the “seeker-friendly” church is born, literally out of nothing.
Getting back to the analogy of the church being a hospital for healing souls, the masses of “mostly prosperous, and younger folk” are drawn in to these organizations with the expressed intent of meeting their deeply complex needs, along with, of course their need of salvation from sin and the progressive sanctification that normally accompanies this.Ah, what a grand solution for man’s contemporary predicament!All of the pain and trouble of modern life is so carefully treated in these “clinics of mercy”, so to speak.Extreme means are used to preserve the life of those who enter here for treatment.Medicines, both human as well as divine (biblical) are supposedly employed for this end.The very best of both worlds (God’s and man’s) are used to preserve life and to stave off death, everything from well-developed theologies to the latest in psychological theory. The only trouble is one small problem.That is that the real cure is often overlooked, and very intentionally at that.If the “doctors, nurses and volunteer staff" of these centers of healing were to inform the prospective patients of their need of dying in order that they might be totally cured of their spiritual and moral ills, the waiting rooms of these places might be quite empty.This might be the case with the possible exception of a few repentant under-the-bridge dwellers and other poor seeking both physical, as well as spiritual assistance. That, of course would not be good for the budget and organizational operating expenses of these grand institutions.Their professional staffs might have to seek other employment in order to meet their basic temporal needs, and programs and physical facilities might suffer great neglect, even to their possible demise.Alas!How would the glorious Gospel of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be proclaimed both domestically and abroad?
The question must then be asked:Are our religious "hospitals" dispensaries of life or of death, and how?According to the words of Jesus, eternal life is obtained by dying (Matt. 10:39).He himself died in order to purchase this life for His beloved elect of all ages who would believe in Him.He, likewise commanded these elect of God, those who would be followers of Him into His everlasting kingdom, to take up their crosses, and die to self and to sin.(Luke 9:23, 14:26, Rom. 8:13, 1Cor.15:31)According to Christ and his apostles, death is the way to life.So, by preserving life here and now, we are actually furthering death, and, conversely by encouraging the total surrender of life unto death, we are showing people the way to life.Every pastor and Christian worker, and everyone, indeed who professes to know Christ and be both a follower and servant of His, leading others in the way of Christianity, must, sooner or later reckon with this basic fact.Which direction am I headed, according to the teachings so plainly set forth in the New Testament, and am I an example to others of this way of dying and living by means of the cross?Is the church organization that I am a part of truly a hospital of spiritual healing because its constituents have learned this lesson of living through dying?Or are we simply a gathering of those who are seeking to preserve our lives in this world in order to possess its temporary comforts and security, while falsely thinking we are headed to a heavenly destination?What we call ourselves matters little in the confused and often deceived culture in which we now live.What we really are is of eternal consequence to our own destiny, and the destiny of those to whom we attempt to minister.May the God of all grace help us to discern these things for His glory and for our eternal well-being, lest we be taken captive by the subtle deceit of this present age and the apostasy so rampant in the churches!Amen.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.Luke 9:24
Name: W. Michael Clark ChristiansUnite ID: wmichael Member Since: 2006-04-04 Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States Denomination: Attend a Mennonite church About Me: I am a broken vessel, hopefully able to contain His grace and glory, and to faithfully deliver the message entrusted to me. 2Cor. 4:7