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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Jesus Christ and the Church of LCD--Part 4

If LCD can permeate the gospel, does holiness stand a chance?

Without a genuine understanding of the gospel, what use is holiness? It seems to go from underestimated (assuming it is something I can acheive on my own) or is undervalued (seeing it as not worthy of pursuit). Perhaps on the topic of holiness, the pendulum swings the greatest.

For some, holiness is completely found in actions. They deem activities as corrupt and then avoid those activities. Of course, there's nothing wrong in that (doesn't the 10 commandments encourage us the same way?). The problem lies in motivation. They believe actions (or absence) achieve holiness. Can I sin, yet have a good motive and that action be pure? No. But can I do good things and have an impure motive and therefore make the good thing sinful? Absolutely. LCD infects this body by encouraging a standard of actions will achieve holy living. The nature of our heart is ignored. They may talk about righteousness coming from Christ, but contradict that by clinging to law (typically man made law).

Jesus was so adamant that law keeping alone leads to death. If the Law didn't reveal our need for justification from an outside source, then we weren't being honest with the Law. I must see that the Law condemns me. Yet, some see that it is impossible to live up to God's standard, so they never even try. They boast of grace (as we all should) but never allow that grace to transform who they are. They assume that holiness is impossible to achieve and doesn't effect their eternity, so why bother. Anyone who challenges them to this point is a legalist or fundamentalist.

I have not found that sweet spot in the middle. I often feel my heart swinging from one side to the other. Do most people in our churches know that the root of saint is the same root as holy? Do we teach that at the time of salvation, a person becomes holy, being set apart? Do we then explain what is meant by "be holy as I am holy?"

This month I've had a conversation with an individual about salvation. They struggled to believe eternal security for "what would be the motivation for right living if I had it no matter what?". To me, this discussion no longer was about eternal security (for he was quite taken back by the issue of the Holy Spirit being our earnest payment; Ephesians 1:14), but instead became about holiness in the believer. In a study in which I am participating, a minor issue came up (minor, for it was not in any way the author's key point) about the command not to commit adultery. Why not cheat on your spouse? There seem to be a few answers:

You could lose your salvation. That sound you hear in your head is a buzzer telling you that answer does not work in light of about 10,000 verses in Scripture. While this may be a motivation tactic for false religions around the globe, we must not let that be our logic.

I break God's heart. I guess I don't really see that as the whole point. Is God sad when I sin? I don't know that is an accurate description (maybe "greiving the Holy Spirit" could support that). Most of the passages I read suggest sin stirs up the wrath of God, His justice requires His displeasure. For the believer, that wrath is extinguished by the work of Jesus Christ. The anger and punishment is not doled out on the believer, thus reducing the motivation to avoid it (if taking a simplistic approach).

I break my wife's heart. Sure, the effect on others can be a great motivator. However, if I am seriously considering having an affair, I'm already caught in such a trap of selfishness that this is probably not going to be the great motivator I see it to be before entering the seductive spell.

It will kill my witness. While it would make it harder for people to see Jesus, this again does not appear to be the ultimate agenda. First off, most believers aren't being a witness (evidenced by an avoidance of discussing man's depravity or the exclusivity of the gospel message in most discussions). Second, haven't we all heard the amazing story of a man who destroyed his home by his actions, yet Jesus put his family back together? Gnawing inside of us, we rationalize the sin or worse yet, feel like our mistakes only make the gospel of grace that much more visible.

No, the issue goes back to the "why" of the command. Why would God desire faithfulness from me in regard to my wife? Well, for one, Ephesians 5 says I am supposed to be playing the role of Jesus in the gospel drama that my marriage is. At first this goal appears to be gospel witnessed based, but look closer. Ephesians does not encourage the man to display the message of the gospel in his marriage, but rather to display the person of the gospel; Jesus Christ. If I persue being Christ-like, the gospel message will flow from our matrimony. How do we know that faithfulness to our spouse will make us holier? Because God, Himself, is faithful and loyal.

There are actions that can not contain holiness. Because God can not tell a lie, it is impossible for me to do so in a holy manner. Yet, God is not holy because He doesn't lie, but rather, doesn't lie because He is holy. Actions, without the pursuit of God, and the knowledge that He alone is able to make me holy must be kept in front of us.

I must not excuse sin in a brother (the unrepentant person having an affair in a church must come under church discipline) but I must not become the "fruit police" at the same time, only judging a person's walk by my perception of their actions. We have to take the motivation of righteous living off of man, and place it back to God.


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