Friday, October 28, 2011

Barking up the Wrong Tree - Holiness

"Orlando, 2011" Courtesy of gregorywass

True holiness leads you to partake in the ministry of reconciliation... It is about union with Christ.
-- Dr. David Humphreys

The most awkward experience for a believer is to be evangelized, that is an indisputable fact. A few times I have walked down the street and had some brother or sister in Christ muster up the gumption to get my attention and ask, May I show you how you can be sure that you will go to heaven when you die? Then I am in a position where I must make a decision, do I say No, thank you, I already know. Or, Praise the Lord for your ministry, but I already am your brother in Christ. Maybe I will just tell them I have believed on the Lord Jesus, and I’m in a hurry to get someplace, but God bless you. Perhaps I should string them along and encourage them by believing on Jesus with them, but that would be deception and a waste of the Spirit. I’d hate to tie up resources that could be used to further the kingdom. For the most part, I’m the guy who says I believe on the Lord Jesus and hopes God blesses their ministry.

But what happens when they insist that you are not a Christian?

This happened to me once, and it was all my fault. A group of enthusiastic people came to Florida International University to evangelize on campus. They set up shop by the fountain. Their shop included large signs that said Lust, Homosexuality, Adultery, and Fornication on them. (Looking back, it seems painfully clear that they were fixated on certain types of sins, but I digress.) Their evangelism consisted of shouting matches waged between themselves and the good students of the University community about how sinful they really are. I understand that it is crucial for man to understand his fall from grace and his own insufficiency before he can accept the gospel. However, I do not envision a Christ that is red-faced, screaming at collegiate sophomores who are laughing and yelling right back. It was a disorganized display of futility.

I, in an ignorant spirit of ecumenism, decided that what my brothers needed was some encouragement as they stood up for Christ’s principles in the ungodly University. I approached a man who held a sign saying that homosexuals will be burned in the fire and said:

Brother, I am encouraged by your efforts.
Brother? Why do you call me brother? He, indignant, retorted.

I call you my brother because I too have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and have been redeemed from Sin. We are both in the family of God. I responded, a little shocked, but determined to encourage him.
Ah, very good, he responded, but have you sinned?
Well, yes, I answered, we all sin, but we can confess our sin and He is faithful and just to forgive us. (That’s Biblical by the way, 1 John 1:9. Thank you, Sunday School.)
No, I don’t sin, he beamed with eyes gleaming.
My eyes must have bugged out and my head simultaneously contracted a huge ache. What does he mean he doesn’t sin? Surely, you do not mean you never stumble? I inquired.
I am holy, I do not sin. Christians do not sin, since you sin, you are not a Christian.
I decided not to continue engaging in this conversation.

This was my first encounter with the Holy Rollers. They came on campus periodically to make life more difficult for the true Christians on campus. After my incident with the gentleman, I approached the leader of the Baptist group on campus regarding them. He let me know that whenever the Holy Rollers come on campus, the students get more hostile to his group. They approach him with the accusation that he (as a Christian) feels superior to them (worldly college students). In essence, he is forced into disaster recovery mode and out of the normal ministry mode.

Should the signature move of a holy person be to swoop in a leave an established ministry scrambling to patch holes and trust issues? What exactly does holiness look like? Perhaps, like the Rollers, it is a list of things to refrain from doing. Perhaps it is a positive list of things we should do. For clarification, read Titus 1:15-2:10.

Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.

While studying Titus I identified different topics by highlighting and color coding key phrases in the text. This particular chunk of verses was covered in the highlight that indicated the topic of holiness. Immediately, I was struck with the unique nature of the sentence structure. The verbs in this section of verses is amazing.

Verbs are the driving force in a sentence. They tell you most of the information about the subject and will show how things progress. Most people think of verbs as a vector for action. Verbs, however, can also convey a state of being. These are the verbs that Paul chooses in this selection. Go ahead, read it again and note the following verbs: be, are, is.

Holiness is who you are, not what you do or do not do. Granted, who you are informs your behavior, but the two, while undeniably linked, are still separate. Consider this:

What makes a dog, a dog? I could describe a dog by saying, All dogs bark and are covered in fur and walk on all four legs. I could also find dogs that do not bark, have been genetically altered to not have fur all over their bodies and have been trained to walk using only two legs (see YouTube). Those are the things that describe the dog, but they are not intrinsically what a dog is. A dog is Canis lupus familiaris. It is a predefined, scientific set of DNA which is not the same as the gray wolf or dingo or fox or any other animal that closely resembles the dog.

Christian holiness works the same way. One cannot be holy without God’s special grace in Christ. One can look holy, but it can be all smoke and mirrors. And, by the same token, one can be holy though they sometimes stumble along the way. The reason for this is because holiness is a standing (standing is one of those verbs that describe where you are). We stand on holy ground as the Lord’s special people. My proof text is Titus 2:13, 14:

looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

We have been purified for Christ as His own special people. This is a positional statement, not a practical one. The practical statement comes after the comma; zealous for good works. We are holy, not because we behave in a holy manner, but because in Christ we are reformed. In Christ, our character is changed. Elder Randy Beers once said, God calls us to Holy ground. It’s up to us to respond. God has indeed paved the way to holiness and begs us to accept it. We would have no holiness had Christ not offered it to us.

I can stand up to the Holy Rollers and proudly state that I am holy even though I still sin. My ways are not dictated by sin, but by the Holy Spirit of God. To base holiness on anything but a holy God is simply unholy.

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Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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