Holiness is the standard and substance of the Christian life. Hebrews 12:14 says, Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. The God who calls us to holiness said, Be holy for I am holy (Leviticus 19:2). God is so holy, that nothing in Him can respond to sin. He is so holy that He cannot tempt to sin. There is no God like him. Although He is the God of all grace, grace should never be used as an excuse to keep sinning. In Romans 6:1, Paul asks, What shall we say, Then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace many increase? He thunders his answer in verse 2: By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? It will never be that it is impossible to sin; rather, the Holy Spirits indwelling power, makes it possible not to sin. The Christian made perfect in Gods love will not live a lifestyle of sin. Doug Small says, Living your life outside the lordship of Christ is sin. His question hit me between the eyes, Are you holy to get to heaven? Thats what 12:14 seems to say it takes. Or, Are you holy because you are heading for heaven?
In a message he preached by this title, Small talks about The double delusion in modern Christianity. We love lists of sin. This or that practice is sin. But this leads us to rationalize or compare ourselves with others. He reminds us that we have a list of sins. Some sins are worse than others. The temptation is to congratulate ourselves if we dont do the more blatant sins: do drugs, abuse alcohol, commit adultery, etc. But he has a point: what we dont do should not fill us with pride. And we dare not substitute legalism for the holiness of God or tolerance for the love of God. We end up inventing creative ways of hiding our failures from ourselveslegalism, criticism, and/or blame-shifting. Because we are so afraid we might offend anyone, we dont take a stand for what is right, and we certainly would not call anyone a sinner. Christianity is not the eclipse of holiness or of the love of God. We must hold on to both. Thats how we get to authentic, biblical Christianity.
There are times we could have sinned greatly, but Gods grace is working in our lives. Sin is a destructive force in life. He continues, Those of us raised in church have a kind of arrogance because weve been so sheltered, we dont realize what God has kept us from. But Small cautions, We can develop a hardness. Hardness or holiness? Neither is an adequate substitute. Holiness should not be coupled with hardness, but with humility. We need a kind of holy humility that is seen in confession and repentance. If you think youve graduated beyond this, you need to be washed againthis time of unholy pride!
Dr. Gary L. Durham is so right to focus on Holy Repentance. He writes, The work of grace that results in heart puritywhich deals a deathblow to self-autonomydoes not issue in a static state of relationship with God. In fact, this crisis repentance from self-autonomy will usher in a continual repentance from self. It will be positively evidenced by a passionate love for Jesus Christ lived out in obedience to His commands through daily dependence on His grace. And as Doug Small preached, A spirit of repentance keeps us pursuing holiness. Truly holy people repentquickly! They do not cover-up in an attempt to mask the spiritual facts; they keep their consciences clear before a holy God.
While it is true that the Spirit-filled Christian will have no desire to displease his Lord, it is not true that he never will do so, reminds Dr. Durham. When he does, if he is truly Spirit-filled, he will be quick to admit the failure and will repent of whatever attitudes or actions the Holy Spirit illuminates. He continues: This characteristic of quick repentance is one of the hallmarks of the truly holy life, not a refutation of it. Some have mistakenly practiced unholiness in the name of holiness by being quick to make excuses for (rationalize) their sins instead of confessing and repenting of them. So, let us determine to live our lives with holy transparency. Thank you Doug Small and our own Gary L. Durham, a pride-less hatred of sin makes us quick to run to the Cleansing Fountain. We will never graduate beyond the need to pray, Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
David F. Nixon, D.Min.
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