Is Holiness Old School?

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Something’s been bothering me as of late.  It could be a touch of self-righteousness, maybe.  I can’t be sure but sometimes I wonder if holiness is taken for granted in the light of so much talk about grace.  Yes, I know this dialogue could go in so many different directions:  emergence, classical evangelicalism, fundamentalism, etc.  I believe there is a balance that extreme camps are overlooking in their attempts to parry the opposition.

HOLINESS is so much more than not sinning.  It’s volitional and active, not passive.  First of all, we know that only God Himself is holy.  He is the embodiment of wholeness, perfection, goodness, and righteousness.  But, we are told through the Bible to “Be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 20:26, 1 Peter 1:13-16).  Qadowsh means sacred and set apart (Romans 12:1-2).  This means so much more than being good.  In our inability to fulfill God’s command, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (1 Corinthians 5:21).  There are those who, through faith in Christ, are adopted to be joint heirs with Christ and inherit His very holiness.  Wow!  Really?

But here’s what bothers me.  We get so careless with our lives, our actions and behaviors.  We start to develop the Samson “I can handle it” syndrome.  We flirt with danger and sin, thinking “I’ll be all right.”  The more we do that, the more our souls are dulled and hardened.  God attempts to warn us with speed bumps.  This is the point when all of the sudden we realize: “Oh, I shouldn’t have stolen that money, I shouldn’t have lied, I shouldn’t have had sex with my girlfriend, I shouldn’t have watched that pornographic video, I shouldn’t have committed adultery…”  Then there’s the stages of justification, rationalization, and minimalization.  “Everyone’s doing it.  Does one more week until our wedding really matter?  Really, why is sex before marriage wrong…just because God said so?  All sins are equal.  God will forgive me.”

Now, before the grace police jumps on me, yes, I fully believe in the Power of Christ’s Blood to cleanse, the Father’s longing to adopt us, Jesus’ longing to forgive us, and the Holy Spirit’s desire to restore us.  I have no doubt in God’s role.  He is faithful!  But…

Is our repentance complete?
We are given the “formula” for repentance: “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong” (1 John 1:9).  We simply tell God, “I messed up.  Help.”  God fulfills His promise.  But it doesn’t end there.

Do we have any sense of regret?
“But I confess my sins; I am deeply sorry for what I have done” (Psalms 38:18).  There should be some feeling of sadness, shame, embarrassment after one acts in a manner and later wishes it never happened.  It’s often expressed by the term “sorry.”  NOTE:  I’m not talking about guilt.  We know 1) God blots out our violations, and 2) this is the enemy’s fruit of self-condemnation.  I’m talking about a godly sorrow that aches over offending God and wanting help to really live for Him.

Is there a change in our behavior and actions?
Conscience is that inner personal assistant that helps us distinguish right from wrong.  This is a part of us that the Holy Spirit wants to strengthen in our battle against the flesh (Galatians 5).  Our conscience should squirm when we violate our convictions and morals…God’s law.  This then should lead to an attempt to restore our integrity, or wholeness, with God’s help.  True repentance results in a ceasing of sinful behavior and continues with a motivation to change.

Are we too flippant about sin?
How difficult it must have been to be an Israelite in the desert.  God gave His people 613 laws covering everything from menstruation, crop advice, textiles, and who we can’t eat with or where.  Then came the animal sacrifice.  Soon it became easier to sin:  all I have to do is wrench the head of a dove and have it barbecued by the priest.  We do the same thing.  Just say “sorry, forgive me.”  I fear that sometimes, Christ’s suffering and death on the Cross is no more than a Get Out of Jail Free Card.

We don’t see the ugliness and destructiveness of our sin, not like God does.  Think of it this way…it took ONE sin to open a literal Pandora’s Box of murder, war, famine, cancer, sex trafficking, child soldiers, suffering, agony, and death.  How’s that for perspective? It’s so despicable that God had to send His only beloved Son to put things right and end all other mediocre sacrifices (John 3:16-17).

Do our hearts ache with remorse?
This is a deep emotional reaction of personal regret felt when we commit a shameful act.  But why do we feel this way?  Is it because we’ve grieved God with our rebellion and disobedience?  Or is simply feeling bad because we failed and our pride is hurt?

What ever happened to the fear of God? 
I believe sometimes we forget the Old Testament, or merely view it as historical reference.  But I remember how the Israelites reacted when Yahweh showed up on Mount Sinai.  God announced His arrival with explosive lightning and fire, an immense cloud that covered the mountain, a very loud horn sounded, getting louder and louder, shaking the ground.  Moses spoke as a man but God roared with thunder.  The Israelites were absolutely terrified, paralyzed with fright, and for that moment fully acknowledged God’s holiness.

Now, I know how we teach it.  Fear doesn’t necessarily mean distress and horror.  It is the Hebrew word yirah which is profound respect for Yahweh, mingled with love and awe; to regard the Lord with highest respect, honor, and homage; to worship Him with tenderness and a feeling of deference; to place God in an exalted position.  I always say fear is assigning to God our highest attention and affection.  Great.

But there were moments when God’s own people trembled in His Presence.  They were afraid that they’d be consumed, destroyed, and obliterated, because when He showed up, His holiness put a spotlight on their rebellion and disobedience.

Now?  Jesus is our BFF.  The big pushover.  The Great Excuser.  The Grace Genie.  The absent-minded grandfather who showers us with gifts and excuses our faults as awkward seasons of life.  The permissive parent.  The beer buddy.  The spare the rod, politically correct wimp.  The Barbie doll that we dress up and accessorize for every life situation:  because we know beyond the shadow of a doubt how Jesus would act and what He’d do…filtered through our tainted childish tantrums of course.

Maybe, we’ve forgotten the holiness that the Bible really talks about versus the cheap, watered down, vacillating, relative, and relevant 21st century version.

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