Wednesday, September 5, 2007
HOLINESS! It's not exactly a subject that we hear alot about... and part of the reason we don't hear alot about it is that most of us are either Pharisees, Recovering Pharisees, married to a Pharisee, or directly descended from one thereof. As a result, we are very skittish about stuff that sounds like, "Do this and don't do that!" We know only too well from having heard the Gospel of truth that the keeping of the law, "the doing of this", and "the not doing of that" is not the means by which right standing is found with God Almighty. God saves us by His Grace. There is nothing that we can do, NOTHING that we can do... to cause Him to love us more or to cause us to fall out of His favor. That is the grace and mercy of God. That is His good providence. That is His electing POWER.
That does create a bit of a problem because over and over again, all throughout the Bible, God says, "Do this and don't do that!" That's not just in the Old Testament. Jesus says over and over again, "If you love me, you WILL obey my commandments." Over and over again, He says, "This is how the world will know that you are my disciples: that you LOVE one another!"
Now brothers and sisters, you and I both know that it takes ALOT of holiness to love some of us. One of the distinctives of Parish Presbyterian Church is that we want to love what God loves. We want to behold Christ's glory in everything including our behavior, including the way we spend our money, including the way we spend our time, including the way we grow up and don't stay in the muck and the mire, including the way maturity is manifested in our midst.
The Pharisees, the Jews in John Chapter 8, actually believed that they could simply by the strength of their own will, gain right standing with God. That's not what holiness is. That's legalism, and legalism and holiness are opposites; not "kissing-cousins".
Instead, holiness is being possessed by the glory of Christ. We obey all the things that God commands not because we think that by obeying we will gain "Brownie Points in Heaven"; "Little Gold Stars on our chart in the Book of Life". We don't simply obey out of gratitude for all that God has done because if we simply obey out of gratitude, the focus is still on us! "It's MY gratitude for what God has done with MY story, MY brokeness, and MY feebleness, and MY need! It's still all about ME!"
So why do we obey? We obey because GOD is GOD. We obey because God has commanded us to obey! We obey because we have been bought with a price! We obey because "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me!" (Gal. 2:20) I obey because God attends obedience with blessings! I obey because this is who I am now in Christ! Do I obey perfectly? Absolutely not. That's why we have to talk about it all the time, exhort one another toward it, hold each other accountable to it, forgive each other, drag each other up, haul each other on, but the mark of a dynamic work of the Spirit is keeping in step with the Spirit, growing up in the Spirit, yearning for MORE grace that we may be more and more like Him.
As we come to the Lord's table, it is a cry for holiness: "Oh, LORD, give us grace to be ALL that you've called us to be and to do ALL that you've called us to do! Enable us to be TRUE children of Abraham, to do what he did! Enable us to be TRUE children of God to LOVE Jesus with all of our hearts, souls, and minds!"
On the night that he was betrayed, Jesus took bread and he broke it. Turning to Hid disciples, He said, "Take, eat, do this in rememberance of Me, looking toward Me." Likewise, He took the cup, and He said, "This cup is the New Covenant in My blood which is shed for you. Take and drink. Do this in rememberance of Me; looking to Me." ...Because whenever we eat and drink of it, Paul says, "We show forth the Lord's death until He comes again." This is a means of Grace to us! We come as hungry and thirsty people yearning to be filled with the power and the grace of the glory of Christ SO THAT WE CAN LIVE FOR HIM.
...HOLINESS is what we long for. HOLINESS is what we yearn for because holiness simply means, "set apart for His purposes." Obsessed with, empowered by, fixed on the Glory of Jesus.
- George Grant