Sunday, October 18, 2020

Three-dimensional Holiness

The word holy has three distinct yet interconnected meanings. All are reflections of God himself, not just a list of arbitrary rules. Understanding holiness and God, are actually one in the same. So to seek holiness ourselves is to make ourselves more like him.

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” -1st Peter 1:15-16

Yet, I contend that our failures in achieving holiness often stems from approaching it so one-dimensionally. Our misunderstanding of it has left us confused on where to draw the line on many key issues as well. So let's take a closer look at this concept so that we may better walk the path that every true disciple should be following. As well as finally get past the repeated obstacles we have encountered.

1. The first thing that Holy means is, without moral flaw. This is the one we all know; so this is where most of us start. However, this is more of an end instead of a beginning. The destination of holiness if you will. The part we can all see and judge; hence, the fixation on it. Yet, by leading with this we are making holiness a matter of behavior. However, holiness is something we become, not just what we do. So we often set ourselves up for failure by trying to act holy without transforming into something that is capable of being fully holy.

2. Holy also means whole or complete. To seek holiness, we must seek wholeness. This fallen world in which we live often wounds us, damaging our wholeness. There is what God created us to be, and then there is what the world broke us to be. We often have a hard time making that distinction. Yet, there is nothing in this world that can truly make us whole again, not that it stops us from trying. Yet, everything the world offers in the name of pseudo-wholeness is notoriously temporary, unholy, and self-destructive.

‘’My orphan heart thought love was to complete someone else and to be completed by them. I didn’t understand that when two people who aren’t whole try to complete each other they both end up with less than when they started. I didn’t understand that the only one who can make a person whole is God.” - Lacey Sturm, The Mystery

Only the touch of God can heal us and make us truly whole again. Only then, can we become someone who can live a holy, moral, and upright life. (Isaiah 57:14-21)

3. Holy also means distinct or set apart. In a world, that is often motivated by conformity, and acceptance, this can be a hard one to swallow. Psychologists have done countless social experiments on social pressures, and they all point to the same thing. The human desire for validation often leads us to do things outside our own character, or even things that we know are wrong. So one can never become whole or moral by following our emotional human nature. Even the church can fall into this trap of making holiness about conventionality and approval. Where in reality, holiness requires that we reject this worldly notion of human approval, and comfort. 
Counter cultures often confuse the idea, often painting the notion of  “set apart” in a negative light. What we need to realize is that there is a distinction of being “set apart” from the world, and set apart from popular culture; which is just another brand of worldliness. While counter cultures movements often dis-identify with the popular culture, the irony of it all is that their own standards are often as rigid and narrow as the society they are rejecting. They are only comfortable in rebelling, when they can do it collectively. These movements only exist so that they can embrace a different brand of worldliness that they believe will appease their wounds, revolve around their feelings, and ideas of comfort. As well as create a subculture that will validate them by seeking self instead of God and his holiness.

The theologian John Wesley wrote about a concept called social holiness, meaning it takes a faith community to nurture transformation. You absolutely need to embrace all three dimensions of holiness for this to work at all. Without all of it people won't have a safe place to work out their salvation, with all its trials and errors. Without a safe place to fall you'll likely just end up following your feelings, and need for comfort instead of sound doctrine; only putting on the heirs of a superficial whitewashed brand of holiness. Which often leads to a very uniform church, with little diversity of gifts and experiences. So you won't be able to be of genuine help to one another as the body of Christ should. (1st Cor. 12) Yet, we wonder why counter cultures emerge. If these descriptions of church sound familiar, you may want to check the dimension of your holiness.

Jesus ofering a man without hads some new hands s that he can take up his cross


Friday, October 9, 2020

Land of the Lost

In Luke chapter 15, there is a trio of parables that all say essentially the same thing, revealing God's attitude of the lost. For Jesus to repeat this point three times over indicates that he wants to emphasize the vast importance of this teaching. A detail that somehow seems to be overlooked by many in the church, which seems to have been exaggerated by recent events. Since there seems to be much contempt for the lost. After a bit of prayer on the problem, this is what came to me.

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. -Luke 15:7

In each of these parables of, the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son; there is a relationship between the lost and the one who suffered the loss. Keep in mind these examples where told to an agricultural society that had far stronger community ties than we have today. They knew very little of what happened outside their city. As opposed to today in the Information Age, where we know about every dramatic tragedy on the planet. (At least we think we do.) Yet we have no idea of what's going on across the street. While it's always happening in somebodies backyard, but much of this contempt we see is coming from people who are hundreds of miles away, expressing anger at faceless individuals. It's rather easy to be cold and indifferent of people where there is such a wide disconnect, and no real relationship. Is that a valid excuse though? Misguided as they may be, they are still God's children. That should be a source of grief for a disciple, not contempt.

Now consider the second son in the third parable. He is quick to show contempt for his brother, judging him for his past. Demanding that it should be all about him and not the prodigal, despite his repentance. Refusing to offer his brother any grace, and I dare say he would have preferred to see him punished for his wasteful actions. Is this not a dead on portrayal of the attitude of the lost right now? Is this not a call to be more Christ like to the lost?

Notice that the father in the parable of the lost son makes no attempt to stop his son from making the wrong choice. So unlike how overprotective earthly parents act. Yet, because the father handled it this way, the wasteful son couldn't point the finger at the father's lack of acceptance, so he had nobody to blame but himself for his situation. Not only that, since the father did not burn that emotional bridge by trying to control his son, the son felt free to come back once he realized the consequences of his own choices. However, has not the church universal burned that proverbial bridge when it comes to the lost by being so contemptuous of their choices? Someone even once told me that they felt like Christians live on the other side of a vast uncrossable cavern. Is this not a big part of the reason people are forsaking the church right now? Has the church only made these issues worse by being so judgmental? What would the Heavenly Father have to say about our attitude, and the harm it's done his church?

Lastly, are we putting our eternal lives at risk by forsaking God's lost sheep, and shutting the door to the kingdom in their faces?

twi people watching a fire in the distance that seems to have a life of it's own

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’* is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. - Matthew 5:22

*An Aramaic term of contempt

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” -Luke 11:52