Friday, January 1, 2010

HOLY LIFE or Hypocritical Legalism?

I would like to once again address the issue of holiness; a previous article in FtMoF on this subject was entitled wholly, holy May 10, 2009 and its available for you to review (perhaps before you read this article).

For those who would like even more information on this subject, you can review a 3-part article from The TRUTH Under FIRE

Monday, September 21, 2009
The Simple and Serious Gospel of Salvation – Phase II The Sanctifier is the Saint's Fire

Parts Two and Three are as follows -

Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The Simple and Serious Gospel of Salvation – Phase II The SANCTIER is the SAINT’s FIRE: Part Two

Monday, September 28, 2009
The Simple and Serious Gospel of Salvation – Phase II The SANCTIER is the SAINT’s FIRE: Part Three

In my interactions with other believers, and in my zeal in sharing what I've learned about holiness and desire to encourage holiness in all of our lives, I was confronted a number of times by fellow Christians, who almost with an air of dismissal, have said things like,

"Yeah, but we're not under the Law but under grace."

"Yes, but you have to be careful because that can lead to legalism."

"But we already are holy, what's the need for striving for something we already have?"

I have even been told that I'm promoting a legalistic form of Christianity based on works!

If you believe that any of the above statements are true in the context of encouraging holiness in the life of the believer, then this most certainly needs re-examining in the light of scripture!
I have found an excellent article by J.C. Ryle on this subject and below are some excerpts (not in contiguous order) as well as the link to the entire article, should you wish to read it:

"We must let men see by our good conversation that we are indeed the children of the Holy One, or our son-ship is but an empty name. 'Say not,' says Gurnall, 'that thou hast royal blood in thy veins, and art born of God, except thou canst prove thy pedigree by daring to be holy.' " 
"We must be holy, because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. This is a point on which He has spoken most plainly, in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of John. 
JOHN 14:15,21,23;15:14If ye love Me, keep my commandments.He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.If a man love Me he will keep my words.Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you. 
Plainer words than these it would be difficult to find, and woe to those who neglect them!"
"[This] question can never be out of season. The wise man tells us, "There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh-a time to keep silence, and a time to speak" (ECCLES 3:4,7); but there is no time, no, not a day, in which a man ought not to be holy. Are we?" 
"I ask to be heard today about this question. How stands the account between our souls and God? In this hurrying, bustling world, let us stand still for a few minutes and consider the matter of holiness. I believe I might have chosen a subject more popular and pleasant. I am sure I might have found one more easy to handle. But I feel deeply I could not have chosen one more seasonable and more profitable to our souls. It is a solemn thing to hear the Word of God saying,
HEB. 12:14Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. 
"What then is true practical holiness? . . .
A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ (emphasis mine). He will not only live the life of faith in Him, and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labour to have the mind that was in Him, and to be "conformed to His image" (ROM. 8:29).
"It will be his aim to bear with and forgive others, even as Christ forgave us -to be unselfish, even as Christ pleased not Himself -to walk in love, even as Christ loved us -to be lowly-minded and humble, even as Christ made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself.
"He will remember that Christ was a faithful witness for the truth -that He came not to do His own will -that it was His meat and drink to do His Father's will -that He would continually deny Himself in order to minister to others -that He was meek and patient under undeserved insults . . . 
"that He thought more of godly poor men than of kings-that He was full of love and compassion to sinners -that He was bold and uncompromising in denouncing sin -that He sought not the praise of men, when He might have had it -that He went about doing good -that He was separate from worldly people -that He continued instant in prayer -that He would not let even His nearest relations stand in His way when God's work was to be done.
"He will lay to heart the saying of John, He that saith he abideth in Christ ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked (1 JOHN 2:6); and the saying of Peter, that Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow His steps (1 PETER 2:21).

These are but a few jewels of truth and grace drawn from this source; if you would like to read this article in its entirety, please follow this link -

Holiness. A Sermon by J.C. Ryle

If I could now address some of the statements made by others, in mild objection to the mandate to living holy lives, I shall take them one at a time:

~ The assertion (and supposed refutation of the necessity of holiness in our lives) that 'we are not under the law, but under grace' only emphasizes more strongly, the case that we should live holy lives! The purpose of the Law is that our sinfulness would be realized, that we can't live up to God's Holy Standard of Holiness and Righteousness.

The purpose of grace is the forgiveness of and deliverance from sin and its diabolical power, the justification of believers, the imputation of righteousness, and the sanctification of the believers heart as well as their mind!

In essence, it's because we are under grace and not under the Law, that we for the first time in history (ever since the creation of the church, the body of Christ) can effect holiness in a practical sense in our lives, not by our own will or strength, but by the empowerment of God's grace!

~ It's been said that we must use caution because any intent towards holiness in our lives could lead to 'legalism'.

My question to such an allegation is, 'How so?' Since true holiness is acquired by the grace of God working in the life of a yielded believer, who is convicted of his own sin and sinful heart and desires to "put on the new man" and to "put off the old . . ." (EPH 4:22-24; COL 3:9-14and seeks the power of God's Spirit to accomplish this (HEB 4:16), how then can such conduct lead to legalism, unless that believer ceases to solicit the "succouring" (i.e., securing, help, assistance) of our Savior, the LORD Jesus Christ?

One cannot pursue holiness and legalism in the same breath, or in the same step. It's the same with walking in the Spirit and walking in the flesh: one can't conduct himself in both arenas simultaneously. In fact these two comparisons are related, that is: holiness is a work of the Spirit (empowered by GOD); legalism is a work of the flesh (self-empowerment).

If the attention and focus of the heart is in the procurement of God's empowering grace and the power of His Holy Spirit, and if the saint seeks to yield himself to his Father's holy will and influence, and if that believer acknowledges that a certain temptation yet claims a hold in some portion of their sinful heart and thus, that portion must be crucified and identify with the death of Christ on the cross, how then is that saint in danger of legalism?

Such thinking of unnecessary caution brings gleeful delight to the enemy, as it would be the very last thing he would wish, that the church would wake up to and follow the call to holiness!

~ The idea is brought up that we have no need to struggle for holiness as this is something that has already been granted to us in Christ Jesus. And to this sentiment I give a whole-hearted "AMEN!"

By the shed blood of the Lamb we have been cleansed from our sin, and our wickedness is no longer held to our account - our spiritual indebtedness to the Holy Judge of All Creation has been "paid in full"* by the LORD Jesus who won our atonement on the cross! We as His body, the church, are now called a HOLY nation (1 PET 2:9).

*When Christ uttered from the cross, "It is finished!", the Greek word employed in the New Testament scriptures for this phrase is tetelestai, and it literally means "paid in full" - that is to say, all of humanity's debt of sin was paid by the blood of Christ (1 PET 1:17-19) - that the holy judgment that should have fallen on you and I (ROM 3:19) was placed solely on the whip-torn shoulders of the LORD Jesus Christ Who willingly laid down His life for us (MARK 10:45; JOHN 10:15-18), so we could have eternal life (JOHN 3:15-18; JOHN 6:68; JOHN 17:2-3)!

So there is no need then for the believer to acquire holiness? Yes there is, but that which effects a different part of our being; holiness in a positional sense covers our hearts (or spirit) and yet there is also a practical, or experiential holiness that we must obtain which stems from that positional holiness and is indeed an outgrowth from it, which deals with our minds. 
This is why it's said in scripture "Let this mind be in you" (PHIL 2:5) and "be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (ROM 12:1-2).

God loves us so much, he is not willing to leave us only justified, but sanctified as well.

Justification saves us from the penalty of sin, whereas sanctification saves us from the power of sin. See the difference?
And it's in the deliverance from the power of sin that we as Christians experience victory and in abundant life, which our LORD so dearly longs to bless us with!

Positional holiness deals with that granted to every believer who is born of God's Spirit, but practical holiness has to do with the mind of the believer, and bringing into conformity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 COR 10:4-5). 
The battle for the mind of the believer is a very real arena of spiritual warfare, for its those embedded thoughts in our minds that will eventually lead to action: unholy thoughts breed unholy actions; holy thoughts breed holy actions.

Contextually speaking the preceding verses certainly speak of spiritual warfare, and the imagination and every high thing that exalts itself above the knowledge of God could in fact be the carnal, rebellious thought(s) yet residing in a believer's life; such is in need of execution via the cross of Christ and our identification with Jesus in His death.

We no longer are to think as the world thinks, we are no longer to meditate on and hold dear such thinking that is inherently sinful and in accord to the spirit of disobedience (EPH 2:2-10)!

If the LORD was content only with a positional holiness in our lives, and expressed an absent from fruit of holiness in manner and practice, why then are there so many admonitions in scripture, indeed, even commands for the church to "be holy"?

The LORD Jesus Himself stated:

MATTHEW 5:8,13-14,16
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

MATTHEW 5:29-30
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

And Paul the Apostle further admonishes us -

ROMANS 12:1-2
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

And here the Apostle Peter states:

1 PETER 1:15-16
But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Notice in all the above admonitions these godly apostles state their case that holiness is something to be acquired, something that should increase, and that we're called to this culture of holiness and that we should present ourselves for this express purpose, that we're to be transformed into this state of being, that is of Christ-likeness, and not merely that we possess holiness already (which of course we do, positionally).

Such lofty commands towards purity, and holiness can leave us quite discouraged, can't it? For we know what our hearts are like, and what we are capable of (to a certain degree), and this can lead to hopelessness.

However, let me encourage you in these thoughts:

In the book of Genesis the LORD commanded light to come out from darkness, and it was so. He only spoke a Word, and all of creation was established, in all of its glorious beauty.

The LORD God commands the heavenly host of angels, and they obey without the slightest of wavering.

The LORD Jesus commanded the storm to be still, and it complied.

He likewise ordered demons who were possessing people to come out, and they inevitably did so.

He spoke to the man with the withered hand, to "stretch forth your hand" and while it was physically impossible for that man to do so, out of obedience to the LORD, he asserted to move his arm, and it was restored!

The LORD Jesus gave His church a new commandment:

JOHN 13:34-35
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

A truly remarkable commandment when you think about it . . . His command was that we love one another as He has loved us! This powerful, unfaltering, unconditional love is something entirely alien to this world and its population of unregenerate humans.

That's why when the world sees us loving one another with that same depth of quality as the LORD Jesus love for us, they will KNOW that we are the disciples of Jesus Christ (JOHN 13:35)! For no other means to display this sort of agape love is possible other than through Jesus Christ!

Are we able to obey this commandment? Of course, but only by God's empowering Spirit, and when we increasingly die to ourselves and become more like Jesus we will find ourselves loving those who, humanly speaking, are impossible to love, such as our enemies, persecutors, and haters.

When God commands, He provides the means for that command to be followed by the enablement of His Spirit.

Thus endeavoring to be holy in Jesus Christ is not legalistic by any means, its simply being obedient to the command of God, a command He expects obedience to, since He has made for us every provision necessary for its fulfillment in our lives.

I looked up the word "affection" in Websters and came up with this:

propensity disposition archaic affectation

And so I then looked up 'propensity' and found this:

an often intense natural inclination or preference

Scripture states the following regarding "affection" -

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

What Christians are to have intense natural inclination and preferences for are "things above" not "things on the earth", and everything we do in the Spirit, everything we say in accord to the heart of God, all trials and experiences we have are things that the LORD guides us in and is preparing us for the future kingdom which HE will inaugurate! A kingdom of holy priests and children of the KING!

May the LORD Jesus richly bless and enrich our lives in Him as we endeavor to "walk even as He walked"!


brother James


Tony Kiar said...

The road to holiness isn't smooth, broad and wide. The road to holiness is narrow, rough and filled with slips, relapses and tears of repentance. It is marked by cut and bleeding feet, bruised knees and brokenness. The people who walk it are often outcasts, rejects and unclean. What of those who die on it - who really die on it? Do we say they didn't make it? Do we say they were not good enough? Do we say that they tried to carry their cross but didn't make it? Jesus said; "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Luke 9:23) What does that mean? The ultimate denial of self is the realisation of your true spiritual condition - that you can't make it on your own. Jesus will always have to close the gap between you and God! The self-righteous, no matter how good they are (or pretend to be) cannot walk the narrow way to brokenness.

Tony Kiar said...

I often thought of godliness as a quiet, resolute, joyful tendency towards God having very little to do with me and a lot to do with the power of His Word in my life and over me. "That is why we labour and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe." (1 Timothy 4:10)