Monday, April 27, 2015

Another Mistaken Idea...Perfecting holiness?

 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
 Today, I would like to address another mistaken idea that traditional religion has propagated throughout the Church. I will first cite the Biblical reference used to support this idea. This, of course, isn't to say the Word of God is mistaken, but rather the religious minded interpretation of the passage is.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1
 This wonderful passage has been used by some to create a performance driven relationship with God. This idea has left many believers disheartened and wounded. What is this mistaken idea? Allow me to expose it.

"Righteousness is what He did, holiness is what you do!"

 I have heard many ministers, mostly in the Pentecostal and Charismatic circles of the Body of Christ espouse this idea or variations of it. This doesn't mean other denominations haven't taught this idea. They may change the wording but the results are the same.

 Is this a true statement? According to 2 Corinthians 5:21 we've been made the righteousness of God in Christ. Our right standing before God could never be earned or achieved by our merit. Most sound minded believers understand this.  
 That said, the real concern is the concept that holiness is something we do or accomplish. This is why this is a mistaken idea. Holiness seems to be some destination that we need to arrive to. Holiness is some state we must achieve and/or maintain in order to please God. Our blessings and relationship seem to be rooted in our obedience and lifestyle. 

 Holiness is what we do? This idea presented is this. Jesus forgave your sins. Now it is your duty to cleanse yourself from any misdeeds and missteps from this point forward. Look at the passage again.
 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves...
See it is right there. We must cleanse ourselves. So the idea is when you blow it or are still struggling with addictions and bad habits you are perceived to be filthy and dirty before God. 
...perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1
 You're not only dirty but now must perfect your holiness. So believers go about their lives and look to outward means to ensure they're perfecting holiness. Allow me to illustrate what this looks like in the average believers life.

 Believer hears the good news. Gets saved. Realizes they're in right standing by what Jesus did. Now the preacher says they need to focus on their holiness before the Lord. That is what is most important. Believer goes home and contemplates this news.
 So believer begins by cutting his hair and covering those tattoos. Goes to church and hears that is insufficient. So, believer quits watching certain TV shows. Goes back to church and hears that is insufficient. So believer quits listening to hard rock but still listens to country music. Goes to church and hears that is not enough.
 Believer can't understand so he quits wearing shorts and no longer wears jeans to church but a suit. Again at the church he hears that is not enough. Believer goes home and quits listening to all music but Christian music and turns off the TV. Goes to church and hears it's still not enough. He realizes it must be the nicotine addiction. He tries and tries to beat the habit. Each time he lights up he realizes how dirty and filthy he is to God. He weeps each time he finishes a cigarette. Finally, after so long he quits. Yet with all these things keeping his focus his wife feels neglected. His wife leaves and he finds himself divorced. The church then kicks him out because divorce is the unpardonable sin. Believer gives up because this Christian life is too hard...

 This happens all to often. This is why religion and tradition and legalism is so wrong and destructive to the Church. Allow me to give the good news. Righteousness is what He did and holiness is what He made you! It is not something He expects of you, it is what He has made you! 
24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:24
By this will of God, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all,
...For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. Hebrews 10:10,14
Holiness is what He made us. It is part of our new nature. This beautiful passage Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians is a simple truth. He isn't saying cleanse yourself from your sin or bad habits. For only the Blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin and wrong. 
 A better understanding of this passage we cited in 2 Corinthians is found in another translation.
Since we have these great promises, dear friends, let us turn away from every sin of the body or of the spirit. Let us honor God with love and fear by giving ourselves to Him in every way. 2 Cor 7:1
The word holiness in the Greek here is only found 3 times in the New Testament. It means sacred. All Paul is saying is give yourself to God. Be who you already are in Him. Holiness is not some spiritual running wheel we get on when we get saved. Running after what we never attain to. I hear so many teach we are pursuing holiness.
 I'm not pursuing what I already possess in Christ. I am what He made me. Habits and addictions reign when we don't realize how much God loves us. They remain when we don't identify with who we already are in Him. That is the key to overcoming in this life.
 This mistaken idea of holiness is something you do is not based on the Word but tradition. People believe it because they feel we still possess the old nature, (that will have to be for another post much debate there). Suffice it to say we are made righteous and perfectly holy by virtue of the new creation. We can't add to it or take away from it. 
To summarize we are already holy. To give ourselves to God is to simply rest in the finished work. To grow in our relationship with God, and not giving ourselves over to wrong thinking. We don't pray or feed on the Word in order to get God to bless us. No, we feed on the Word and pray because we love God because He first loved us. All of our blessings are rooted in the finished work and us therefore already have all the blessings we ever need (Eph 1). We just by faith freely receive what Grace already provided. 


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