The Holiness of God – Psalm 101:1-4

God’s Love Is Tempered In Holiness

1 I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, Lord, I will sing praise.
2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life-
when will you come to me?

I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a blameless heart.
3 I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile.

I hate what faithless people do;
I will have no part in it.
4 The perverse of heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with what is evil.

Just Judge

Almighty God is a loving God, full of mercy and grace.  He showers all of us – (unrepentant) sinners and saints alike – with mercies that renew every morning.  He shines the sun on all of us, and allows the rain to fall for all of us.  God woos us with His kindness, and declares His character through His creation.

God also is a holy judge.  He cannot stand sin in His presence.  He has been on task, calling all of us to repentance with His love.  But there comes a time when, after we have been continually wooed by His goodness and mercy, that He will instead give us His justice.

Clean Character

David greatly desired to know God’s character, and to participate in it.  He recognized the holiness of God – the complete and total absence of wrongdoing in God’s character – as something that was important to God, and important to him.  David recognized the need for personal holiness – a separation from sin and a separation to God.  David greatly desired to live a blameless life before God.  In the Psalms, many which were written by him, including Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, he declares:

1 The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.

2 The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

David recognizes that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  No one but Jesus Christ ever lived a perfect, sinless life on Earth.  David greatly desired to live in a way that shunned sin, and embraced holiness, in light of his fallen nature.

Insulated Inspection

David sought to shield his eyes from evil.  He did not desire to look upon anything vile.  The eyes, for most people, contribute a significant portion of all stimuli.  Men, in particular, are wired to react to what they see.  David purposed in his heart to keep his eyes from intentionally dwelling upon wickedness.

In Western culture today, the focus of advertising on television and the internet has a tendency to focus on sexual immorality.  And that is because sex sells.  The ironic aspect of this is that it is culture that both bombards men day in and day out with messages of promiscuity and satisfaction in lewdness and unfaithfulness and vilifies him if he consumes their product.  Once a man has taken the bait, and partakes of this “eye candy” and the forbidden fruit, the very culture that baits him with it are the very first people to turn on him, call him vile and degenerate, shun him, and destroy his good name.

David recognized this danger, and did his very best to keep his eyes from intentionally wandering towards that which would cause him difficulty.  It should be noted that the one time he failed, when he looked upon Bathsheba, he sinned mightily and paid a most dear price for it.

Despise Disloyalty

The desire for personal purity helped David to hate what faithless people do.  They wallow in their own sin, reject the law of Almighty God, and revel in their wanton disobedience to the One who created them and calls them back to Himself.  David does not hate the wicked, but hates what the wicked do.

It is important to make the distinction between hating someone and hating their actions.  It is especially important to make this distinction, for evil people will try to manipulate others by calling their own aversion to holiness and your disagreement with their thoughts, words and deeds as somehow being related to their personal identity and not to their personal ideology.  Unless we, as a culture, can separate what a person does from who a person is, we will be sucked into a violent maelstrom that threatens to pigeonhole everyone into accepting what is vile in order to avoid being perceived (and therefore accused in the public arena) as being racist, bigoted, and hateful people.

Somehow, people in their quest to be free from the responsibility that comes as a result of being created by God, even and especially to be His image-bearers, have lost their personal identity and replaced it with personal ideology.  In other words, you can no longer disagree with someone based on their thoughts and words without somehow casting an aspersion on their race or heritage.  The evil person tries to insist that the two are inextricably intertwined, thus forcing a person to accept their ideas in order to accept them as people, for to reject their ideas, in their mind, is to reject them and their value as human beings.

Purge Perfidy

David desires to have nothing to do with evil.  He goes to great lengths to prevent its influence and actions in his life.  He so greatly desires this removal from evil, he wants to place the perverseness of people as far as he can from his heart.  David loves people, and was called by God to be a shepherd over them as king by the prophet Samuel.  Yet David, in his role as king and judge, would not permit evil to flourish under his watch.

We too are to rid ourselves of the perverse things that so easily entangles us in sin.  There should be an active desire, fueled by the Holy Spirit, and guided by the word of the Living God, to separate ourselves from what is evil in the sight of God and separate ourselves to what is good in the sight of God.  Until we do this, we are, in effect, actively courting that which is offensive to a holy, sinless, and perfect God.  For people who claim to know God and claim to be His friends, this should never happen.  What true friend actively goes out of their way to cause others intentional pain and trouble apart from trying to strain the relationship?  But thanks be to God, for He is full of grace, mercy, and love!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  While seeking the grace and mercy of God, do I also in the same measure seek His holiness in personal practice?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a holy and just God.  You cannot look upon sin, yet You continually shower Your goodness and provision upon all who live.  Father, please help me to understand the depths of Your holiness, so that I can better understand why You hate sin so much.  Give me a hatred of my own sin, and help me to see it as You do.  Prepare my heart to do whatever is necessary to honor You, and to throw off the stench of my sin.  Help me to see it as I would rotting, decaying garbage.  I praise You, O God, for you have taken my sin from me and cloaked me with the righteousness of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to keep His cloak of righteousness from being stained by my moral failings.  Help me to bear up under Your trials as my sanctification prepares me to walk in holiness before You.  Help me to remember that You are a just judge, and that You will not tolerate willful sin from me anymore.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Holiness of God – Isaiah 1:16-17

Wash And Make Yourself Clean

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.

Washed White

During times of thanksgiving and remembering the birth of our Savior, we must not forget why He came – we have need to be cleansed from our sins.  God has washed our sins in the lifeblood of His Son, whom He sent two thousand years ago, to cleanse us of unrighteousness and place upon our shoulders His positional righteousness in place of our sins.  The Great Exchange permits us to approach God in His throne room as children and heirs to the kingdom. When we give gifts and feast on food without remembering why the Savior was born, we do Him a great injustice, turning the remembrance of the holy day of His birth into a commercialized endeavor to feel good about ourselves.

Stop Sinning

God implores us to stop sinning.  Acknowledgement of wrongdoing without a change of heart is merely being sorry we were caught.  True repentance calls for two actions above and beyond the mere acknowledgement of wrongdoing – a turning away from the behavior that we now claim is abhorrent to us, and a turning towards the One who has redeemed us from our wickedness.

Learn Lawfulness

The Son of God never once sinned.  In everything He did, He honored God the Father and did His will perfectly.  We too are challenged to learn the will and ways of God so that we may learn to do good.  If we don’t know what is good, how can we do it?  The law merely points out that we are sinners.  But it also provides insight into the attitudes of the heart and shows us the expectations of a loving God eager to see us walk in righteousness before Him.

Judge Justly

God has repeatedly stated in His word that we are to seek justice.  We are to ensure that all who come before the courts of law are to be treated with the utmost of respect, and to receive what God would have happen – that justice would occur.  Justice is meted out with mercy and grace where appropriate so that it does not become the blunt object of abject horror that merely seeks the letter of the law and ignores the spirit of the law.

Defend the Distressed

Is justice served when those who are oppressed are ignored?  God greatly desires that the oppressed be helped as well.  Whether being harangued by people or governments, we are to intercede when people are oppressed.  Justice demands that each person be permitted to live their lives without oppression or the threat thereof.  When this is not done, we risk the wrath of the One who will take up the cause of the oppressed and ensure that the ones responsible are brought to justice.  And justice will be done, if not in this life, then at the great white throne seat of judgment.

Help the Helpless

In remembering the Son, we are to remember that He championed the cause of those who had no representation.  The people who were helpless before the law and courts in the day of the prophet Isaiah, as well as our Savior, were widows and orphans.  With no one to help them, they were often ignored – or worse – taken advantage of by ruthless people.  We are to take up their cause, for if we do not, God will take up their cause at our great peril:

49 “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”

In this season of joy, let us remember the reason for the season, and bow down before the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who rightly deserves all glory, honor, power, dominion, and worship.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What steps am I taking to ensure that justice is being done?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a just judge, and cannot allow evil in Your sight.  Forgive me for my sins, and help me to see what I can do to ensure that justice is being done for the oppressed and the helpless.  I earnestly ask that You intercede in the affairs of my country’s government and instill within the people who have been placed in authority over us a proper sense of justice, that they would honor and glorify Your name as Your representatives in authority of Your people, for everything and everyone in the universe is Yours to do with as You will.  Bring about the change of heart needed in government so that You would be honored in the manner in which they conduct themselves.  Purge us of the evil that has infiltrated and obscured the workings of justice, and shine forth Your perfect light in such a way that those who shroud themselves in darkness would tremble and flee before the perfect light of Truth.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Holiness of God – John 3:20-21

Step Into The Light

20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Dwelling in Darkness

We who were once evil shunned the light.  And ALL of us were once evil.  Even now, those who are evil try to avoid the light.  They stay as far away from God as possible.  And they not only try to hide what they do from plain sight, they intentionally wait until it is dark so that people cannot see them.  It is not that they just seek spiritual darkness, they seek physical darkness as well.

Full of Fear

Whether we realize it or not, we are filled with fear when we walk in darkness.  People are rightly afraid to bring show their deeds in the light.  How many people would willingly show that they were running a Ponzi scheme?  Or brazenly murder people in front of cameras?  We fear the repercussions of our actions, and rightly so.  God has placed people in authority to punish the evildoers.

But what happens when evil people get into the positions of power?  They operate openly.  They no longer fear God nor man, as there is no one to restrain them.  The more they get away with, the more brazen they become.  That is why it is incumbent upon all people who live in societies where they have influence in the selection of their leaders to participate in the process and keep the ones who would operate openly in evil from reaching positions of power and authority over them.  Unless the people themselves love the darkness and seek leaders over them who will continue to turn a blind eye to their evil and reward them for what is done in darkness…

Burst into the Brilliance

We need to come to the light.  Regardless of what we are doing, we need to bring our deeds into the light.  This provides us with both accountability by others and by God.  And we have no fear of operating in the light because what we are doing is being done through us by the Spirit of God for the glory of God, the deeds will be seen as being done by God through us.  When we come into the light, God will be rightly glorified and praised.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Is there anything that I am doing right now that is not being done in the light?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided us the light of the world in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to bring everything that I am doing into the light, that You may be rightly glorified.  Help me to yield more fully to Your Holy Spirit, that He would work in me and through me to accomplish all that You desire to be done.  May You receive all of the glory, and may Your name be praised because of the work You are doing in me and through me.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Holiness of God – 1 John 1:5-7

There Is No Darkness In Pure Light

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Glorious Glow

God is perfect.  His light is without defect.  It is when we look through the lens of our own version of morality that we ascribe any wrongdoing to God.  When confronted with the facts, most people object to God based on morality, for God provides us with overwhelming proof of Himself and His Righteousness.

We cannot begin to understand God until we come to the realization that God is perfect.  It is only in the lens of perfection that God is able to be seen clearly.  John tells us that there is no darkness in Him at all.  Any perceived darkness that we think we see in God is our own darkness clouding the truth about God’s light.  God allows this to occur for many reasons:

Darkness of Deception

The bane of the church are those who claim to know Christ, and claim the title of Christian, yet refuse to live in the light.  When we walk in darkness, we cannot claim fellowship with the light.  It is like water and oil.  The two are immiscible – they won’t mix properly.  Shake them as together as much as you want, but the oil immediately separates from the water and floats on top.

We cannot claim to be light and hide the very thing that we claim to be.  When we obscure the light of God, we suppress the truth with wickedness.  This is like a person camping and trying to start a fire by pouring water over the dry wood.  Any sane person would be horrified at the results, and counsel the person to stop sabotaging their efforts.  Sin effectively sabotages our witness for it extinguishes any claim to light that we have.

There are wheat and chaff.  The wheat falls to the ground during the threshing, and the chaff blows away in the wind.  We experience trials to perfect our faith and endurance, so that as the mighty winds of difficulty come upon us, we will fall to the ground as kernels of grain rather than be blown away by the pressures of our trials.  And it is during persecution that there is a great separation of the wheat from the chaff.

The world watches us in hopeful expectation.  Some watch in the hopes that we will fail. When we do, they feel justified in their own sinful behavior.  Others watch in the hopes that what we say is true so that they can believe that it is really true and embrace the truth.  The way in which we conduct ourselves will impact many others.  Walking in darkness is guaranteed to have negative results, not only for us, but also for those who watch us.

Relationship in Radiance

When we walk in the light, we experience fellowship with each other and with God.  God intended for us to be with Him from the very beginning.  It wasn’t until Adam sinned that there was a separation between God and man.  Walking in the light is to enjoy the character and company of those who are like us and in the presence of God.

When we walk in the light, we are sanctified.  The light exposes our deeds of darkness, and gives us the opportunity to turn from darkness and turn towards the light.  The more we turn towards the light, the sweeter the fellowship is between us, God, and the ones who choose the light.  The blood of Christ is able to wash away our sins.  We can only do that when we turn from darkness and head towards the light.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we allowing the light of God to penetrate and expose any darkness in our ways?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are pure light, and there is no darkness within You.  You are perfect, and do not change like shifting shadows.  In all things, You are holy and righteous.  My ways are not Your ways, and my thoughts are not Your thoughts.  Help me, Father, to align my heart to Yours, that I would better understand Your ways and Your thoughts.  Purify me of all darkness that is within me.  Cleanse me of my unrighteousness.  Peel back the layers of darkness and deception that have infiltrated my life through the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Father, help me to turn to You at all times.  Guard and guide me so that I may walk in the way everlasting.  Help me to be a beacon of light on a hill, that it would lead others to You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Justice of God – Jonah 3:6-10

Justice Must Be Tempered With Compassion

6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.
7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Doctrinal Dilemma

Many people have said the following:

“I can’t believe in a God who would send people to hell.”

What many people fail to realize is that God doesn’t sent them to hell; they send themselves to hell.  God does not arbitrarily point His finger and say, “OK, I’m going to send him and her and her and him to hell.”  Rather, God says the following:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

It would appear that God desires everyone to be saved from their Adam-inherited sinful, rebellious nature.  God is patient and seeks people for a long time.  We are told that should we hear His call, we should respond while He is near.  God has made Himself known to us, so that no one is without an excuse:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

So it would appear that:

  • God is compassionate
  • God is a just judge

This brings up an interesting dilemma:  How can a perfect God, who is full of mercy and grace, be a God full of perfect justice as well?

Beautiful Balance

We often impose our own moral values on situations, rather than look at them through the lens of God’s perspective.  Love cannot be merciful, graceful, and compassionate without being just:

  • Compassion without justice is anarchy
    • Without application of punishment for wrongdoing, we are effectively endorsing the person’s wrongdoing, and enabling them to repeatedly inflict harm upon others.
    • Without punishment, there is no recourse for the protection of law-abiding people from the wickedness of the evil people who disregard the law
  • Justice without compassion is emotionally void and cruel
    • There are appropriate penalties for wrongdoing based on the severity of the wrongdoing.  Actions have consequences.  We wouldn’t take a person’s life for a misdemeanor.  Nor should we give a slap on the wrist to someone who purposefully extinguishes the lives of others.
    • In each case, the severity of the transgression should be met with appropriate consequences.

Let’s define our words so that we understand what we are talking about:

  • Justice is the situation where the penalty for breaking the law has an appropriate disciplinary action based on the severity and type of crime committed.
  • Mercy is not getting what you justly deserve
  • Grace is getting a favor or blessing that was not earned (not based on merit)
  • Compassion is a deep sympathy or sorrow for someone who is in pain or suffering, with a strong desire to alleviate the pain and/or suffering
  • Holiness is the act of being set apart from ANY wrongdoing and set apart to complete and total righteousness (the inability to do anything wrong, and do everything right).   With the absence of wrongdoing, holiness is considered PERFECTION.

In order for Justice to be perfect, it must be tempered with compassion, mercy, and grace.  Otherwise, we have the knee-jerk reaction of the emotionless dictator who yells, “Off with his head!” to even the most trivial perceived rebellion.

Perfect Position

Since God is holy (and thus perfect), any rebellion of any nature must be punished appropriately.  The level of the rebellion must be met with the correct level of punishment.  God is infinitely holy and perfect, so any rebellion, no matter how small, needs to be dealt with justly.  The only just way to deal with rebellion, when perfection is the standard, is to remove the person from the population (through incarceration) so that they won’t harm anyone else.  Every country in the world has laws to protect its people from the evil of others.

So, why should we hold God to a lower standard?  People want God to just accept them as they are (which He does) and to not expect them to change.  This is the equivalent of a murdering cannibal going before a judge and saying, “You are an intolerant, racist bigot.  Just because I kill and eat people, you would deny me my freedom to be with other people?  How dare you!  I shouldn’t have to change to conform to your perverted sense of reality, judge!  My view of life is the correct one!  You must conform to my views!  You have no right to ‘judge’ me!  I demand that you immediately drop all charges, and I will be suing you for wrongful arrest and harassment!  You will see me in court!”

(Hopefully) No one would ever agree with that position.  Yet, when we say, “I can’t believe that God would judge me because I (fill in the blank), are we not doing the same exact thing?  Are we not saying that our morality and ethics are of a higher, more pure, more righteous, and more perfect nature than that of God?

God, recognizing that we have a sinful nature, has shown us compassion in His infinite wisdom.  He gave us an opportunity to be reformed and rejoined back to Him in relationship from isolation by sin.  God sent His One and Only Son, who never sinned, to die upon the cross to be a perfect substitutionary sacrifice for us. In this, he has shown:

  • Compassion – God wants to alleviate our pain and suffering by giving us the opportunity to repent
  • Mercy – When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, we are no longer going to get the punishment that we rightly deserve
  • Grace – God didn’t have to provide a way – He is perfectly justified in sending the whole lot of humans to permanent incarceration within His holding cell – the Lake of Fire.  Instead, He gave us unmerited favor through the sinless shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, as an atonement (payment for wrongdoing) for our sinful rebellion against Him.

God has shown that He, and only He, has the perfect balance between Justice and Compassion.

Jesus paid our fine.  But who would consider a person “rehabilitated” if they refused to acknowledge that their actions were wrong by willfully continuing to do the same things over and over again without any regret or attempt to rectify the behavior? God loves us just as we are, but He loves us too much to allow us to stay where we are.

With reprieve comes the implicit understanding that the actions that led to the crime would not continue.  God calls this process sanctification.  We are being transformed from desiring evil and acting upon those desires into desiring righteousness and acting upon these new desires.  Even people who aren’t able to control themselves (the mentally ill) are placed away from the ability to do harm when they are unable to change.

Positional Preference

Our perception of God’s justice is marred by our sinful nature.  It is only when we see Him through the lens of Truth and Perfection that we can better understand and begin to grasp the wisdom, balance, and perfection that He displays when He operates in our lives.  We can no sooner fault God for injustice as we can exonerate ourselves from law by merely saying we don’t agree with the law.

While the laws of men may be (and often are) flawed, the laws of God are perfect.  They will withstand any criticism with one exception: those who are unable to critically think, and instead think with their emotions as it best serves them and their own desires – always at the price of others.  It is the self-serving that so piously and loudly denounce ethics and morality as unjust, antiquated, mean-spirited, racist, uncaring, and intolerant.  And the last is true:  Morality is intolerant of immorality (and, therefore, evil).  That is exactly why we have laws…

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we of the mindset that our morality is superior to that of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You that You are holy and just.  Help me to see past my own faults to gaze at Your glorious face, and see how far short of Your glory I fall.  Help me to remember that You and You alone are able to see without impaired judgement, as You and You alone are holy.  Help me to shed any and all attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs that do not conform to Your holy revelation of truth in Your Word.  Guide me in all that I think, say and do, that I would see everything through Your perfect eyes and perspective.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Sin Is Sin – James 2:10

God Views All Sin As Egregious

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

Pet Peeves

In a previous post, one of the most divisive, permitted sins within the body of Christ –  by the body of Christ – was mentioned.  Those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior act out of ignorance.  The body of Christ acts out of insolence when it is embraced internally by the children of God. This, of course, is Sexual Sin, and today in particular, the acceptance of the acted-upon desires of some to have sex with people who have the same chromosomal pairs that they do. We used to be able to call this homosexuality.  However, with today’s cultural acceptance of gender reassignment surgery and “gender identity”, it is becoming harder to assign that specific label to it from a cultural sense.

Each of us, whether we realize it or not, assign specific a “severity” to certain sins.  For some, historical revisionism (lying) is the absolutely worst sin a person can actively entertain.  After all, Jesus had rebuked the Pharisees when He called Satan their father for telling lies.  For others, it might be theft, adultery, or <fill in the sin that you find most “vile” here>.

How about murder?  Most of us would be quite uncomfortable being around a person who intentionally took someone else’s life in an unjustified, non-accidental way.  How many people would have been comfortable being around Jeffrey Dahmer?  Yet many people who were murderers – King David, Saul (who became Paul the Apostle), and others were murderers in the Bible!  We applaud their lives, and would gladly break bread with them.  What is the difference?

They were chosen by God and redeemed.  They repented of their sin.  So did Jeffrey Dahmer.  Wait  – did your opinion of Jeff suddenly change with that revelation?  If so, ask yourself why?  Of course, the answer if that once a person gives themselves to God – AND REPENTS OF THEIR SIN – they are considered blameless before all.  It is the act of REPENTANCE and the grace of God that does this.

But let’s look at this in view of the “open acceptance” of “active homosexual practice” within the body Christ.  Paul reprimanded the Corinthian Church for permitting – and being accepting of – sexual sin by members of that body of Christ (in this particular instance, incest).  Why is this important?

  • We are image-bearers of God.  As such, we should be acting in the character and nature of God.  When we continually engage in sin without repentance, we are obscuring the holiness of God and bringing shame upon His name – His character.
  • A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  When we allow open sin to be tolerated within the body of Christ, others will see it, and think that it is perfectly acceptable to engage in that sin.  Once sin begins to take a hold of our lives, it leads to the obscuring of our judgment of other sin, and it will be like a snowball rolling down a snow-covered mountain – it will get bigger and move faster, until it becomes nearly unstoppable, or starts an avalanche of snow.
  • We will be JUDGED.  When we engage in open sin, knowing that it is sin, and accept it (and maybe even be proud of our acceptance of it), we are engaging in the same behavior that the Israelites did when God sent conquering nations to overcome and disperse them.  If you like being “spanked by God”, feel free to slap God in the face and say, “I’ll do whatever I want to do, and You can’t tell me otherwise.  After all, God, You have to give me grace when I sin, so back off – I’m going to do this because it makes me feel good.”

Uncomfortable Union

So, let’s put all of this into perspective.  For the “sake of argument”, let us say that a person in the body of Christ is murdering other people.  It doesn’t matter how they do it – strangulation, knifing, shooting, raping to death, vehicular homicide, the method is not important.  What IS important is that they are doing it CURRENTLY.  Would you feel comfortable sitting beside a murderer who continues to practice murder, and then comes into the body of Christ AS IF THEY HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG, and sit beside you and your family?

OK, while that is highly unlikely (as most of us would have reported them to the authorities for prosecution), let’s look at another sin that is more likely to occur.  How about the serial adulterer?  Would you be comfortable if your family and friends were sitting next to a man who was giving you or your spouse or children the “winking eye” looking at them as though they were a delicious meal waiting to be devoured, in a sexual sense?  That in every glance, it appeared that they wanted to just “take you” (or perhaps, everyone [as in an orgy]) right then and there?

Or how about an attractive, well endowed, shapely young woman who dressed with a low-cut blouse and a very short skirt, showing most of God gave to her through her near lack of clothing, making puckered lips with half closed eyes, winking at everyone, legs spread, nearly offering herself to any that would take her?  While I understand that this is a horrid picture of behavior in the body of Christ, most people would be uncomfortable with such an overt display of sinful behavior.

Most sins are within, or well hidden from the view of others.  It is the visible ones that we tend to assign greater disgust as we are aware of them.  But God doesn’t distinguish between them.  Whether we tell little white lies, secretly lust for someone, or any other attitude of the heart that is not only left unchecked, but actively pursued, is just as evil in the eyes of God as the man and woman mentioned above.  Or the man and his stepmother engaging in incest.  Or actively pursuing homo/bisexuality.

Know this: every person that you sit beside while worshiping has committed sin, including YOU.  We don’t have a problem sitting next to them, even though they may have committed the most egregious of sins.  So why do we place such an aversion to recovering homosexuals?  Aren’t we all:

  • Recovering liars?
  • Recovering adulterers (in attitude if not practice)?
  • Recovering murderers (in attitude if not practice)?
  • Recovering thieves (in attitude [covetousness] if not practice)?
  • Recovering idolaters (and many of us still ARE idolaters!)?
  • The list goes on and on…

Fantastic Friend

The good news is that Jesus is a friend of sinners.  Look at the company he kept:

Jesus befriended them, and us, because we were/are sick and are in need of spiritual healing.  We should do the same.  We acted in ignorance, and God gave us grace.  We need to do the same for those who are acting out of ignorance (those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior), regardless of their sin.  We need to embrace them as Jesus did.  People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

However, within the body of Christ, that is something else.  We are to keep leaven (sin) as far from the body of Christ (within the body of Christ) as possible.  We should not tolerate any sin within the body.  We are to encourage one another to be sanctified in the Word without being judgmental (judge the sin, not the person), confessing our sins to one another, and praying for one another so that our sins might be forgiven and we would be healed. All of this is to be done with tenderness, compassion, and love;  discipline without love is harsh and not well-received.  We look for a gentle rebuke from our Father in heaven, not a drill-sergeant screaming in our face at how poorly we have acted.  We should engage in discipline in the same way.

Jesus had the greatest compassion for those whose hearts were broken over their sin, and the harshest words for those who knew the law and didn’t follow it.  Let us, as the days grow darker and more evil, encourage one another along in our faith, our sanctification, and our hopeful expectation that our Lord Jesus Christ will soon appear again.  Make SURE you are like the five virgins who had stocked up on oil waiting for the bridegroom.  Don’t be caught abusing the servants – be about the master’s work, getting everything prepared for his return.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we viewing some sins as more grievous than other sins as we see them in others?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You cannot tolerate sin in Your presence.  Help me to view You as the Holy God that you are.  Show me in Your word where I am falling short, and help me to turn from unrighteousness to You.  Help me to be broken over my sin, and to seek You in forgiveness.  Father, help me to see others as You see them, that I would not categorize sin as anything other than what it is – disobedience to You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – 1 Peter 1:13-16

Be Holy as God is Holy

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Sober Strategy

It is much easier to comprehend knowledge when we are not under the influence of mind-altering substances.  We are to abstain from these thing, including anything that would cause us to not be able to fully place our focus on the God’s grace.  We can be distracted by the things of this world; not only alcohol, but engaged in the things of the world that can distract us.  And while we need to engage in our jobs, our family, and other necessary things, we should be careful when selecting activities that will lead to distraction from our singular devotion to Christ.

Evade Evil

Peter reiterates here that we are not to be conformed to our prior evil desires.  The word conform in the Greek – suschematizo – is the same word that Paul uses in Romans 12:2 telling us to not be conformed to the pattern of this world (or, literally, do not be squeezed into the mold of). We must not allow any evil to squeeze us into its mold of thinking or action.

Have you noticed that things that are evil – even evil attitudes – try to get you to think a certain way to both obscure their true intent, as well as promote themselves as the better and more enjoyable path to comfort, pleasure, and/or ease?  Shortcuts are extremely appealing to us because we think we are gaining something or gaming the system – we think we are getting ahead. But in reality, these shortcuts deny us the very experience that we need in order to grow.  And in doing so, we become more dependent upon them, until there comes a time when we are called upon to do the necessary work.

Take plagiarism for instance.  It is very easy to copy someone else’s work and pass it off as our own.  When we do that (and we do it consistently), we miss out on the lessons that we need to learn in order to effectively research and compose writings based on critical thinking of our subject matter.  When we are then called upon to do something original (that no one else has done or researched), we may very well not be able to do so because we have become dependent upon the theft of other people’s intellect.

Having Holiness

God has called us to be holy.  Holiness is being set apart from sin, and set apart to righteousness.  We are to put behind us the things that have so easily ensnared and entrapped us and embrace the character of God.  This is not a suggestion – it is an imperative command – in the Greek, genEthEte – literally “be-ye-being-become!”  As we pull back from sin and pull closer to God through reading His word and praying for help in understanding and implementing Godly concepts, God transforms our minds into vessels that are better able to live out the imputed righteousness afforded to us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

And like anything else, when we learn new skills, we first learn the basics, and them move on to the advanced techniques.  It is the subtlety of nuances that will grow our faith and action from finger-painting to murals like “The Last Supper”.  This is a progressive learning experience through refinement of technique that sets apart the beginners from the masters.  Let us greatly strive to master the holiness of God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we setting aside anything that would impede our growth and mastery of holiness?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You call us to holiness, for You are holy.  Help me to recognize what attitudes, options, or ways of doing things are evil and impeding me from living righteously in holiness.  Cleanse me of all unrighteousness, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Refine me and test me, Lord God, that like the dross from gold and silver is skimmed to reveal the precious metal in the fiery forge, that through my fiery trials Your character would be refined in me.  Help me to rejoice in my suffering, and may it bear much fruit.  This I ask in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Holiness of God – 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.

God takes things very seriously. When Moses struck the rock twice to bring forth water after God had told him to speak to the rock, it cost him a blessing – going into the Promised Land. But God still held Moses in high regard – Moses appeared with Jesus and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Do we take the things of God as seriously as He does?  Notice the observation by Paul that some of the believers were weak and sick and had fallen asleep (their bodies died) because they were taking communion without discerning the body of Christ.  If you believe this to be the case for you, read James 5:14-16 and be obedient to the Word of God to resolve the issue.

God calls Himself Holy in His Word time and time again.  Here are three instances:

The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (carm.org) defines Holiness as:

Holiness is a quality of perfection, sinlessness, and inability to sin that is possessed by God alone. As Christians, we are called to be holy (1 Pet. 1:16). But this does not refer to our nature. Instead, it is a command of our practice and thought. We are to be holy in obedience (1 Pet. 1:15). God has made us holy through His Son Jesus (Eph. 1:4, 1 Pet. 2:9).

Holiness is being set apart FROM sin, and set apart TO God.  So, let us take some time today to set ourselves apart to God.  When we do that, we will be setting ourselves apart from sin.  Let us take some time before we take communion to discern whether we are in the faith.  Cry out to God to show you any sin in your life; acknowledge what He shows you (if anything) and repent.  Then, with clean hands and a pure heart, we can confidently take communion in joyful celebration!

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are Most Holy.  We fail to even begin to recognize how Holy You are.  You have told us in Your word that if we saw Your face, we would perish.  Help us to grasp the extent of Your Holiness, so that we can rightly discern ourselves as the Body of Christ.  Prepare our hearts for holy communion.  Forgive us our sins.  Cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Instill within us such a sense of Your presence that we are better able to humble our hearts before You.  You take this so very seriously; please help us to do the same.  Please do not discipline us in Your anger, but renew your mercy, for we are in desperate need of it.  Thank You, Lord God, for Your faithfulness in all things.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?