“[B]ecause it is written, be holy for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Verse 15 says, “[B]ut as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” This is not a recommendation. It is a requirement, a command. It is used both in the New Testament in the verse given, and in the Old Testament, found in Leviticus 11:44 and 45. Many times, we as Christians evaluate our “performance” solely on the Ten Commandments, yet fail to realize what 2 Timothy 2:16-17 tells us. It says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (italics mine). The Word of God is our guide for every circumstance in life, including explaining our part of the Christian walk. Holiness is a major subject in the Bible, and therefore should be a major subject in every believer’s life.
Holiness is the same as consecration. Encarta Dictionary defines consecrate as the act of dedicating something to a particular purpose. It is that simple. So why is this consecration to God (holiness) not taking place? Jerry Bridges, in his book The Pursuit of Holiness, clues us in on one possible answer.
First, we are simply reluctant to face up to our responsibility. We prefer to leave that to God. We pray for victory when we know we should be acting in obedience. The second reason is that we do not understand the proper distinction between God’s provision and our own responsibility for holiness (13).
Christians must understand that we cannot sit back and be holy. We cannot expect God to do everything for us. At some point in time we have to point the finger at ourselves and step up to the plate. Living a Christian life requires action, and that action is on our part as well. We must choose to live for Christ, just as we choose to eat, sleep, and move.
We must be holy and separated unto God and not compromised with the world. Compromise, in my own opinion, is the death of what could be for the acceptance of what is. So many times in a Christians life they settle, because the battle for holiness seems too hard to fight. Why does the battle seem too hard to fight? It is because we are settling for the rewards and merit of this world and the people in it rather than the eternal rewards and merit prepared for us by our God. When we accept the salvation Jesus provides, we allow the Holy Spirit to take residence within us. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can fight the fight of holiness. “To live by the Spirit is to live both in obedience to and dependence on the Holy Spirit. There is a balance between our wills (expressed by obedience) and our faith (expressed by our dependence). But at this point we are considering the aspect of our dependence on the Holy Spirit” (Bridges 79). When acting in obedience to God, and living with the desire to strive to please Him with my all: thoughts, will, actions, attitude, emotions, heart, soul, I find two things occur. First, I become the man God created me to be, and second, I become the person I was destined to be, which makes me the real “me,” and not the “me” this world wants me to think I should be. A transformation of our minds must occur, and we must begin to think, see, hear, and observe this world as Christ does, and not simply as we want to. There is a major difference.
The world today has so mixed with the teaching and preaching of the Gospel that we now have a “Worldly Gospel” which in and of itself is a complete contradiction in terms. The Church is steadily becoming as worldly as it can, all under the guise of saving souls for Christ. I understand the need to reach people. It is what our mission as Christians is. However, when we change the words of the Gospel, or the meaning of the Gospel, or the Gospel itself, we are changing how people accept salvation and why people need salvation, possibly even creating a false salvation based on the lusts of the flesh rather than the depravity of the spirit. Let me explain this in an analogy. In weightlifting competitions, there are strict rules and regulations. For instance, legitimate competitions ban the use of steroids. The enforcers of these rules set up strict screening procedures the contestants must go through. If the judges find evidence of steroids in the contestant, the judges disqualify the contestant. Why? Steroids allow people to lift more, run faster, and achieve a higher level than they could by themselves. Sure, there are side effects, but the end justifies the means, right? It is the same with the Christian walk. Once we compromise the message with the world’s “steroids,” it spreads like wildfire. People eat it up. They love to have their ears tickled. For every person who will stand up and speak the undefiled Word of God there are hundreds who will stand up and preach a watered-down, weakened version of the Word of God. However, one might ask, does this end not also justify the means? The simple answer is this: not when it disqualifies those who enter the race. A contestant cannot be half-cheater and half-honest. The contestant is either honest, or a cheater. There is no gray area to dispute. The judges must ban a cheater from the race.
A church compromised is a church without power or effectiveness, just as a believer compromised is a believer without power or effectiveness. There is no reason on this earth why the Church, or individual believers, should compromise with the world, but there is one reason not on this earth that we should remain holy, and that is eternal life with Christ Jesus. It seems as if we accept the salvation of Jesus and the forgiveness of our sins with a willing attitude, and then balk at the possibility of having to separate ourselves from the very things that caused our spiritual death in the first place. This is the hypocritical part of the Church and Christianity that is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of all those it contacts. When we call ourselves Christians, we are taking the name of Christ upon ourselves. We slander His name when we compromise with this world. 1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” We want to place our dependency on God and still not remain accountable to Him. We live in a world that lets somebody else shed their blood, sweat, and tears to leave us with their life’s work, which we then chew on, spitting out what disagrees with us and then passively digesting the rest, which we then leave in a not too appealing pile, and expect someone else to produce roses from our leftovers. We have gone from being followers of Christ to being followers of who we want Christ to be. We are a pathetic excuse for a bride to be.
Bridges once again summarizes the wrongful thinking Christians have taken in another excerpt from The Pursuit of Holiness.
We need to brace ourselves up, and to realize that we are responsible for our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We need to reckon on the fact that we died to sin’s reign, that it no longer has any dominion over us, that God has united us with the risen Christ in all His power, and has given us the Holy Spirit to work in us. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness (85).
We must shake ourselves from our pathetic “we are so needy” lifestyle and walk in the freedom Christ has given us through His death and resurrection. Jesus already won the battle, yet we continue to create our own battles, out of our desire to sin and find a place to put the blame. This is why the Church compromises, and this is why individual Christians compromise; we love our sin more than we are willing to obey.
Christ offered a covenant relationship, which means both partakers of the covenant have responsibilities. Walter Brueggemann, in his book The Bible Makes Sense, explains this covenant relationship.
This theme emerges as central in the Bible because God’s self-revelation showed a covenant-making, covenant-keeping God. That is who God is. That is how the Divine Self meets Israel and relates to the church. That is how God relates to creation as a faithful covenant-keeper. That is how God defines our world for us as a process of covenant-making and covenant-keeping. And that is the good news of the Gospel, that God is faithful to the Covenant (54).
I have never understood this: we accept full pardon for our sins through the death of Jesus on the cross. We claim full freedom for the death that our sins procured. We expect the full blessings (many of them manmade and unbiblical) that come from salvation through Jesus Christ. Yet, when it comes to living a life fully for Christ, we resist with everything in us. Here is where compromise starts. We want Jesus to follow through with His part of the covenant, but then we want to negotiate our half of the covenant. Let us turn the tables and see how we fare. For instance, let us say that we sign our names to a covenant with Christ, yet He refuses to do so. To most of us, this thought is outrageous, yet this is what we do to Him. It is about time Christians start living up to their word, but more importantly, their word to their Savior, their God, and their Redeemer. How many of us would be in trouble if our life after salvation mattered (which it does)? How many of us can say that in all we do we bring glory and honor to Him who gave His life for us? Not many of us can say that.
Now, let me use part of a transcript of a sermon given by Paul Washer, entitled “Examine Yourself” to further drive my point home.
Let me take it a little further. Let’s imagine that I show up late and I run up here on the platform, and all the leaders are angry with me and say, “Brother Paul, don’t you appreciate the fact you’re given an opportunity to speak here and you come late?” And I’d say, “Brothers, you have to forgive me.” “Well, why?” “Well, I was out here on the highway, and I was driving and I had a flat tire and I got out to change the tire, and when I was changing the tire, the lug nut fell off, and I wasn’t paying attention that I was on the highway and I ran out and I grabbed the lug nut, and as soon as I picked it up in the middle of the highway, I stood up and there was a 30-ton logging truck going 120 miles an hour about ten yards in front of me, and it ran me over and that’s why I’m late.” Now, there would only be two . . . I know no one studies logic anymore, but there would only be two logical conclusions. One, I’m a liar or, two, I’m a madman. You would say, “Brother Paul, it’s absolutely absurd. It is impossible, Brother Paul, to have an encounter with something as large as a logging truck and not be changed.” And then my question would be to you––What is larger? A logging truck or God? How is it that so many people today profess to have had an encounter with Jesus Christ, and, yet, they are not permanently changed?
Brother Washer hits the nail on the head. When Christians dress the same, act the same, and are the same as the world, it raises the question, “Have they had an encounter with God?” This is not an argument for whether Christians have salvation, for that is a completely separate argument, but it is an argument for why some Christians profess salvation and no difference between them and the world exists. According to Scripture, born-again Christians are not like the world. They are different from the world. They stand out from the world. You see, holiness is not a list of things you can and cannot do, because if you are completely and wholly set apart for God, there will be no argument as to what you can and cannot do, because the Word of God will be your guide. You will do what the Word of God says, you will act how the Word of God says to act, and you will be what the Word of God says a Christian should be. You see, there is no great mystery. There is only a great misunderstanding. Worse yet, there is a great disobedience, leading to the shame and reproach of the name of Christ, and everything His death and resurrection stand for. The determining factor is this: does it bring glory and honor to God, and is it fulfilling His purpose?
Many people claim to love Jesus, but claiming something does not mean that it is necessarily true. You can be sincere, but you can be sincerely wrong (author unknown). They sing thousands of praise and worship songs, many of which move them to tears. They raise their hands in worship. They make a joyful noise unto the Lord during praise. Yet, if the statistics are true, the average prayer time is about five minutes (Small 35). Prayer is how we communicate with the Lord. If we do not pray then logically this would mean that we do not have a communicative relationship with the Lord. We have a one-sided relationship. How can we love someone we do not know? Isaiah talks about people who praise and worship with their lips, yet their hearts are far from the Lord (29:13). We have become this people, this abomination before the Lord. We want our words to take priority over our actions, even when one is as far from the other as can be. God help us to turn back and live. “Give unto the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2, italics mine).
For those Christians that are reading this and claim that the Church is holy, I offer some startling statistics to combat that claim.
· In America, 3500 – 4000 churches close their doors each year (Campus Church Networks).
· Half of all churches last year did not add one new member through conversion growth (Campus Church Networks).
· Churches lose an estimated 2,765,000 people each year to nominalism and secularism (Campus Church Networks).
The Allan Guttmacher Institute claims the following concerning abortion:
Women identifying themselves as Protestants obtain 37.4% of all abortions in the U.S.; Catholic women account for 31.3%, Jewish women account for 1.3%, and women with no religious affiliation obtain 23.7% of all abortions. 18% of all abortions are performed on women who identify themselves as "Born-again/Evangelical."
There are over twice as many abortions occurring amongst women who claim a religious affiliation than those who do not. This information should be a wakeup call to Christians. These statistics are very scary and show the plight of Christian churches all across America. If a church is comprised of individual Christians that are holy and given to be about their Father’s business, then how can this happen? The answer lies within each of our lives. Could it be that we are more worried over what car we drive and if we have the latest, most expensive style of purse than we are about if our neighbor is going to hell? Could it be that we would rather repent on Sunday morning before church only to go out and sin the rest of the week? Could it be that we have misunderstood God’s grace and therefore turned it into a license to sin with absolutely no consequence? Romans 6:1-2 says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” Could it be that we have grown so self-interested and so self-indulgent that winning souls for the Kingdom of God is something we will not and do not want to do? The answer is yes.
"Jesus came to save us from sin, not to save us in sin" (C.H. Spurgeon). We are in the world. There is no way for a Christian to escape this fact, and there is no use for a Christian to pretend otherwise. However, because we are in this world does not mean that we have to belong to the things of this world (teachings, thinking, and lifestyles). John 15:18 says, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” Those are Jesus’ words. They are not something we can pretend someone made up. The Word also says in Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through the philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (italics mine). The Bible also says in Proverbs 16:25, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (italics mine). When we consecrate ourselves partially unto Christ and partially unto this world, then we have an unholy and unhealthy relationship with God. This not only damages our witness, but it compromises the name of Christ. We need to begin to think along the lines that our life on earth does matter in our reward in Heaven, and that our witness is not just through words, but thoughts, actions, and attitudes as well. This is our witness.
We need to take every self-help book off the shelves, especially in Christian Book Stores, and replace them with the Holy Bible. I do not pity humankind enough to think that anything I could say could supplant or take the place of the Word of God. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Since when did the Church become about us and not about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or our mission as believers? The Church has trained us to think of our individual churches as the equivalent of our individual ministries combined, causing us to say, “If we can just get so and so to church, then we have done our part and they will be saved.” Instead, we should be saying, “If only so and so can see the light of Christ in my life, then God can save them, and they can join my church as a believer.” The power does not rest in church, but in God, and ironically, this is the same God of the Bible.
Life is an argument; for whom is your life arguing? We must choose to separate ourselves from this world
and consecrate ourselves unto God for His glory and His purpose. As Pastor Woody Brien said, “I remember
when a lot of negative preaching produced a lot of positive living.” Today, we see a lot of ear-tickling, ungodly,
“positive” preaching producing a lot of negative living. We are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). Salt mixed
with any substance is no longer salt, but some other substance. We must remain true to the mission God has given
us, and we must not compromise with this world. I want to leave you with one last verse of Scripture, which should
end the holiness argument forever. It is Hebrews 12:14, which says, “Pursue peace with all people, and
holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (italics mine).