Monday, May 15, 2017

Living Clean in a Corrupt Culture

I don't often write blogs that offend, but occasionally, it happens.  This might be one of those.  Why, you ask?  Well, this one is about holiness.  Not the holiness of God, but personal holiness that our holy God expects from His children.  
The pharisees of Jesus' day thought of themselves as holy.  In the "holy" zeal, they crucified their own Messiah. 

Over the centuries holiness has been equated with haircuts, mode of dress, the ability to speak in unknown tongues, and even belonging to certain churches or denominations.  The truth is that holiness has little to do with outward appearance or special knowledge.  Holiness is when the direction of our heart is focused toward God alone.  Andrew Murray said, "The greatest test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain is truth and life will be whether it produces an increasing humility in us.  In humanity, humility is the one thing needed to allow God's holiness to dwell in us and through us.  The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is a LACK of humility.  The holiest will be the humblest."  

Some have sought to be holy by isolation.  But that isn't biblical because holiness cannot be adequately demonstrated in isolation.  In Philippians 2:14-15, Paul tells the church to "Do everything without grumbling and arguing so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars IN the world."  Jesus Himself prayed in John 17:14-15 - "I am NOT praying that You take them OUT of the world, but that You protect them from the evil one."  Jesus knew that the holiness His followers would develop as their relationship with Him deepened MUST be demonstrated IN a world of darkness and corruption.  

The problem we face in this great nation is a weakened church presence.  It happens when professing Christians and church folks live no differently from the lost and unchurched folks around them.  When we do that, we've embraced the world! Unfortunately, we don't hear much talk about worldliness in the church anymore and perhaps that's why we have so little impact on our culture.  Worldliness has weakened our churches from the inside out.  And now the trend is to move away from God's judgment and speak only about His grace, mercy, unconditional love and acceptance.  

What happened to us?  Why do we no longer teach our attenders about the costs of following Jesus?  Why do we no longer tell them that there is not only a Great White Throne judgment coming, but also a Bema Seat judgment where followers of Jesus will judged according to their works, not for salvation, but for rewards?  Why do we not challenge the practice of sin (I John 5:18-19) in ourselves and our fellow members and attenders?   In I Peter 1:15, we are reminded that WE are to be holy because our Father in heaven is holy.   That word, holy/hagios in the Greek, literally means to be set apart. When we repent of our sins, turn in faith to the Lord Jesus, and submit to the Father's plan for our lives, we are set apart from our previous lifestyles and set apart for His plan for our lives. To know that should motivate us to strive for moral purity in every part of our lives.  

But Peter doesn't just tell us that.  He gives us some idea as to HOW to it.

1)  He tells us to Discipline our Minds.  I Peter 1:13.  God imparts the righteousness of the Lord Jesus to us at the moment of salvation, BUT from that point on, we must guard that.   That's why Paul wrote in  Romans 12:2 - " Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you might discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God."  We can control what we feed our minds. What we read, what we watch, what we hear, WE CAN determine what goes in.  Peter also tells us to be sober-minded. That's clear thinking.  I like the phrase "discipline your thinking."  Everything we say or do begins in the mind.  So many people mess up their lives because of stinking thinking. We set our minds on the wrong things.  Some single folks think they can never have joy or fulfillment until they find the right mate, which is basically saying to God, 'You're not enough for me.'  Some folks who live paycheck to paycheck think, 'if only I had more money,' which is basically saying to God, 'You're not enough for me.'  That's stinking thinking and no one ever developed holiness or godliness with stinking thinking.  Check out Philippians 4:8.  

2)  Refuse to conform to the world around you.  v. 14   Those who live according to the senses, motivated by lusts, and have no real hope beyond THIS life -- don't be like them.  We have a living Hope in heaven.  His name is Jesus and He is at the right hand of God the Father as our Advocate as stumble and trip along this faith journey.  IF we are truly born again, God expects us to be in the process of becoming different and there are potholes and low shoulders along the road.  But the great thing is that it's NOT about us trying to do better.  It's about us submitting our lives to Him everyday so that He can live His life through us.  

3) Live Every Day with a Reverence and Awe of the God Who will one day judge the content and quality of our lives.  v. 17   There's that judgment thing.  It's coming for all of us who believe.  Standing there before Him as He reviews my life - every careless word, every missed opportunity to serve or witness or give, every hurt I've inflicted on others unjustly, every time that my actions or words or even stinking thinking brought dishonor to HIS Name.  That's why EVERY DAY, we must confess, repent, and submit to Him.

Now here's just a couple of other tips for developing a God-honoring holiness.  No one develops this Christlikeness without spending an abundant amount of time in the presence of God the Father.  This is your prayer time, your quiet time, your retreat into your war room.  To develop a godly character, you must get to know God more intimately.  It involves, first and foremost, a prayer life that involves meditation and listening as well as speaking.  
Second, no one develops this Christlikeness without spending an abundant amount of time in God's word.  This is still His primary method of speaking into our lives.  Both Old Testament and New are important.  Read it, Listen to it, memorize it, and apply it.  It will teach you, rebuke you, encourage you, challenge you, correct you, and bring your life in line with God's will and purpose.  

SO, what do you need to give up in order to pursue holiness?

What do you need to embrace in order to pursue holiness?  

True holiness is having our hearts so aligned with God that others see His Son, our Lord Jesus, in our language, our actions, and our priorities.   Romans 8:28-29

When that happens, our churches will be revived and we will become the salt and light that is needed in a corrupt culture.