A face book friend of mine, Phil Chamberlin, posted this as his status the other day. It read; “When holiness is viewed as perfection instead of process, it creates a system that rewards self-righteousness and inauthentic living.” I would like to use this to kick off this blog post. Seeking holiness as part of the transformation process and finding a way to live authentically as a believer is a noble pursuit indeed. It is a way to incorporate loving accountability into body life.
The problem as I see it is as follows; Phil identified it precisely in his face book status but I would like to unpack it a little. When we see perfect holiness as a command... it opens the door for condemnation and unrest whenever we feel that we fall short. I don’t think that the scripture calls for perfect holiness at all but rather, it calls for a progression toward holiness. Paul says, (Php 3:12-14) Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. (13) Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, (14) I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Pressing toward the goal is what is called for. Laying hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
First, let me emphatically state that we cannot transform ourselves. We can only allow the Holy Spirit to use our faith in Jesus and the gospel to facilitate our transformation. We end up with a dilemma of sorts. Do we trust Jesus to keep us in him right where we are at or, do we strive to improve on our own? Well, if our striving to improve is motivated by a wish to be acceptable to God we ere. Yet, if we see holiness as a command then, we are put into a position where condemnation easily creeps into the mix and, either forces us to try to hide from God or, to make our behavior line up with holiness. In either case this is not the way of transformation. Transformation is brought about by our trusting in and resting in the finished work of Jesus right where we are and, allowing that to produce peace with and love for God. Then, out of love for God without fear of condemnation we can strive for the upward calling in Christ Jesus. Not out of fear but, from love and peace. The motivation is completely changed.
This is the place where loving accountability can come into play. true transformation can never be realized as long as holiness is viewed as perfection or a goal. If however, we shift our paradigms to view holiness as a continuing process we can strive for holiness without fear and not be upset if we fail from time to time; Resting in the gospel, the love of Christ and, God’s redemption. We will explore this further in the next blog post.