Saturday, March 30, 2013

Holiness and grace; are they mutually exclusive? Part 6

It seems that there is a lot to say about grace and holiness and their relationship in the life of a believer. I think that I have begun to establish that the driver is grace. Grace is the foundation of true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, grace is inextricably linked to holiness and its progressive development in the life of the saint. Today we will begin to take a look at law and grace and how they affect and relate to holiness. I think we can assume that holiness is a function of the indwelling spirit within us. In this understanding we should look at what Paul has to say about the effect of law on people. In second Corinthians 3:6, Paul explains that the letter of the law, that is the written law kills. He goes on to explain that the Spirit gives life. How you ask? The Spirit gives life through the gospel of grace. So then, it is safe to assume that the written law brings death and that the Spirit of grace brings life.

With this in mind let’s take a look at Romans chapter seven.

(Romans 7:18-25 NASB)  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  (19)  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.  (20)  But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  (21)  I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.  (22)  For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,  (23)  but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.  (24)  Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?  (25)  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. 

The above scenario is especially pertinent if one is operating from a legal constitutional reading of scripture. It becomes far less applicable if one is operating from a redemptive reading and interpretation of scripture. This is the main reason that Jesus and his first century followers adopted a redemptive hermeneutic that was Jesus of Nazareth centric. It is also why they redefined the phrase word of God from Torah to gospel and Jesus the living gospel. Jesus was not the living Torah. Rather, Jesus was the living gospel… he was the gospel incarnate.

So then, how does this relate to Romans 7? Much in every way; I believe that Paul was thinking of personal holiness and godliness when he wrote the seventh chapter of Romans. He was saying that when one simply applies a read and do approach to scripture that it will ultimately result in failure. While depending on personality types, (some people are naturally addictive and some are not) all people will fail with a read and do focus to the law. This is whether it is the Law of Christ or the Law of Moses. I should also mention that the Law of Christ and the Law of Moses are merely two expressions of one Law… God’s Law.

Simply reading and doing will not work with any of God’s laws and especially the Shema. One cannot possibly love God with all their heart, all their soul and all their strength by reading and trying to perform it, nor can one love his/her neighbor as him/herself. The more they want to the less they will be able to unless the grace of God is in control promoting a genuine, supernatural, spiritual love for God and neighbor.

It should be obvious that not only are grace and holiness not mutually exclusive, but in fact they are mutually inextricable.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Holiness and grace; Are they mutually exclusive? Part 5

(Titus 2:11-12 NASB)  For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,  (12)  instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,

Paul tells Titus that grace is the instructor; Instructor of what? It instructs one to live sensibly, righteously and godly. If sensibly, righteously and godly are not the description of holiness I do not know what the definition of holiness could be. If there is anything that would set a person apart from the rest of the world sensible, righteous and godly/godlike living would be it. So again, the question is; how does grace instruct us? Grace convinces and explains the extent of God’s love for us. The preaching of the cross is an offense to the religious mind and likewise unlimited grace is offensive for the same reason. It was prophesied in Isaiah 28:15-18. God himself would lay a stone in Zion and all who believed would not be shaken. However, in Isaiah 8:14 it is explained that the cornerstone would become a rock of stumbling and offence. It seems that grace is an offense to those who are striving to please God by their own merit. It has been so for a long time. Paul explains that the cross is an offense.

It is important to realize that still Paul maintains that grace is an instructor that promotes righteousness. He said in another place that it is the kindness/mercy of God that leads to repentance. Grace is the one thing that can create peace with God. It is the source of being able to rest in redemption and the Father’s love. The fruit of the Spirit flows because of grace.

It is important to see that life is a process and not necessarily a goal. It is a process of development. True righteousness and holiness develops over time. If you look at the lives of those in the bible, you will find that their faith and obedience develops over time in the process of life. I suggest that you familiarize yourself with the life of Abraham. His story is told in Genesis from Chapter 12 to 25. When you look at Genesis chapter twenty you will see that even though Abraham feared and lied to King Abimelech, God still caused Abraham to have to pray a blessing on Abimelech and he caused the King to give Abraham great wealth and this was during a shameful time of disobedience. God saw Abraham’s faith life over time and not by a single instance, and that at the end he would trust God so much that he would sacrifice his only born son Isaac... he was sure that God would raise him back to life.

It was God’s grace and his faithfulness to Abraham that developed holiness in Abraham over time; after all, Abraham was called the friend of God. There are many other stories not least of which is Peter. He denied Jesus as predicted but over time and with the indwelling Holy Ghost was willing to be crucified upside down. Stressing God’s grace over a lifetime, that is, always rehearsing the gospel before the saints will result in supernatural transformation… that transformation is sanctification and holiness.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Holiness and grace; Are they mutually exclusive? Part 4

(Gal 5:22-23 NASB)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  (23)  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

It should be abundantly clear that godliness, therefore holiness is expressed in the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is agape… og-ga-pay (correct pronunciation). Agape is a special kind of love. Many have said it is God love… that is, the love that God has and gives. Rest assured that true righteousness and holiness is an expression of agape. All of the up-tight saints that are trying to walk the chalk miss this idea and in their tight fear miss agape and its expression in their life.

Let’s take a quick look at the description of agape. It can be found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian saints in the thirteenth chapter.

(1Co 13:4-8 NASB)  Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,  (5)  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  (6)  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;  (7)  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  (8)  Love never fails…

The above passage is another way of expressing the fruit of the Spirit and it describes holiness. As was pointed out in previous posts, this spiritual fruit, agape is birthed and sustained by peace with God, (Romans 5:1.) In fact, it is faith in the gospel of grace that produces this Spiritual fruit. Now then, the saint has to be grounded in the fact that they are completely made right in the eyes of the Father to allow this agape to be produced.

If faith in Christ is the reason for justification and right standing with the Father then, our obedience to the commands cannot be. In fact, our obedience to the commands will not even keep us in right standing with the Father. The only thing that will do that is faith in the gospel. This is why Paul told the Colossians that as they received the Lord Jesus (by faith) that is how they should WALK in him (Col 2:6)… in other words, just like they believed in the gospel to be saved, they must continue to believe in the gospel to faithfully walk in him.

I am not shouting but I want to emphasize the following so I am putting it in capital letters…. UNTIL THE SAINTS ARE COMPLETELY CONVINCED IN THE ABSOLUTE PERMENANT EFFECACY OF GOD’S GRACE THEY CAN NEVER LOOK AT THE LAW TO BE INSTRUCTED IN PROPER RESPONSE TO GOD’S GRACE! However, from the position of assurance of justification no matter what, justification that is based solely on the work of Christ and faith in that work, then one can look at the law and admonition passages and begin to see ways that holiness can be displayed.

Still more to come in this series…

Holiness and grace; Are they mutually exclusive? Part 3

(Eph 4:22-24 ESV)  to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  (23)  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  (24)  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

This should be the desire of every saint. I know that it is my desire. I want the new man to be in control of me. Notice that the new man comes in as the result of a renewed mind. Renewed how? Renewed to what? Is it renewed to scripture? I don’t think so. Instead, it is renewed to the gospel. That is why Jesus and his followers redefined the phrase word of God/word of truth. He knew that the assurance of the gospel would bring peace with God that would result in love for God and love for God is what results in true holiness.

Look at what Paul says about righteousness.
So what is true righteousness and holiness? While the King James Version renders verse 24 as righteousness and true holiness it should be true righteousness and holiness as it is rendered in most versions. In the Greek it is dikaiosune kai hosioteti which is righteousness and holiness so the alethias/truth is related equally to both words. So then, now that we have established that it is true righteousness and holiness, let’s look at what true righteousness is because, true righteousness is what results in true holiness. (Romans 10:1-4 ESV)  “Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.  (2)  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  (3)  For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness.  (4)  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” The righteousness of God is imputed righteousness based on faith (Gen 15:6.) Paul says in second Corinthians that God made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be made sin for us that we might be the righteousness of God in Him (2Cor 5:21.) the concept of being justified by our faith in Jesus is the foundational ground for peace with God.
(Rom 5:1 ESV)  Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is the peace with God… that is… being at peace with God that leads to love for God by resting in grace. This is how the Holy Spirit transforms us. The result will be love. Remember Jesus words? (John 13:35 ESV)  "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." Notice that Jesus did not say that all people will know you are my disciples if you obey the law; or, all people will know that you are my disciples if you dress a certain way, or, all people will know that you are my disciples if you speak a certain way…. NO, NOT AT ALL… it is uncommon love that will identify us as the disciples of Jesus. Friend, peace with God via believing the gospel is the source of this uncommon love. It is the transformer!

Holiness and grace Part 1 and Holiness and grace Part 2 Check these posts out also… this theme is to be continued…..

Monday, March 25, 2013

Holiness and grace; are they mutually exclusive? Part 2

Yesterday’s post was the introduction to this series. Check it out if you have not done so. I try to keep all the posts short, between 500 and 750 words. The purpose of this series is two-fold. First, I desire to see the saints of God set free from the bondage of religion. Second, I desire to show that unlimited grace will actually promote more holiness than the current idea of limited grace and commanded holiness. I desire to see the body of Christ conduct themselves in a godly manner.

(2Peter 1:1-4 ESV)  Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:  (2) May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  (3)  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, (4) by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

So then, we see that we have been given all things that will enable us to live a godly life and we actually become partakers of the divine nature. You may say to yourself, what is different about what you are writing now? Isn’t that pretty much what everyone believes? Well, that may be so in one sense, but there are not that many, if any, that can adequately explain step by step how the transformation process works and how we grow ever godlier by partaking of the divine nature. That will be the point and goal of this series of posts.

Too often we tell people that it is a spiritual process because of the indwelling Holy Spirit and leave it at that. This does not give them the understanding of the process. The truth is that the power of God is in the preaching of the cross. The transforming power of God is the gospel. It operates by bringing peace with God (Romans 5:1.) It cannot be engrained in just one occasion. The gospel of grace must be presented over and over, even to the seasoned saint. Each time it is presented the Holy Spirit confirms the word of the gospel. In fact, they will not see real, true transformation apart from peace with God and the love for God that it generates. The indwelling Holy Spirit, Peter called it partaking of the divine nature, is there to reinforce and confirm the grace of God and imputed righteousness (John 16:10.) John 16:8-11 explains the mission and work of the Holy Spirit. He comes to convict unbelievers of their sin of unbelief, to convict or convince believers of their imputed righteousness (to promote peace) and to convince the believer that Satan has been judged.

Grace brings peace with God. Peace promotes love for God. Love for God translates into love for others. Loving others is godliness. You can read another post that explains the transformation process here. This series will be continued…..

The two overriding messages of the scripture

While this blog is dedicated to my paradigm shift it is also about the way in which evangelical Christianity is off the mark in doctrine and...