My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

15 May 2005

Hello's from the Lord's Day

Do we apologize for holiness?

Tonight I'm preaching on the subject of evangelism, using the church in Thessalonica as an example. One of the reasons their testimony was effective was because of their God-given holiness, a Christ-likeness that made them stand out.

First, if statistics can be trusted (1 part statistics, 3 pinches of salt), the American church is, at best, only slightly more Christlike than the rest of the country - a situation that calls only for shame and repentance.

Second, many Christians whose lives are holier than their unbelieving neighbors often fall prey to the silent attack of the tolerance dogma. Because we feel that even our holy lives are a silent indictment against those who would choose to get blitzed or toasted every weekend, we often neglect to show forth our holiness. Not that we show our holiness with any pride, but people must see Christians as different. So, when the guy in the next cubicle speaks about his upcoming barroom conquests, we ought not to be silent - we ought to publicly thank God that He delivered us from such a vacuous life. God's holiness in the lives of His saints is an indictment against the world - an indictment, however, that is only part of the gospel of life.

Third, I'm beginning to think that many Christians feel the need to "hide" their holiness among other believers. If you have been delivered from needing to work on the Sabbath, if you have been delivered from pointless hours of television stupor or the drive to see every latest movie - don't hide it just because I might be offended. The Thessalonians learned holiness from the example of Paul and Silas; then they became examples themselves. Maybe I need your example, your testimony to spur me on to holiness.

Fourth, when we speak of our (hopefully Biblical) convictions, let us do so with great grace and warmth in our speech. Your convictions will be much more palatable, thus helpful, to me if they come in the form of testimony rather than outright challenge; they will be convicting to me if I see you rejoicing in the freedom of holiness rather than trying to find company for your new misery.

Finally, let's remember that our current standards of practice (which none of us hold to with any degree of perfection) do perhaps veer into the supra-Biblical category. If you have thrown out your TV because you desire increased purity in your home, great. I'd love to hear about it. But if your mission is to get me to throw out my TV (rather than to get me to love purity more), be careful how you talk.

So those are some random thoughts on holiness among God's people. This is really on my heart these days; I pray that God will see fit to make our local church a bright light of progressing-holiness. That we would be concerned first with God's glory rather than homogeneity, that we would find those among us to imitate and we each would one day be worthy of imitation. Again, this stuff is on my heart; I long for more holiness in my life and in our church. And I don't want to hide it when it comes.

4 comments:

Kurt said...

Jared,

Much insight and wisdom to ponder. One paragraph needs clarification for me, though:

Fourth, when we speak of our (hopefully Biblical) convictions, let us do so with great grace and warmth in our speech. Your convictions will be much more palatable, thus helpful, to me if they come in the form of testimony rather than outright challenge; they will be convicting to me if I see you rejoicing in the freedom of holiness rather than trying to find company for your new misery.

1. You have to admit, there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of "grace and warmth" when Paul challenged Peter as reported in Galatians 2. Seems to me it's closer to righteous indignation. Now, I'm not saying this is something that you want to do every day. But, there are times, when mature believers can be challenged to wake them up when they slip from time to time. We all slide at times, and sometimes, even need firm prompting to get us back on track. Apparently, Peter fit that bill in this case. And the onus is on Peter to repent, and not on Paul for a challenging delivery.

2. If a conviction is shared with another believer, how is it an attempt "to find company for your new misery"? In other words, how is a Biblical conviction "misery" for a believer?

If there is a misery, I only see it for the believer when, after the sharing the conviction, the other believer refuses to embrace it, thus continuing to lead a diminished life for Christ.

Do you know what goes through my mind when this happens to me?

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Granted, Jerusalem is not a perfect analogy for other believers, humanly speaking. But, don't you see that the effect for the lamenter is the same? Because believers are not heeding a truth of God, but continuing to think like the secular culture around them, with consequences to match, that it grieves God? It grieves me! It should grieve any believer who is taking on the mind of Christ while rejecting the mind of the flesh. That Scripture encapsulates the feeling any believer should have when others don't embrace God's truth, especially if they are believers.

Jared said...

Kurt - I believe we've had a version of this conversation before.

First, I was simply not speaking of cases like Paul vs. Peter. When the gospel is being blasphemed and impeded by someone's stand or action, it's a time for direct confrontation. When your convictions happen to be a little more stringent than mine in a given area (why we shouldn't drink beer or see an R rated movie), it's not a time for a fight, but for good discussion. In the end, it has to be okay for us to have different convictions, up to a point. I'm open to these discussions, but I am not open to someone declaring "Thus sayeth the Lord," when the Lord has not sayeth'ed anything like what they're saying.

My comment about sharing the misery was perhaps obtuse. I have met some Christians who have adopted a more ascetic lifestyle simply because it's what they thought was expected of them; then they try to get others to go along with them, but they are not good salesmen for their convictions. They live their convictions, but with a level of "misery," of "woe is me, look at all the things I miss out on..." That's the misery I was talking about - a misery that has no place when someone comes into greater conformity to the will of God.

It's your comment about Jerusalem that bothers me the most. If I'm reading you right, whenever you share a conviction with a believer and they don't buy it lock, stock & barrel, you go away feeling like Christ is being dishonored. Don't you see the great hubris in that idea? That your convictions must always be the right ones, that you have the corner market on rejecting the mind of the flesh? My point with the original essay was to undo this type of attitude in all of us. It's not always the most "conservative" conviction that's the right one (Rom. 15).

While we should all hold our convictions with earnest and hope that others share them, we can't assume that we've got it perfect. And we can't assume that our convictions absolutely must be theirs as well. A recovering alcoholic has a conviction about not drinking - great! We shall not try to convert him. But neither shall he try to convert us to teetotaling when Scripture nowhere calls for it.

Kurt said...

When the gospel (sic) is being blasphemed and impeded by someone's stand or action, it's a time for direct confrontation. When your convictions happen to be a little more stringent than mine in a given area (why we shouldn't drink beer or see an R rated movie), it's not a time for a fight, but for good discussion.

Agreed.

However, differentiating between "[w]hen the [G]ospel is being blasphemed and impeded by someone's stand or action [or inaction]" and just being "a little more stringent....in a given area" is sometimes not obvious. Spiritual maturity and discernment play roles here, don't you think?

They live their convictions, but with a level of "misery," of "woe is me, look at all the things I miss out on..." That's the misery I was talking about...

Understood now.

It's your comment about Jerusalem that bothers me the most. If I'm reading you right, whenever you share a conviction with a believer and they don't buy it lock, stock & barrel, you go away feeling like Christ is being dishonored. Don't you see the great hubris in that idea?

If I was just being "a little more stringent....in a given area," then, yes, it would be merely exaggerated pride or self-confidence.

But I'm talking about cases "[w]hen the [G]ospel is being blasphemed and impeded by someone's stand or action [or inaction]."

Also, perhaps you're using "convictions" in a slightly different sense than I do. When I talk about "convictions" I am not thinking in human terms. A "conviction" to me is what Scripture says it is. I'll give three examples:

And having come, that One will convict the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment. John 16:8

...clinging to the faithful Word according to the teaching, that he may be able both to encourage by sound doctrine and to convict the ones contradicting.” Titus 1:9

...to do judgment against all, and to convict all" the ungodly of them concerning all their ungodly works which they ungodly did, "and concerning all the hard things ungodly sinners spoke against Him." Jude 1:15


As a believer, if I am "convicted" of some truth, Scripturally this means I am convicted or convinced of sin or sinfulness by conscience. This is not my fleshly nature acknowledging this. This is a regenerated heart of a redeemed believer - given as a gift by God - that crys out like Jesus cried out for Jerusalem, because it is Christ in this believer that is doing the crying out.

...yet not as I will, but as You will. Matthew 26:39

..not of works, that not anyone should boast; for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before prepared that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10

...the sheep hear his voice...John 10:3


If we, Christians don't have an "attitude" of Scriptural conviction so that Christ in us "crys out" then quite possibly we may be quenching the Spirit. Evaluation of our Christian walk may be in order, as we may not be listening to His voice.

This is not arrogance, but the confidence OF Christ as exhibited by Paul in Acts 28:31, and again to the Ephesians in chapter 3:11-12 ...in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through His faith.

I either speak as a fool or in truth from your perspective. I'm sorry that I don't appear to leave you to draw any other conclusion about me.

Jared said...

Kurt, I think we're talking on two different planes and thus getting nowhere.

I am speaking toward people's personal applications of Scriptural principles; maybe "conviction" isn't the best word there...maybe I should stick with "application." If someone feels the need to force upon me or confront me with valid applications (e.g., homeschooling) of Scriptural principles (Dt. 6), that's where I exit the conversation. The hubris I speak of comes from believing that one's applications/convictions are the very mind of Christ.