Liberty From Sin, Not Liberty To Sin
Jesus came to set us free! This is one of the fundamental truths of the gospel, repeated over and again in the New Testament. As expressed by Paul, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1a). In the words of Jesus himself, “. . . if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
But what kind of freedom do we have in the Lord? The New Testament speaks of different aspects to our liberty, including these:
- We have been released from serving God through an external legal system “so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom 7:6)
- We have been delivered from slavery to Satan and the fear of death (Heb 2:15)
- We have been set free from condemnation and guilt (Rom 8:1-4); in fact, the primary NT word for forgiveness (aphesis) means “release from debt,” in this case the debt of our sin against God.
In Jesus, we are no longer prisoners, and when the Lord announced his mission in what is often called his “platform speech” in Nazareth, he declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
There is another aspect to our freedom in the Lord, however, one that is stressed more than any other in the NT: In Jesus we have been set free from sin. Look at this well-known passage from John:
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:31-36).
The ultimate bondage is bondage to sin. That’s why the root of our freedom is freedom from sin. Jesus is our liberator!
When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he was very concerned because they had fallen into a Judaistic-based legalism, one that taught these Gentile believers that unless they observed the Law of Moses and were circumcised, they could not be saved. Paul confronted this error head on, emphasizing the freedom they had in Jesus. But it was a freedom that could be abused, and Paul confronted this dangerous error as well: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Gal 5:13; see also 5:19-5:21, where Paul lists some of the works of the flesh, closing with this warning: “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”)
In similar fashion (but in a very different context), Peter wrote, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God” (1 Pet 2:16; this follows on the heels of 2:11, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul”; and this builds on the foundational call to be holy because the Lord is holy in 1:13-16).
Look at how Paul opens this up to the Romans:
You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (Rom 6:18-22).
All this is quite clear and, for the most part, quite obvious. Really, how could Paul or others in the New Testament made it any more clear? And yet in recent years, a very strange message has been gaining momentum, one that claims that Jesus has set us free to sin rather than from sin. To be sure, believers who embrace this concept don’t flatly say that the Lord has set them free to sin – but they say everything other than that. For example, a friend tells you excitedly about a movie he just saw, one which is laced with profanity, nudity, and sexual scenes. You say to your friend in surprise, “But I hear that’s a really filthy movie. Why in the world did you see it?” He replies, “I’m free in the Lord, man. You’re not going to put me under some old legal system. I’m been liberated from that kind of bondage.” What a bizarre concept!
When you are liberated from prison, you don’t go back to live in your prison cell. When the shackles are taken off of your wrists, you don’t put them back on. Why would you? What kind of liberty is that? And who would ever think of saying, “Hey man, I’m free! If I want to put the shackles back on, that’s my right.” Only a demented person says to the doctors who pumped her stomach after a massive drug overdose, sparing her life, “Thanks so much! You pumped my stomach and saved my life so I can overdose again.”
Sin is our mortal enemy, and there is nothing good in sin, only evil and death and deception and bondage. And sin is so ugly that it cost Jesus his very blood. Why in the world would we want to indulge in the very thing from which Jesus delivered us? It not only makes no sense, it also undermines a foundational truth of the gospel, namely that Jesus sets us free from both the penalty of sin and the power of sin. We really have been liberated!
How odd it is that many believers today boast of their freedom in Jesus as if it provided a license to sin – the very thing Paul warned the Galatians about. I would recommend that the next time someone abuses the concept of liberty in Jesus and liberty in the Spirit (“Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” 2 Cor 3:17b), throwing around the “I’m free” mantra, just ask them: Then why are you making yourself a slave again? If he cleansed you, why are making yourself dirty again? Jesus died to give you a brand new nature, not a license to indulge the old nature that brings only destruction and death.
It’s really pretty simple, isn’t it?
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: freedom, holiness, Jesus, liberty, sin
Blameless On That Day
Holiness and Love
Justified believers are urged to pursue holiness. We are promised that the pure in heart shall see God. (Matthew 5:8) We are warned that without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14) In the hope of seeing Him as He is we are exhorted to purify ourselves as He is pure. (1 John 3:3) Our hearts’ holiness is analogous to God’s heart: we are commanded to be holy as He is holy. (1 Peter 1:16) This pursuit of holiness is really a response to the wooing of God. He is seriously courting us and looking for our commensurate, loving, consecrated commitment. (James 4:5)
Remember, our holiness doesn’t save; the blood of the incarnate Holy One saves. (Romans 5:9) Our consecration is a result of His atoning blood purifying us so we may, with open hearts, encounter God as He is. (Hebrews 1:3, 9:14) The Bible relates many instances of people who came face to Face with true holiness. Practically every occurrence of this happened to someone who was already in a relationship with God. For example, Isaiah and John were in covenant and communion with their creator before they heard heaven’s courts cry out, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8)
I believe there will always be increasing revelatory light which exposes the motives and works of every growing believer. Yet, for us this light has a red tinge. It is “light through the blood.” It is life giving light. (John 1:4) God desires to give a deep rooted security which absolutely rests upon the work of Calvary. (Ephesians 3:17) As this happens, He brings us into increasingly frequent, deeper, lasting encounters with His purity. Lest we shrink back, to avoid feeling “undone” and falling at His feet like a dead man (Isaiah 6:5, Revelation 1:17), we must consider that we are not saved through our response. We are saved through Calvary. (John 3:16) It is in the light of Calvary that we must bring to mind that the Messiah is going to judge every soul who ever lived.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: (2 Timothy 4:1)
Here are two pictures of this awesome Day:
A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:10)
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. (Revelation 20:12)
One day every justified believer “will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12b) This does not have to be a threat. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes a lot about the Lord’s return and coming judgment. (3:11-15; 4:1-5; 5:5; 6:2,3; 11:26-32; 13:10; 15:24-28) Please read the following verse and find a surprising promise:
… the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5b)
Many live with fear of coming condemn-ation. How can we live in a way that we are assured of coming commend-ation? Paul was not insecure about the coming judgment. He looked forward to a “crown.” (2 Timothy 4:8) I believe Paul employed a key which opened a door to anticipatory confidence. This key is not a mystery. Look:
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ (Philippians 1:9-10)
and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13)
In these prayers it is revealed that our love for others is a key to being established, “blameless in holiness.” Holiness looks like the fulfillment of the two great commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40) Lest we forget, Jesus added another:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you (John 13:34a)
In the same way we must consistently enter into the experience of God’s love for ourselves, so we should cultivate and consistently express our love for other believers. This love, fulfilling every moral standard, is the heart of holiness. (Romans 13:8-10) We will love because He loved us first.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:16-21)
Let us set ourselves apart and highly prioritize loving the brethren. (1 Peter 1:22) As we abide in Jesus’ love (John 15:9) we will be transformed by His perspective and love others in a way that glorifies Him in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12) We will be blameless, holy, in the presence of the living God.
Jesus commanded this. Paul prayed for its fulfillment. Let us confidently ask the Lord to perfect this love in our lives.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: consecration, David Harwood, holiness, Jesus, judgment, Knowledge, Matthew, Paul
The Sense of God’s Holiness
‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’ -Lev. 10.3
The nations are perishing and the Church is languishing for want of the knowledge of God. This generation of American souls is largely ignorant of the God of the Scriptures, and we have been too preoccupied and distracted by this world to come into that knowledge ourselves. We have preached a hollow message that bears little resemblance to the revelation of God set forth by the apostles and prophets, and the condition of our nation testifies to it.
We have made light of sin, made the faith into a mere subculture, and the cities of America remain mostly unconvinced of the reality of God. We have not demonstrated His love and purity, for we have been functioning along the lines of the world, catering to self and living under the intoxicating influences of a consumeristic society.
This story of Aaron’s sons rattles our presumptuous definitions of God, and while it may seem unsavory or distasteful to consider, it is a vital portion of Scripture that needs to be reflected on. We need to reckon with passages like this until we break into a fuller understanding of who the Lord is, for if we pick and choose passages only of our own liking, we end up forming distorted views of God. Indeed, we all see in part, but to willfully neglect an aspect of who He is according to the Scriptures is to open the gate to deception.
I believe the message of His great love must increase and be shouted from the rooftops, but if He has also shown Himself as holy, and we fail to see Him as He has revealed Himself, what foundation do we have? His attributes are not categories that we can pick based on personal preference, as if the Bible was a menu at a restaurant. His traits are intertwined and tied up with His Person, and every revelation of God given in the Scriptures is a glimpse into His great heart. We cannot discard the portions that seem less appealing. If we do that, we have created our own view instead of receiving His. At best, our revelation of God will be a partial foundation, and that is not sufficient for a life of discipleship, nor will it hold in days of great trial and upheaval. We need to be rooted and grounded in His great love and purity, walking in the joy of communion and the fear of the Lord, for this alone will fit us to glorify Him in the day of His power.
He has revealed both His “kindness” and His “severity” for a reason (Rom. 11.22). It is not merely so that our systematic theology will be accurate. He has revealed Himself in this way because this is who He is, and to know Him and love Him as He is, that alone is eternal life.
Decades ago, A.W. Tozer wrote:
I refer to the loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind. The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge, and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.
…. The world is evil, the times are waxing late, and the glory of God has departed from the church as the fiery cloud once lifted from the door of the Temple in the sight of Ezekiel the prophet.
The God of Abraham has withdrawn His conscious Presence from us, and another God whom our fathers knew not is making himself at home among us.
(A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy; Harper & Brothers, 1961; pp. 6, 49)
I am convinced that Tozer’s words are profoundly true of the Church in our times, and one of the chief reasons for this loss of majesty is that we have diminished- perhaps unconsciously- the sense of God’s holiness. We need a recovery of reverence, hatred for sin, and a baptism of fire to purge us of the arrogance and strutting that still marks too many of our lives and ministries.
There are wonderful teachings on the love of God in circulation, and I pray they continue to increase as our hearts enlarge in the experience of His kindness and compassion. But we are radically lacking a sense of His holiness, and since He is both loving beyond comprehension, and holy beyond description, the whole counsel of Scripture is essential for a true knowledge of God. Passages like this from Leviticus 10 provide a crucial vantage point for our understanding of Who God is.
Aaron’s sons, along with the people of Israel, had witnessed the majesty of God at the end of chapter 9. “The glory of the Lord appeared to all the people,” “fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering,” “and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” (9.23-24)
Without a doubt, the scene was exhilarating, and the sense of God’s mercy and holiness was overwhelming for all who were present. Reverence and joy mingled within them, and the people fell prostrate with shouts of praise and awe issuing forth. What happened next is both devastating and sobering.
“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.” (10.1-2)
We don’t know exactly what prompted Nadab and Abihu to perform what is recorded in chapter 10. Were they trying to reproduce the elation of the previous event? Were they wanting their names to be recognized before the people, rather than being jealous for the glory of God’s name? We don’t have the answer to every question here, but we do know that the fire they offered was not authorized by the Lord. It was offered in their “respective firepans,” and its source was of men rather than of God. It was “strange” and unholy, something “which He had not commanded them.”
It was so offensive to the Lord that “fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.”
At this point it is easy for our hearts to short-circuit. We lose touch with the raw reality of the Biblical passage. We cannot fathom the thought that the very fire of God Himself actually came out from the holy place and devoured the sons of Aaron. Our view of the Lord is casual and light, and the idea of judgment is foreign to most modern believers. If the idea of God’s wrath is agreed to in a credal way, it often bears a feeling of unreality, and the idea of judgment actually touching men on the earth seems fictitious or mythical.
But that does not discount the truth of the passage, and we need to realize that this is an actual historical event. It is not allegorical or symbolic, but a true piece of our heritage in the faith. It is meant to bring to us what it brought to Moses, Aaron, and the people of God; namely, a sense of His holiness, and an awareness that He does not tolerate sin, nor any activity that is carried out in His name that misrepresents His glory.
Just when we might have blamed the event on some demonic attack, Moses gives clarity to what has occurred.
“Moses then said to Aaron, ‘This is what the LORD spoke of when he said:
‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’
Aaron remained silent.” (v. 3)
This event of judgment, which gripped the community of Israel with holy fear, is completely intertwined with the revelation of God in the Scriptures. It is just as much a revelation of His personality as was His washing of the disciples feet, His blessing of little children, and His raising of Lazarus from the dead. It is a revelation of God’s holiness, and it is one that we need desperately to recover. He is holy, and we cannot use Him for our purposes.
This hits home in a concentrated way in this present generation. Perhaps the fouls committed against the sense of His holiness are no more flagrant than in certain segments of the Charismatic Church, where charisma and gifting are often elevated while the Scriptures and the character of Christ are undervalued.
My heart aches in this hour of often flippant faith, when silliness and frivolity are equated with “liberty in the Spirit,” and when anyone with jealousy for truth and reality is accused of having a religious spirit.
When I see men placing a low value on the Scriptures, or labeling anyone with passion for the Word a “pharisee,” I tremble on the inside.
When I see men acting as if they are inhaling the Holy Spirit through imaginary marijuana joints, calling it “Jehovajuana” and claiming that they are “toking the Ghost,” I am mortified at the total loss of reverence for God. There is absolutely nothing holy about such activity! It is a deplorable and scandalous example of strange and unauthorized fire.
When I see men boasting of great power and bragging about the international influence of their ministries while the sense of His holiness is absent, it makes me apprehensive.
When a so-called “revivalist” can shed his wife and marry another woman with no Scriptural grounds, only to re-enter public ministry with the blessing of well-known leaders, I am filled with concern. This has happened many times over the years, and I am wondering where the standard of truth has gone!
I want to be merciful towards all men, but there has to come a point where the gullibility and lack of discernment are spoken against. I don’t think we are far from Tozer’s description, that “another God whom our fathers knew not is making himself at home among us.”
A few of my mentors have even encountered a trend among “worship-leaders,” where they will use profanity, or do other wild and crazy things in services, claiming that by this absurdity they are “shaking the religious spirit off of the crowd.” I cannot give words to how far we have fallen.
You may say that I have a religious spirit myself, but I cannot give my soul over to these expressions of spiritual activity that militate against the revelation of God that I have received over the course of my life in God. He is holy, holy, holy, and the line of revelation from Genesis to Revelation does not alter one bit. He is kinder and more loving than we can describe, but He is pure and just as well, His judgments have already touched the earth, and He is still slated to return as both Savior and Judge.
We do need to desire “earnestly” the gifts of the Spirit and the outpouring of His power. We need to be awakened more and more to the depth of His great love and compassion. And indeed, when the Spirit of God moves in power, things will happen that we cannot explain and that take us by surprise. But what has happened to the fear of the Lord?
I am convinced that our unwillingness to come into the knowledge of God, as the Scriptures have revealed Him, has produced the seedbed for our sub-apostolic Christianity. Before the cities of the earth will be “turned upside down,” we need to regain the majesty of the revelation of God Himself. We need to turn from sin and return to the God of glory, to the Scriptures, to prayer and fasting, to worship and obedience.
We have lost the sense of His holiness, and I fear the consequences are much worse than the immediate judgment of two priestly sons. The Lord has permitted many to veer off into their own ideas of Himself, even while chasing supernatural activity, and their stupor grows heavier the more and more men make light of sin and neglect the Scriptures. A widespread famine of the true knowledge of God is even more tragic than the death of Aaron’s sons. Entire movements are chugging along without a sense of His holiness, quite at home with sin, and so intermingled with the world that there is no “distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean.” (Lev. 10.10)
We cannot rightly value the kindness and mercy of the Lord if we have diminished the bright light of His holiness and the radical nature of His hatred for sin.
We are more like the 1st-century Church at Corinth than we realize, and the word of the apostle Paul is the same to us as it was to them. He did not doubt the validity of their gifts, nor did he consider them unbelievers. But he had serious correction to give as well, for they were veering off in the wrong direction:
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’ Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” -1 Cor. 15.33-34
Oh, for the true knowledge of God! For the joy of communion and the trembling of reverence! The salvation of Israel and the nations, and the raising of our sons and daughters depends entirely upon the measure to which we have come into the knowledge of God, as He truly is. He kindly invites us into the purity and joy of union with Himself, for which reason we have been saved. We need to be enlarged in His love. We need the sense of His holiness. May we hear from God Himself in this hour.
Lord, our lips are unclean, and we live amongst a people of unclean lips. We have failed to see You as You are, but You have been so gracious to give us the Scriptures. You have been so gracious to send Your Son. You are merciful enough to send us Your Spirit and to lead us into all truth. You have been so patient with us. Would you wake us up to the reality of Your holiness? We want to turn from silliness and deception, and to come into the apostolic faith of the Scriptures. Make us a people of humility, holiness, love, and power. Let us come into the sense of Your holiness, that a line of distinction may be drawn in the earth again. Let us know You as you are, and let Your name be honored and glorified above all.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: A.W. Tozer, Abraham, Christ, demons, Genesis, holiness, Moses, prayer, Revival, worship
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Posted in News, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: articles, evangelicals, evolution, god has a better way, holiness, homosexual agenda, israel, jewish, legalism, the bible
“…. he that has seen Me has seen the Father….” -John 14.9
In the October 30th selection of My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers gives us this awesome thought:
Until we know Jesus, God is a mere abstraction, we cannot have faith in Him; but immediately we hear Jesus say- “he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” we have something that is real, and faith is boundless. Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
The darkness that marks ‘god-seeking’ cultures is profounder and more tragic than we know. Even in modern evangelicalism, there is enough of a measure of humanistic thought that in most cases believers remain unbroken over the condition of mankind. If one were to survey the nation of India, for instance, and the number of gods or goddesses men pursue there, it would become clear that the whole of the nation is pursuing “God” as a mere abstraction.
Men will spend weeks standing on one leg, days and sometimes months in fasting, whole nights in meditation and reading of ancient texts, or cut and pierce their bodies in numerous ways, just for the positive sense it gives them in knowing that their souls are bent in a spiritual direction. From one village to the next, their deities change name and form, and most of the time there are multiple gods to worship in each household. There is no spiritual stability, no answer to the problem of sin, no consciousness of God’s holiness and love, but instead the bewildering pursuit of the divine in mere abstractions. Paul did not see these kinds of religious pursuits as valid in any way, stating that they were literally worshiping “demons” whether they knew it or not. (1 Cor. 10.20)
We cannot have faith in God until we have seen His Son for who He is, and believed in Him unto salvation. The nations are groping in darkness, incapable of finding anything but false and fading lights, and not until the Church has penetrated their darkness with the light of truth in Christ will they have any hope at all. The darkness is not bound to idolatry in India, but is the plight of mankind in every culture and in every form of life where Christ has not become the center. Across the board men are seeking their gods in abstraction, be they wooden statues or cars, homes and big screen T.V.’s, and only those who have come into communion with the One true God through the Gospel have the unfading hope of true Light. Only we have stability and certitude about eternity, for it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and it is founded upon the revelation that God has given in the Scriptures. Do we dare keep this great light to ourselves?
They must know of His great love. They must know of His power to break the stranglehold of sin and shame. They must know that He has come in the flesh, died, raised, and ascended, and that He’s coming again. They are groping about after “mere abstractions,” when the revelation of God the Father has already been given. They must hear of the Man, Christ Jesus!
How can we live so indifferently, so numbly, so stingily. Have we failed to realize that unless the nations see God through the revelation of the Gospel they will only pursue Him through abstractions, and will fall totally short of the glory of grace altogether? Do we really believe that unless they come into the Gospel they will perish, forever?
We need to be freed from humanistic mixtures and hollow hopes for their progressive improvement, and brought onto the grounds of apostolic certitude. Paul shed blood and tears, took stones in the face and lashes on the back, for the singular purpose of setting forth the Man Christ Jesus to those who were seeking God in mere abstractions. We need the same sight, the same courage, the same burden, the same faith, and the same missionary spirit, or else they perish forever. It’s time to wake up, saints. It’s not a dream. It’s not an option. Woe unto us if we preach not the Gospel.
“If sinners be damned at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. Let them go with our arms around their knees. Let no one go there unwarned or unprayed for.” -Charles Spurgeon
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Charles Spurgeon, Church, demons, holiness, Holy Spirit, India, Jesus Christ, Oswald Chambers, Paul
Victory In Jesus! A Call to Practical & Spirit-Filled Purity
After being personally challenged and blessed by the recent article on a call to ‘Cleanse Our Eyes!’ by VOR writer Bryan Purtle, I felt led to write a short follow up with some practical principles and suggestions for dealing ruthlessly with sin, and the enemy’s enticements.
Jesus gives this instruction in Matthew 5: 27 – 30:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
What does it mean to ‘gouge’ out your eye, and ‘throw it away…’? Or what does Jesus teach in ‘cutting off…’ your hand and ‘throwing it away…’? Isn’t the Lord being a little too radical? Doesn’t this kind of Christianity sound a little weird or extreme? In response to this I would say, ‘Absolutely!’ He is teaching us how to view sin, and He is instructing us on how to radically deal with it! Only God ultimately knows the darkness, power and destruction sin brings, and thus has sent Jesus into the world to not only deal with its power and effects through the Cross, but also to instruct us in the Spirit filled life of holiness.
Another may say: ‘Surely, grace is available, and He understands our weaknesses, not to mention Christ is our advocate before the Father, and He forgives and cleanses confessed sin’ To which I say in accordance with the Scriptures, ‘absolutely’! (1 John 1: 5 – 2: 2) But also in accordance with the Scriptures I say, that not only has Jesus dealt with our filthy past if we have been truly Born Again, and has made more than adequate provision for our present and future failings as He deals in our lives through our life in the Spirit, but He has also given His glorious Spirit and Word to loose us from the bondage of sin and its dominion! (Romans 6: 14 – 23) As Paul says in Romans 6: 14: ‘For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.’
Grace is there to not only cover but to deliver, empower and bring victory because of His triumphant death and resurrection, through the outpoured Spirit!
Jesus has dealt with sin and the enemy, ‘once for all’, and now we partake in Kingdom life by the Spirit of God. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we then experience His Holy power dwelling within, and also we hear Him taking the Words of Christ and establishing them in our hearts. The affect is purging, refining and establishing. The Word then becomes a living burning Word by the Spirit, and it brings power and grace for a holy life.
So then, we come to the practical issues of Matthew 5. Jesus is using radical terms to cause us to flee from sin, and deal with it ruthlessly in our hearts. In this chapter it is the heart Jesus is primarily concerned about, not just the outward deed (though that too will bring disastrous consequences!) He knows that sin must be dealt with at the root, not just the fruit. This is why He talks of the murderous or adulterous heart. It is the heart of a man which determines his actions.
So below are just some key practical ways of dealing with sin:
· Seek the face of God radically with all your heart through prayer and reading the Word. If the Lord leads, do this with fastings also. Allow in that time the Spirit of God to come in fire and freedom and bring you into the freedom of Christ. Allow Jesus to come to deal thoroughly with the root of the issue in your heart. One man said: “Is sin hounding you; are your old habits re emerging? Do you feel the enemy pulling you back to your old ways? Then the remedy is this: Run to the Risen Christ!”
· Go and find a strong, Godly man or woman of God to be accountable to. Maybe you know of a minister or elder, or a leader of some kind. Ask God about whom, but don’t delay in looking and going to someone. Become accountable to them, and allow them to speak into your life and pray with you through into victory. Confess your failing to them in confidence. Let them ask you frequently how things are going. Trust them, and let God use them to instill discipline, Godliness and humility into you. All sin ultimately is rooted in pride. This is a great Kingdom principle (James 5: 16) and helps bring humility and light into our hearts. Don’t listen to the enemy telling you not to confess and be open. I have proved that there is tremendous liberty and victory in humbling myself to my brothers, under the sight of God!
· Married? Be open with your spouse. It’s amazing to me how often times when I confess my failings to my wife, how much thoroughness, grace and wisdom she has in helping me. This is a gift from God for both men and women. Use it!
· Cut off the offending part. Is the problem TV? Maybe go on a TV fast, or only watch it with someone else, or even get rid of it all together! Is the problem the internet? You can get rid of it or if you must have it for your work, then buy a children’s filter software, and let someone you trust and is Godly, monitor your use. You can never be too final or thorough in these practicalities!
· Don’t isolate yourself or become weary in well doing! One proverb says: He who isolates Himself, seeks His own desire. Remember King David’s falling because He did not go to war with the army of Israel. It is a key thing to plug in to a strong Jesus exalting, Biblical and Spirit filled NT Church, and serve there.
· Read and listen to messages of servants of God who are aflame for God! Holiness is infectious in the Holy Spirit’s presence! Many times I have sensed the flaming arrows of God through another’s ministry, and it sets me aflame even more!
So there are just some of the essential things to be done to gain victory. I’m sure there are many more things some of you may consider worth while, and by all means, please feel free to add some to the comments section below. However, please let’s remember the main thing. Christ has come in the power of the Spirit, and has defeated sin in His body on the Cross! His Blood, His Spirit and His words are the key factors. At the same time don’t let legalistic ‘extras’ come in. Remember, the key issue is always the heart of man. It is there God wants to ultimately work. From there our actions will be righteous, our eyes will be consecrated and our minds free!
May God give you freedom, victory and fullness through His Son, for His glory.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: adultery, Bryan Purtle, Christ, David, holiness, liberty, Matthew, prayer
“I have made a covenant with my eyes;
How then could I gaze at a virgin?
…. for that would be a fire that consumes….
and it would burn to the root all my increase.” -Job 31.1, 12
I understand that many would brand my faith antique and my convictions archaic for approaching this subject, but that is a minuscule risk for me to take. God is too glorious, His Gospel too precious, and the fate of our sons and daughters too much at stake for me to worry about the consequences that these themes bring. I am convinced that we have woefully underestimated the damage that is done to the world and to the Church, particularly with regard to the issue of so-called entertainment.
The Church is largely bored with the Scriptures, unwilling to sacrifice for eternal things, unacquainted with the Spirit of prayer, and is harboring such distorted views of God that it is often difficult to tell if the One she is proclaiming is the same Lord that the apostles and prophets set forth. There may be a litany of reasons for this decrease of majesty, but I believe that one of the greatest of these is that Hollywood has a stranglehold on the hearts and imaginations of God’s children.
The pornography epidemic could be driven home here, and to sound the trumpet against that demonic system will require the emergence of a true prophetic voice indeed. Almost 40% of American pastors admit to a current struggle with internet porn, and the numbers are even greater amongst men within our congregations. This is beyond tragic, and we are in need of a massive overhaul of repentance and mercy. Now more than ever are we in need of awakening, and if you are in this category there is deliverance and freedom from this deathtrap. The Gospel of Jesus sets us free “from all sin,” and He will give you grace to slam the door once and for all on this terribly besetting sin, when you repent and turn to Him with a whole heart, clinging to the Son of God.
Yet as horrific as the pornography phenomenon is, that is not the primary burden of my heart in this writing.
I am convinced that the Church of America, as a majority, has been removed from, or has never known, the kind of trepidation and tenderness of heart that Job was expressing when he declared, “I have made a covenant with my eyes….”
It was part and parcel with the faith of all the saints of old, that what they allowed to pass through the eye-gate, and what they permitted willingly to go into their ears, would taint their souls at best, and find residence in their lives at the worst. I am suspicious of modern “prophetic” men who commonly cite movies and shows that contain illicit sex, profane lingo and themes, glorified violence, immoral innuendo, or other defiling examples as points in their messages. The only reason these points hit home with so many church members is that they themselves are given over to the same powers and influences.
Our hearts are too taken up with this world, saints, and there has never been a generation wherein the spirit of this age strikes the soul with such color, such special effects, and such mesmerizing power as the one we find ourselves in. Yet we are called to an ultimate holiness nonetheless, and it may be said that one of the distinguishing factors between those who will bear the testimony of Jesus at the end of the age and those who will take the mark of the beast during tribulational times will be this radical consecration of the eyes to God Himself.
In Eph. 5, Paul declares that there should not even be a “hint of immorality” in the lives of God’s people. Dear believer, I ask you pointedly, what constitutes a hint? How many of Hollywood’s characters, themes and plots can we drink in without receiving a “hint” of darkness?
There is something sleazy about many of our lives, charismatic or not, and while it might not be overtly recognized, I believe there is a residue of immorality resting upon those who have freely given themselves to morally compromised entertainment. There is something flimsy about our religion, and the bright burning of holiness that marked John the Baptist, the prophets of old, and Jesus Himself is conspicuously absent in the sanctuary, where His name is declared “holy” in verbal exercise, but the sense of His holiness has become foreign.
“…. it would burn to the root of all my increase.”
While we have boasted in “liberty,” and spoken poetically of our spiritual interpretations of Hollywood flicks (interpretations that Hollywood would largely reject and ridicule), we have too often condoned the spiritual pollution of our hearts.
Would the porn epidemic be so far-reaching and deeply-rooted if the Church hadn’t dropped the ball in areas of more subtle compromise? We have become arrogant in our boasting. And we wonder why our kids are prayerless and numb to eternal reality, buying into agnosticism and atheism when they graduate high-school and make it to their respective Universities. We wonder why thousands of “evangelical” teens are converting to Islam or diving headlong into the “party” life when they get out from under the wing of a youth group, and into the reality of college life. This may not be the only issue, but it is much more prevalent than we know. It’s a battle of ideologies, and hell has no greater method than to slowly dull our hearts to the God of righteousness through cute, subtle, and entertaining displays of hellish ideas. As a friend of mine so rightly wrote:
We have so saturated our minds and imaginations with man-created images that we are bound to those images and therefore subject to the agenda of the men creating them.
It has burned to the root of our “increase” in Christ. It has dulled and blurred the “inner-man” of the Church. We have lost the hunger and thirst for righteousness that Jesus encouraged, for we have given our hearts, minds, and pocketbooks to the broken cisterns of carnal entertainment.
It’s staggering to me that when the subject is raised to most believers, the tag of legalism is immediately raised. While there are legalistic souls who lack an understanding of mercy, and who often place heavy yokes upon others, the vehemence and rage of those who dish out accusations that men like myself are “legalistic” is far more widespread, at least in my own experience. I’ve never heard more warnings against “the religious spirit,” “self-righteousness,” and “legalism” than I have in the last few years.
In the area of entertainment they say, “Paul said we had liberty in Christ, and we’re walking in that freedom.” But these modern examples are usually employed in a context that is far different from the situation with the Judaizers in the churches of Galatia. There is not an iota of Scripture that would encourage me to set my eyes, ears and emotions on themes that make light of sin.
The apostles, quite contrary to the liberal ideas of today, addressed issues of righteousness with remarkable frequency and intensity in the New Testament, and I believe they would weep over the Church in our day, that we would be delivered from the murky waters that have tainted and dulled our spirits in the realm of entertainment. Gospel liberty is not license, but rather freedom from the death grip of this dying age. It is a liberty to come into the wonderful reality of communion with the Living God, and to taste of the “powers of the age to come.”
This is not about judging our movies based on their ratings. A thousand “PG” movies could be just as detrimental as one “R” movie. Addictions to political news or social networking must also be challenged if they burn up our time and keep us from the place of prayer and worship, diminish our passion for the Scriptures, and fog our awareness of the lostness of humanity. This is about a total consecration of our eyes and hearts unto Him, that we might gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, tremble before His majesty, remain in the loving counsel of His voice, and set Him forth in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
Our eyes have been too opened to the lying glimmers of this age. The time is here for an ultimate consecration of the eyes to the Lord, that we would see the increase of Christ Himself in our lives. We haven’t got room even for a “hint,” friends.
Let us return to Him with weeping and mourning, that so many of us have preferred the fading lights of this age to the glorious light of God Himself. We need not buy into the lie any longer. He longs to pour out mercy upon us, to purify us down to the marrow of our bones, to make us a tender-hearted people, enjoying deep communion with Him, and walking in meekness and holiness unto the day of His return.
Oh God, cleanse and purify our hearts with the fire of Your holiness and love. Catch us up in the Spirit of prayer and the glory of worship, quicken our souls to love the Scriptures, awaken us from fantasy and bring us into eternal reality. For Jesus’ sake.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: holiness, Hollywood, John the Baptist, New Testament, pornography, prayer, prophets, purity
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…” -Psm. 1.1a
“You shall charge the sons of Israel, that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually.” -Ex. 27.20
It is one thing to declare in a church meeting that the Lord is our Counselor. It is quite another thing to dwell in the clear air of His heavenly sanctuary, and to surrender our lives- lock, stock, and barrel- to the counsel He gives us in real life. Are we naive enough to believe that walking in the counsel of the wicked is limited to practicing Satanism, engaging in prostitution and drug activity, or giving ourselves to some other blatantly dark thing?
What if I told you that we can be just as duped into walking in the counsel of the wicked by things that seem good or religious? What if I told you that being swallowed up in a hundred “decent family movies” can be just as detrimental to your heart as viewing a movie that is morally compromised? What if I told you that you can sing on a worship team, listen to Christian radio, even ‘pastor’ a Church, and still be totally devoid of the life-giving counsel of God?
If we are not pressing past the various voices that seek to penetrate our hearts and distract us from the vital counsel of God Himself, we are vulnerable candidates for walking in the counsel of the wicked. We may speak religiously, but we will not be free from the spirit of this age which rules the hearts of men, binding them in lust, fear, intimidation, anxiety, and self-centeredness. The nature and condition of a man’s life when he is not in a religious meeting is the statement of where he really is in God.
The seven-branched Levitical “lampstand” in the tabernacle of Moses was fueled by “clear oil of beaten olives for the light.” At the command of the Lord, the oil which fed the flame was to be clear, beaten from olives, “to make a lamp burn continually.” The Lord has always desired that His people, who are typified by a “lampstand” in the Revelation to John, would bear a flame of His fullness, and that the bearers of the flame would be fitted to burn continually. The lampstand was to be made of “pure gold,” or literally, “hammered metal.” There was a preparation of heat and hammering that formed it before it was fitted to receive the oil and carry the holy fire.
We have settled for soulish outbursts of religiosity once or twice a week in services, but have been unwilling to go through the heat and pounding- the inward work of the cross- as the Levitical lampstand was required to endure for its formation. Only a rightly fashioned lampstand that is fed by clear oil can bear the seven-fold flame that the Lord has desired it to burn with, and the intention was never to light it only for ceremonies or religious services. It was meant to burn continually, and it was the responsibility of the High Priest to keep it alight. The Son of God is eager to help us along in formation, and He desires to keep the flame of love and righteousness alight in our midst. Why have we so often turned from the hammering work of character formation, and turned away from Him when His desire has been to keep the holy flame alive within us?
We have wanted lives that we can control, that we can own, that never discomfort or challenge us with unpredictable counsel from the Ancient of Days. We participate in a measure of Christian devotion, knowing full well that if we were to surrender to the Lord unreservedly, we would likely be shaken from our stationary spirituality, and called into a more dangerous and risky love than we have ever before known.
We have not been willing for Him to surprise us, to consecrate us, to immerse us in His heart and His ways. We have desired a partial involvement, a limited relationship, and it is something that falls short of covenantal glory. Hence, our flame sputters and fluctuates. It’s choppy, sporadic, and usually dim. We have willingly allowed a tainted oil to go through the lampstand for the feeding of the flame, but the Lord will have no such thing. He requires a clear oil, the oil which He Himself provides, rather than something lesser that we have received from men, or something that we have worked up by our own wisdom. Truthfully, dear saint, what oil are you receiving?
Again, I inquire: We may declare the Lord our Counselor in a church meeting, but who’s counsel are we actually walking in? The bad fruit of wicked counsel is a life of religious striving, moral compromise, mistrust and suspicion, fear, anxiety, and self-absorption. To breathe in the clear air of the Heavenly sanctuary, to break into open communion with the God of Life, is to receive the clear oil into our souls, and to dwell in the counsel of the Almighty.
When we sink our lives into His counsel, we hear the clear word of His astonishing love for us. We hear the clear testimony of His Son. We hear the clear statement of the judgment to come. He reveals Himself to us, and we are rooted and grounded in love, and brought into an awareness of the gravity and seriousness of His eternal purposes. Only this kind of profound union with the Lord can charge a steady and full flame in the house of God, and He would have it no other way. For if He Himself is the Smith of the lampstand, and the Producer of the oil, and the Giver of the flame, then not only does He have vessels and servants, He has co-laborers and friends. He has sons and daughters. He has “… a bride adorned for the Bridegroom.” (Rev. 21.2b)
Receiving tainted oil, or allowing the aura and essence of the world to influence our minds and hearts, is the ominous gate to walking in the counsel of the wicked. It results in something less than true communion with God, however innocent that counsel may appear. But to break out of the cobwebs of worldly influence and thought, and into the clear air of God’s holy house, is to be immersed in the counsel of the Lord, which is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14.17b)
We’ve got to be fiercely desirous of the clear air, saints. The media, Hollywood, and often our co-workers, relatives and neighbors, are wanting to drag us down into the various pits where they have resolved to remain, and which rob them of the Life that His counsel offers. Don’t be duped by a smile, by wealth, or by a confident attitude. If they are not receiving the “clear oil” of God, they are walking in the counsel of the wicked, and if you don’t break out of the pit you will not have Life sufficient to overcome the lies yourself, much less to provide a way of deliverance for them. We’ve got to “delight in the law of the Lord,” and give our lives in the place of prayer, worship and fasting, lest we find our “lampstands” filled with tainted oil or empty altogether, our flames sputtering and fading in the winds of this passing age.
God is not a God of confusion and disarray. He is sounder and more stable than the foundations of the earth, unchanging and eternal, and He lives in the clear air of Heaven. He has always desired a people who would dwell there with Him, and if you have repented and believed the Gospel of God, you have been raised up into His house through the work of His Son. It’s time to cast the murky oil to the side, be it moral compromise, or simply giving our time and energies to too many seemingly good things, while neglecting the place of face to face counsel from Him.
The hour is here for an ultimate consecration of our hearts to the Lord, and the invitation He is giving us is glorious beyond description. “Now is the day of salvation” from all that has hindered us from the full experience of the clear oil of His Spirit; the abiding Life of Jesus Christ. Isn’t this what you long for? He has made His own “righteousness, peace, and joy” available to us in a radical way through His Son.
And what is the glory that alights upon the believer who breaks out of wicked counsel and into the clear air of the heavenly Tabernacle?
“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.” –Psm. 1.3
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: holiness, lampstand, radical living, righteousness, surrender
Editor’s Note: Cross-posted as this week’s Ask Dr. Brown question.
Holiness is beautiful; legalism is binding; holiness brings life; legalism brings death. They are as different as night and day, and yet at first glance, they can seem similar, because they both stand against sinful behavior and call for holy living. How can we distinguish between the two? Let me first present some thoughts on holiness before defining legalism and its dangers.
According to Samuel Logan Brengle, holiness is “pure love.” According to Samuel Lucas, “The essence of true holiness consists in conformity to the nature and will of God.” Stated another way, holiness is becoming like Jesus in thought, word, and deed, in heart, mind, and conduct. Holiness is something beautiful and wonderful!
God is holy, and so His very being reflects the perfection of righteousness and goodness and purity and wholesomeness and compassion and mercy and justice. As expressed by Ralph Finlayson, “The sum of all God’s attributes, the outshining of all that God is, is holiness” – and we are called to emulate that holiness. As is it written in 1 Pet 1:15 (quoting Lev 19:2), “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
To be holy is to be separated from sin and to be separated to God, which means to be separated from that which is bad and destructive and evil and unclean and polluting and to be separated to that which is like the Lord. Sin is spiritual poison; holiness is spiritual health. As William Jenkyn explained, “There is nothing destroyed by sanctification but that which would destroy us.” In short, everything holy is good; nothing unholy is good. Everything unholy is bad; nothing holy is bad.
And yet there’s more: Holiness is our goal, our destiny, our portion. It expresses the very essence of the nature and character of God and describes the highest level of spirituality attainable by man. Listen to the testimony of the Word:
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph 1:4). “Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah loved the congregation [or, church] and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant congregation [or, church], without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph 5:25-27).
That’s why Joseph Caryl could say, “Perfect holiness is the aim of the saints on earth, and it is the reward of the saints in heaven.” Or, as expressed by John Whitlock, “. . . the Christian’s . . . way is holiness, his end happiness.” Oswald Chambers understood this too, stating that “God has one destined end for mankind – holiness! His one aim is the production of saints. God is not an eternal blessing-machine for men. He did not come to save men out of pity. He came to save men because He had created them to be holy.”
William Gurnall was therefore entirely right when he wrote, “Say not that thou hast royal blood in thy veins, and art born of God, except thou canst prove thy pedigree by daring to be holy.” (You might want to stop for a moment and read that again. What a godly challenge!)
Why then do many believers resist holiness? One major reason is that many of them have been hurt by legalism, and so they immediately associate holiness with legalism.
What then is legalism? Legalism is rules without relationship, emphasizing standards more than the Savior and laws more than love. It is a system based on fear and characterized by joyless judgmentalism, producing futility instead of freedom.
To an unsaved person the legalist preaches justification by works, saying, “You’re a wicked sinner and you need to get rid of all your filthy habits if you want the Lord to accept you.” There is no grace in this message, no exalting of the life-changing, sin-cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, no clear proclamation of mercy.
The declaration of God’s love expressed through the cross is muffled – if it is even heard at all. Consequently, the proof of the new birth is seen almost entirely in what someone no longer does, and this continues to be the pattern for believers within the church: They are judged almost entirely by a few external standards (which, in many cases, are not even expressly mentioned in the Word) and they are monitored by conformity to the particular group’s code of conduct. And the result is external conformity rather than inward transformation – and that means either self-righteousness of self-condemnation (or both!).
Of course, it is absolutely true that God has very high standards, and for anyone honestly reading the Word, there can be no doubt that He calls us to live by very high standards – in our thoughts, words, and deeds; in our attitudes; in our sexuality; in our families; in our relationships; and much, much more. Passages like this are common in the New Testament:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph 5:1-6).
Tragically, legalists, despite their best intentions, get things tragically wrong. First, they try to change a person from the outside in (whereas God deals with us from the inside out); second, they fail to present a balanced picture of the Lord, putting too little stress on His mercy and too much emphasis on His wrath; third, they do not point the struggling sinner (or believer) to the Lord’s supernatural empowerment, making holiness a matter of human effort alone; and fourth, they add laws, standards, commandments, customs, and traditions that are not found in the Word, making those things even more important than the biblical commandments themselves.
In contrast, true, scriptural holiness begins with the heart and flows from an encounter with God and His Word. It calls for repentance in response to the Lord’s gracious offer of salvation and it offers a way to be holy – the blood of Jesus and the Spirit of God. Biblical holiness is free, although it requires discipline and perseverance. For the legalist, nothing is free. Everything must be earned! That’s why legalism leads to bondage and holiness leads to liberty.
As Ralph Cudworth explained many years ago, “I do not mean by holiness the mere performance of outward duties of religion, coldly acted over, as a task; not our habitual prayings, hearings, fastings, multiplied one upon another (though these be all good, as subservient to a higher end); but I mean an inward soul and principle of divine life (Romans 8:1-5), that spiriteth all these.”
It is that inward spiritual principle that must be cultivated, the principle of intimacy with Jesus, the principle of being renewed in our minds by His Word and Spirit, the principle of being conformed to His image and character, hating what He hates and loving what He loves. As Dr. Kent Hughes expressed in his book Disciplines of a Godly Man, “There is a universe of difference between the motivations behind legalism and discipline. Legalism says, ‘I will do this thing to gain merit with God,’ while discipline says, “I will do this because I love God and want to please him.’ Legalism is man-centered; discipline is God-centered.”
To quote Oswald Chambers again, “A bird flies persistently and easily because the air is its domain and its world. A legal Christian is one who is trying to live in a rarer world than is natural to him. Our Lord said, ‘If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed,’ i.e., free from the inside, born from above, lifted into another world where there is no strenuous effort to live in a world not natural to us, but where we can soar continually higher and higher because we are in the natural domain of spiritual life.”
Unfortunately, the moment you preach biblical holiness, many Christians put their hands over their ears and say, “That’s legalism! That’s condemnation! That’s manmade religion! That’s the dead letter of the law! You won’t put me in bondage! I won’t listen to stuff like that!” As Robert Brimstead observed, “The idea of living strictly by what the Bible says has been branded as legalism.”
And so, these Christians run from the dangerous clutches of legalism and fall into the deadly grasp of license, that self-deceived state of fleshly liberty, catering to their carnality rather than crucifying it. What a terrible error!
Whatever comes naturally to these “liberated” believers is accepted as normal (and “understood,” of course, by the Lord), while biblical commandments are brought down to the level of their own experience, and anything that brings any kind of spiritual pressure to bear on them is rejected as not being the easy yoke and light burden of Jesus. And when the Holy Spirit brings conviction on people like this, they rebuke the devil for trying to condemn them – ultimately at the expense of their own souls.
To quote Oswald Chambers yet again, “The only liberty a saint has is the liberty not to use his liberty. . . . Liberty means ability not to violate the law; license means personal insistence on doing what I like. . . . To be free from the law means that I am the living law of God, there is no independence of God in my make-up. License is rebellion against all law. If my heart does not become the centre of Divine love, it may become the center of diabolical license.”
What then is the antidote? Flee from legalism, stay far away from license, and run to holiness; reject humanly birthed, external religion, give no place to false teaching that excuses carnality, and instead embrace new covenant, heart transformation — and in the power of the Spirit, supernaturally enabled by God’s grace, deal ruthlessly with sin in your life. That is the path to freedom!
Sin is so utterly awful that only the blood of Jesus could pay for it (1 Pet 1:16-19). We dare not trivialize sin in our lives.
In closing, let me bathe you with the truth of God’s liberating Word. (Yes, I know that this has been a long article, but I think you’ll agree that the subject is quite important – really, the difference between life and death.) Listen to the Word of the Lord!
“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God” (Rom 6:12-13, NLT).
“Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires” (Rom 13:13-14, NLT).
“Because we have these promises [of being sons and daughters of God], dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God” (2 Cor 7:1, NLT).
“For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. . . . God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thes 4:2, 7-8, NLT).
“Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation” (Ps 24:3-5, ESV).
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8).
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matt 5:29-30, ESV)
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14, ESV).
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21, ESV).
What a wonderful Savior!
For more information on holiness and legalism, see Dr. Brown’s mp3 series Go and Sin No More, available at the AskDrBrown Online Bookstore by clicking here.
Go and Sin No More
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: change, discipline, holiness, judgmentalism, legalism, liberty, New Testament, Oswald Chambers, purity, Ralph Cudworth, Samuel Lucas, sanctification, sin
“The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore, let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” -Rom. 13.12
The nature of God’s Kingdom, the way of His government, the glory of His leadership has everything to do with increase. When it comes to the vision of His coming Kingdom, the day when He returns to set the world aright, we see pictures of upheaval, shaking, and trial, followed by everlasting peace, abiding joy, and the entire universe permanently being marked by the righteousness of God. The visions and words of the Biblical Prophets are sure words, completely worthy of our examination, reflection, and obedience. The neglect of the Biblical Prophets has done great damage to the Church in our generation.
Yet and still, it is quite possible in thinking about future tribulation and glory to be distracted from the glory of the Kingdom which the Lord intends to break into the earth through the fallen “earthen vessels” that we are. Paul’s perception of the end of the age is not pessimistic or depressive. He was fully aware of the shakings to come, the future toppling of governments, the cataclysm and trials that lie ahead. Indeed, he was a preacher of the judgment to come. (Acts 24.25)
Though he was aware of the difficulties to come, Paul’s vision was that the night was almost gone, the darkness was dissipating, and that because Christ has been exalted, the day of God is on the positive rise in the lives of the saints. He saw the nature of the Kingdom in the lives of those who believe to be one of increase: the increase of light, the increase of love, the increase of righteousness, the increase of Christ Himself. It was a vital reality to him, and it is available to all in our day and age who would “lay aside the deeds of darkness,” and receive the Holy Spirit.
“The night is almost gone, and the day is near…” Are you turning from “carousing and drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and sensuality, strife and jealousy?” Or are you still walking blindly beneath the veil of darkness? Turn from the night, for the day is dawning friends. It is time to receive the Holy Spirit, and if you ask the Father for bread He will not give you a stone.
When the Holy Spirit comes, He will show you the Christ in the beauty of His holiness, and the glorious light of His nature will increase in your life.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: darkness, holiness, Holy Spirit, light, prophecy, prophets, purity, sin