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Showing posts with the label #Sanctification

Holiness versus solemnity.

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Years ago I taught at my church’s Christian junior high and elementary school. We had yearly “staff retreats,” which took an inservice day and required us to go do something together. Sometimes an actual retreat at a conference center; sometimes just a dinner. (I think most of us appreciated the dinners most.) Anyway, one year our principal decided it’d be neat if we visited the Friday night service at Bethel Church in Redding. We’d check into a hotel, go out to dinner, go to the service, return to the hotel, and go home in the morning. The reason for the overnight stay was ’cause Bethel services might, “as the Spirit led,” go past midnight. She thought it was a great idea—and was really surprised at the backlash she got from the teachers. Y’see, Bethel’s a New Apostolic charismatic church. Their beliefs and teachings aren’t mainstream—and are therefore controversial. I don’t know how aware she was of this; I think she wanted to go to Bethel because she loved their music. (Th

The fruit of holiness: Let’s get weird.

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Holiness is a fruit of the Spirit. And every time I point this out, there’s always some numbnut who says, “It is not. Holiness is good, and Christians oughta be holy, but it’s not in Galatians 5, so it’s not a fruit.” Okay, three things. First, Galatians 5 isn’t a comprehensive list of the Spirit’s fruit, and was never meant to be. Jesus and his other apostles talk about fruit from time to time as well. Simon Peter’s the guy who brought up holiness, in his first letter. 1 Peter 1.13-16 KJV 13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. Lv 19.2 God expects his kids to be holy. It’s one of his traits that’s gonna inevit

God’s holiness, our example.

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As I wrote yesterday, when Christians talk about holiness we usually mean goodness. We figure what makes God holy is his perfection: He’s good, he’s pure, he’s worthy of honor, he’s so… well, clean . Whereas we humans get awfully dirty. And yeah, God is all these things. But these are symptoms of his holiness. They’re the fruit. Let’s not confuse ’em with holiness itself. The Old Testament Hebrew word קֹדֶשׁ / qodéš , “holy,” means separate —set apart from everything else. The New Testament Greek word ἅγιος / ágios means the same thing. God’s separate and set apart from everything else. Not because he’s removed himself; he deliberately got himself right in the middle of our situation. ’Cause he’s here to help if we’d just let him. But God still stands apart from everything else, because he’s unlike everything else. He’s unique. He’s diffrent. He’s holy. No surprise, people tend to confuse the symptoms with the underlying condition. We think how we get holy like God is w

Holy and sanctified.

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Whenever Christians talk about holiness, we’re usually talking about goodness. When we talk about sanctification , the practice of being holy, again we’re usually talking about being good: Gotta resist temptation. Gotta stop sinning. Gotta get rid of anything in our lives which might tempt us to sin. Gotta get rid of anything “worldly,” because we’re striving for heavenly. Gotta shun evil… and in many cases gotta shun evildoers, i.e. everybody else , which is why in the past, those who sought holiness frequently became hermits, or cloistered with fellow holiness-seekers in a monastery. Thing is, this isn’t what holiness means. Nor what sanctification means. Holy means dedicated to God and his service, and not just for ordinary common use. If we’re gonna be holy, we’re not gonna be ordinary. We’re gonna be different. We’re gonna be weird, in most cases. People are gonna notice we’re different; we don’t live like or act like everybody else. Not even like fellow Christians—wh

Now called to a holy lifestyle.

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1 Thessalonians 4.1-8. Since Paul, Silas, and Timothy now know the Thessalonians haven’t fallen away from Christ Jesus, they wanted to encourage them: Good job. Keep it up. And do more . Remember, God’s called us Christians to be uniquely holy. That’s more than just being good, ’cause just about anybody can be good, with effort… plus a fear of bad karma. God isn’t interested in that. He doesn’t just want us to be pagans saved by grace who happen to hold better beliefs than average. He wants us to stand out from the rest of the world. Like Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4.1-8 KWL 1 So from now on fellow Christians , we ask you— we wish to help, in Master Jesus ’s name so, same as you received from us information on how one has to walk and please God, same as you already do walk—so you can abound more : 2 You know which mandates we gave you through Master Jesus: 3 This is God’s will: Your holiness. To keep you rselves away from porn. 4 For each of you to know your o

Resolutions: Our little stabs at self-control.

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Speaking for myself, I’m not into new year’s resolutions. Because I make resolutions the year round. When I see changes I need to make in my life, I get to work on ’em right away. I don’t procrastinate till 1 January. (Though I may procrastinate just the same.) Here’s the problem with stockpiling all our lifestyle changes till the new year: Come 1 January, we wind up with a vast pile of changes to make. It’s hard enough to make one change; now you have five. Or 50, depending on how much of a trainwreck you are. Multiplying your resolutions, multiplies your difficulty level. But hey, it’s an American custom. So at the year’s end a lot of folks, Christians included, begin to think about what we’d like to change about our lives. Not that we want to change. Some of us don’t! But it’s New Year’s resolution time, and everyone’s asking what our resolutions are, and some of us might grudgingly try to come up with something. What should we change? Too many carbohydrates? Not eno

Hallowed be thy name.

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Matthew 6.9, Luke 11.2. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus told us to ask our Father to ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου / aghiasthíto to ónoma su , “sanctify” or “make holy” or “hallowify” (to coin a word) “the name of yours.” The Book of Common Prayer and KJV went with “Hallowed be thy name,” which means the same thing, but Christians commonly misinterpret it to mean “ I sanctify your name,” or “ I praise your name.” We think this is praise and worship on our part. It’s not. It’s a request for our Father to make his own name holy. For him to act. Part of our presumption comes from a way-too-common Christian misbelief that our prayers aren’t really about asking God to do anything. Because, the attitude is, God doesn’t actually answer prayer . He sits on his heavenly arse, watches us humans stumble around, reminds us to read our bibles, but isn’t gonna intervene in human affairs till the End Times—if they even ever happen. Besides, he’s already planned out everything he’s gonna do

Backsliding: We all do it.

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BACKSLIDE 'bæk.slaɪd verb . Relapse into bad ways or error. [Backslider 'bæk.slaɪ.dər noun ] The idea behind backsliding is the road to sanctification isn’t level; it’s uphill. A bit of a climb, too. Paved with gravel instead of asphalt, so on the particularly steep parts, the ground’s gonna slip under your feet a little, especially if you’re standing still. It’s the natural consequence of gravity, so you can’t just stand still. You have to keep moving! So yeah, in this metaphor the gravitational pull represents our natural tendency towards self-centeredness and sin. If we drop the effort to climb towards Christ—even for a second —we’re gonna backslide. Now. If the pursuit of Christ is really like this, we Christians oughta be way more gracious and sympathetic to backsliders than we are. I used to hike several times a week, and on every hill there’s always backsliding. On wet days, even with the best shoes, you can always make a misstep and fall on your face.

Worship.

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WORSHIP 'wər.ʃəp noun . Expression of love, respect, and honor, particularly in formal acts or rituals. (Usually expressed to a deity, but frequently to people or principles at a level comparable to religious homage.) 2. Feelings of love, respect, and honor for a deity. 3. [ verb ] Showing love, respect, or honor. Properly, worship is anything and everything we do as part of our religious devotion to God. Whether we do it out of active love or passive custom, it’s all still worship. There’s a tendency in charismatic churches to equate worship with worship music . Prayer too, but mostly music. And no, I’m not saying music isn’t a valid form of worship, or a really good form of worship; it totally is. But you know the reason Christians sing a song’s chorus over and over and over again… has nothing to do with whether God loves the song. It’s entirely about how much the music pastor loves it. Or the people of the church. And when it becomes much more about our pre

“Christ-followers”: Rebranding for the wrong reasons.

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CHRIST-FOLLOWER 'kraɪst fɑ.loʊ.ər noun . Adherent or devotee of Christ Jesus. 2. One who believes themself a real devotee of Christ, as opposed to other Christians. To be fair, a lot of Christians aren’t doing the title “Christian” any favors. There are irreligious Christians, who figure all they need do is believe, and figure obedience is for suckers people who don’t believe. There are fruitless Christians, whose character is no different than pagans, but who point to their beliefs or works and think that should count for something. There are Christianists, who don’t know there’s any difference between their culture or their politics, and what Jesus teaches—but they clearly aren’t doing as Jesus teaches. And there are Christians who aren’t as bad as all that . They’re working on it. Some harder than others. But let’s give ’em some grace, shall we? But other Christians have decided there are so many substandard Christians, the title “Christian” has simply bee

Holiness… versus goodness.

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SANCTIFY 'sæŋ(k).tə.faɪ verb. Set apart as holy. 2. Have blessed, made legitimate through a religious sanction, or made to seem legitimate through custom and tradition. 3. Purify from sin. [Sanctification sæŋ(k).tə.fə'keɪ.ʃən noun , sanctifier 'sæŋ(k).tə.faɪ(.ə)r noun. ] I bring up the popular definition of sanctify because I wanna point out what we English-speakers mean by sanctification , is not what the scriptures mean. I’ve read loads of Christian books about sanctification. Been reading one in particular lately. The author goes on and on and on about sin, and how it taints humanity, and how Christians ought not do it. (And, well, duh .) But the more he writes on the subject, the more obvious it becomes he’s addressing his own particular hangups. Certain sins he finds really nasty, so he spends a lot of time really pounding away at those sins like a carpenter trying to put thin nails into thick wood: Stop doing those things! You’re making baby Jes