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Showing posts with label #Sanctification. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Sanctification. Show all posts

17 October 2019

Hallowed be thy name.

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, so all our after-the-fact prayers won’t change a whiff of it. So what’s the point of prayer then? Changing us—changing our attitudes about God by reciting various truths about him, like we do with our worship music, until these ideas finally sink in and transform us.

(As if this even works with worship music. Just look at all the Christian jerks whose favorite songs, so they claim, are hymns. But lemme stop here before I rant futher.)

Thanks to this mindset, Christians imagine “Hallowed be thy name” is just another reminder to think of God’s name as holy. To not take it in vain. To glorify and worship him, and tell other people how awesome and mighty he is. To remember God is holy—and because we so often misdefine holy as good, to also remember God is good. Or because we so often misdefine holy as solemn, to remember to treat God as formal.

We really do botch the meaning of what Jesus is trying to teach us in this prayer, don’t we? It’s why Christians can recite the Lord’s Prayer the world over, sometimes every single day, and still not behave any more like Jesus than before.

So to remind you: Holiness means something’s not like anyone or anything else, because it’s distinctly used for divine purposes. It’s weird. Good-weird, not weird for weirdness’ sake, not twisted, not evil-weird. When we pray for God to make his name holy, we want him to not be like any other higher power, any other mighty thing, any other force in the cosmos, any other god. We want him to stand out. He’s not like anything or anyone else. He’s infinitely better.

Now. Does recognizing the Lord’s Prayer is about actually asking God for stuff, and that it’s not merely about changing our own attitudes, mean our attitudes don’t need to change? Of course not. If we want God to make his name holy, part of that means we need to make his name holy too. Stop treating God as if he’s just anyone else. He’s not.

And no, I absolutely do not mean we should treat him more formally, more solemnly, with more ritual and ceremony and gravitas and all that crap we do to suck up to people in authority. God’s uniqueness is reflected by two things about him: He’s almighty, of course. And, more importantly, more relevantly to us, his character: He’s infinitely good. Infinitely gracious. He infinitely loves us. Has infinite patience with us. He’s infinitely kind. Infinitely faithful. He’s not like anyone else because, unlike everyone else, he’ll never, ever fail us.

So don’t put him on the same level!

03 October 2019

Worship.

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 preferences than God… well, then it’s not so good a form of worship anymore. This is not to say God wants us to sing songs we don’t like; he’s not a sadist! He wants us to enjoy worship. We should sing songs we enjoy. But maybe just remember who it’s all supposed to be about, okay?

But worship’s anything we do for God. Could be something which doesn’t look overtly religious or obviously holy. But the way we’re doing it, we’ve made it something we’re doing for him, and turned it into worship. And therefore it can be literally anything. Could be singing in church… and could also be raking the lawn, correcting the kids, cleaning the tub, eating your vegetables, doing your taxes. Anything.

Provided of course we’re actually doing it for God. Sinning isn’t for God; don’t do that and call it worship. If God forbade it, whether to everybody or just you personally, don’t just declare, “This is for Jesus” and figure it whitewashes the sin into worship. Don’t do Christian rituals and figure that makes up for sinning yourself sticky; God hates that. Is 1 Don’t do stuff with the attitudes of bad fruit, and figure if you’re doing it for Jesus it doesn’t matter what bad fruit it generates: Being angry “for Jesus,” or partisan “for Jesus,” or treating any human being as less than God’s image “for Jesus,” is never something God approves of, so don’t try. You’re not fooling anyone, least of all him.

18 September 2019

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

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 been ruined. Same as the titles “Evangelical,” or “Fundamentalist,” or “born again,” or “disciple,” “apostle,” “believer,” “Christ-bearer,” or what have you. The usual titles have been so befouled by posers, they’re gonna rebrand.

So they call themselves Christ-followers. As in,

SHE. “Are you Christian?”
HE. [correcting her] “A Christ-follower.”

Not in the sense that “Christian” and “Christ-follower” are synonyms. To these people they’re not synonyms: A “Christian” is someone who claims allegiance to Jesus but doesn’t really follow him. Doesn’t really take him seriously. Not like they do.

Yep, that’s the underlying message they’re trying to give everybody: They follow Jesus, and the rest of us [sneer] “Christians,” not so much. They… well, lemme have our Lord Jesus more accurately express the way they feel.

Luke 18.11-12 KWL
11 “Standing by himself, the [Christ-follower] prayed this: ‘God, thank you that I’m not like the other people!
Those greedy, unrighteous cheaters—or even like this taxman.
13 I fast twice a week. I tithe everything I get.’ ”

Yeah, this bit comes from Jesus’s Pharisee and Taxman Story. Lk 18.9-14 You may recall Jesus didn’t care for this particular prayer. It wasn’t that of a humble follower, but a pretentious ass. Those who exalt themselves, Jesus concluded, get humbled. Those who think they’re better than other people have another think coming.

07 August 2019

Holiness… versus goodness.

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 Jesus cry.

Thing is, he’s not actually talking about sanctification. He’s talking about goodness.

Christians mix the two ideas up all the time. Seriously, all the time. I challenge you to find a writing where the author recognizes there’s a difference between the two. And there is a difference. Holiness is about being set apart for God’s purposes. Holy means we’re not like anything else. It’s definition #1, and only definition #1. The other definitions are the product of Christian popular culture… which is perfectly happy to settle for mere goodness.

God tells his kids, “Be holy because I’m holy.” Lv 11.44-45, 1Pe 1.16 God’s different from everything else, and if we’re following him, the natural consequence is we should be different from everything else. But when the LORD said this in the scriptures, he wasn’t talking about goodness! Check out the context:

Leviticus 11.43-47 KWL
43 “Don’t pollute your lives with any swarming vermin.
Don’t be ritually unclean with them, or be made unclean by them.
44 For I’m your LORD God. So sanctify yourselves! Be holy because I’m holy.
Don’t make your lives ritually unclean with any vermin which swarms the earth.
45 For I’m the LORD who brought you out of Egypt’s land to be God to you:
Be holy because I’m holy.
46 This law is about animals and birds,
every living soul in the waters, every soul swarming the earth:
47 Separate between the ritually unclean and the clean,
between living things to eat, and living things you don’t eat.”

Yeah: He was talking about the kosher rules. About ritual cleanliness. Not goodness, not sins: Food animals versus vermin. Because people of other nations eat any animals they please, with no thought to anything but their taste buds. And God doesn’t want his people to be like any other nation. He wanted ’em unique. He still wants us unique. Holy.

Christians who teach on sanctification, zero in on being good. That’s not nothing. We oughta be good. God is good, so we should be good like he is, and when we’re not, we clearly aren’t following him. I’m certainly not saying God’s okay with evil! But goodness is only a fruit of sanctification. It’s not the same thing.

So if we’re gonna be holy, we have to be more than merely good. We gotta be different.

11 July 2019

The fruit of holiness: Let’s get weird.

Paul’s list of the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians 5 isn’t comprehensive, and isn’t really meant to be.

I gotta point that out every time I talk about a fruit which isn’t on Paul’s list, ’cause there’s always some numbnut who says, “That’s not in Galatians 5.” Usually someone who doesn’t like the fruit I’m talking about, so here’s their loophole. Yeah, well, there are other apostles who wrote bible, and some of ’em talked about other fruit. Like Simon Peter:

1 Peter 1.13-16 KWL
13 So, “girding the loins” of your thinking, being sober,
hope till the end for the grace which Christ Jesus’s revelation brought you.
14 Do it like obedient children, not conforming to the same old patterns of your ignorant desires,
15 but like the holy one who called you.
Become holy yourselves, in your whole lifestyle.
16 For it’s written, “You’ll be holy, because I’m holy.” Lv 19.2

God expects us to be holy, which we misinterpret as “good” or “clean,” but really means separate: God wants us to stand out from the rest of the world. Be unique. Be weird. Be better. Don’t conform to a culture that doesn’t know what it’s doing or where it’s going. Be like God.

But if we’re to be holy, we need God’s power. We can’t achieve holiness on our own. (Much as some of us might like to imagine we can.) Trying to stand out without God’s fruit, especially his love and goodness, is gonna wind up arrogant and proud… and not so good. We need help!—and the Holy Spirit provides it. ’Cause our relationship with God should produce goodness, rightness, fairness, love, joy, and other such fruit.

So yeah: God calls us to be unique. What’s that look like?

Well, looking at the ancient Hebrews, there were certain oddball things God expected of ’em. A few commands in the Law which instructed the Hebrews to be, well, weird. They had to wear certain fabrics, or decorate themselves and their buildings a certain way. They had to eat certain animals, and not others. They had to celebrate certain festivals, or worship God in certain ways. God gives no explanation for many of these behaviors except to say,

Leviticus 20.23-24 KWL
23 “Don’t walk in the grooves of the nations I sent away from you.
For they did all those things—and I loathe them.
24 I told you, ‘You possess their ground. I give it to you to inherit—land flowing with milk and honey.’
I’m your LORD God, who separates you from the peoples.”

That’s the very context of the statement Peter quoted:

Leviticus 20.26 KWL
“Be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy.
I separated you from the peoples for myself.”

So does the Hebrews’ odd behavior mean Christians are meant to have likewise odd behaviors? Well, if you ask your average pagan, mission accomplished! Some of us are downright weird. We have our own subculture, our own popular culture within the subculture (i.e. favorite Christian musicians, authors, artists, movies, etc.), our own lingo, our own political movements (which are just as willing as the other political movements to compromise everything we hold dear), and all sorts of uniquely Christian or Christianist traits which make us stand out from everyone else.

Does God want his people to be weirdos? Obviously yes. We’re not to conform to the patterns of this world; Ro 12.2 we’re to follow Jesus. If the rest of the world goes one way, and Jesus another, we follow Jesus. Sometimes because the world is wrong… and sometimes simply because the behavior may not be evil in itself, but conformity is thoughtless, brain-dead behavior, and Jesus wants his followers to think. Holiness means we don’t simply go along with every benign fad there is, just to fit in.

Because “fitting in” is one of the faster ways to derail our relationship with Jesus.

02 February 2018

Being holy and being solemn: They’re not the same thing.

Years ago when I taught at a Christian school, our principal decided it’d be neat if we teachers went to a revivalist church for our staff retreat.

She was a little surprised at the backlash she got for the idea. Y’see, the school was attached to a Pentecostal church… and not all the teachers were Pentecostal. The non-Pentecostal teachers were barely comfortable visiting our church. Visiting a super-Pentecostal church was way beyond their comfort zone. In the staff room, some of ’em expressed their worry our principal was trying to convert them to Pentecostalism. I figured I knew her well enough to explain no, she really wasn’t. It was just a simple case of being earnest… yet tone-deaf.

“All right,” said one of the more conservative teachers, who attended a Fundamentalist independent Baptist church. In this article I’ll call her Rachel. “I’ll give it a try.”

It’s a fairly well-known church nowadays, but wasn’t yet so known. It was one of their evening services, when they really cut loose. Guitar-driving music, lots of bass, worshipers dancing in the aisles, hands waving, flags flapping, tambourines, wild enthusiasm. I’d been Pentecostal for years, so none of this was new to me. For Rachel, this was all new, and super weird. All her church sang were hymns.

“I dunno,” she told me afterwards. “It’s not what I’m used to. I like my worship to be holy. You understand? Holy.

At first, no I didn’t. Exactly what was unholy about revivalist worship?

31 January 2018

Our holiness and God’s holiness.

Your average person thinks holy is a synonym for awesome: Something’s holy because it’s significantly great, worthy of honor, pure, perfect, or good. They figure God’s holy because he’s so… well, clean. Whereas we humans get awfully dirty.

Nope, it’s not what holy means. The Hebrew word qodéš/“holy” means separate—set apart from anything else. The Greek word ágios/“holy” means set apart, specifically for the gods—which the translators of the Septuagint used instead of the similar Greek word agnós, which does mean clean and perfect.

It’s this misunderstanding which produces a lot of the vengeful-God ideas about holiness. Because we’ve confused holiness with perfection, God’s holiness (and the constant emphasis the scriptures put on his holiness) leads a lot of us to think God’s really fixated on moral perfection. To them, “God is holy” means “God is good,” and because God is “holy holy holy” Is 6.3, Rv 4.8 —super-duper holy, as the angels describe him—they conclude God must have a very low tolerance for imperfection. So much so, he’ll even turn away from us when we sin.

Okay yes: God hates sin. He makes no bones about that. He’s good; he created the universe to be good; we fouled that up. The entirety of salvation history, the whole point of God’s kingdom, has to do with God’s process of cleaning up our mess.

But to listen to certain dark Christians, God isn’t cleaning up our mess with kindness and grace: He’s pissed about it. He’s quite happy to fling millions into hell, and if we get on his bad side by not meeting his standard of perfection, we’ll head for hell along with them.

To such Christians, “God is good” must always be followed up with, “But God is holy.” Of course they’re using their flawed definition. Consequently they’re not describing God as he truly is. They’re describing God thinking the same way they do: Eager to set aside his goodness so he can rage on the wicked. But because God is infinitely good, it makes up for his temporary rage.

See what happens when we get our definitions wrong? Bad theology.