Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Applying Holiness part one

If they took a test or quiz on the attributes of God, evangelicals and fundamentalists would list holiness and get that one right.  They know God is holy.  They know the word "holy."  But they either don't understand holiness or they have purposefully twisted it to conform to their churches and lives.  I want to explain.

God's holiness is His uniqueness, His majesty, His separateness, His distinctness.  God is Higher, far above, exalted, and superior.  None are and nothing is like Him.  There is a perfection to His nature that sets Him apart.  God defines every one of His own attributes.  All the transient or communicable attributes are what they are because they separate themselves unto the attributes that are God's.  

Righteousness, for instance, is righteousness because it is of God's righteousness.  Love is love because it is of God's love.  It is only one of those attributes because of its separation unto God.

Whatever is holy is holy because of its proximity to God.  In the Old Testament, ground that Moses walked on was "holy ground," not because of the elements in the dirt, but because it was close to God's special presence.  Moses needed to recognize that holiness by taking off his sandals or kneeling or bowing.  That would be holy response coming from Moses.  Angels in the presence of God use wings to cover their faces in the close proximity to God's throne.  God's name is holy, because it is His name.  For that reason, the name must be respected by using it in a distinct way different than other names.  It can't be taken in vain.

Scripture never tells us how it is that we don't take God's name in vain.  How do we use God's name in a way that is not vain?  We are assumed to know.  It is implied that we will know how not to take God's name in vain.  We know how to use God's name in a special way, in a reverent way.  It is a careful use of the name of a God in the context of a sentence, an appropriate use to His nature and attributes.  We can know what that is.  However, today people don't seem to know that they are taking God's name in vain, not because they can't know it, but because we've stopped caring about the holiness of His name.

All of the attributes of God remain within the realm of His holiness.  They stay separate.  When Jesus became a man, He didn't cease from becoming holy.  This is where many evangelicals and some fundamentalists have tweaked the holiness of God, which isn't a good thing.  A new term has developed---"incarnational."  God condescends, but is still holy, still stays separate, unique, distinct.  Jesus became a man and could still and was holy.  All flesh is not evil.  His was holy.  Incarnation did not mean losing the distinctiveness and the reverence that is God.  Jesus did not come to "relate with us."  He sympathized with us.  But He came to bring us to Him, to make us holy.

If we take on the same ministry as Jesus, we do not become like the world.  We don't try to relate with the world.  We're in the world, but we're not of it.  Our affections are for God, not for the world or the things in the world.  Evangelical and fundamentalists are taking the church to the nature of the world, characterizing the church more like the world.  They see this as or at least behave as if it is what Jesus did.

Distinctions and uniqueness are what make something holy as He is holy.  It isn't reverent or special to have whatever it is that is closely associated with God and His worship to be closer to what the world would do.

I want to illustrate like I have before by using language.  Our language as Christians should be holy.  We should use holy words.  What are those?  Aren't words just letters in a particular order?  Words can be corrupt communication.  And we will know when they are, even though Scripture doesn't tell us what those words are.  We can know when something does not fit the nature of God---His truth, His goodness, His beauty, His purity, His righteousness.  We are to judge those words, so we can judge those words.

Everyone really does understand the distinct nature of even places.  Let's say you and I went to Arlington National cemetery and played frisbee among the tombstones.  What do you think?  Scripture doesn't say it's wrong.  We know it's wrong.  People respect those tombstones. They respect what those people have done, and they know what it is to respect them, to keep that separateness.

Evangelicals and fundamentalists, however, are taking up the frisbee, so to speak, as it relates to the church. Instead of separating unto God, the church has drawn near to the world.  The evangelical churches aren't distinct from the world, not sacred---instead, common and profane.

The evangelical and fundamentalist churches, instead of looking toward God, and what characterizes Him, have looked to men and what characterizes them.  The world should be able to look at the church and see God, rather than the church looking at the world to find out what it looks like.  

For instance, the world wants casual. That's the world, what the world wants, what men want.  That doesn't represent God.  It's not to say that casual is wrong.  That's not the point.  The church is supposed to be holy, however.  And so the church should represent God, not kowtow to the world.  I'm not saying the casual is the worst of it, just representative of it.  Church needs to be special, unique.  That's what the church has thought.  This is a movement toward thinking through all the things that the world is and imitating it for the purposes of relating with the world.  It really is a mentality that isn't depending on God or even looking to God.  It looks desperate.  I use this one example that is probably controversial.  It shouldn't be.  Stop obsessing over image, over whether the world will think it will be comfortable with you.

Church leaders are looking for the edge that will work to make them a success---seminars, conferences, sessions.   Some are looking at the mega churches and what they're doing and thinking they have to do that if they are going to succeed.  I get the gist of that.  It really is a fundamental misunderstanding or perversion of holiness.

The argument, I've heard, from evangelicals is about adding to God's Word---that kind of thing.  Liberty.  Be like 'em to winn'em.  And a whole lot of other newly invented reasons.  They aren't legitimate.  It's all sad.  Centuries of biblical thinking overturned.  God hasn't changed, but with the times churches and their leaders have.  


Bill Hardecker said...

This also touches on His immutability - when I read Rev. 4 & 5 for example, the Heavenly Throne, I just can't picture "casual" worship. In fact, all beatific visions in the Bible are anything but "casual." There is restraint, fear, reverence, etc. but a casual attitude I find none.
In Isa. 66:2 we read of the man who trembles at the word of God, but does the post-post modern Christian Evangelical/Fundamentalist do this in the midst of their casualness? I think not.

Anonymous said...

Because It Is written,Be Ye Holy; For I AM HOLY. 1ST. PETER 1:16

Anonymous said...

The old saying that a conscientious Christian has to backslide to become a member of most local churches certainly seems true. The sin and unfaithfulness tolerated among members without requiring accountability is appaling. A Godly member feels like Lot - his righteous soul was vexed by their unlawful deeds.
If Christ regurgitated the early church at Laodicea for luke warmness, what is He going to do with today's churches?
I am a heart broken and grieved church member who is thinking about becoming an isolationist - then the only battle I'll have with sin is that which remains in my flesh. But by God's Word and Spirit, I can morify it, but I can do nothing aout what is in the church. Try to, and a tar and feathering is to be expected. Oh that God would send a sin confessing, life changing revival among His people.