The World's Progress or Heaven's Holiness?

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved. And to be steady on all the battle fields besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” - Martin Luther

"It is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 
(1 Peter 1:16)

I believe that one of the great battles in the hearts of God's people right now is between the call to holiness, or, a word that is hugely in vogue in the world right now, progressivism. As with all deception, the serpent comes with great cunning, the counterfeit is highly palatable and not easy to spot. Allow me to unpack this a little.

God says, "Be holy, for I am holy." But what does that mean? To be holy means to come out from the world (to die to it in the watery grave of baptism), to be filled with the Holy Spirit, set apart unto God and to be sanctified by the truth of God's word (John 17:17). The truth sets us free. God is holy and we are made in His image. Holiness is our home of true happiness, unquenchable freedom, abundant life and unsurpassing joy. In the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ, holiness is the church's true inheritance, holiness is that which our truest self desires most.

The Counterfeit

Counterfeit 'holiness' is rife and zealous in both the world and church today and, notwithstanding some good intention ("The road to hell is paved with good intentions" wrote Saint Bernard of Clairvaux) and important social reform, uses seductive words like "progressive" and "tolerance" to lure its prey into works of self-righteousness and deception apart from the word of God, as opposed to Christ-rightousness and obedience to truth, working through love. 

The devil is the great deceiver. The one who comes disguised as an angel of light "hijacks people’s moral compass in order to condemn that which is righteous and celebrate what is shameful." (ibid. Joshua Jones, "Elijah Men Eat Meat"We are all looking to grow and make progress in life, this is a noble aspiration. Indeed, in Christ we are called from one level of glory to another, supernatural "progress" that will continue into eternity. As followers of Jesus we are also called to love all people even as we love ourselves, which will involve a measure of "tolerance", better word patience. Biblical love goes way deeper than tolerance. Tolerance, as we know it today, is the wicked cousin of indifference. The church of Jesus is called to hate sin, that which destroys and brings death to those we love, and never to "tolerate" it. For what a man tolerates he is dominated by (Genesis 4:7).

So we can see that 'progressivism' sounds noble, sounds loving and tolerant but in reality it has become a movement that tolerates, even champions sin and unrighteousness in the name of love. This is counterfeit love, unsanctified mercy - a mercy which God is not offering. It is a movement fuelled by the spirit of the world and is leading many into gross bondage, addiction and darkness (John 8:34). Progressivism is rooted in the fear of man, conformed to the patterns of the world and is focussed on the shifting sands of temporal values. Whereas a life of holiness is rooted in the fear of the Lord, conformed to the unchanging word of God and is set apart unto eternity. Progressivism leads people into bondage and hell, holiness leads people to everlasting freedom starting on this earth and into heaven.

The Temptation and the True in 'Relevance'

Progressivism is in the world and has crept into parts of the church. Focussing in more on the church, I believe 'relevance' has become our chief counterfeit holiness. Increasingly fearful of our reputation, unbelieving of scripture and spiritually proud of our church growth techniques, we have made relevance an idol. Today, we have world famous church leaders unable to call out publicly basic biblical sin whilst multiple millions around the world watch on and conclude a vain Calvary.

David Sladden writes that there is, however, "a relevance that Jesus demonstrated - getting out there, knowing where people are at, feeling their pain, talking their language, and meeting their needs - the very opposite of religion, of course. And this has to be on the unnegotiable basis of biblical truth. Part of what cripples much of the church is its sheer irrelevance. Part is departure from biblical truth."

May we become truly relevant via holiness - set apart unto God first and then sent into the market place next, and thus able to deliver a lost people out of darkness and into His glorious light. A holiness that is (always) non-religious, practical and born into the dirty mangers of our broken world. 
Jesus was so holy that religious leaders called him a glutton, drunkard and friend of sinners (Luke 7:34). Try camping out there for a while. Holiness = set apart to God first and then sent into the thick of it as a friend. Full of grace, full of truth.

Dallas Willard writes, "The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message too low.” In some of our desperation for cultural relevance instead of holiness, we have clad our meeting houses in enormous television screens and coffee machines and have ended up with, in many cases, a lukewarm sea of distracted, "spiritual teenagers at a pop concert", hardly able to suckle the milk of the word. The falsely relevant church sacrifices the absolute truths of God, and with those the anointing of the Spirit, on the altar of human reasoning and the praise and acceptance of man. The church without mixture will move in the Spirit without measure. Holy, set apart, and sent in.

True Elijah and Fake Elijah

Today there are two types of warrior, two spiritual 'Elijahs', roaming the earth like lions. The one devours darkness, the other devours true godliness. God is raising up prophetic voices that will pull down covert, trendy, "sanctified" Satanism with great love, zeal and anointing. The devil also has his false prophets of counterfeit justice and righteousness. Joshua Jones continues, "Whereas Elijah leads people in a movement of true righteousness and justice, fake Elijah leads a counterfeit justice movement not based on godly righteousness. This spirit manifests itself in the BDS movement against Israel or the Pro-Choice movement against unborn children. These movements promote wicked acts by hijacking moral language―often trying to disguise their work as one of liberation from oppression.

Just as Elijah called down the true fire of judgement, fake Elijah has its own fire. But this flame is man centred―it does not cause people to fall down in worship before a holy God."

Before continuing I want to mention an important passage of scripture: 'And when His disciples James and John observed this, they said, Lord, do You wish us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elijah did? But He turned and rebuked and severely censured them. He said, "You do not know of what sort of spirit you are”' (Luke 9)

The New Covenant Elijah operates in the same jealousy and zeal for the things of God as Elijah did but calls down fire not on animal sacrifices or rebellious people, as the disciples suggested, but on the spiritual evil that has man bound and deceived. The New Covenant Elijah is not afraid to confront idolatry and speaks with the authority, boldness and fire of the Holy Ghost (Acts 4:12-13) in order to set the captives free.

As we can see, holiness is never boring, neither is it shy and retiring, caked in pious false-humility. The man who penned 1 Peter 1:16 ended his earthly walk upside down on a cross because he refused to be silent over the true gospel. Holiness looks like loving boldly in the truth and standing against the wicked schemes of the evil one, in the name of Jesus. When I choose a life of holiness, I must pick up my cross daily, deny self and follow Him. The cross is a pathway that is deliberately chosen. It is, as C. A. Coates put it, "a path which so far as this world goes is one of dishonour and reproach." The cross symbolizes the shame, persecution, and abuse which the world heaped on the Son of God, and which the world will heap on all who choose to stand against the tide. Any believer can avoid the cross simply by being conformed to the world and its ways."

What of some of our heroes? Isaiah was sawn in two with a wooden saw, Amos was tortured and afterwards slain. Habakkuk was stoned by the Jews in Jerusalem. Jeremiah was stoned by the Jews in Egypt, because he rebuked them for worshipping idols. Ezekiel was slain by the chief of the Jews, because he rebuked him for worshipping idols. John the Baptist was decapitated for rebuking a celebrity's sexual immorality. In the New Testament, 10 out of 11 Apostles were martyred, John ended up put on an island in exile, Stephen was stoned to death. Paul was likely beheaded in Rome. Lastly, our Master: Jesus went about healing the broken-hearted, setting at liberty the oppressed and in the process tipping idols, poking strongholds and shaking cages. Jesus was beaten within inches of His life then crucified by Pilate, through the protests of the chief priests. Love got Him killed in the end.

A servant is not above his Master. None of these guys were flavour of the month.

AW Tozer ("In praise of Dogmatism") writes, 'One characteristic of this sort of thing is its timidity. That religion may be very precious to some persons is admitted, but never important enough to cause division or risk hurting anyone's feelings. In all our discussions there must never be any trace of intolerance; but we obviously forget that the most fervent devotees of tolerance are invariably intolerant of everyone who speaks about God with certainty. And there must be no bigotry, which is the name given to spiritual assurance by those who do not enjoy it.'

Soft Hearts, Hard Feet, Flinty Foreheads

We must keep soft hearts, hard feet and maintain foreheads of flint. We are to be filled with compassion for people, and a burning desire for truth, by the grace God. The battle ahead is going to involve much persecution but with much glory and multitudes saved - beyond our wildest dreams. To quote Dickens, it will be the best of times and the worst of times. We are never to invite hatred, or bask in the world's rejection, but if a life of 'holy' comes with my new, designer-label, biggot hat, social suicide and even a prison sentence from the world or, God forbid, the church, then be it unto the glory of God. We shouldn't be that surprised. If the world hated Jesus, they shall hate those who follow Him faithfully (Matt 10:22). We shall keep our love firmly on and be fashioned continually into His likeness. Eternity will even things out. To live is Christ to die is gain, a glorious promotion. That's where our eyes must be fastened, with the joy of the Lord now and the joy set before us as our strength. Amen!


Popular Posts