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Embed code for: Thoughts on holiness
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It’s not that it’s my belief that committing one’s life to Jesus Christ is difficult; it’s that it actually is difficult! Most preachers and evangelists make it a very easy thing to come to Christ: …just pray this prayer, just ask Jesus into your heart, just come to church (“and never doubt your salvation!”) – none of those being actual Biblical truths of how to gain eternal life. I agree that coming to Christ is a very simple thing—it’s either yes or no, but it’s not, by any means, an easy thing. Jesus demands an awful lot, and He will have it His way, or we cannot have Him at all (Mark 8. 34f). As we saw with the rich, young ruler, Jesus will not compromise. Check out Luke 13. 24ff.
Not only is the gate to enter Jesus’ Kingdom very narrow; so is the path that we must travel (Matthew 7. 13-14). When He asks so many people on Judgment Day, “Why do you call Me, Master, Master, and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6. 46), how can anyone answer that question? If we claim He’s our Master (which we must do in order to even be saved—Romans 10. 9), and He asks us that question, there is no appropriate answer. On the other hand, if we call Him “Master” and treat Him as such by doing what He says, then He won’t be compelled to ask us that question. Most church-goers, sadly, will not be ready…
People often respond, “Yes, but we all still sin!” That’s true, to varying degrees, but there’s a big difference in stumbling and falling into sin, and diving into it headfirst; between hating it and loving it. 1 Corinthians 6. 9-10, Ephesians 5. 5-6, and Revelation 21. 8 all make it very clear that sexual sin (among other sins), unrepented of, will land anyone in the lake of fire for an eternity. Yet most Christian parents of teens and young adults maintain that their children are still headed for Heaven because they once prayed a prayer, asked Jesus into their heart, or they go to church when it’s not raining…
We should be so afraid! …Especially we preachers, pastors, evangelists, and Bible teachers who are giving people false assurance because they profess faith in Jesus, seem kinda’ civil, and go to church when they’re not hung over. We preachers are going to be so much more severely judged (James 3. 1) because we’re handling and delivering God’s truth, and we need to cut It straight (2 Timothy 2. 15). So many, including many pastors, seem to be just playing church, and many of ‘em won’t preach the truth, either out of self-preservation, job security, or out of fear of driving people away (we all like to be liked, don’t we?). But they’re going to give an account of the opportunities they had, and didn’t take. Being “seeker-friendly” is one thing but, like I told a pastor of a megachurch once, if you don’t reach ‘em while you’ve got ‘em, what good is a growing, even seemingly vibrant, church? There’s only one thing worse than being on the road to Hell, and that’s being on the road to Hell, all the while convinced you’re going to Heaven.
The writer of Hebrews said that, without holiness/sanctification, we cannot get to Heaven (12. 14)! Was s/he a legalist, or was s/he just kidding around? Jesus said that we must hate our own lives, or we will lose them, and if we love our lives, we will definitely lose them (John 12. 25, et al). How many people in our own church seem to live like they actually hate their own wills, desires, and ambitions enough to shuck ‘em and do Jesus’ will instead? And by refraining from telling people these truths, pastors and preachers do them no favors. Instead, most preachers give their congregations assurance that they will, after all, be OK in the end—at least that’s what I gather from what I hear in most sermons in many churches and at many funerals nowadays.
I get called a legalist on occasion, but people don’t understand legalism. Legalism is trying to gain God’s acceptance or favor through behavior or well intent. I know I can’t do that. Obedience to God’s word is not legalism, unless Jesus is a legalist. He was a lot tougher on the issue than I am, and He was extremely demanding (Luke 13. 3; cf. Acts 17. 30-31).
I remember Charles Wesley saying, after hearing a dignified pastor preach, that although the man taught the truth, and taught it very well, alas, he treated his whole flock like they were all Christians. That kind of attitude is rampant among pastors. I’m not thinking of anyone in particular when I say this, nor am I judging anyone, but one thing I’ve learned from both the Bible and experience is that no mere man can give someone assurance of their salvation—we can tell them how to be saved and guide them along the way, but only God the Holy Spirit Himself can give someone true assurance.
We can, however, “know them by their fruits,” (Luke 6. 43; 1 John 3. 10), at least for the time being, and we can tell someone that, although they may “know” that they are a Christian (which I did when I wasn’t one), that they are indicating otherwise by their lifestyle, and that they had better examine themselves very closely (2 Corinthians 13. 5). In fact, when Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 13. 5, he was writing to a church full of saints (cf. 2 Corinthians 1. 1)! And a major part of the test, along with exclusive faith in Jesus Christ’s sinless life, death, burial, and resurrection, is “have you repented from all known sin, and are you still repenting”? Cf. 2 Corinthians 12. 21.
Many people appeal to the man in 1 Corinthians 5. 1-5 that was sexually involved with his father’s wife as an example of a “carnal Christian,” but a close study of the Greek text shows that Paul clearly taught that the man “may be saved,” i.e., “might get saved” (the subjunctive tense, to get technical for a moment) if the devil was allowed to destroy his flesh. Taking the Lord’s name in vain, even if it’s just claiming allegiance to Him while not living accordingly, is a serious thing, and God said that someone who does that will not be guiltless (Exodus 20. 7).
When Jesus said that we must repent, else we perish (Luke 13. 3, 5), He wasn’t insisting upon 50%, 90%, or even 99% repentance, but on a wholehearted repentance from sin (He even required that from the Israelites in Jeremiah 7. 5-7 and Isaiah 55. 7), flowing from a heart that is grieved that it violated God’s demands and now wants to please Him in every way. I use this illustration in the jailhouse: when I fell in love with my wife, I wanted to please her in every way—do things she wanted to do, go places she wanted to go, eat out where she wanted to… because I love her! I deliberately denied my own wants, loves, and desires, and deferred to hers, so that I could please her and not myself. Similarly, if I truly love Jesus Christ, I will (naturally!) want to please Him and not myself (John 14. 15). And should I not love Jesus more than I love my dear wife (Luke 14. 26)? It’s like James said: don’t just tell me you’re a Christian, show me (2. 18; 1 John 2. 6)! James would’ve referred to Paul on how to become a Christian, and Paul would’ve referred to James on what a true Christian should look like.
If, when you asked your wife to marry you, she said, “yes, of course, I love you!, but can I keep my other boyfriend, and still stay with him on Wednesday nights? You’ll have me the rest of the week!,” you would’ve been devastated, but that’s how so many, even in our little church, treat Jesus! We expect more devotion from our spouses than we think God expects (dare I say, demands?) from us.
I just think most pastors and preachers need to be much more direct and confrontational in their preaching. Jesus and Paul definitely were! So many are counting on God’s “grace” when they can’t even define the term. Paul himself, the great “grace preacher” (as so many call him), in Titus 2. 11-12, said that the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and embrace righteous living.
I know how hard it is to preach God’s truths. I’ve had women crying in some services when I tell ‘em what sinners we all are, and some men have gotten up and walked out on me, but that’s Holy Spirit conviction at work. And if, in any ministry, teaching/preaching doesn’t lead to, encourage, and provoke godly behavior (Hebrews 10. 24-25), the Holy Spirit is a thousand miles from that ministry, because it’s His job to convict the world of “[their] sin, [the] righteousness [they need], and [their impending] judgment” (John 16. 8).
I’m only lookin’ out for ya’. I feel that it’s my job to provoke, prod, and exhort you. You’re in my prayers constantly, and God needs to light a fire under most of us. I and all other preachers and teachers are going to have a lot to answer for on Judgment Day (Hebrews 13. 17). Like a man said long ago, a preacher’s got to pledge his head to Heaven, and then preach repentance (and Puritan Richard Baxter added, “however they may take it”).
Chaplain Buddy Balagia least for the time being, and we can tell someone that, although they may “know” that they are a Christian (which I did when I wasn’t one), that they are indicating otherwise by their lifestyle, and that they had better examine themselves very closely (2 Corinthians 13. 5). In fact, when Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 13. 5, he was writing to a church full of saints (cf. 2 Corinthians 1. 1)! And a major part of the test, along with exclusive faith in Jesus Christ’s sinless life, death, burial, and resurrection, is “have you repented from all known sin, and are you still repenting”? Cf. 2 Corinthians 12. 21.
I know how hard it is to preach God’s truths. I’ve had women crying in some services when I tell ‘em what sinners we all are, and some men have gotten up and walked out on me, but that’s Holy Spirit conviction at work. And if, in any ministry, teaching/preaching doesn’t lead to, encourage, and pr