Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Holiness By What Method?

A quote worth pondering ...

"When I see a Christian who is sinning a lot, I don't have any judgement any more. I say that they do not have very much faith that they are the righteousness of God. The more you realise who you are, the more you start living out who you are. But if you have got to be forced into holy behaviour by threats of hell and disapproval from God or the Church then the holiness that you go into is false and is based on control and dark demons, demons of witchcraft".

Rob Rufus - "Invading the Impossible - Part 11" - City Church International, Hong Kong - Sunday 23rd March 2008.

How are you being told best to live a holy life? Rules? Regulations? Laws? 'Spiritual disciplines'? Or are you being shown a glorious picture of the free gift of righteousness that has already been imputed to us - Christ Jesus the wonderful awesome Son of God who died for us and was raised again to life and now is seated in heavenly places with us!

Do you know who you are?


thebluefish said...

I might want to modify 'the more you realise who you are, the more you start living out who you are' to something like 'the more you behold the glory of who Jesus is, and who you are in him, the more you start living out who you are'.

But otherwise basically good. Jesus does use warning and threat to draw people to repentance though the prominent theme seems to be seeing Him. Which ok if you're a Modified Lutheran in your view of the Law :)

Dan Bowen said...

A fair point Dave. But I think in the context of the wider sermon, that's what Rob was trying to say.

Anonymous said...

Yes and because I know who I am I fully recognise that I must put to death the misdeeds of my flesh. I know that in my flesh dwells no good thing but I know that old things have passed away and all things have become new for me by His grace.
I shall not keep on sinning so that grace may increase.

Because I know who He is, I am fully persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him.

Dan Bowen said...

Well it depends really on what you mean by "flesh" doesn't it Anonymous? You said;

"I know that in my flesh dwells no good thing".

The Greek word "sarx" has quite a few meanings and I am struggling to find a meaning that matches up to your declaration that in your flesh dwells no good thing. Obviously we can all agree that flesh in the Bible refers to;

1. The parts of the body of both humans and animals and the dead. (Genesis 2:21, Deuteronomy 14:8, 1 Corinthians 15:39). No good thing?

And I think we can agree that "flesh" can refer to;

2. The human body in it's whole. (Judges 8:7, 1 Kings 21:27, Ephesians 5:29, Hebrews 9:13) Also sexual organs in the conxtext of circumcision - (Genesis 17:14, Galatians 6:13, Ephesians 2:11, Phil 3:3, Colossians 2:13).

But I am struggling to find somewhere in the Bible that supports your statement that there is "no good thing" in your flesh. And I am open to correction. Yes I agree that the flesh is created and natural and maybe weak, limited and temporal - subject to natural laws. And therefore vulnerable to sin. (Genesis 3:5) - Adam and Eve gave in to the lusts of the flesh rather than hearing the command of God.

But here's my problem. If you are right that no good thing dwells in your flesh, then what do we say of Jesus Christ?

(John 1:14, Romans 8:3, Hebrews 4:15).

HE came in flesh but did not give in to the desires of the flesh. Can you say there was "no good thing" in His flesh? And we who believe in the imputed gift of righteousness that He has freely given and we take by faith, are indeed still in the flesh but are in the Spirit?

One of the Greek lexicons says; "This does not imply that flesh is automatically sinful, but its history in Adam shows the weakness of flesh and its strong tendency to yield to the commands of sin".

Yes we shall not keep sinning that grace may increase - but if you reverse that, if we DO sin, grace DOES increase! But the point is "IF". If we sin, we have an Advocate before the Father. But I still see no biblical justification that there is some "old man", some "dirty flesh" that is sharing occupancy of my body with God the Holy Spirit.

Peter Day said...

The reference to "in my flesh nothing good dwells" comes from Rom 7v18. That passage is Paul's testimony of a himself under law, not under grace. He is showing the totally impossibility of the law to produce righteousness. The law stirs up sin!

The believer is in Christ, and is a new creation, and has been declared totally and utterly righteous as a free gift of God's grace. I agree both theologically and in my personal testimony, that getting hold of that truth results in less sin, not more sin. Grace does abound IF we sin, but the liberty of the full gospel means freedom and joy to not sin. That freedom comes not because of fear of hell or judgement, but through grasping and understanding that I am the righteousness of God in Him.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry but you miss it completely.

There is a greek word in reference to flesh "Sarkikos" - carnal - the KJV uses this word in Romans 7:14.

Check Galatians 5:17-21 and then check the following on verses from 22 for the fruit of the Spirit by sweet contrast.

I write this with all sincerity - I am saved and I thank God I am saved but I still need to mortify my flesh. In my flesh dwells no good thing. I must have no confidence in my flesh and I cannot be perfected by it.

I thank God for my perfect substitute, for as you rightly refer - my Advocate because He is Worthy. I love my Jesus. There is no-one like Him. The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Your bizarre emphasis that "If we do sin grace does increase" is a surprisingly upfront contradiction of Romans 6. So why don't we persist in sin then grace may abound? Certainly not.

You might find your flesh something you want to negotiate with but that being the case you will circle continuously outside the perameters of victory.

Peter Day said...

Anonymous, I think it is is safe to say that we agree on one thing - we hate sin and we don't want to sin. Where we differ is how do we sin less.

There is no question of either Dan or I negotiating with our flesh. Nor is there any question of promoting sin. Dan is simply stating a fact, as per Rom 5v20 "where sin abounded, grace abounded much more." That is the fact.

Rom 6v1 is the question that follows from the true preaching of the gospel. The answer he gives isn't "of course not, you must mortify your flesh". Rather he says "How shall we who DIED to sin live any longer in it?"

The result of being dead to sin is that "we become slaves to righteousness" (Rom 6v18). Righteousness becomes natural. The old life been CRUCIFIED with Christ, the life we now live in the flesh we live by the FAITH of the Son of God who loved me [us] and gave Himself for me.

Thus we are free from the power of sin. Yes, we are still tempted, but the response to temptation (or even to having fallen, if we fall) is not to beat ourselves up and condemn ourselves and say to ourselves "I must WORK harder and harder". Rather, it is to stand in WHO we are in Christ. We are righteous, we are new, we have died to sin. Paul says "reckon yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 6v11).

Grasping this glorious truth is a powerful antidote against sin. Rather than our sin, our focus should be Jesus Christ, who WAS dead, but now He is alive forevermore - risen, ascended, glorified - so "if then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God." (Col 3v1)

Dan Bowen said...

Well Anonymous - you're entitled to your opinions as to whether we have missed it completely or not. I would say I haven't! But I certainly wouldn't be as arrogant as to reply and say that actually I think you are the one who has missed it completely. You are entitled to your opinions and to express them.

I have never professed to be a Greek scholar but all I can argue on is the teaching, the exposition of Scripture I have heard and the understanding I have come to. But I can also testify to which teaching has seen more fruit in my life!

I have lived under the kind of emphasis you are bringing for virtually all of my Christian life and are very familiar with what you are saying. And I can tell you that I have struggled, wrestled, mortified and sweated with sin all my life. I have tried all sorts of spiritual discplines, techniques, read books about conquering sin and spent thousands of pounds on resources to try and help me.

Since encountering the teaching of grace from Rob Rufus, Terry Virgo, Bill Johnson and others I have NEVER EVER EVER experienced such glorious victory over areas of sin in my life! It's not a case of even paying attention to those particular sins! It is so wonderful coming into the realisation of the imparted gift of righteousness and the amazing implications of that, that there is far too much to think about, meditate, contemplate on and worship about!

I don't understand your paragraph:

"Your bizarre emphasis that "If we do sin grace does increase" is a surprisingly upfront contradiction of Romans 6. So why don't we persist in sin then grace may abound? Certainly not".

The grammar doesn't make sense but I can assure you I am in no way contradicting any part of Scripture. Scripture doesn't need to be contradicted! It is far too glorious for that! There's too much freeing truth! So again I say, I am no scholar and have no doubt that you know far more academic knowledge than I. But what I can testify to is the wonderful freeing resurrection power of grace!

jul said...

Great preaching Peter and Dan, you should do some old-fashioned tag time preaching haha! Or maybe you are already.

James B said...

I really have yet to figure out the etiquette of blogging but do anonymous commentators have the right to make statements such as "You've missed the point completely" and "Your bizarre emphasis" when we don't actually know who these people/persons are?! It just seems kinda ... off to me. I realise I dont have a blog so I dunno!

Dan Bowen said...

Well that's a good question James but I have to say I don't think there is any real "etiquette". I have unofficial rules as to what commentators are allowed to say and get away with and anonymous commenting is welcomed on this blog - up to a point.

I don't really care about personal rudeness or arguments and I may reply to the best of my ability (although Pete does it far better than I) - the only thing I don't allow and will absolutely delete comments is if there is rudeness against my friends (especially my women friends) or my family.

But Pete and I were talking yesterday about how anonymous commenting does get quite confusing - trying to figure out who is making the comments and whether they have made comments before. We are pretty much 99% certain of the identity of our favourite angry anonymous guy who drops by regularly, but some of the others we are not so sure.

It is would be quite helpful if those who make anonymous comments (and you are still welcome to make comments in any shape or form) could select a nickname of some sorts just to distinguish yourself a bit.

Anonymous said...

I am very happy to distinguish myself from the angry anonymous individual. You can refer to me, if you wish, as Eutychus.

Firstly - please be assured I don't have any academic theological knowledge at all and the writers of this blog far surpass me in knowledge and reading and must have amazing libraries of books.

Secondly when I said "You miss it completely" I was referring specifically to the greek word "sarkikos" which is the carnal reference to flesh that I was getting at. I meant that you had missed that as a vital reference underpinning what I am getting at.
Please rest assured I was not applying for one minute that I have already attained.

Let me also be clear on legalism.
Legalism is a dead but malevolant thing which deadens and fossilises people. There is nothing more putrid than a dead church trudging through decades of legalism and dead theology. That causes secret sins to multiply, the accuser to get a door in and all kinds of sickness to build up.

The only way is the glorious liberty of the sons of God.

The law cannot perfect a man. It is, however, the schoolmaster that leads us to Christ but it is powerless in itself to make a man perfect.

I believe there is resurrection power available to us - Christ in us the hope of glory - to live above sin. To put off what Colossians 3 tells us to put off, but also to put on what Colossians 3 tells us to put on.
We have abundant newness of life available to us.

However, my concern as to much of what I read on this blog refers to what I read as an emphasis on grace (which in itself is fine) with a complete absence of the pursuit of purity. I am concerned that this is a misleading inbalance.
There is a serious danger that this can lead to winking at things which God hates and saying "I am clothed in righteous garments" whilst living like the devil. We need to understand God cannot be mocked and a man still reaps what he sows.
Yes we are saved by grace through faith alone. There is no work we can perform to impress God.

I am not a theologian and I'm nobody's pastor but I am jealous for myself and all my brethren to enter into the fullness in this vital hour.
Tolerating carnality and saying "We're under grace" is not life in Christ. That way you leave maimed, guilty Christians caught up in secret sin with no power save a little bit of positive confession.

And I know for myself - I need to put to death the misdeeds of the flesh. Maybe I'm a very carnal believer but I know there is a war still at work in my inner man where daily I still need to take up my cross and follow Him. But I thank God that He has promised to present each of His beloved faultless with exceeding joy.


Peter Day said...

Hello Eutychus. Thank you for giving yourself an identity and welcome to the blog. I hope that we don't have the impact on you that Paul had on your namesake in Acts 20 - who fell out of the window because Paul preached on and on!

Anyway, I think it is important to reiterate what I said earlier - we agree wholeheartedly that we want to sin less. And I would encourage you to take account of Dan's testimony (for it is mine also) - he says:

"Since encountering the teaching of grace from Rob Rufus, Terry Virgo, Bill Johnson and others I have NEVER EVER EVER experienced such glorious victory over areas of sin in my life! It's not a case of even paying attention to those particular sins! It is so wonderful coming into the realisation of the imparted gift of righteousness and the amazing implications of that, that there is far too much to think about, meditate, contemplate on and worship about!"

So why does grace set us free not to sin? I would suggest several reasons:

1) One of the greatest tools of satan to promote sin is a sense of condemnation. If we sin, we fall under condemnation; condemnation leads to a defeatest attitude like "I can't help sinning", or "I'm such a failure, why bother trying any more". Or more subtly, believers want to stop sinning but guilt keeps them from pressing through into the presence of God and so they don't catch glimpses of His glory and are not transformed.

2) Another power behind sin is pride. Grace destroys pride, because grace says I can contribute nothing to my salvation, my flesh cannot make me holy. Grace says you have a righteousness that is not your own - a free gift which is failure-proof, sin-proof, disappointment-proof, and devil-proof. Grace leads us to magnify the wonder of God's amazing love, to be impressed with Him and His gift of righteousness, to base our relationship totally upon the finished work of Jesus and nothing of our performance. Knowing therefore we can contribute nothing leads to a hunger for Him, a yieldness to Him and practical holiness is a natural side-effect.

3) One of the most powerful motivations to holiness is love (Jesus said - 'If you love Me you will keep My commandments'). Grace releases love rather than terror and condemnation. God is SO SO SO good. I love Him. I don't WANT to sin. Grace release such worship and joy that there is superior pleasure now!

4) Declaring "I am the righteousness of God in Christ" is not positive confession but a declaration of truth. It is faith building. So if I sin, I stand in faith on what Jesus has done in me. That has two effects - I am free from every condemning accusation; and, secondly, I am starting to believe I am righteous, so I start, naturally, living out that righteousness as well. We are NOT justified by grace and sanctified by our efforts. We are justified by grace through faith AND we are sanctified by grace through faith.

5) The teaching of grace does not lead to an attitude of winking at sin. God did not wink at sin, He dealt with it on the cross 100%. There is not one ounce of punishment left, it has all been taken upon the cross. God no longer sees our sin!!! We need to stop living like there is some punishment left, but in the freedom of His resurrection power.

6) We need to move out of an old covenant mindset (if I do these things God will bless me) to a new covenant mindset, which says that every blessing flows to me because Christ has obeyed the law on my behalf. This moves us out of striving in our own fleshly effort in any area of the Christian life - not only holiness, but signs and wonders. These things come, not because we perform for God, but because of Christ's totally perfect performance on our behalf. As we stand in faith on what HE has done, I believe we will know the tangible presence of God and see the manifest power of God more and more.

7) Grace shows that holiness flows not from focussing on my sins, but focussing on Jesus.

In conclusion, I wholeheartedly agree with your comment:

"I am jealous for myself and all my brethren to enter into the fullness in this vital hour."

Amen! But I also need to say - there is no question of tolerating carnality and saying "we are living in grace". No, we have tolerated carnality for too long through trying to overcome it through different disciplines and man-made laws. It is time to walk in the freedom of grace, and to prove the truth of Gal 5v16 "Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."