What Does a Holy Man or Woman Look Like? — “What are some key characteristics of someone who is truly walking and growing in holiness? The following video touches on three qualities of personal holiness for which every Christian should long and strive.”
As we are in full swing of Christmas festivities, what exactly is Christmas about? How much do you know about Jesus’ birth? Take time to answer these questions and share it with your friends to see how well they do!
How many thousands of people have repeated a prayer and publicly announced that they were a follower of Jesus Christ only to fall away back into the world? The answer to that question cannot be fully comprehended. Many estimate the number of false Christians to far outnumber the true Christian population which is a staggering thought to consider. Yet, it seems that was what Jesus communicated in Matthew 7:13-14 as he differentiated between the “many” and the “few” in relation to the false Christian and the true believer.
Throughout time, a certain category of Christianity has emerged under the name of carnal Christianity. This category is the product of a certain belief that claims it’s possible to have Jesus as Lord and Heaven as your home while living in open sin and remaining in love with the world. Not only is this a harmful belief system, it’s simply unbiblical. In short, there is no such thing as a carnal Christian. The carnal Christian is like a unicorn walking around in an open field—it’s an impossibility.
The Christian’s Call to Holiness
To be a Christian is to be a child of God. What God expects from his people is a life of holiness. As Peter stated, “Be holy for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:15-16) as he quoted from Leviticus 11:44. God has always had one goal for his people and it’s holiness. In Ephesians 2:10, we see Paul emphasizing the fact that God has before ordained that his people walk in good deeds (a life pursuit of holiness).
Far too often people miss the point of the Levitical laws. They turn them into a system of positives commands and negative prohibitions when in reality something far bigger is taking place. For instance, God was not merely forbidding the Israelites from enjoying a good BBQ sandwich in the dietary laws. God was positioning his people to be a distinct and separate people from the rest of the world. The Levitical laws were used to separate the people.
God is holy and has called us into a life of holiness. Paul urged the church at Ephesus to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1). The pursuit of our lives should be on becoming conformed to the image of God rather than being marked by the world, the flesh, and the devil. That was our former way of living and we have been called out of that lifestyle. Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:2-3:
Ephesians 2:1–3 – And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Notice that Paul emphasizes that the believers in Ephesus (true about all believers regardless of geographic location) were once dead in their trespasses and sins. This spiritual deadness caused them to walk (a statement about lifestyle) in a manner that was following the prince of the power of the air (a title for Satan). This entire lifestyle is focused on satisfying the depraved passions of the flesh. It should be noted that Paul begins by describing this pattern of living by the believers in the past tense. In other words, before a believer’s conversion their lifestyle is carnal, but carnality is not the description of the believer in the present tense (after conversion).
According to Titus 1:8, the Christian is called to be “hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” An undisciplined life centered on satisfying depraved cravings is not the picture of a pursuit of holiness. It’s the picture of a life that’s pursuing the world.
Conversion Results in Sanctification
When God saves a person, he not only saves that person from the penalty of their sin, but he likewise removes the shackles of sin and gives the individual victory over sin. Why would anyone believe that the God who can transport people into the his presence in eternity could not remove sin from a person’s life before they cross over the precipice of eternity?
The Christian’s life will be a constant battle against the flesh (Rom. 7). However, God calls the Christian to present himself as a living sacrifice—one that is holy and acceptable to God (Heb. 12:1-2). As a result of conversion, the child of God will love God more than the world or anything this world has to offer (1 John 2:15). As John makes clear, if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Sanctification is the progressive process whereby the child of God puts off the deeds of the flesh while putting on the clothing of holiness. Listen to how Paul describes this process in his letter to the church at Ephesus:
Ephesians 4:22–24 – to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Salvation should be viewed holistically rather than merely a compartmentalized focus on the soul. The work of salvation impacts the entire person, body, mind, and soul. The renewal of the mind comes as a byproduct of the changed heart at conversion. New desires and affections for God emerge which change priority lists, goals, lifestyles, and nearly every other detail of the human’s existence in this present evil world.
Conversion without sanctification is not genuine salvation. Carnality is not a description of a child of God. When a true child of God walks off the straight and narrow path—the Spirit of God will not allow that to be an ongoing pattern. There will be a chastening of the disobedient Christian that brings about correction. This process could come in form of a sermon preached where the Spirit deals with the sin internally resulting in repentance. It could be a private rebuke by a pastor out of love. It could come in form of church discipline (Matt. 18:15-20). For the obstinate, God has more severe methods of correction (Heb. 12:3-17). God will sanctify his people and Christ will have a pure bride.
Charles Spurgeon once remarked, “Christ will be master of the heart, and sin must be mortified. If your life is unholy, then your heart is unchanged, and you are an unsaved person. The Savior will sanctify His people, renew them, give them a hatred of sin, and a love of holiness. The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves His people, not IN their sins, but FROM their sins. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.”
Yesterday in our Romans series, I preached from Romans 6:5-7 on the subject of our union with Christ. Considered by many theologians as one of the central doctrines of the gospel—our union with Christ is essential for our position and our life of freedom. Without our union with Christ there is no true Christianity at all.
The word translated, united is the Greek term, “σύμφυτος” meaning, “to being associated in a related experience, or far from the divine, but growing up in the very midst of it; indeed, one might aver, growing up together with it.”  Verse five serves as the thesis statement for this section and verses six and seven serve as an explanation of the first half of verse five. Paul launches off into a statement about the believer’s union with Jesus in both his death and resurrection. As it pertains to his death, we were crucified with Christ. Not only does Paul mention our union with Jesus in his death, but then he speaks of us being crucified with Jesus. Why is this so vitally important?
For the Jew, the Roman cross and the system of crucifixion was a statement of finality. Nobody came home for supper after being crucified. Therefore, to state that our old identity in Adam was crucified with Christ—it’s like stating that we will never be the same again. We are now identified with Jesus completely and never will we be identified with Adam. Our old position has now been crucified and there has been a change of ownership that will never be altered.
Following that statement, Paul then moves on to demonstrate that while our position has changed through our union with Jesus in his death, we will still have an ongoing battle with sin since our body of sin is still alive. This will be a constant struggle until we are glorified. We see this in Romans 7:16-18 as Paul writes, “Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”
While the old self connected to Adam has died – our body remains alive and we live in the era between the already and not yet. Christ already rules and yet he hasn’t returned. We have died in Christ, but our sinful flesh remains. We anticipate a day when Christ will return and make all things new – including our sinful flesh – in a glorified body like Christ.
However, we must surrender to Christ and live for the glory of God. As Paul wrote elsewhere in Galatians 2:20-21, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” We are called to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1). We are called to produce good works that bring glory to God and cause others to praise God (Matt. 5:16; James 2:26; Eph. 2:10).
A person who claims to be a follower of Christ and yet remains in a constant unbroken pattern of sin has no right to claim the name of Jesus. When God saves a person, he not only saves them from their sin, but he removes sin from them as well. Sanctification is the pattern of a life changed by Christ.
J.C. Ryle stated, “We must be holy, because this is the one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world… Jesus is a complete Savior. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, He does more – He breaks its power.”
On the Death of John Allen Chau — Tim Challies provides some helpful thoughts on the death of a missionary who has everyone evaluating and discussing Christian missions.
Advent: Hope and Fear — “Inside the human heart there is a powerful connection between hope and fear. As expectancy increases, so does fear. The more we put our hope in something, the more we fear its possible failure.”
Social Justice and the Gospel — Take a moment to read through the resources found on the website for The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. If you haven’t yet signed it, take time to read the articles and add your name to the growing list.
I received an e-mail from a friend yesterday who serves as a chief of police in Tennessee. He was writing to tell me that he has been struck by how little the average church member knows about God’s Word. As I read his message and listened to his heart, I couldn’t help but think about what has caused this through the years. We have consistently dumbed down worship which should be designed for sheep in order to attract goats. The local church is a true anomaly when you consider the fact that college football teams are never satisfied with lowering standards for their team goals. In like manner, businesses are never satisfied with lowering business goals for their corporation, but local churches adopt an attitude that expects pastors to lower standards of what’s expected for membership, decrease the seriousness of worship, and make worship fast, easy, and comfortable. This approach has radically changed the way in which we worship.
Over the past two years, I have been working through our order of worship and revisiting the need for change based on convictions and the need for a more healthy worship service. Recently, the elders discussed this issue and we continue to work through some of the needed alterations as we prepare for 2019. It is our desire to arrange our worship in such a way that will honor God with the most healthy worship service as possible. That requires intentional design that arranges worship based on knowledge rather than feeling.
Far too often, worship services are arranged to meet the felt needs of a congregation or to attract the seeker who might be in attendance. The seeker sensitive model of church growth plagued evangelicalism with light duty worship services that were superficial, short, shallow, and non-offensive to unbelievers. In many cases this approach has left us with large megachurches filled with unbelievers who gather for reasons that do not square with the purpose of the Lord’s Day and worship services across evangelicalism that are based on feelings rather than knowledge.
All through the Bible we see an emphasis placed on what we know to be true about God. In 1 Peter 1:18, the apostle uses the word “knowing” to encourage the discouraged believer and help them to base their worship of God on the firm foundation of what they know to be true about God. As we approach 2019, we are preparing to make necessary changes to the worship order within our local church so that our weekly worship will become more healthy.
Healthy Variety of Scripture Reading
Many Protestant churches have very little Scripture read in their weekly worship compared to the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. When you consider the fact that once upon a time people were being burned at the stake for possessing the Bible in English—you would think that we would have a healthy dose of public Scripture readings, but that simply isn’t the case across the board.
We begin each service with a call to worship from God’s Word. Throughout 2018, we read through the Gospel of Matthew as we took a portion of Matthew’s Gospel in both the morning and evening worship services. As we prepare for a new order of worship, we will be incorporating several Scripture passages in each service as follows:
Reading from the Psalms
Reading from the Law
Reading from the Gospel
Reading from the Sermon Passage
It is our desire to have both the Old and New Testament read in each service. We desire to show the importance of all Scripture and to show how Christ stands at the center of all of God’s Word. This approach will enable us to be very intentional in connecting how we pray with what the Bible actually says since our prayers will be arranged near Scripture readings.
In a typical worship service, prayers are often generic in approach and sadly is the case that they are used as transitions between different stages of the worship service. It’s not uncommon to have a prayer in a specific place merely to allow musicians to get into place for the next song. The prayer is offered by the pastor and is typically a transition and has no intentional design to it whatsoever.
As we rearrange our order of worship, we will arrange intentional prayer times that will enable the church to be specific in how we pray each time we enter into a time of prayer. We will arrange internal prayers such as:
Prayer of Adoration
Prayer of Confession
Prayer for Missions
We believe this will enable us to focus on God in a vertical prayer at the beginning of the service which will set the focus for our gathering. We are not gathering for entertainment or for selfish reasons. We are gathering to meet with our God. Following in the worship service will be a time of internal personal introspection and evaluation. We will be ver intentional about praying and confessing to God our known sin and pleading for forgiveness. The pastoral prayer will be focused on the needs of the congregation—and much of it will be based on the need to know God and to allow our knowledge of God to drive our worship of God. Finally, we will end with a time praying for missions around the world and focusing in on the commission to our local community. Each prayer will have a specific intentional design.
One of the joys of my life has been to watch our church embrace the biblical model of shared pastoral leadership. The plurality of elders leading a local church is a beautiful thing. I have the privilege of serving with a Godly group of men who love the Lord and have a passion to serve our local church.
As we continue to grow as elders, it is my desire to see more shared leadership in the weekly worship. As we incorporate these intentional public Scripture readings and prayers into our weekly worship—we will have the privilege of sitting under the shared leadership of our elders on a weekly basis. This will not only provide opportunities for the elders to serve and lead, but it will enable the church to see the elders serving and leading each week. This approach is intentional and for the good of our whole church.
When was the last time you paused and evaluated how you worship each week? Do you believe that your worship service is healthy and robust or lacking in substance and depth? If you’re a pastor, you can work to change this pattern if you feel that your worship service is unhealthy. If you’re a church member, you can always talk with your pastors about this problem and pray that they will make the necessary changes for the glory of God.