Tag Archive: holiness


All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 2 Number 7

August 29, 2013

Dressing Appropriately

From Pastor Bordwine

 

But you did not learn Christ in this way . . .

(Ephesians 4:20)

As we know, the apostle Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament epistles. He was the premier theologian for the early Church. Paul explains some of the most complex and essential doctrines of the faith. At the same time, Paul used a number of concepts to help believers understand not just the doctrine, but the application of the doctrine.

One of the apostle’s most helpful explanations of how doctrine should affect the day-to-day life of the believer comes in connection with his teaching on the process of change that takes place in the life of the sinner who embraces the gospel and is, consequently, born-again by the Holy Spirit. In the context of the verse quoted above, Paul is urging his readers to give careful consideration to the character of their lives now that they have become part of the Body of Christ.

Paul describes the previous character of those now being addressed as Christ’s people. They walked, he writes, “in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that [was] in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” (v. 18) In this spiritual state, Paul reminds them that they were callous and were given over to sensuality leading to “the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” (v. 19)

At this point, Paul writes: “But you did not learn Christ in this way . . .” He is emphasizing a critical fact, which is the inevitable spiritual change that takes place in the heart of a redeemed sinner. Those former traits had to give way to the Christ-like characteristics being developed in them by the Holy Spirit. They were being taught about truth, Paul goes on to say, as they participated in the new relationship they now had with Jesus, “just as truth is in Jesus.” (v. 21)

The apostle provides an extremely helpful image of this transition from life apart from Christ to life in and for Christ when he writes:

. . . 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Clothing is one of the most fundamental elements in our lives. The act of taking off one garment and putting on another is as common to our daily routines as anything else we do. We know that all clothing has a purpose and all clothing contributes to the image we project. Paul uses this universally familiar action to illustrate the crucial spiritual truth he is conveying.

The spiritual transition in which a born-again sinner gradually curtails former expressions of a fallen nature while increasingly manifesting the new characteristics of a regenerated nature is likened to the changing of garments. The wicked tendencies and displays of “the old self” are “laid aside” while the Christ-like inclinations and demonstrations of “the new self” are “put on.”

Paul continues and exhorts his readers regarding the “clothing” they should be putting on. Instead of falsehood, they should be “wearing” truth; instead of anger, self-control; instead of dishonesty, productivity; instead of destructive words, edifying speech; etc. (cf. vv. 25-32) A saving relationship with Christ will always give evidence of itself in our “appearance.”

The ongoing and inevitable change in character that Paul has been explaining is known as sanctification. Once we are born-again, the Holy Spirit begins remaking us in the image of the Savior. As we live out our days, we become more and more like Him in our desires and actions. Our spiritual “clothing” testifies to the reality of this continuing recreation.

Admittedly, I used the title of this devotional as a play on words, which is what Paul does as he helps believers understand the concept of sanctification. As one who has been regenerated, make sure that you are dressing appropriately.

 

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All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 2 Number 5

May 2, 2013

A Better Way?

From Pastor Bordwine

 

Oh that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes!

(Psalm 119:5)

Do you agree that the concept of personal obedience is irrelevant within the context of living the Christian life? Many believers have been taught that references to obedience on the part of Christians somehow contradicts the gospel. As a matter fact, there is currently a vigorous debate going on within the evangelical Church regarding this question. One particular school of thought is that any talk of obeying God once a person becomes a Christian is somehow contrary to the message of salvation by grace through faith alone.

There are two major flaws in this thinking. First, it cannot be reconciled with the multitude of passages in which the writers of Scripture command some behavior while condemning other behavior. This implies, of course, that choices have to be made in the Christian life. And those choices, by necessity, must be made according to some standard. If we say that seeking to conform our lives to the commands of Scripture through simple obedience is not an option for the believer, then what do we have left? Some source of authority will inform our conduct. If the Bible is eliminated as a possible source, then we have only the leading of our own hearts. Keep in mind, however, this statement from the prophet Jeremiah: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)

Salvation does not bring with it an immediate perfection of our sense of discernment. The Word of God teaches the very opposite when it tells us that sin remains as a powerful influence in our flesh this side of heaven even after we are born-again. Apart from the Bible, therefore, there is no other source on which the Christian may rely for moral guidance if our desire is to reflect the character of God.

I said that the thinking described above has two major flaws. The second flaw is the complete mischaracterization of the idea of obedience in the Christian life. We do not seek to know and obey the Scriptures in order to impress God or established merit in His eyes. Our desire to know and obey the Scriptures comes from our sense of thankfulness to God for what He has done for us in Christ. For the Christian, attempting to bring our lives into line with the commands of Scripture is an act of humility because we have come to understand that we are not capable of righteous living apart from instruction concerning what constitutes such an existence.

I quoted from Psalm 119 above. This Psalm contains the conclusions of David as he meditated on the law of God. Throughout this Psalm, we find numerous references such as the one above: “Oh that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes!” David repeatedly expresses his desire to develop the highest regard for the commands of God. It was his prayer that his life be a reflection of the will of God as revealed to us in the Bible.

Clearly, David understood that walking before the Lord requires direction, correction, and encouragement and that is what we find in those passages where God tells us how to live. Again, these commands are not given so we might achieve or maintain our place before God, but are given so that we might know what pleases Him. Our love for God and for the Savior prompts us to seek that which David sought, which is a life characterized by holiness.

It is greatly troubling to know, as I mentioned above, that there are those who completely reject the notion of a believer showing concern for the Word of God as a source for moral guidance in our lives. This is in spite of the fact that Jesus Himself declared: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) Our desire to express our love for God in our conduct is the work of the Spirit and is a natural response from those who have been delivered from condemnation and given eternal life.

Be on guard, therefore, as you avail yourself of all the sources of Christian teaching that are accessible these days. Take time to read Psalm 119 and pay attention to the many ways in which David described his dedication to the commands of God. By adopting David’s attitude toward the Word, you will find joy and, far from contradicting the gospel, your thankful obedience will confirm its reality and power.

At the beginning [of the Sermon on the Mount] stand the Beatitudes, engraven in golden script upon its portal, reminding us that we are not received by Jesus into a school of ethics but into a kingdom of redemption. It is blessedness that is promised here, and the word does not so much signify a state of mind, as that great realm of consummation and satisfaction, which renders man’s existence, once he has entered into it, serene and secure for evermore. And again, foremost among the the Beatitudes stand those that emphasize the emptiness, the absolute dependence of man upon divine grace. At the dawn of the gospel Mary sang: “He has put down princes from their thrones, and has exalted them of low degree; the hungry He has filled with good things and the rich He has sent away,” so here those pronounced blessed are the poor in spirit, mourners, the meek, and they that hunger and thirst after righteousness. It is in no wise to the self-satisfied mind that the Lord addresses Himself; His call is not a call to exertion, not even to exertion in holiness; it were too little to say that it is an invitation to receive; it goes farther than that; it amounts to the declaration that the consciousness of having nothing, absolutely nothing, is the certain pledge of untold enrichment. So much is salvation a matter of giving on God’s part that its best subjects are those in whom His grace of giving can have its perfect work. The poor in spirit, those that mourn, the meek and the hungry, these are made to pass before our eyes as so many typical forms of its embodiment. And because this is so, they are here also introduced as having the promise of the infinite. To be a child of God and a disciple of Jesus means to hold in one’s hand the treasures of eternity.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

(2 Corinthians 7:1)

In a recent sermon, I used the verse above as my primary text to encourage the congregation regarding our obligation to seek after holiness in order to honor the Lord. In the context of this verse, Paul speaks frankly to the Corinthians, telling them that they were no longer what they used to be, morally speaking. He also quotes a promise made by God that He would dwell in them and walk among them as their God and they would be His people. For this relationship to prosper, the recently born-again Corinthians had to rid themselves of the influence of the sinful nature and give increasing expression to the new life they had received in Christ Jesus.

I imagine that this must have been an overwhelming challenge to those who lived in the culture of the first century. Corinth was a major center for commerce. All of the negative influences that could be found throughout the Empire would be present in this city. Idolatry, for example, was universal; self-gratification was the primary concern of most people. The environment encouraged rebellion against the Law of God. In time, however, the gospel was preached and the Corinthians were regenerated by the Holy Spirit. They are told that they are called to be the opposite of what they had been all their lives.

Regardless of when in history the people of God exist, this command from the apostle is always paramount. The gospel changes us by giving us a new disposition, one that is oriented toward Christ and holiness. This orientation must be nurtured and guarded and I would suggest that there are three essential and highly effective elements involved in “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

First, we must fill our hearts with the truth of God given to us in the Bible. Bible reading, Bible study, listening to Biblical sermons, and reading Biblical literature are a few of the ways in which we can saturate our minds with the principles of righteousness. With the help of the Holy Spirit, these principles soon began to produce fruit. Another way in which to establish holiness in our hearts is through interaction with other Christians. These relationships produce an atmosphere conducive to spiritual growth and the development of wisdom.

Second, we must battle against every influence of our previous nature. This requires us to avoid certain habits, perhaps, or particular places where we know temptation awaits. Relationships that will not contribute to our growth in Christ must be abandoned. Again, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will develop discernment as we become more sensitive to the contrast between the holy Word of God and the many potential transgressions that we encounter every day.

Third, we must pray. We must seek God’s help so that we can walk peacefully under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must ask God to identify those areas in our lives that are weak and need to be strengthened. We must call upon Him to reveal those subtle sinful tendencies that we might overlook.

What are you reading these days? Do you find gladness in a sermon that is true to the Word? How often do you pick up your Bible simply to read for a while? Are you being built up by Christian friends? Do you fortify yourself through prayer each day? Much grace is needed to live honorably before God in this fallen environment. It will never be easy, but it will always be our calling. Be assured that the mercy of God is abundant towards those who desire to honor Him through thankful and joyful obedience.