Thursday, January 15, 2009

Spiritual Warfare and Holiness

In our day there has been a movement away from holiness. Certainly our culture promotes such a movement but I believe in some ways the church does also. There are a few, (thankfully), modern writers who proclaim that a believer does not need to confess their sins because the sin issue was taken care of at the Cross. That is a half truth, the sin issue was taken care of at Calvary, however the Scriptures are clear on the subject of repentance and confession of sin. The issue of sin is of great importance in the life of a believer. We know that plants grow where conditions are favorable. The same is true of the evil in us. The more we indulge in evil, the more powerful the evil becomes. Eventually, we may reach the point where evil controls us. There are many myths concerning holiness. Myth 1: I could never be holy. Response: You already are. Myth 2: Being holy means that I will be so heavenly minded that I will not be any earthly good. Response: Jesus was so heavenly minded that he did the most earthly good. A genuine "heavenly mindedness" will enable us to overcome earthly circumstances and fears. Myth 3: Being holy involves a complete denial of all of my own personal desires and hopes. Response: Those hopes and desires are submitted to the Lordship of Christ. He returns a thousand-fold on them by molding them in a way that glorifies Him and then meeting them beyond our wildest expectations. Myth 4: Since all my sins are forgiven in Christ, holiness is not an important issue for me. Response: God grants us holiness in Christ, but calls us to a lifestyle that expresses what we are. Why should those who are holy return to unholy living, unless they are deceived that such living is of greater significance (or fun) than righteous living. We must come to grips with the "beast in the basement" of our own house. Two passages in Romans are significant in this regard: Romans 6:12-14: "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. Paul exhort us to to let sin reign in our bodies. As people, we have two options: 1. Place the parts of our bodies (i.e. any natural capacity we have) as weapons or instruments of sin. Sin is a General that uses our natural capacities as weapons in the battle it fights. Paul exhorts us to stop placing ourselves at sin's disposal in this war. 2. Offer ourselves to God and our "members as weapons in the service of righteousness". The "war" vocabulary is a reminder that this is as genuine battle that we face. Romans 7:14-25 tells us of the reality of the Christian's struggle. 1. Paul's central idea is that this passage refers to mature Christians. 2. Paul addresses whether the law is evil. He concludes that is is not, but that sin utilized the law to work its evil in man. Indeed, that is why the law was given-to show sin for what it is. 3. The believer exists in tension-(s)he is a saint who still wrestles with sin. Hendriksen remarks: "For the present, the Christian is living in an era in which two stages, the old and the new, overlap. There was a time when Paul was exclusively a sinner. There will be a time when he will be exclusively a saint. Right now, as he is dictating this letter, he is a sinner-saint. A "saint", to be sure; but also still a "sinner", hence the tension, the inner conflict. It is a struggle which every true believer experiences" (Hendriksen, Romans, p232). Let's examine Satan's enticement to evil. Satan is not so much creative as discreative-he takes the good that God has created and perverts it (e.g., love turns to lust or protectionism or control over another). There are several sources of enticement to evil which include the world (or domination system), the flesh, and the devil. While Satan may use a "back door" approach (by enticing us through the world or our flesh; we must recognize that he is not the only source of the temptations we face. Our own former participation in the ways of the world serves as a constant drawing force against which we must fight. There are three major sources of sin: 1. Pride. "There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty" C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity pp 108-9. Pride: the attitude that says we can do it on our own. Ultimately it is a denial of our dependence on God for life itself. Proverbs warns against pride. Proverbs 8:13 "To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech." Proverbs 29:23 "A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor." Pride is woven into the very fabric of our culture. Few of us ever realize its existence, let alone its extent. Curiously, pride is the very quality we try to inculcate into our children for their good. We define it, to be sure, as self-respect. In other words we teach our children as we were taught ourselves-to overcome weaknesses and vices by pride. Pride is at heart competitive-it gets no pleasure out of something, only out of having more of it than the next man. Ultimately, to be fulfilled, pride must even look down at God. Thus it is viewed as the core of sin and at the heartbeat of evil. 2. Anger: (linked to pride) the emotional response to dealing with someone who has blocked me in my pursuits. All of us have experienced anger, and anger that is left unresolved over past hurts forms a motivational core that drives the way we live our day to day lives. 3. Lust: All of us want to avoid emptiness and find satisfaction. Often we think of earthly things as essential to meeting this need. Lust is when we allow these desires to control us and lead us away from God's provisions. In I John 2:16, two types of lust are noted: 1. Lust of the flesh: the appetites of the flesh (physical needs including food, drink, sex, sleep). 2. Lust of the eyes: the things of life that we do not need yet want (greed or coveting things aroused by seeing them-materialism is a basic idea). This form of lust is aroused by visual stimuli-such as advertisements that entice us pictorially to purchase a product. Most generally speaking, lust is essentially unbridled appetite or desire. It is not ever really conquered for all time. Rather, it is held in check on a moment-by-moment basis. For example, we do not conquer hunger by stuffing ourselves once-as soon as the food is digested we are ready for (and in need of) more. Maintaining holiness: Confession and repentance. "Mercy is persistently meaningful only to the degree I am silenced by the enormity of my refusal to love God and others with my whole heart, soul, strength, and mind" Allender and Longman, Bold Love, pp. 80-81. Confession: We cannot deny our own sin and have fellowship with God (I John 1:8-9). Sin here probably refers to our nature and not just our individual sins. Those who make this claim deceive themselves and the truth is not in them-they have lied even to themselves. Those who confess their sins, however, are assured of God's forgiveness. Confess their sins (note the plural), not just their sin nature but the sins themselves. To "confess" (to say the same) is simply to agree with God concerning our sin. The present tense indicates that it is a continuous process. The promised result is a sure cleansing, because God is faithful to do as He promised. He is faithful to His covenant promise to forgive. He is just-He forgives us on the basis of Christ's death (a judicial act). This does not demand moment-by-moment introspection based on the idea that every single sin breaks fellowship. The focus of the perfect tense is a continual problem, i.e., giving into sin. This could be individual sin or it may be a series of sins leading to a continual defeat. In light of the promise given here, the sense is to admit our sins to God and to rest in the assurance of His promised forgiveness. God will never, ever refuse to forgive us when we repent of, and confess our sins. We can be confident that our confession will be heard and we will be cleansed as a result. Repentance: Repentance is intimately intertwined with confession. It is the act of turning away from sin. Genuine confession cannot be separated from repentance. We not only repent before God, we must also be willing to repent before the other who has been sinned against. Unholy living gives our common enemy an opportunity to influence our lives. We need a revival of holiness starting in our lives and spreading to our churches.

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