Competitive Holiness

ConflictIn the Book of Acts, the 15th chapter, we have the record of the Council Concerning Circumcision, where Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to face off with the Apostles and Elders. The setting was that certain people, converted Jews, were teaching the gentiles that they had to be circumcised to be converted. Paul and Barnabas went to withstand their legalism and to proclaim that God had already made clear His acceptance of the gentiles, therefor their legalism should stop.

 My first reaction to this passage is to feel affirmed that the early church was not the perfect church, free from the interjection of humanity and its complications, as we are often led to believe. They had disputes.

 One of the things I remember, now with some humor, is the days of disputes in the church. People in churches do not always get along. Is anyone surprised by this? At any place that people gather there will be differences, conflict and disputes. Guaranteed!

BurkaI remember in my youth when a church in our town split over their pursuit of holiness. The women, in those days in that church, were required to wear dresses, hems below the knees (the lower the better), no jewelry or make up, and long stockings, covering their legs. It was the early holiness movements answer to modern Islam.

Tree of Good & EvilBut, given the nature of humanity there was a dispute. There were those who wore long black socks, and others who wore long white socks. Those in the black socks camp decided that their style was more holy in that it kept the leg from resembling natural flesh, while the white socks were less holy in that they sort of simulated the color of flesh. Keeping women from attracting men was the idea, but the difference resulted in a split of the church into two churches.

 Finally, the leaders of both churches came to my dad for council. His handling of it might even warrant another addendum to Acts chapter 15, except we do not add to the Bible, do we? Dad was always filled with humor and was not afraid to speak to issues straight on. Although he tried to be as tactful as possible, he never avoided an issue. So he told them what he thought.

 He started by telling them that their women were not attractive enough to be in any danger of tempting a man to sin. He laughed at this, as did a few in the room, but, unfortunately, not all. He then got down to business. He classified the issue as competitive holiness. He explained that he saw the issue as two groups trying their best to outperform the other in competing for God’s approval of their performance. Then he told them that their attempts at righteousness were being laughed at by the rest of the world and that their isolation from reality was nothing less than self-righteous drivel.

 The room drew quite as he went on. He reminded them that self-righteousness was as filthy rags in the sight of God and that God was not ready to resolve their conflict over stocking color but was not pleased with either side. Righteousness, he proclaimed, is not a matter of performance but of yielding to the Holy Spirit. It was not something we could achieve, but something that we had to receive. It is a gift of God not a human sacrifice we offer for approval.

 Before he was through, some were weeping and others were red faced in rage. Some understood, while others went out to find new champions for their legalism.

Book Trees knowledge lifeToday, we are still in the same context, only with different issues. We still seem to think that the role of the church is to define what is good and what is evil, even though Adam and Eve, the father and mother of us all, were told to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The legal definitions of good and evil will not save, deliver or help humanity to be better or to resolve the fall. Our redemption is in the Tree of Life, first mentioned in the Garden of Eden, and later planted on Calvary’s hill. It is in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus, that redemption, holiness and salvation flows to the human race.

 We struggle in vain for human perfection, like all religions of the world. Holiness is not what I present to God, but what He presents to me. It is not in how I cover the human body, but in the covering of the sacrifice of Calvary. It is not in what I can do, but in what He has done. It is not a quest for better performance but a reliance on the finished and complete work of Jesus. It is finished. Relax! He has you covered!

You cannot become what you already are!

       Pastor Dave

 

He Leads Me Beside the Still Waters…

One of the elements of growing older is that you have so much more to look back on and so much less to look forward to. It is not a bad thing, but it is, I suppose, inevitable. Memories are landmarks of events and incidents, both good and evil, which have shaped our lives and steadied our souls. They provide a mosaic of life, in which we find the discovery or what we have become and of the abandoning of so many other things along the way.  He leads me beside the still waters… Ps. 23

Along the way you come to realize that there are things you wanted to do, that you will never do, and that there are goals you had that no longer matter. The picture of life as an expectation is reshaped by life as a realization. It is different, but it is real and it is OK! He leads me beside the still waters… Ps. 23

The question often asked by others is: What would you do differently? The answer is simple. You did what you did with imperfect foresight and through a given set of emotions, expectations and information that you had at the time. So in reality, I am not sure I would do anything different. And I suspect that in the matrix of eternity, that life is not about being right, but about being real and allowing what you are and what you are given to be shaped by the hand of the creator. You see,  we error when we think about creation as a single act at the beginning of time. Yes, there was a beginning, but there are also other creative acts that have their own beginning. I began, you began, and along life’s road we have other points of beginning, renewal, restarts and times in which creation shapes the reality that we are or the reality around us.  He leads me beside the still waters… Ps. 23

Creation is the nature of God. His plan involves a process of creation from the beginning to the end, whatever that is… In fact, we are called to partner with Him in the creative redemption of the planet and of the human race. Boy, is that a big job! There are times when the human race seems to be headed in approximately the right direction, only to make a left turn and end up going, once again, astray! I am sure God has a plan to manage His purpose and that we shall see the wonder of His grace as it is revealed in redemption. I am confident of that. He leads me beside the still waters… Ps. 23

In the meantime, there is so much about the plan and the purpose that I do not understand. The world and the people who inhabit it are a mystery to me, unfathomable by the finite mind, but faith in the God of creation eases the need to understand and the disappointment in the human race. Redemption covers it all – totally! He leads me beside the still waters… Ps. 23

I am thankful for the things I have learner, and particularly those things that I have unlearned. The unlearning is probably the hardest thing to get right. It is easy to grasp for the security of being right and to cling to presumptions and assumptions that make us feel right about ourselves, when God is not too concerned with our security and comfort, and is quite willing to pull the rug out from under us occasionally to push us into the stream of understanding. As I have said often before, God is not interested in our being right but in our being real.  He leads me beside the still waters… Ps. 23

These past several years have been some of the best in my life. I have had the opportunity to rethink everything I know and to question old perceptions and to walk in an adventure of knowing God rather than just knowing some doctrines and statements about Him. There is a difference between the two.  He leads me beside the still waters… Ps. 23

Age has a way of mellowing our omniscience. The older I become the more I understand that I know so little, yet also comprehend that God’s love is focused on me, not based on my knowledge, my performance or my logical abilities, but simply because He is love and is capable of loving us all, even me. He leads me beside the still waters… Ps. 23

I have great hopes for the future, even though I shall see little more of it. I fear for the future of our nation and of the debt I will leave to my grandchildren in the form of the national debt. Yet I also envy them, for they will have the opportunity of learning things I can only imagine and, because of the limitations of a future not yet seen, most of that future is unimaginable.  The greatest inventions and progress by humankind is yet to come. The shaping of our social structures is constantly in flex and the challenge of understanding the principles that make it work are ever being challenged and reinvented. I can only dream of what might happen and can only hope that we can get it right sometime in the future.  He leads me beside the still waters… Ps. 23

I pray that I shall be effective in the years that are yet allotted to me by being an instrument in the hands of the creator to:

  • Encourage a new generation to take their responsibility to be creative, making this world a better place.
  • Teach those principles that I know will work, in life, in ministry, in politics and in general.
  • Let love be my guide in all things, for love is both creative and reproductive.
  • Enjoy the family and friends that God has given me. They are a great treasure!
  • Continue to know more of He who died for me and who makes Himself available to us all.

He leads me beside the still waters… Ps. 23

Pastor Dave