Holy Living

More on the same theme as my last post.

1 Peter 1:15–16 (NLT) says, “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’”

When Scripture says we are to be holy, what does that mean to you?  I ask because for many of us the concept of being holy seems a little mysterious or at least had to understand in the context of our daily life. After all, this passage seems to be talking about everyday living.

We often say it’s about being “sanctified.”  Does that help?  For many that’s just another word we don’t understand.  How about being “set apart for God?” That may be a little easier to understand when we think of a metaphor of dishes or cutlery that is set apart for special occasions. But holiness is to be an everyday part of our lives. So how are we set apart for God each and every day?

We may think of being holy in terms of what we don’t do. Maybe it’s seen in a rhyme I heard as a child. “I don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t chew and don’t go out with girls who do!” While being holy does avoid some behaviours, surely there is more to it than that?

A more positive statement is that being holy involves our becoming more like God. He is our father, and manty of us can identify with the idea of children playing and acting like or mimicking their fathers. That gives another point of view of holiness, but maybe we don’t quite see how we can be like God.

When we become a Christian, God has made us holy. So we are holy because God says so; however what I am talking about today is the role we play in becoming holy like God.

We often think of Love as a feeling, but God shows us that true love involves actions. In other words, because I love, I do certain things.  Similarly faith invokes actions.  Thus the Hebrew writer will remind us that by faith Noah built, Abraham left, etc.  In the same way we want to think of being holy as resulting in actions toward others.

Just as God has been acting to make His relationship with man better throughout history. Jesus shows this meaning of holiness in his daily walk as he served and taught his followers to be more concerned about serving others than being served themselves.

Jesus explained, for example, that “Do not commit adultery” actually calls us to build wholesome and holy relationships and “Do not bear false witness” has the intent of calling us to be totally honest. So being holy is less about what scared people avoid than what changed people do.  It’s doing these good deeds, not because we are good people, but because we are God’s people, and that’s an important difference in our motivations.

Let me suggest that when we are showing kindness, even in small ways and helping make other people’s lives better we are acting like God, and therefore grow in being holy.  That might be as simple as giving someone a shopping cart rather than going back to get your quarter. It might be in giving a simple gift, or a drink of water.

We do that not because we are good people, but because we want to be transformed and be more like God.

Do you agree that this is a legitimate approach to being holy? How have you practiced being holy today?

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September 25, 2012 at 3:24 pm Leave a comment

What Does Everyday Holiness Look Like?

While there are theological definitions of holiness and being or becoming holy, they sometimes seem more remote than that which we can apply to our daily lives.

In one sense, it’s becoming more like God.  But even that can seem to allude us.

My son recently posted a blog that he entitled, “How A Simple Act of Kindness Can Change a Life.” I don’t remember the word “holy” being used, but if we were to practice what he is encouraging, I think we would come across to our friends and neighbours as being holy.

Click here to read his article or go tohttp://www.moneyhelpforchristians.com/how-a-simple-act-of-kindness-can-change-a-life/ and then leave a comment to let me know if you agree that this will help us to be more like God and to be seen as being more like him.

Blessings,

September 19, 2012 at 5:08 pm Leave a comment

All Authoritative Word (3)

In the last two posts, I have suggested that the Bible can be trusted 1) historically and 2) culturally.

The third and most important way we can trust the Bible is personally. Some will suggest that thinking we need to submit to the Bible personally makes for a very is cold, legalistic faith.   However I want you to consider the idea that taking the Bible as authoritative in your life is really the basis of a warm and personal relationship with God.

Lu 24:32.  These disciples said their hearts were burning within them. To us, the heart is seat of emotion.  To the first readers, it was seen as the centre of the whole person, so they were saying that they felt an uncontrollable desire for relationship. In vs. 20-21 they noted that he died, but we had hoped he was the one. Jesus says, you misunderstand Scripture.  Christ had to die.  We must understand v. 27 where Jesus began with Moses and prophets he explained about his own life.  Bible isn’t about me, it’s about Jesus.  If its’ about me, I don’t need a Messiah, just the rules. Jesus says, no, its all about me and what I have done for you.

As our hearts burn, we must realize it’s about my encounter with Jesus.

Your hearts won’t be satisfied until you see Scripture is about him and is all authoritative.

In a relationship there is tension. We find that in our marriages and in all fulfilling relationships in life. We learn in a lasting relationship to build relationship in spite of, and through our tensions as we overcome then. It is that way in our relationship with God.

How does God speak to us and contradict us if he isn’t authoritative.  If there is no tension between us and God, it’s likely that we don’t have anything more than a god we have created in our own image. He becomes something we create rather than who he is.  As we struggle with the differences we have with God and his word, we develop relationship. It is through that struggle that we learn to take him at his word and to trust him as the one who knows better than we do.

August 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm Leave a comment

All Authoritative Word (2)

In my last post, I tried to give some evidence that Scripture can be accepted as being historical. Today, I want to give some evidence as to why we should not reject if for Cultural reasons.

People are more troubled today by cultural aspects than the historical.  Seems too regressive for our sophisticated minds.  The list of things that offend is a long one. I think that most who have read the Bible seriously have found their cultural sensibilities at odds with the words of Scripture. When that happens, there are some who are ready to cast aside Scripture and keep the values they cherish.

In that light, let me challenge you in three areas.

First, consider the possibility that it doesn’t teach what you think it does.On the road to Emaus (Luke 24:13-35) the two disciples  were upset mainly because they didn’t understand correctly what the O.T. taught so Jesus explained what it really taught.Is it possible that you, or a loved family member haven’t really  understood the Bible’s teachings.

  • For example, some are offended by the way the heroes of Genesis treat women .  There is polygamy. and the buying and selling of wives. In his book, Art of Biblical Narrative, Robert Altar points out that there are two institutions in ancient cultures that were everywhere.  Polygamy and Primogeniture.  (oldest son inheriting everything).  As you read the Genesis narrative you find polygamy reeks havoc in family after family.   Nothing good comes out of it. As well, in every generation God counters primogeniture.  Able is chosen, not Cain, Isaac not Ishmael, Jacob not Esau. Rather than supporting these offending cultural institutions the Genesis narrative subverts them.

When you come to realize this, you ask yourself, what if I had just dropped Bible and Christianity because I didn’t understand this?  It doesn’t teach what I thought it taught.

Secondly, what if we misunderstand because culturally because we read it with modern understandings, and may miss the message?  On Emaus road, they misunderstood because they were looking at the death of Jesus from the point of view of the redemption of Israel from the Romans, and not the whole world.  Even without the passing of centuries, they wore cultural blinders. It is so easy to read a passage through cultural blinders.

  • What about slavery? It’s wrong and yet the Bible condones it.  A speaker at a local Ontario high school boldly pointed out that the Bible is wrong on slavery. As a gay activist, he then posed the question asking how many other things it might also have wrong.
  • Does the Bible condone slavery?  Go into Philemon and look at how Paul talks, it becomes obvious that it’s more like “indentured service” rather than the slavery of the 17th 19th century here in N. America that was race based. Murray Harris on slavery in 1st Century Graeco Roman world pointed out some things about slavery in that culture that are different than what we think of when we speak of slavery.
  1. Slaves were not distinguishable by race, speech or clothing. Never segregated.
  2. Often more educated than their owners
  3. Financially, made same wages as free labours so were not disadvantaged financially.
  4. Most were free within 10 years or by their late thirties, at latest.

Contrasted with race based slavery for life that was initiated by kidnapping which is condemned in 1 Tim 1:10 and Deut. 24:7,  N.T. teaching about slavery didn’t concern what existed in the Americas, and what we often think of as slavery in our history, or even as it exists today.  N. T. teaching lead to Christians taking up the charge to abolish slavery in the Americas and Europe  when they saw it didn’t fit with what the Bible taught. Slave owners who used Bible to support their slavery were reading through their own cultural bias which twisted the meaning of slavery. When you are offended culturally, consider the possibility that you are misunderstanding because you are reading it in light of your own cultural bias.

Third, you may be offended because you hold an unexamined assumption of the superiority of our present culture.  Things are a problem in our culture, but in other cultures it will not be a problem but what is offensive here won’t be there. In our society the Bible teaching on sex is a problem, but the teaching on forgiveness fits right into our society where guilt is to be done away with. But if you were to Go to Middle East.  Bible teaching on sex might be seen as good, (may not be strict enough), but what the Bible teaches about forgiveness makes no sense at all  in a shame based culture.

If you are offended, why should your cultural sensibilities trump everyone else’s? Why get rid of it because it offends you. Our great grandchildren will be embarrassed by some of the things we believe today.  We don’t know which ones they will be.  It will happen in the same way that we are embarrassed by some of the beliefs our great grandparents believed.

Consider this.  If Bible comes from God, wouldn’t it have to contradict cultural sensibilities at some point.  Maybe the fact that it does ts a reason to say it is from God. Should my range of beliefs today judge the Bible, especially when I realize that  I may be turning my back on the Bible because of a belief that neither I nor society will hold 50 years from now.

Because I am culturally offended is not sufficient reason to set aside the Bible as God’s Word.

August 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm Leave a comment

God’s All Authoritative Word

As I deal with the topic of God’s authoritative word, I will lean heavily on Tim Keller’s research on this topic.

As Christians we will often have conversations with people who express concerns about the Bible.  They may suggest that there are many good things in the bible, but warn that it shouldn’t be taken too seriously, and certainly not literally. They may question its historical accuracy and want us not to insist that people accept everything, especially those that our culture might now consider bad, wrong or even culturally regressive values. After all., we live in a fairly sophisticated and have moved on from some of those values.

However, I want to argue today that you should and can trust the Bible historically, culturally and personally.  I will take at least three posts to deal with each of these areas.

First, Historically.

Dan Brown in books like The DaVinci Code has had an impact on people’s thinking as he suggests the New Testament as we know it is just a story concocted by the church 70 to 100 years after Jesus death.  The claim is that Church leaders suppressed evidence and wrote a fictitious account.

I don’t believe that is the case, and I want to share some reasons why you can trust the historical accuracy of Scripture.

1. The New Testament books were written too early to be legend.  Luke tell us in chapter 1 that he checked the accounts of eye witnesses.  Furthermore he seems to be saying that Theopholus can also check with them.  Earlier Paul had written 1 Cor. 15 many saw Jesus after his resurrection.  Once  as many as 500 in one place, and he adds that many are still alive.  Phil 2 he quotes a hymn about 15 years after death.  Christians were already claiming Jesus was God based on the resurrection.  These documents were shared publicly, yet they survived scrutiny.

The Da Vinci Code claims Constantine in 325 decreed the divinity of Jesus.  As we have noted already, this teaching was being heralded from beginning.  One historian says that Brown says Christianity won the battle for the hearts and minds because of Constantine’s degree (power) rather than by any attraction it asserted, but in historical fact the church won that battle while still under persecution.  Perhaps Constantine selected the winner, rather than creating it!

2. The New Testament is too counterproductive in its content to be legend. If some 70 or more years following the death of Jesus you wanted to create a story elevating him to a God, some things that are included in Scripture would not be there.

  1. Would they have included Jesus in the garden asking God if he could get out of the process? Let this cup pass from me?
  2. Jesus on the cross asking why God had forsaken him.
  3. At a time when women’s testimony was worthless in legal matters, would you have written that the first eye witnesses were women?
  4. Apostles were the forerunners to those who would be leaders a few years later, yet they are often look like bumblers and cowards in the New Testament.   The fact that it is true becomes the best explanation for this  making its way into Scripture.

3. New Testament writings are too detailed in their form to be legends.  It wasn’t until the 18th century we developed a genre called the novel or short story with realistic fiction  that includes many details in invented stories.  Greek and Roman myths don’t have claims like Luke 1.  CS Lewis says no legends are like the Gospels.  Think about the early epics you may have read. Either these are real, or the New Testament writers came up with a genre of literature that disappeared for several hundred years after they used it.

Yes, there is evidence (this and much more) that we can accept the New Testament as a historical document.  I won’t deal with the Old Testament here, but will just comment that Jesus accepted it as being a historical accounting.

July 31, 2012 at 9:15 am Leave a comment

No, I Didn’t Die!

It has now been 5 months since my last post.  This one will be short.  I am going to try from now on to post something here once every week to ten days.  We will see how that goes.

Having said that, I will be away for a week, so this may not get off to a good, or at least a quick start.

I will begin by sharing a few posts on the topic of worship.

“The great thing, and the only thing, is to adore and praise God.”

— Thomas Merton

“Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God as misers do in gold, and kings in scepters, you can never enjoy the world.”

— Thomas Traherne

“The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.”

— C. S. Lewis

“We should dedicate ourselves to becoming in this life the most perfect worshippers of God we can possibly be, as we hope to be through all eternity.”

— Brother Lawrence

 

Something to think about.

 

Blessings,

Art

July 28, 2012 at 12:21 pm Leave a comment

The Fruit of the Spirit

In doing some research  for a series of sermons I am now doing on the fruit of the spirit, one of the commentaries I looked at suggested that a good alternative translation would be the harvest of the spirit.  That idea resonated with me.  When the Spirit comes to live with us, there is a harvest that becomes available to us, as we follow the Spirit’s leading.

The Spirit leads like a GPS. He’s always with us, giving nudges and directions, especially through the Word, but never forcing us to follow the lead.  Here is where our own volition and desires to follow his leading come into the picture.

It seems to me this is what Paul means when he says to the Philippian Christians,Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.”  Phil 2:12.  Other translations use the prhase, “work out your salvation.” The Spirit has a role, but we also have a role as we work with Him and follow his leading rather than going off on our own ways.  That rebellion often means we follow the lead of our culture rather than the lead of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit wants to provide a harvest in your life.  Mine too.  Are we ready?

 

February 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm Leave a comment

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