Thoughts to Ponder

Be Holy

Something that is rarely taught these days is holiness. We are told that God loves us just the way we are. We are told that we should think more highly of ourselves since God thinks so highly of us.

We tell people they should accept Christ as their Savior, as if He might feel rejected if they don't. We use everything we can think of to sell Christ to the world as if He were a commodity. We often forget to tell people that they owe a debt that they can't afford to pay. We forget to tell them that God does love them, but that they are under His righteous judgment and their only hope is forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

Another thing we fail to tell them while we are selling the gospel to them is that Jesus warned anyone who decided to follow Him that they should weigh the decision carefully to see if they could follow through. (Luke 14:27-30 NIV) And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. {28} "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? {29} For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, {30} saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'"

We do people a disservice when we don't tell them the cost as well as the benefits to giving their lives to Christ. Yes there is a cost, if you truly follow Christ. You will lose friends, you will be talked about, you will have to change your lifestyle.

God does not love and accept us just as we are. He loves us yes, He accepts our weaknesses, but He also demands that we live the kind of lives that He finds pleasing. We can say that we love our children unconditionally and we do accept them unconditionally in those areas where they have no control, but none of us if we are good parents accepts our children's actions if they are disobedient. God is called our Father, and He has a lot in common with earthly parents. He loves us unconditionally, and He accepts those things about us which we have no control over, unconditionally, but He does not accept our disobedience.

(Leviticus 20:7 NIV) Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. God has not stopped being holy since this verse was written. People discount this type of verse because it was written in the Old Testament and we are not under the Law. It was written to the Israelites and therefore has no application to us today. That all sounds good, but it is not accurate. Oh it is technically accurate, but has God changed? Has He decided it is no use trying to get His people to be holy? No.

(Romans 12:1-2 NIV) Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. {2} Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. We are not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world. We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Sounds pretty close to that verse in Leviticus doesn't it? When was the last time you heard that from the pulpit? When was the last time you were told to live a holy life because God commanded it?

(Ephesians 5:1-7 NIV) Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children {2} and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. {3} But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. {4} Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. {5} For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. {6} Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. {7} Therefore do not be partners with them. Read these verses very carefully. Not even a hint of sexual immorality, or impurity or greed. No foolish talk or coarse joking. The church today often winks at or smiles at this kind of behavior. We don't seem to take it seriously.

We make statements to the effect that God understands our weaknesses, as if disobedience is a weakness. It is a sin and it is time we started realizing that. Salvation does not give us a license to sin. Salvation frees us from slavery to sin. With that freedom comes the responsibility to live holy lives.

(1 Thessalonians 4:7 NIV) For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Here again we see that we were called to live holy lives.

(Hebrews 12:14 NIV) Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. This passage makes it clear that without holiness no one will see the Lord. So why don't we teach this in our churches? Why do we allow people to think that all God requires is that they repent of their sins at one moment in time? We make it sound like that is the end of our responsibility, after that the ball is in God's court not ours.

We don't even bother to tell people that they must continue in the faith that they had when they first believed. Yet the Bible makes it clear that they must: (Romans 11:17-22 NIV) If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, {18} do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. {19} You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." {20} Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. {21} For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. {22} Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. (Emphases added) Why don't we preach this?

(James 2:20-22 NIV) You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? {21} Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? {22} You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. Many people will twist what James said and try to claim he is preaching works salvation, but that is not true. He is saying that if you truly believe your life will show evidence of that faith. How can you claim to have faith if you refuse to put that faith to work? This is not spoken of today either. I guess we are afraid that if we tell people they will have to change their lifestyles and start living holy lives they might decide that the price is too high and turn away. I think that is a very real possibility, but that is no reason not to preach the truth. Remember the passage I quoted earlier from Luke 14:27-30, where Jesus tells us to count the cost of discipleship? Why would He tell us that unless there was a cost?

The cost is self-denial, we must put our wants behind God's wants. We must change our lives to conform to His will. (1 Peter 1:14-16 NIV) As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. {15} But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; {16} for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

A whole segment of the Christian community will disagree with what I have said in this devotional. Some very well respected Pastor/Teachers disagree. I don't write these devotionals to get people to agree with me or to get people to change their minds, I write them so that people will think about (ponder) their faith and learn to judge everything they hear by God's word. Therefore I want to examine their disagreement with what I have pointed to in Scripture.

The argument goes something like this: "Legalism is wrong and it is legalism anytime you tell someone they have to do or live a certain way to please God." That is their basic argument and I would agree with it if it were used in context. Legalism is wrong, but what is often called legalism is no more then a call to obedience.

Let me give you an example of both so that you can see what I am talking about. If I tell you that you must read your Bible at least 30 minutes per day and go to church at least 3 times per week to please God and thereby continue in the faith, that is legalism. I won't deny that it is important for Christians to read their Bibles or to have fellowship with other believers, but our salvation is in no way based on our doing these things. Here is the second example. If I tell you that you must abstain from sexual impurity, that you must not lie, cheat, or otherwise live a worldly life, that is not legalism, it is obedient living according to biblical standards (which I have already shown above).

Now the question might be asked, is obedience required for continuing in the faith? I think the answer is yes. (Hebrews 10:26-27 NIV) If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, {27} but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Notice this passage does not say, nor does it mean, that if you stumble and fall into sin you have lost your salvation. We are all capable of stumbling and sinning, but when a Christian sins it should be so out of character for them that they instantly feel remorse and want to get back into a right relationship with God. The 26th verse says 'if we deliberately keep on sinning' which shows a wanton disregard for Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. It also shows a wanton disregard for God's grace through which we have obtained salvation. How can we claim to be believers and yet disregard these things? I say we can't.

Don't be fooled, God has not changed and will never change. (Ezekiel 18:24 NIV) "But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die." (Ezekiel 33:18-19 NIV) If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it. {19} And if a wicked man turns away from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he will live by doing so. (John 15:5-6 NIV) "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. {6} If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." (Emphasis added)

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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