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Holiness and Christian Hygiene

A sink for ritual hand-washing at the entrance to the Ramban Synagogue.

A Recent Church Facebook Post:

The closer you get to Jesus, the more everything else seems so unimportant.

To truly love Christ is not only to desire to be more like him, but to honor him in duty and character. My God is HOLY ♥

Yes, God is LOVE, and that is so integral to understand, but HIS Holiness is of equal if not more importance. HOLINESS looks like something, HOLINESS acts HOLY, HOLINESS loves with a HEAVENLY love, HOLINESS lives a life that honors GOD, and furthermore HOLINESS does not turn on and off, it is there in the dark and in the light, it is there at home, on the street, and church, and on social media, or Snapchat. HOLINESS honors their elders, and treats the house of God with reverence. HOLINESS holds onto the things that are important to GOD.

It is not an exploitation, a ticket to popularity, or self-exaltation. HOLINESS is always HUMBLING.

My brothers and my sisters, it is that HOLINESS that sets us apart. When we seek the face of God there should always be a pulling to separate ourselves from the things that don’t look like him! The more I know him, the more I love him, that much MORE am I aware of my unholiness, Lord let us be more like you!


A friend recently ran across this from a neighborhood church, sent it on to me, and asked what I thought of it. She said there was something about it that didn’t sit right with her, although she didn’t disagree with anything specific in the words.

I could not agree more with all of this. Even a brief look at Isaiah 6 fills the soul with this tremendous sense of reverence at the intimate unmediated presence of the HOLY.

Jesus preached constantly of the HOLY. Of the immediate presence of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven. Lots of the people around Him thought they understood what HOLY meant. Obviously… HOLY means wearing the proper godly clothes, carrying oneself in the proper righteous manner, associating only with those religiously and morally acceptable, vilifying those who were unclean, irreverent, unholy, or sinful, and certainly behaving properly in/at the Temple… respectful of her customs and leadership.

Here Jesus came… not only talking… but WALKING a lifestyle that appeared (to those who were the most expert in godly holiness) entirely UNholy… associating with fallen women, embracing sin riddled lepers, freeing demoniacs from their bondage, consorting with publicans, tax-collecting collaborators with the Romans, healing or telling others to carry forbidden things on the Sabbath, even discussing sacred things with pagans and women, defending the morally irredeemable like fornicators and adulteresses.

And yet… scripture makes clear… HOLINESS does, indeed, have an appearance. The Father is utterly HOLY. But only ONE knows what that looks like… “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.” [John 6:45b-46] Jesus, in fact, NEVER ONCE uses the word “Holy” as a descriptor of the Father. This word HOLY, (ἅγιος, -ία, -ιον), appears only 40 times in the Gospels, Twice referring to the City of Jerusalem, once describing what is not to be given to dogs, once describing a location for the Abomination of Desolation, once uttered by a demon addressing Jesus, once describing John the Baptist in the knowledge of Herod, twice describing angels, once as an angel describes Jesus, once describing the prophets of old, once describing the covenant of the law, once declaring the firstborn male of all species to be holy, and once referring to God in Luke’s rendition of the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew’s rendition uses the word “hallowed” (ἁγιάζω), more often translated “sanctified” or “rendered holy”. Every other Gospel referent to the word “Holy”, primarily spoken by Jesus, is as part of the phrase we translate “Holy Spirit”, (hagios pneuma – ἅγιος πνεῦμα).

So what? Why take so much time to look carefully at what Jesus, the Gospels, and the Bible have to say about Holy and God? Simply that humanity has a tendency to think we know better than God. That God can say something simple, like Jesus’ and John’s revelations that God IS LOVE, and that we will be known as Christians not by our apparent self-righteousness or image of holiness, but by our love for one another. [CF 1 John 3:10-5:3; John 13:34-35] Frail and foolish humanity, all too often deceived by the “appearance” and “status-driven” appetites of power, politics, economics, and social esteem, tend to look upon the “appearance” of the self-righteous and holy-sounding, without seeing the heart as God sees people.

Jesus was both grieved and sickened by such hypocrisy. One day, the religious leaders (whose job they felt it was to defend the Holy at all costs), pointed out the sinful way Jesus and his disciples were eating, having neglected to wash properly, thus disrespecting what they called the “tradition of the elders”. Jesus names them outright, “hypocrites”, quoting Isaiah’s excoriation of them and stating, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men… You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’;, and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God); you no longer permit him to do anything for his father and mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many such things as that.” [Mark 7:6-13]

Those consumed with religiosity and theology, tend to succumb to the arrogance that they can “define” such words as “righteousness” or “holiness” as things in themselves… free standing concepts apart from the character and nature of God Himself. The problem is, such concepts have true meaning only WITHIN the character and nature of God Himself.

Both Jesus and John assure us that LOVE is not simply a “characteristic”, or an “accidental or subsequent descriptor” of God. Love is not just “one among many features” of God. Love is an essential NAME of God. And SO is HOLY, by the way. And so is RIGHTEOUSNESS. None of these words, these concepts, these names, have meaning or can reflect Truth, without being grounded in one another.

That is… without Love, there is no Holiness. Holiness is one expression of Perfect Love. And Love is one expression of Perfect Holiness. Righteousness is an expression of Love, and Love always expresses itself Righteously… never by corruption or exploitation or cruelty.

I agree wholeheartedly with the initial thesis of the Facebook post… but it seems incumbent upon any careful scriptural scholar to hasten to point out that just as God is Himself Indivisible, so too is His Nature and are His Names.

Fortunately, for those of us who diligently seek to know, love, and see the face of God…

Philip shared that passion. “Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” [John 14:8-15]

An Ultimate Definition of HOLINESS Perhaps?

Holiness is patient, Holiness is kind and is not jealous; Holiness does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Holiness never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.  [CF I Cor 13:4-10]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great Questions — The Littlest Question

©1982KatherineBrown

©1982KatherineBrown

“How do I LIVE in Christ, right here, right now, day to day?”

THAT, I call “the littlest question”. That is a question of “how?”, not of “Who?” or of “What?”. That is a question of “little me”, not “All Mighty God”, or “The Mighty Counselor”, or “The Messiah”, or “The Savior”. That is a question of right here, right now, not “In Eternity”, “In the Cosmos”, or “From the Beginning of Time”.

As Christian bloggers, as ministers of the gospel, as church people, as teachers/preachers, we spend much of our time dealing with “The Great Questions!” “Who/What is God and His Nature?”, “What is Truth?”, “What is Forgiveness and how Often?”, “How Should the Bride of Christ, The Church, Run?“, and so on. Those are decidedly GOOD questions. They explore our relationship with God as we seek to know Him intimately and thus experience eternal life. Nothing wrong with such questions. I spend much time in them, as do others.

But, once in a while I am reminded of the fundamental simplicity of Christ. Recently I was reminded, by someone INSISTING that I address a single, very simple question. It shames me to confess, their question was so fundamental and so simple, and I spend so much time “in my head” with the great and mighty questions, that for far too long… I couldn’t even HEAR their question properly.

What was the question?

“HOW… in practical terms… How am I supposed to LIVE, as a Christian?”

Every time I answered, the person shook their head and said, “I HEAR that, but I don’t know how to DO that! I hear that from you, I see that in Scripture, I hear that in Church… but when it comes right down to it, I don’t know what that all MEANS outside of church, prayer and religion. HOW do I DO that?”

I realized that THEY were not the one “not getting it”. THEY weren’t “dense”. *I* was. *I* wasn’t getting it, *I* was being slow on the uptake. I didn’t know why communication wasn’t happening, so I backed up a moment to take my confusion to Jesus, and He showed me the problem. It made me blush then, and it makes me blush now.

I kept giving them “Great Question” answers. You know… “Love God with all your…”, “Love as Jesus loves…”, “Forgive always…” so on and so on. I kept answering the “What?”‘s of Christian living. They weren’t ASKING me about “What?” or “Why?” or “Who?”… they got all that. They knew all that. They were asking “HOW?”, and I was utterly failing to respond. What’s more, truthfully, I didn’t KNOW. I hadn’t “thought about it”. It all seems so complicated… “How do you live a perfect (as Jesus commanded at the end of Sermon on the Mount) Christian life?” So many rules. So many opinions. So many interpretations. So many traditions. What was I to say?

So, as I stopped my speaking, closed my eyes, backed up… and “punted”… I prayed, then shut up and listened. “Lord? What’s wrong here? Why are we not connecting? I’m missing something critical here.”

And, at first, all I could hear was Jesus’ laughter. Rather like we laugh when watching a kitten tie themselves up in a big ball of yarn. Not “making fun” so much as “recognizing the absurdity of the moment”. His laughter calmed me in the sense that I knew I wasn’t “misleading” or “speaking less than Truth” here, but I remained confused for the moment.

“You’re just making things all too complicated,” He said. “HOW do you live out love? If you want to focus on one, single, behavior that will have the greatest impact on letting Me be Me in you… ‘be KIND’! The closest human label and emotion to ‘agape’ in behavior, is ‘kindness’. Tell him to go out tomorrow, and every day, in every encounter, making every decision, in the kindest way and being kind to everyone. He will know, as do you and everyone else, when he is being ‘unkind’ and ‘selfish’. Tell him, simply to ‘be kind’, and then follow up from there with him later.”

And so I did.

That has affected me since. I’ve looked at that aspect of my Crystal Rose now from many angles. It’s true. “Kindness” in the way we mean that, is central to all of the Old Law. Central to the Gospels. If we were to line up all the encounters of Jesus, and ask what central characteristic they hold in common, His kindness would be atop the list.

Kindness… to be consistently Kind… is very very simple.

It is also very very hard!

Want the Scriptural take on all this?

Read over the entirety of 1 Corinthians 13 for a moment. (It’s a comparatively short chapter. Go ahead and look at it… I’ll wait here.)

<<     Hums the Final Jeopardy theme music tune here, waiting patiently….  >>

Finished? Good. Now watch this…

In all that chapter, Paul deals with “love”, and simple behaviors, after opening with matters of Great Questions. After all, Paul’s epistles constantly deal with Great Questions and Weighty Matters… the nature of God, the nature of the Church, the nature of Salvation, discipline in the church, the nature of ministry, the qualifications of ministers… and on… and on… and on. We base much of our Great Question dialogue grounded in the writings of Paul. As I said, nothing wrong with that.

But! We can lose sight of the simple fact that over and over and over, Paul is ALSO “making new believers”! He is evangelizing. He is sharing the SIMPLE Good News of the arrival of Jesus, His Kingdom, and the freedom in our lives of our redemption. Paul doesn’t plunge new believers into heady debate about “to meat or not to meat”, or lots of other things. He speaks of Christ, of His love, of Christ come, and crucified, and risen.

The KEY verse, in all of 1 Corinthians 13, I believe to be Verse Four:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant…”

As I’ve looked and pondered these things, the opening verses deal with the Great Questions! You can have all the “Great Answers”, and do all the “Great Things”… but without this bedrock, this “love” thing… that’s all meaningless. Everything before verse four, seems to lead up to verse four. Everything after verse four, seems only to expand on and refine it.

“Patient, kind, no jealousy or ego…”

To brag and be arrogant are based in pride, and pride (wounded) is part and parcel of jealousy.

So… right here, in front of man and God and everybody, I say openly… “If you want to live out the perfect Christian life, and have the love of Christ flow through you to others, focus behaviors on ‘patient, kind, not ego-bound'”.

There’s HOW!

One last note. Think about, in your own life, those persons… those (usually) handful of persons… who have really “shone Christ” in your own life to you. You know who I mean, the one’s who, when you spend time with them, leave you sensing the nearness and presence of Christ more strongly than you did before. Those ones that just ‘cover you up in’ the Father’s love, the Son’s Forgiveness, the Holy Spirit’s presence. The ones you reach towards when you feel that need for the tangible presence of Jesus.

Now, ask yourself,  “is that person patient? kind? and humble (ego-free)” in their dealings with me?

Let us, then, go and do likewise.

Grace to you, Gentle Reader — The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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