Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Be Holy, For He is Holy

I have been reading a book by Andrew Murray entitled: ‘Holy in Christ: Thoughts on the Calling of God’s Children to be Holy as He is Holy’ (which I would highly recommend). While I was reading today riding the train in to work, I was struck by something that Murray said. He said that while we, Christians, can search for holiness, and very well we should, that those who are often the most holy are those who do not think about it. At first I was puzzled by what he could mean, but as I continued to read I came to better understand his statement and the meaning behind it. He states that while we should strive to be holy here on earth, it should not be our goal. He says that even though we are called to be holy as Christ is holy, it is not holiness that we must seek. Rather, we should seek Christ, first and foremost.

Holiness is not developed and cultivated by a desire to be holy in and of itself. It is developed through an insatiable desire to become more like Christ, to fill oneself with nothing but the Holy Spirit. Murray says, “As you hear the command, Be holy, as I am holy, let faith claim the promise, and answer, I will be holy, O Most Holy God! if Thou, the Holy One wilt dwell with me.” It is only through our sanctification that we become holy, or more Christ-like. It is because Jesus is the God-Man that He is able to save us and provide for us a path to holiness. If He were only a man He could only save Himself, however, since He is the God-Man He is able to save to the utmost.

Murray, in discussing holiness, reflects on those who are humble and the ways that their humbleness is caused and affected by Jesus’ holiness. He says, 

The humble find the Holy One. Just when the consciousness of sin and weakness, and the discovery of how much of self there is, makes you fear that you can never be holy, the Holy One gives Himself. Not as you look at self, and seek to know whether now you are contrite and humble enough – no, but when no longer looking at self, because you have given up all hope of seeing anything in it but sin, you look up to the Holy One, you will see how His promise is your only hope. It is in faith that the Holy One is revealed to the contrite soul. Faith is ever the opposite of what we see and feel; it looks to God alone. And it believes that in its deepest consciousness of unholiness, and its fear that it never can be holy, God, the Holy One, who makes holy, is near as Redeemer and Saviour. And it is content to be low, in the consciousness of unworthiness and emptiness, and yet to rejoice in the assurance that God Himself does take possession and revive the heart of the contrite one. Happy the soul who is willing at once to learn the lesson that, all along, it is going to be the simultaneous experience of weakness and power, of emptiness and filling, of deep, real humiliation, and the as real and most wonderful indwelling of the Holy One.”

The idea that we must be holy is not a suggestion from Scripture. It is a command. However, there is nothing that we can do to be holy in and of ourselves. We must be changed and filled with something completely foreign to our own selves; otherwise we would never become holy. In discussing the way that God is holy, Murray says this, 

Holy, the Father, God above us, High and Lifted up, whom no man hath seen or can see, whose Holiness none dare approach, but who doth Himself in His Holiness draw nigh to make holy. Holy, the Son, God with us, revealing Divine Holiness in human life, maintaining it amid the suffering of death for us, and preparing a holy life and nature for His people. Holy, the Spirit, God in us, the Power of Holiness within us, reaching out to and embracing Christ, and transforming our inner life into the union and communion of Him in whom we are holy.”

Therefore, let us strive to be holy as God is holy, yet without human strength. Let us lean upon the mercies of our Savior as the Father pours out the Spirit in and through us. It is only through searching for Jesus that we will become holy, for we have nothing to bring to the table in order to partake of any holiness or to become such in our own standing.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Soveriegnty of God's Decree

Recently I have seen and heard many posts and comments from people stating that they believe that it is possible to be neither a Calvinist nor an Arminianist in their doctrinal beliefs about salvation and justification. My first response is disbelief, quickly followed by sadness. Disbelief that someone that is trying to claim to believe in the God of the Bible is so easily persuaded that a doctrinal stance is not necessary. Sad that this proclamation, or lack thereof, is so readily accepted by the masses and hailed as wise and deeply thought out. It is neither wise, nor deeply thought out. It is foolish to think that you do not believe in one or the other of these two doctrinal stances. Frankly, you have to believe in one or the other if you call yourself a Christian. One is born out of a small view of God and the other out of a great, or large, view of God. 

Calvinists believe that God is Sovereign and has ordained all things to be and upholds them by the power of His Word. They believe that God died only for the elect and therefore His work on the cross is perfect and complete. There is no necessary atonement needed for those whom God has called other than the one that Jesus has already made. They believe that because Christ's work is perfect and complete, no one holds the power over salvation, that power remains in the hands of God. They believe that God must first break the sinners heart and give them repentance through salvific faith before they would ever turn to Him. Salvation is in God's hands alone.

Arminians believe that God died for every single human being to ever live. They try to claim the sovereignty of God, but leave Him weak and unable to complete the goal that He set out to do through Jesus, His Son, because He lacks the ability to save sinners without their permission. They believe that all sins have been paid for except for the sin of unbelief, thereby merely stating that they believe no one's sins have been paid for. They believe that God only knows who will be saved because He knows all things, not because He has decreed them to be. Salvation is to be shared, or at least they would claim, by both Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and man's choice to follow His voice. If men are left to choose, why would they ever do so? If they were asked to leave their sin, why would they? Mankind enjoys their sin and despises anyone who tells them that it is wrong, including God, and this is something that the Arminianist would never agree to, for they would claim that men are mostly good.

These are the two positions that so many people refuse to acknowledge. They want to claim that they hold to neither position, and yet, if they hold to neither position, what exactly do they hold to in regards to salvation? Do they believe Jesus' work on the cross did anything? Do they believe that there is another way to salvation other than through Jesus? Or, is it merely a lack of gumption, a refusal to attest to one viewpoint for fear of mortal man's opinion?

These are the two places that Christians find themselves. One cannot be a half Calvinist or half Arminianist, it is impossible. For to be one or the other mandates that you cannot believe what the other teaches and believes. You cannot be a two point Calvinist as some would say, for there is no such thing. The very meaning of Calvinist is to believe a certain set of doctrines and biblical statements. A person may believe one thing and be struggling with changing their beliefs about a topic, but you cannot believe two opposing views to be true at the same time.

Lastly, I would like to mention the simple fact that God's decrees are final. Scripture says that God chose us, the elect, in Him before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4-10) How could He do so, before we were even created, and yet not be able to actually carry out this choosing? I am attesting to the Calvinistic viewpoint. Not because I think that the man Calvin is so much holier or wiser than others and should be followed, but because I agree with C.H. Spurgeon, that to preach the doctrines called Calvinism is to preach the gospel. 

Therefore, I challenge anyone who claims to hold to neither one viewpoint or the other to examine themselves to see what they truly believe. Because I guarantee that when push comes to shove, they believe either one view or the other about God. They will either see Him for just and merciful towards sinners who don't deserve salvation or they will see Him as a pleading old man, begging to be let into their sinful heart so that He can save them. I am thankful that God has opened my eyes to see Him as the sovereign King of the universe, perfectly God and perfectly able to save those whom He has chosen unto Himself.

I pray that those who read this post, though extremely brief in dealing with the topic of man's salvation and the sovereign glory of God, will have their eyes opened to the beauty of the doctrines of grace as well as to be refreshed and renewed in their belief of them if already held dear. May the truth of God bring forth a fire in the spirits of those who claim to be His children.