Thursday, May 24, 2012

Believe Your Beliefs (practical Christianity as explained by an orthodox rebel)

"...but as He who has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of living...being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which lives and abides forever...." I Peter 1:15, 23

Christian living is holiness and nothing less. It is not bare morality that we are after but God-likeness, for holiness means (esp, in the Greek) the unique attributes that make God separate and unique from Creation, i.e., the attributes that make God God. Unfortunately, holiness too often boils down in people's minds to mere rule keeping: dotting i's, crossing t's, and checking off all the boxes. A vigorous duty for duty's sake. That is not holiness, however, but legalism. Holiness is not about keeping the rules because they are rules. Rather, holiness is about being different because you are different. In other words, you are not trying to be a good little boy or girl because you know that you should be. Instead, something has fundamentally changed inside, a foundational transformation wherein you feel compelled to live and act and be this, that, and the other. It is as if another life has been birthed within you, which makes perfect sense if you have been "born again". You have died, and now Christ lives within you (Gal. 2:20). Therefore, you are commanded to be holy because the holy God dwells with you. You are commanded to be holy because that's what you are. Thus is the truth and the mystery.

The trouble with modern Christians, however, is that they don't believe anything anymore. It is a strange tragedy, but it is still a fact. We are in possession of incredible truths, truths that purport to involve themselves down to the most practical scruples of our lives, including how we eat and talk and behave towards others. We have been told that we have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit of the Almighty God of the universe, a gift bestowed upon us because that same God became a man and died, and in dying defeated death. Now by faith in that outlandish yet true victory, we have been "made new," born out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light (Col. 1:12-14; I Peter 2:9b). As such, we walk as aliens and strangers amongst a perverse and crooked generation, among whom we shine like the stars (Phil. 2:15). These are the truths of our holy religion, and yet we treat them like inconsequential abstractions, fanciful thoughts for the occasional Sunday. In the pews we are Christians, but in life we are all practical agnostics. Brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be.

The truths that we believe are not mere thoughts and abstractions. They are practical and actual realities of our day-to-day lives. A holy God has actually called us to His actual holiness, and He actually died and rose again so that we could actually be holy in the here and now, and He has actually given us His actual Holy Spirit so that we can actually live that holy life in the here and now. The question is, do you actually believe that? Even now, wherever you are sitting? Do you believe that you are possessed by the Spirit of God, and that it is He who has called you to be holy, and that it is He who works in you to fulfill God's good will (Phil. 2:13)? If not, then why not? What obstinance or obstacle bars your way? Whatever it is, pray to God that it is removed. Life is never the same when you finally believe your beliefs.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

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