The War of Holiness Part 1

God has called us to holiness in Christ Jesus, and it is the response to this call which divides the world. That division, on a public and personal scale, is warring, war-like and real war: it is The War of Holiness. If profoundly affects all of us because of the power of choice which God obligated us to exercise, knowing that with every breath we are choosing God or not; God or self; God or Satan. That process of choosing is the battlefield, and there is fought The War of Holiness. It is fought universally on a personal scale and the public effects of that War of Holiness are manifest in every aspect and component of world and national and state and local public affairs and issues.

For example, there would today be no important conflict in the Middle East except for Judaism. There would be no plan of democracy and its principles of religious freedom and freedom of expression and self-defense and equality, except for the Christian foundations of democracy. Think about it: Without these religious influences, the world would not be a safe place, particularly, but it would find its functional equilibrium in balances of power, greed and deceit, in the payment of taxes and tribute, and sexual manipulations, on a personal and public scale. Those who achieved power through force, as in China, and attained massive economic power, would no longer want to have wars and resulting instabilities, but would want to have peace and stability for more economic prosperity. So, in that equilibrium the false peace would be stability. Indeed for many decades there has been a shadowy international group seeking exactly such false peace, the Tri-Lateralists, but they see it as a true peace due to their personal choices of disbelief in God Almighty and His redemptive plan for peace with mankind through Jesus Christ.

But since we still have the Jews and us Christians, all of those tensions are manifest in all of the world today, and are reflected in the political, financial, and personal issues facing everyone. But, if you removed God and His selection of the Jews as His chosen people, and also removed the in-grafted Christians, from the world, and left the world to its own devices, it would seek and find a certain worldly stability and equilibrium, which it could muster by force of personality, persuasion, money and physical force, and it would look like a peace, but would be a false peace. Only through Jesus can we know God and be reconciled to Him, and in that way we will have an opportunity, and attendant choices, to be holy, and only in holiness will we have true peace. That true peace is personal, and it does not matter what wars and forces and false peace may rage and tempt and deceive around us, if we have true peace in Jesus Christ.

The reality, and the struggle, for the Jews has been achieving holiness through obedience to the lengthy laws prescribed by God, and they found, and God already knew, they couldn’t do it, but they keep trying. As God knew, only through the blood sacrifice of Jesus, could there be sufficient atonement for mankind’s sin to bring mankind to holiness, a state of peace, true peace, in which mankind would not be at war with God, in enmity with Him! Being in any kind of war is difficult and uncertain of outcome, at best, but being at war with God is impossible ever to win!

Because of Satan, and his demons, and his followers, and our power of choice, we are engaged in The War of Holiness, as we are tempted and deceived and trained and educated to be unholy. Yes, these are times — between the Garden and the New Jerusalem – that try the souls of men, and God intended it that way, so he would know that the bride He loves, and whom He has called, in fact has chosen Him and loves Him, setting aside all others, in faithful respect and obedience.

Let’s put this in a definitional context: I believe that Hebrews 7:26 provides God’s definition of “holiness:” The paradigm of “holiness” is Jesus, Himself, the true “High Priest,” of whom this is said, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners . . . .” That is the definition of holiness: “harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” We are at war, in The War of Holiness, over whether we are going to make choices to be harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. Jesus also gave us such a definitional picture in The Sermon on the Mount: Who shall be comforted, filled, obtain mercy, see God, be called sons of God, and receive the kingdom of heaven as an inheritance? The answer: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.

The War of Holiness is a war about holiness, and it is based at the individual level (kind of like the Marine Corps motto, “Every Marine is a rifleman”), but it also functions corporately, like a military unit, in groups of people. The War of Holiness is a war against Satan and selfishness, waged in each person, and to win The War of Holiness requires you

  1. to know the Calling of God,
  2. to make an initial choice to accept the Calling of God,
  3. to make continuing choices in how you live.

Winning the War of Holiness has this incredible result, that mankind without Jesus Christ cannot attain, despite their forces of personality, persuasion, money and physical force: True Peace! True Peace, because winners of The War of Holiness are comforted, filled, have obtained mercy, are called sons of God, and live in the hope of the certainty of the kingdom of heaven as an inheritance.

The Calling of God is like God’s call not for a draft of service, but like a voluntary enlistment: Here is the calling, 2 Tim 1: 8-10, “Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus, before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and mortality to light through the Gospel.”

This calling, and its promises from the Sermon on the Mount, and all of Scripture, is affirmed in Ephesians 1: 3-6, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

If you do not accept that choosing and calling of God, that holy calling to holiness, then you are on the wrong side, the losing side, in The War of Holiness, and your choices have eternal consequences, so choose wisely, initially in your life, and with every breath thereafter!

Let us pray for our initial and continuing, daily, choices in The War of Holiness!

Hungry for the Fruit

Who here has ever felt like they hated someone? (Love) Ever been sad or depressed? (Joy) Ever felt a little anxiety? (Peace) Have any of us ever been impatient or violent? (Long-suffering / gentleness) Who here has ever said or done something that was hurtful? (Goodness) Anybody other than me ever wondered whether God really exists? (Faith) Anybody ever let their abilities make them proud, or feel like doing something that was asked of them wasn’t “their job?” (Meekness) Anybody ever felt a little bit of anger? Anybody here (other then me) ever lost control? (Temperance / self-control).

Anybody want to take a guess what God thinks about it when we do these things? Turn to Galatians 5 please.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is. And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Galatians 5

So how to we get love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control? Is there some secret? Does the Holy Spirit come down on us and we suddenly won’t ever lose our temper again? I wish it did, then I wouldn’t lose my temper, or get mad or any of the other things I do that I hate. However, it doesn’t work that way. So how does it work?

Let’s examine what Paul says in verse 22. Why does Paul use the word fruit? What is the one thing that is common to all fruit? It grows, it doesn’t just appear on the end of the branch, fully manifest, to walk up and take and eat. There is a process, a natural course that all things take toward maturity. And here’s the key: everyone SEES the growth. The fruit of the Spirit is the character of a Christian, it’s what everyone sees. This is what the world calls us hypocrites by. How many of us have said something bitter or hurtful to someone that was not a Christian, or someone who saw us as a Christian? How many times has someone seen us lose our temper, or yell, or be depressed or sad?

We (the Church) and we (the individuals) must also be careful not to be definitive on what our character is to be. There are other passages that define our “fruit” in addition to Galatians.

In 1 Corinthians 13, in the midst of Paul’s description of the gifts of the Spirit, there is a section on love. While not directly about “fruit,” it is about what springs from love, and it is in much the same vein. Please turn to verses 3-13.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:3-13

According to verses 4-8, love

  • suffers long;
  • is kind;
  • does not envy (ou zeloo);
  • does not parade itself (ou perereupmai);
  • does not get ‘puffed up’ (ou phusioutai);
  • does not behave rudely;
  • is not provoked;
  • does not think evilly, nor rejoice in sin;
  • rejoices in the truth;
  • bears all things;
  • believes all things;
  • hopes all things;
  • endures all things.

In Philippians Paul begins to tell us how we are to get to be the men and women of God we are supposed to be. Please turn to Philippians 4:8-9.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9

Paul advises us to think on things that are

  • true;
  • noble, or worthy of high esteem (semnos);
  • just;
  • pure;
  • lovely (prosphiles);
  • of good report (euphemos);
  • of any virtue, or excellence (arete);
  • worthy of praise(epainos).

In Colossians 3:12-16, the church members are told to put on (wear) these things:

  • tender mercies;
  • kindness;
  • humility or self-smallness (tapeinophrasune);
  • a heart of compassion (oiktirmos);
  • gentleness;
  • patience.

Christ says in Mathew 7:15-20 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

So are you known by your fruit? Is it bitter fruit, or good fruit?

Let’s talk about how we get these things, this “fruit.” MJ Young said, “if you want to see the fruit grow in your own life, you have to expect the fertilizer.”

Ouch…

I asked God to come into my life; when I did that, my biggest stronghold (definitely not my only stronghold) was rebellion against authority. Anybody else have that issue? Anyway, He promptly put me in jobs that had the most unfair, evil, difficult people on the planet to deal with. Pray for patience, and what does God do? Kerry? Pray for God to teach us to Love one another and how do you think He is going to teach that? Probably put the most unlovable, mean spirited, bitter person He knows we can deal with in our lives. When we learn to love that person, we will have learned something about love. Want joy in your life, expect your life to be filled with hardship and heartache. God wants to build our character, not give us character.

So, are you hungry for the Fruit?

Let’s pray.