Holiness (3)

God loves mankind with a perfect love. Regardless of whether we’re sinful or righteous, his love is constant. He loved the world so much that he sent his son to die for us. As the bible says

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

The giving of Jesus as a gift was an attempt on God’s part to focus his love for us. He wanted us to be able to see in a practical and moving way just how much he loved us and he did this for us “while we were still sinners”. As we are told in Romans chapter five verses six and eight

“”When we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Jesus was often accused of spending too much time with sinners. Do you remember the parable of the lost sheep and the context in which it was told?

 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering round to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:)

Jesus didn’t only associate with sinners he used them and even called them to be his disciples. Matthew was a tax collector and when Jesus called him he was actually sitting at his tax collectors booth.

“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth.”Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and `sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: `I desire mercy, not sacrifice. ‘For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13).

In the time in which Jesus lived tax collectors were seen as no better than sinners. They were people who not only assisted the occupying Roman forces, but they lined their own pockets at the same time. When Jesus called Matthew he didn’t call a repentant sinner he called an active one!

God doesn’t want to condemn mankind, he doesn’t want to send us all to hell and watch us endure eternal torture he wants us to be with him. Some people have questioned the depth of God’s love; they say how can a God whose love is so great send anyone to hell? The problem is that it is not in God’s nature to be unjust. He can no more be unjust than he could stop loving us. He can’t turn a blind eye towards our disobedience because Satan “the accuser of the brethren” is always there pointing a finger. How can God justify us to his archenemy? How can he present us as just in the eyes of this sadistic accuser who wouldn’t recognise love if it bit him on the nose? God’s answer to this problem is faith! God shows the devil our faith in Jesus. That’s how we live; we live because of our faith. God’s grace exemplified by Christ’s death on the cross saves us, our faith in his sacrifice makes that salvation ours and as a result we are made just through that faith – As the bible says “The just shall live by faith!” Can you recall what Paul said in Galatians chapter two verse twenty

“”I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

This is all well and good but how does it actually work on a practical level? Let’s use a hypothetical example to help us. If I were to go out now and sin, i.e. deliberately disobey God. Say, for example, I gave into the temptation to buy a lottery ticket, which because of the promises I’ve made would be sinful. Then on my way home I crashed the car and died before I had chance to confess my sin, would I go to hell? In other words does my future security depend upon the last bad thing I did? Of course not! If that were so, my salvation would be a salvation of works and not one of faith. As long as I had committed that act (albeit deliberately, selfishly and foolishly) within the ongoing context of spiritual warfare, and if my faith were intact then I am sure that I would go to heaven. Now you might say, oh come on Andrew that means our actions count for nothing. Of course that is not true but it is that sort of thinking that led Paul to repeatedly say

“what then shall we say to this shall we keep on sinning?”

Paul was aware that some might think that the gospel he was preaching was a little bit too accommodating.

Wesley in his famous hymn “O for a thousand tongues to sing” pointed out that “cancelled sin” can still have power, but as he so powerfully reminds us Christ “breaks the power of cancelled sin and sets the prisoner free, his blood can make the foulest clean, his blood avails for me.”

The battle we’re fighting is not a battle between the old man and the new man because the old man is dead. It’s a battle between two mindsets. The old man has left a calling card in our minds. Paul calls that calling card the flesh. The flesh and the spirit are totally incompatible. When we crucify the flesh and walk in the spirit we win that battle and we walk in holiness. When we listen to the enemy and doubt the crucifixion of the flesh and stop walking in the spirit then we cease walking in holiness. Because we are in a constant state of warfare we have a tendency to be falling in and out of “walking in holiness”.

What we must remember at all times is that our status, i.e. whether we’re sinful or righteous is not in question as long as we continue to believe that Christ’s death and his living grace makes it possible for us to “walk in holiness”. As long as God can see in our hearts that righteousness is what we’re seeking and fighting for then we are not only saved but we’re safe too! Hallelujah!

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About Andrew Bale

I am a Salvation Army Officer based in Southend on Sea in Essex, UK. I am passionate about personal holiness and how that is reflected in a 'career of interrupted victory over temptation.' I am married with 4 children (2 grown up and married, one at University and one about to start University.)
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