Sunday, September 25, 2016

Holiness and the Gospel

In spite of my weaknesses, failures, and frailties,
God the Father loves me in Jesus.

We need to be convinced of this Gospel truth in order to allow the Gospel to speak into our lives and hearts. 
If you are not convinced of the Father's love for you in Jesus, holiness will become for you a way of seeking to earn His acceptance.
Maybe, just maybe, if I am holy enough the heavenly Father will welcome me into His heart.
If you are not convinced of the Father's love for you in Jesus, the call to holiness will feel like a chore.
It will seem as though the Lord is saddling you with a standard that sucks the joy right out of your life. Instead of seeing your mandate to be holy as a loving boundary erected by a Father who wants you to be happy, you will see it as a restriction on happiness put in place by a cold and distant killjoy.

If you are not convinced of the Father's love for you in Jesus, you will see holiness as a way of getting a leg up on all the unholy people around you.
If you are not resting in Jesus' righteousness, you will just patch together your own counterfeit. You will grab for a comparative righteousness—a standard you create or adapt from someone else, a standard that helps you feel like you are better than other people. And it will be nothing more than an effort to compensate for your feeling of insecurity before your heavenly Father.

*These words are taken from Modest by R W Glenn and Tim Challies, and
adjusted in order to address holiness instead of modesty. Whatever God
has mandated the Christian to do can be substituted in place of holiness
or modesty and the truth remains the same; the application is the same.
Efforts at holiness (or whatever else) without the Gospel are actually anti-Gospel because such efforts subtly but steadily communicate that God accepts us on the basis of our performance. If you pursue holiness (or whatever else) outside of the Gospel, not only will you fail to be genuinely holy (or whatever else), but everything you do in the name of that supposed holiness (or whatever else) will undermine the very Gospel you profess to believe.

While we do not make excuses for ourselves in order to justify ourselves, we still need to remember that we are human and we are prone to weaknesses, failures, and frailties. We can fall into one of two ditches on either side of the road of grace if we are not careful. The one ditch is antinomianism (or licentiousness, a "license to sin"). The other ditch is legalism. While grace gives us complete freedom in Christ, grace is not without an edge. Legalism recognizes that there is an edge to grace but goes about maintaining that edge in all the wrong ways. Antinomianism forgets or ignores that there is an edge to grace and says it is okay for us to sin since we will be forgiven anyway. Antinomianism presumes on the forgiveness of God. Because of our weaknesses, failures, and frailties, we may be tempted to fall into the ditch of legalism in order to try and curb them, or we may be tempted to fall into the ditch of antinomianism by saying it does not really matter anyway.

Because of our weaknesses, failures, and frailties, we need to constantly, daily, speak the Gospel to ourselves. The Gospel needs to inform all areas of our lives. The Gospel will prevent us from making excuses for ourselves and trying to justify our weaknesses, failures, and frailties, but the Gospel will also prevent us from falling into the ditch of legalism or the ditch of antinomianism. Both ditches are thieves of the grace of God and of the Gospel.