Quote: “The purpose of pleasing God, is basic to the purpose of avoiding sin. I say that because some Christians perceive their whole Christian life in terms of avoiding sin. Whereas according to the New Testament avoiding sin is a big thing, even bigger is the practice of rejoicing and hoping and thanking and pleasing our God. Personal holiness is a very positive thing, in other words, and we shouldn’t be betrayed into thinking of it in negative terms – J. I. Packer. I like that! So much of what is traditionally thought of as holiness by Christians is not so when one lines it up with what the Bible teaches us about it. As a result, too many people’s concepts of personal holiness are more religious than they are real.
Now there are perhaps, countless reasons why Christianity holds and has held minimal interest for most non-believers, but for the purposes of this post I am limiting it to one reason – faulty concepts of holiness. Take the Roman Catholic and Anglican or Episcopal churches for example. In their church services people observe their leaders dressed in traditional garb carrying out ritual practices with great solemnity and religious piety, so they believe that’s what holiness is. The result for many then, they’ll do their best to emulate what they can on a personal basis. One way to help them do this, they place religious pictures of Christ, Mary, dead saints and other religious artifacts on the walls of their home and, on “social” media!
For the outsiders observing these church practices, they too believe that’s what holiness is and although perhaps not beyond their desire they do believe it’s beyond their reach, so they turn away. This, and similar was the testimony I heard first hand from people I personally encountered over more than 3½ years of street ministry. That was a long time ago now, but given that human nature changes not, that would be people’s testimony today if I personally spoke to enough of them. However, people holding faulty concepts of personal holiness are not limited to those two churches; the same applies to all the denominations. No, they don’t place religious pictures etc on the walls of their homes but they do place them on the “walls” of their minds!
Such people, are those Packer speaks of here. These can be a sin-conscious people – very much so: “Don’t do that!” “Don’t say that!” “Don’t think that!” “Don’t go there!” “Don’t eat that!” “Don’t drink that!” “Do this!” “Do that!” “Thou shalt….” “Thou shalt not….!” In other words, they think of themselves as holy ones whose mission in life it is, to chastise unholy ones. Some of the world’s greatest critics and enemies of all things Christian were brought up from an early age under such a morbid environment. The word gospel means “good news” but sadly, it is not so for multitudes of people whose concepts of holiness are more religious than they are real. Take it as gospel however, holiness is not joylessness!
Sin-conscious Christians are joyless. That in itself is a sin! It is evidence that love for Jesus Christ is lacking. Perhaps it is also evidence of disobedience to the Lord. Jesus tells His people, As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love John 15:9. If we don’t live according to this, His love doesn’t get passed on to others, which now makes it a sin of disobedience. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full John 15:10-11. (underline mine). Joy full! Full of joy! Biblical meaning of joy: ‘cheerfulness’ ‘calm delight’ ‘great gladness of heart.’
Quote from New Bible Dictionary – 3rd Edition 1996: “In both Old Testament and New Testament joy is consistently the mark both individually and corporately of the church. It is a quality, and not simply an emotion, grounded upon God Himself and indeed derived from Him (Psalm 16:11; Philippians 4:4; Romans 15:13), which characterizes the Christian’s life on earth and also anticipates eschatologically the joy of being with Christ forever in the kingdom of heaven.” Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength Nehemiah 8:10b. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forever more Psalm 16:11. In God’s presence; now that pleases God!
So how does one experience fullness of joy in one’s life? Answer: By acknowledging one’s self as a sinner in the eyes of God, then agreeing with God that sin is the transgression of the law of God, and again agreeing with God that sin, therefore, is also rebellion against God. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness 1 John 3:4 ESV. Now in God’s eyes that’s a very serious charge; so serious in fact that His penalty for sin is death. Where is the good news in that? It is in Jesus Christ, the One and only Savior for one’s soul. For He (God the Father) made Him (Jesus the Son) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him 2 Corinthians 5:21. (Underline mine).
Take a few moments to dwell on the above Scripture, for it’s my personal belief not enough attention has been given by many to what God is really saying in it. That being so, two things can happen: 1). The truth of it gets taken for granted. “Jesus died for my sins.” Christians will confess that but there’s no evidence of gratitude within them. Their lives in general are much on a par with non-believers. The culture of the world still has its iron grip on them, hence their endorsement for much that God’s word declares to be an abomination. Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – 1 John 2:15-16.
2). The truth of it is not deeply believed. Lip-service is paid but not heart-service! The sad but sinful result of such is, these Christians spend their days trying to avoid sin as Packer said, but they fall deeper into it in the process. When one fails to live out their Christ-given righteousness, they will for sure, live out their own righteousness – self-righteousness! Yes, they will say Jesus is their Savior, and they will not say they are their own savior, but all will show up that that’s exactly what they’re trying to be. “Jesus’ death for my sins is not enough! I have to do something about them too.” The “something” they do however, always leads them further away from Christ, never closer to Him. Their pursuit for personal holiness has eluded them.
Crucially important to let sink in: If God Almighty thought for one moment that you and I could cleanse ourselves from our own sins and create our own holiness, He would never have considered becoming a Man and come down here to die in our place on a Roman cross in Jerusalem, Israel, 2000 years ago. To believe otherwise is to possess an extremely low view of God, of Jesus Christ, of His shed blood, of sin, of holiness and of the Bible. That is why Christians who possess an extremely high view of all these will forever daily choose the practice of “rejoicing and hoping and thanking and pleasing our God.” Indeed, this practice is the biblical way of outworking the holiness that is placed within us the very moment we become united to Christ.
Based on everything said so far, this is what makes the Bible so important for Christians. Without it we can never know where we are in Christ. Without a working knowledge of what’s revealed for us as Christ’s people, not only will we be betrayed into thinking of holiness in negative terms, we will be betrayed full stop! He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil 1 John 3:8. The first 7 words of that Scripture tell us we were once children of the devil. When we turn to the Lord that part gets dealt with immediately once and for all! In the eyes of God we are no longer vile sinners; the blood of Christ takes care of that Ephesians 2:13.
But if we are ignorant of the rest of that Scripture plus any others related to it, we give the devil a legal right to play God with our mind. And he’ll do that in a nanosecond! Far too much of what Christians believe to be of God and genuine Christianity today across the world is of the devil! The Bible, and our Teacher the Holy Spirit, who never speaks outside of it, they are the only safeguards we have. Ignore these and the holy people we believe ourselves to be is nothing but a delusion. Avoid all faulty concepts of holiness. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of this world, and not of Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power Colossians 2:8-10.