I was speaking recently with a friend over the course of a long day of driving and he made the observation that Christians are more interested in issues that loom large in the cultural eye but Biblically are small. The Bible does speak definitively about homosexuality, woman as ministers, social justice, etc. but it’s whole is more interested in holiness. In short if a christian is striving to be holy, as He is holy, then these other issues will largely fall in place. They are part of holiness, but still only a part. It is worth considering that God is more concerned with your immediate temptation to lust, or envy, or lie than with your opinions on Black Lives Matter.
It is possible that we have indeed been playing the game of running about with fire extinguishers when there is a flood and rushing to the side of the boat that is already gunnel under. Our lack of obedience, of holiness, has fallen by the wayside and we are instead majoring on what Scripture sees as a minor. Or to illustrate, if a church, and specifically here I am pointing to a body of believers, not their pastor, were so known for their palpable holiness. Would then there be a concern for an actively homosexual person expressing interest in joining? Or is it possible that there is such compromise, and justification, right down to our viewing habits of smut that the individual living in sin is genuinely shocked were we suddenly decide to draw a line?
“I believe there is far more harm done by unholy and inconsistent Christians than we are aware of. Such men are among Satan’s best allies. They pull down by their lives what ministers build with their lips. They cause chariot wheels of the gospel to drive heavily. They supply children of this world with a never ending excuse of remaining as they are.” J.C. Ryle, Holiness
While there are aspects of spiritual warfare at play, and the church is obviously set over and against a world of evil. It would appear that somehow an inverse trojan horse has been accomplished. We invited the world in, mingled for a while along their lines of polite society, and then arbitrarily started insisting on a few of our mores. Is it any wonder that there should be some surprise from a world that assumed we were largely like them? By our own example we declared there was no need to actually conform to the image of Christ.
Compromised all the Way Down
There is a song that is taught to preschoolers, “Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe.” Personal holiness matters. A declaration of salvation includes at it’s core the announcement that a life has been changed by Christ. It is a damnable lie to evangelize a person claiming to be changed and yet remain as much of a pagan as ever. Christ is not an add on he is all. It is impossible to be his follower and not follow him.
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn-bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:43-55
It would appear that the world, upon tasting our fruit has determined that we can simply be grafted on to whatever it is they currently feel is best. As opposed to realizing that those things must die, along with them.
“When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” – Matthew 16:24-27
Yet the stunned reaction toward perceived inconstancies on holiness is telling. It is exactly our complacency to be holy that has made our commitments sound like such a joke. We expect our pastors to hold the line in the pulpit, but we can’t possibly be expected to do so at home, we think it’s his job. But the world is watching us.
A Weapon of War
Personal holiness is warfare, that is why it is hard. Sanctification is talked of as a refining fire, We cling to the dross and it clings to us. We are born in sin and we love it. Victory over sin does not happen overnight, it is a studied skill, honed by obedience. And each small, sometimes imperceptible victory is gaining ground. It is a terror to Satan. He desperately wants us to live an die like Bunyan’s Mr. Badman.
“As quietly as a lamb. There seemed nothing in it to the bystanders of a strong natural struggle. And as for his mind, it seemed to be wholly at rest… And so slipped into hell.” John Bunyan, The Life and Death of Mr. Badman
“How much better for us if all humans died in costly nursing homes amid doctors who lie, nurses who lie, friends who lie, as we have trained them, promising life to the dying, encouraging the belief that sickness excuses every indulgence, and even, if our workers know their job, withholding all suggestion of a priest lest it should betray to the sick man his true condition! …One of our best weapons, [is] contented worldliness.” C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters
Our obedience, our holiness is war, every temptation defeated is what Lewis would call a bridge or supply line captured or held in our and Christ’s favor. How many claiming to be warriors for the Kingdom of God are more akin to spiritual Ignatius J. Reilly’s with their plastic sword swashbuckling through all the battles that don’t matter? Instead of coldly, quietly, faithfully, obeying Christ regardless of difficulty.
“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks around upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” – C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters
Finally, a lack of personal holiness is not merely a bad witness, or confusing to a lost world. It is detrimental to the soul. It wasn’t just one episode of Game of Thrones it was pornographic. You voyeuristically participated in the lie to a woman that she was doing a “free” thing. You subsidized financially (or stole)her degradation and sin. You degraded her for your own pleasure, and then were evangelistic about it around the water cooler at work, or worse in your church small group. Others were then led into your sin. That lack of holiness, ate away at your soul, you supported the use and abuse of others, you lead others into condemnation. Personal holiness. Sin is never a solitary affair. Ultimately sin denies the reality of God it is atheistic. I have chosen only one illustration, weigh out others. Consider Francis Schaffer’s excellent questions against your sin:
What is loyalty to Christ worth to you? Why are you even a Christian?” – Francis Schaffer, A Christian Manifesto
There is no such thing as a small sin. Watching one hour of smut unrepentantly lies to the world about God; and may be an indicator of how close you are to hell.
“Let me warn all careless members of churches to beware lest they trifle their souls into hell. You live on year after years as if there was no battle to be fought with sin, the world, and the devil. You pass through life a smiling, laughing, gentlemen-like or lady like person, and behave as if there was no devil, no heaven, and no hell. Oh, careless churchman… awake to see eternal realities in their true light! Awake and put on the armor of God! Awake and fight hard for life! Tremble, tremble and repent.” J.C. Ryle, Visible Churches Warned