The Dancing Puritan

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bethlehem and Holiness (I Timothy 1:15)

Haircut Holiness Illustrated

This morning I began a journey to better understand holiness and sin.  I have been reading the Psalms in my morning meditations and I have been struck again by the care of God for His people and how often His people sinned in the face of His goodness. The ugliness of sin is best seen against the backdrop of God's grace, mercy, guidance, provison and protection. In other words, to understand sin we must grasp something of the goodness of God.

A companion in my journey is the stalwart book Holiness by J.C. Ryle (Charles Nolan 2001 ed).  Ryle says, "Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies, and false doctrines of the present day" (p.1).  Douglas Wilson writes in the foreword: This is because questions of sin are the place where we always begin to flatter ourselves, and no quicker way to run ourselves into serious error can be found.  If a cancer is believed to be mere indigestion, the antacid tablets will not really deal with the problem...Ryle takes the word 'sanctification' and the word 'holiness' back to the Scriptures; when we take the rock in our hand back to the quarry, we can tell if it really came from there.  Too often in our day, when we get back to the source of all scriptural marble, we look down and see that what we have been carrying around is driveway gravel.

It is my aim to go "back to the quarry" of Scripture and hack to pieces false views of sin and holiness that I have been carrying around.  I want to better understand God's own holiness and His call for His people to be holy.  It is my aim to put to flight false notions of sanctification, be they legalistic and therefore superficial or whether they be rooted in a wrong understanding of the application of the gospel.  Surely the gospel must be applied, but how?  

My main concern is my own sin and how lightly I often take it and how superficially I try to deal with it.  Externals will not cure issues of the heart nor will leaning on a wrong perception of grace, as an excuse for my sinful behavior, serve to make me holy.

People have tried various methods to stir up religious zeal.  But like J.C. Ryle we should be quick to ask do those methods lead one to ...become more holy, meek, unselfish, kind, good-tempered, self-denying, and Christ-like at home?  Do they lead (one) to become more content with their position in life, and more free from restless craving after something different from that which God has given them?  Do fathers, mothers, husbands, and other relatives and friends find them more pleasant and easy to live with? Above all do they grow in charity, and especially in charity towards those who do not agree with them in every jot and tittle of their religion?

If our methods are of any real value they will, according to Ryle, promote private home religion, private Bible reading, private prayer, private usefulness, and private walking with God.  If they are of any real value, they ought to make people better husbands and wives, and fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters, and masters and mistresses and servants.

Why was Jesus born in Bethlehem? Why did He live a righteous life?  Why did He die on the Cross?  Why did He rise from the grave?  Why did Jesus come to the earth?  He came to save sinners!  He came to reconcile sinners to Himself by His free grace through faith in Him.  In the great act of justification He declares repentant/believing sinners to be righteous in Christ and He forgives them of their sin.  He makes them positionally holy.  He then begins the work of making them in practice what they are in position!  That process is sanctification.  Sanctification culminates in glorification, when His people become fully Christ-like.  Until then we must fight the good fight of faith.  After all the root of all sin is unbelief (Psalm 78:22).  The awfulness of sin is evident in that it is against God who guides, provides, protects and cares for His people.  In the face of such goodness we sin.  In the face of God sending His Son to Bethlehem, to the Cross, to the Grave and back to Heaven--we sin.  That we sin is no surprise (Romans 7) but what should be shocking is our contentment with sin and our laxity in the pursuit of holiness.  Meditate on the goodness of God.  Contemplate the awfulness of sin.  Look to God's Word to understand how to fight sin as you grow in holiness.