August 2012

December Evangel

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In spite of the biblical admonitions toward holiness, much of Protestant the- ology, with its overemphasis on forensic justification and imputed righteousness, has created a Christian culture of sinful people. This arises from failure to see the full gospel—one that brings about actual transformation. Such failure causes many Christians—even Spirit-filled ones—to believe that holiness is not necessary. They are content to remain "sinners saved by grace" but not transformed by that grace. The popular bumper sticker "Chris- tians are not perfect—just forgiven" sums up this concept. Because of this truncated understand- ing of salvation, too many believers do not see a life of holiness as necessary for their Christian journey. They are content to live in the shadow lands of a profane culture, making excuses for besetting sins. Profane Christians are not beauti- ful. Their bumper stickers do not attract others to the light of God. Rather, they hinder the message that Jesus came to save, heal, and deliver all creation from its bondage to sin. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus made it possible for humankind to rejoin fellowship with the Creator. Jesus came to deliver us from evil, not merely to give us a "Get out of hell" card. In other words, salvation is the healing of broken creation. That which sin marred can once again flourish. Lives broken by addictions can become beautiful vessels of holy pres- ence. Such is the power of the gospel. However, in a sinful world, how is it possible to lead a life of personal holiness? Be forewarned: the journey into holiness is not easy, but it is wonderful and beautiful. The Core of Holiness: The Affections Affections are the core of who we are. They involve our mind as well as our emo- tions. They are deep and abiding disposi- tions that determine the direction of our lives. Through our affections we show who and what we love. The journey into holiness is thus a journey of our affections. It is our journey into desiring God. We learn to love as God loves and to desire what is holy. The more we abide in and with a holy God, the more we are transformed into His likeness. Holiness is about having a heart on fire with godly love. Cultivating Holiness: Crisis The heart is not easily set on fire with godly love because the affections of our heart are deceitful. Indeed, sin has wound- ed the core of our being. As a consequence, we often desire those things that are con- trary to the kingdom of God. These things wound our affections, distorting them toward the profane. Our wounded desire must be healed and restored toward godly love, and this restoration requires costly grace. It demands a death. Jesus, in discipling the Twelve, made it clear that life in the Kingdom involved not only His death, but also the death of His followers. The journey into personal holi- ness begins with death of self. It involves purging our claims to self-gratification, self-glory, and self-direction. Crisis, then, is the necessary starting point for culti- vating a life of holiness. It involves what John Wesley called the "circumcision of the heart," cutting away those affections that are not godly. Crisis both begins the journey into holiness and is an ongoing part of the journey. People do not easily receive this mes- sage, for everywhere we turn we hear that it is "all about us." Our culture of narcis- sism tells us we deserve only the best this world has to offer. Even Christians have bought this message, thinking that the beautiful life offered by the world is the same as the wondrous beauty of a sancti- fied life. One clear message of the Azusa Street Revival was that the power of the Holy Spirit came only to those who were willing to die to self. In the course of seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit, many came into the fires of sanctification. Consider the testimony of Adolph Rosa, an evange- list from the Cape Verde Islands who came to Azusa Street: "The power of God came upon me until I dropped to the floor. I was under the power of God for about an hour and a half, and it was there that all pride, and self, and conceit disappeared, and I was really dead to the world, for I had Christ within in His fullness" (William Sey- mour, The Pentecostal Baptism Restored). The type of crisis experience is the beginning of the holiness journey. Crisis breaks things open so the Holy Spirit can show us our true selves, the world, and "THE JOURNEY INTO PERSONAL HOLINESS BEGINS WITH DEATH OF SELF. IT INVOLVES PURGING OUR CLAIMS TO SELFGRATIFICATION, SELFGLORY, AND SELFDIRECTION." God in a new way. We are able to receive both the judging and healing aspects of God's grace. We can say, then, that crisis is necessary and good for us. Cultivating Holiness: Development While crisis is necessary for sanctifi- cation, there is the need to weave crisis experiences into a patterned and disci- plined life. The development of holiness takes shape by abiding in Scripture, living in Christian community, and practicing Christian disciplines. Abiding in Scripture. The reason some Christians neglect Bible study is that they have not placed the Scriptures at the cen- ter of their affections. Eugene Peterson observes that the "text" of the "sovereign self" is the one most read by Americans. This "text" is ruled by what he calls a "new trinity" of "needs, wants, and feel- ings," and it competes with the biblical text for control in the lives of Christians. This new trinity produces the fruit of consumption and acquisition (Eat This Book). More and more Christians live by this text, and consequently, cheap substi- tutes replace holiness. —Continued on page 21 EVANGEL | August 2012 13

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