Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Reformation Day

Today, 492 years ago, an antisemitic monk tacked an op-ed piece on the door of a Catholic chapel in Wittenberg, Germany. The rest, as they say, is history. I am no fan of Luther or Calvin (although he did write a superb series of commentaries); really, it was the radical reformation (Anabaptists) that did anything that could be called restorational (although real restoration did not begin until 1906 and Azusa Street). Nonetheless, I think it's still better to celebrate Reformation Day than Halloween, and one doesn't need to dress up as a dead person to do so! So, Happy Reformation Day!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Cons of Being Anti-Antichrist

I may be reading this wrong, but my anecdotal sense is that Evangelicals often perceive their duty as citizens of planet Earth as thwarting the rise of the Antichrist. Since I came into Christ way back when, over and over again I've talked with folk that are politically and socially against policy, or action, or even people they consider furthering the cause of the coming Antichrist. I think that is a misplaced aspiration.

Please don't misunderstand me, I don't want people primed to take the mark because they've come under a delusion, especially on my part. The Antichrist is [is it prophetic that I said is instead of will be? You be the judge! ;-) ] an inherently evil person and his mark seals one's doom. In my view of eschatology, only Jews will actually face that choice; nonetheless, I think we need to understand that the Antichrist and his kingdom are just part of the fabric of what God has prepared for the conclusion of this current economy.

Since the Antichrist is a precursor to the return of Christ, he will arise at the time of God's choosing, and will mark the conclusion of God's work in human history. If you give it any thought, opposing the rise of the Antichrist is not far removed, if removed at all, from opposing the return of Christ. Who'd want to do that?

So, we'll do as we have tried to do through time--what's right, what's biblical, what's sensible--and the Antichrist will come any way. He'll still take over everything and the world will go to hell in a handbasket, it's unavoidable. God did not misspeak in revealing the sequence of events leading to the end, so there are some things we just need to resign ourselves to. Why spit into the wind?

This world is not now and never has been the home to any who followed Christ. Focusing our energies here as if it were has sapped the Spirit from the bulk of the church for the bulk of the Church Age. It has destroyed the witness of the American church since 1980. Assemblies of God minister, John Keurt once quipped when asked about his philosophy of financing a building campaign, "take out a big mortgage and leave it to the Antichrist." Like it or not, we're leaving the world and all that's in it to the Antichrist, maybe we should start living like it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Becoming Holy

Holiness, I think I have established, is about the uniqueness of God's being, and by extension, about that which is not God being made holy by being consecrated to him. It is the consequence of anything, and eventually everything belonging entirely to the holy God. Ultimately, even the reprobate sinner and the principalities, powers and rulers of this present darkness will be his in the fullest sense of the word (that's what the Lake of Fire is all about). In this bubble of time we call history, there is an option available to us. We may render ourselves "not God's" which is but an illusion that can only last for a lifetime, or we may surrender ourselves to God believing him to be Lord which can translate into eternity.

In relinquishing ourselves to God by grace through faith, we become holy, the actual efficacy thereof coming through two impositions. First, sacrificial blood must be imposed upon that which was not intrinsically holy in order to consecrate it; and second, the divine breath (the Spirit of God) which is intrinsically holy, must be imposed upon that which was sprinkled with sacrificial blood to make holy in substance. This is the pattern of things to come revealed in the OT, and this is the fulfillment of things that are in the NT. I would call these two aspects of holiness 1) positional holiness, and 2) substantial holiness.

For humans, positional holiness can only be achieved through the application of the blood of the Lamb of God through faith. When one comes to the conviction that Jesus Christ died for his or her sin and that he or she is trusting that blood alone to make them acceptable to God, that one has become positionally holy. His or her tabernacle of flesh has been sprinkled with blood. As the Holy Spirit inhabits that sprinkled tabernacle, that one has now become one with God and is thereby made substantially holy. Since our tabernacles are made of transitory stuff, God has appointed a day when all that is passing will be transformed into that which is not. Our substantial holiness will then be perfect.

Notice, I have made no reference to efforts or toil in explaining the biblical concept and process of holiness. Had I done so, I would have been in error. Holiness is not something developed from that which is not holy of itself. Holiness is a derivative property for all but him who alone is holy. For us who are not him, holiness comes imputed and imported. To walk in holiness, then, what is required is not a supernatural effort from that which is only natural, but an abandoned cooperation of the natural with the supernatural who has come in.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How Does One Become Holy?

In the Matrix, there is a number of scenes where Agent Smith infiltrates a person, who then goes through what looks like a very painful transformation--stretcho, change-o, then snaps back into the shape of Agent Smith. Believe it or not, I actually think that is a great illustration of how a Christian becomes holy.

We look at a statement like "be holy as the Lord is holy," and instantly jump to the wrong conclusion: we think it is something we can achieve if we set our minds to it and get it done. Nothing could be further from the truth. It just isn't in the nature of the beast for a human to be holy. God alone can be attributed with that quality.

The most fundamental way to conceive of the notion of holy is to think "other" or "distinctly separate." No one can fit that description but God (see link in post title). Everything else, everyone else is just part of the creation, generally along with countless other examples of the same sort. "Other" in the realm of the created is a relative term at best!

God stands alone (and when I say that, I mean the trinitarian Godhead). Nothing else is what he is; nothing else has independent existence as he does; everything else was fashioned by him, yet he was fashioned by nothing. We generally jump immediately to the moral repercussions of God's separateness when speaking of holiness, but to do so is to not go deep enough into the subject.

If we don't plumb far enough, however, we generally devolve into some kind of petty rule keeping regimen in order to give us some sense we're aligned with the command to be holy. Holiness, however, can never arise from that which is intrinsically unholy. So, perhaps we need to rethink the force of the command, and see it more as an invitation. Like any of the commands of God in the old covenant, the point was not to elicit actual obedience, but to make us aware of just how unholy we truly are, and thereby to lead us to the gracious hand of Christ.

Oh, it's not that it's possible to be unholy and get along with with God, it's just that we can't achieve holiness by our own efforts. If we're to be holy, as we must to get into heaven (not to earn it, but just to survive it), holiness has to come to us, imported like oil is to Singapore. Since we must be holy to co-exist with God, we must come to Christ and receive the gift of his nature which alone is holy. When the holy one is in us, holiness becomes possible for us.