According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Monday, February 9, 2015

Misunderstanding God's Grace and Holiness. The Emphasis is Always on God's Grace.




Understandably Christianity is very interested in the righteousness of God becoming central to its practice and behavior. This stands out in Kevin DeYoung's book, "The Hole in Our Holiness." Obviously, for many practising Christians "holiness" is front-and-center to the Christian belief of what pleases God. Here is but one of twenty of Mr. DeYoung's firm beliefs and something we here at Relevancy22 would hotly debate:

“Not only is holiness the goal of your redemption, it is necessary for your redemption. Now before you sound the legalist alarm, tie me up by my own moral bootstraps, and feed my carcass to the Galatians, we should see what Scripture has to say. . . . It’s the consistent and frequent teaching of the Bible that those whose lives are marked by habitual ungodliness will not go to heaven. To find acquittal from God on the last day there must be evidence flowing out of us that grace has flowed into us.” (26)

If you wish to read more of these neo-Reformed gems of wisdom simply follow the link here provided - you will not be disappointed. Or visit the Google sites here and here filled with the images of Christian banners and book titles declaring the importance of God's holiness. I don't think it can be said enough that Christianity must ever wage war upon the legalists of its faith lest it become overwhelmed by an unloving, ungracious odor that reaches to the heavens even as it would fill the nostrils of those around us peering ever curiously at the kind of God we declare by our words and deeds.

Too often as Christians we get the proverbial "cart in front of the horse" leading out with God's judgment and wrath upon sin and evil when perhaps it may be better to explain by our actions and words God's grace as His very reason for relationship to this wicked world in the first place. Certainly DeYoung is describing the need of Jesus' substitutionary atonement as God's way towards holiness. This is not the debate. The debate is how evangelical Christianity places the weight of its Christian dogmas on holiness to the skewing of all following biblical church practices and doctrines. And thusly we at Relevancy 22 will say, "Not so!" It is God's grace that must skew all practices and doctrines and not God's holiness.

Why?

To simply favor holiness over grace creates an attitude of schism within the community of Christ's body by declaring one part of its body to be "more holy" than other parts of the body not observing those same rules and regulations. Even as it does with the watching world around the church which would misunderstand this attribute of our Lord's to be more important than His grace (I'll go on to explain what I mean by this in a bit).

So let us say this again, "It is not our works-righteousness that will make us righteous before God but through Jesus' substitutionary atonement that grants to us God's holiness. And yes, holiness to God is important but it is God's grace that makes God's holiness surmountable.

And to the church at large, neither are our ragged works done in Jesus' name what grants God's favor but that those works are done from hearts filled with God's grace thus forestaying any personal declarations of works-righteousness, pride, or legalism.

And more so, though Christians are to live as righteous people, we too often get this attribute of God ahead of God's grace. What? We end up holding attitudes and beliefs that would lower God's grace ahead of God's holiness. And when doing this end up affecting our attitudes towards God, mankind, the church's mission to the world, and even false beliefs about very basic Christian doctrine we should be holding in the hands of God's grace.

So let us say this again, it is not works-righteousness that makes us holy before God but God's grace through His Son to us. It is not by living "untainted" in the world that creates favor from God but that we know how to share God's love and grace to those around us while living and being a part of this world. Not as bigots, or judgers of men, or by proclaiming "sin upon everything we cast our eyes to." But by proclaiming God's mercy and forgiveness through ministrations of service and helps.

Are we then saying that God's attributes are ranked? That Holiness is more important than Grace. Or that Grace is more important than Holiness? Nay, let us not be so foolish! But know that God's attributes are not ranked except within His own foolish church when it seeks to proclaim its own self-righteousness as favor from God over a humbled heart crying "Thank you Father for your grace and mercy."

But, if we were to rank God's attributes, then as sinners saved by grace, God's grace is the one attribute that makes the most sense to our lives, to faith living, to our witness, and to our relationship with our heavenly Father.

Why?

Without grace, descriptions of God's holiness and righteousness sound as hollow things falling like tinkling brass upon the ears of our pagan hearts even as it does to our fellow man. Without grace, the holy Creator-God would never become our Redeemer-God nor would this be demonstrated in the Christian life of service. That is, God would not be moved to reach out to us if He were all austere holiness before all else. Nor would we as God's people ever desire to reach out to those sinners and evil doers around us whom we are but one redeemed by grace.

Appropriately so, the church's righteous means very little to the starving, the belittled, the hated, the envied, the harmed, and the condemned. But the grace of God as lived through His people is that very thing that will change all things within so many desperate lives lived impossibly on the edge seeking personal fulfillment, identity, and justice from God. But should God's people become like the vaunted Scribe or unbowed Pharisee filled with self-righteousness and condemnation upon others less worthy. Who turn a blind eye to the many grace-projects living about us - than fear and tremble and pray ye for God's forgiveness and repent of this evil thing by the winnowing Spirit of the Lord!

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, be righteous. Be holy. Let this fill all your actions to one another as to the world about us. But above all be gracious as your Lord is gracious sharing His mercy, love, forgiveness and hope. Let God's grace be the leading attribute in your doctrinal vernacular and dogmas and not those Pharisaical practices of condemnation and hatred to our fellow man. Be the grace-filled vessels of God in Jesus' name and learn to rewrite harsh doctrinal statements and church dogmas to more favorable treatises perfumed and scented with God's grace and love, hope and forgiveness. Amen.

R.E. Slater
February 9, 2014




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"God’s righteousness is that attribute of God that means he is determined to sort the mess out through the way that he has chosen, ultimately through Jesus Christ. That means that one has a solid platform on which to stand to talk about putting things right in the community.

"This is not something off on the side, as in, “Oh, Christian faith is over here, and then, oh dear, there’s some people in pain there. Let’s get the Band-Aids out.” It’s absolutely vital to make those connections between justice and justification, and to say God intends eventually to put the whole world right. He has already done it in Jesus Christ. We who live in between those two poles have got to make sure we are moving in the power of the Spirit from the one towards the other."

N.T. Wright

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"When we understand the character of God, when we grasp something of His holiness, then we begin to understand the radical character of our sin and hopelessness. Helpless sinners can survive only by grace. Our strength is futile in itself; we are spiritually impotent without the assistance of a merciful God. We may dislike giving our attention to God's wrath and justice, but until we incline ourselves to these aspects of God's nature, we will never appreciate what has been wrought for us by grace. Even Edwards's sermon on sinners in God's hands was not designed to stress the flames of hell. The resounding accent falls not on the fiery pit but on the hands of the God who holds us and rescues us from it. The hands of God are gracious hands. They alone have the power to rescue us from certain destruction."



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8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God-- 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.


8 Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them.

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.

6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

7 But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us--see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."


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The “grace” vs. “holiness” debate
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/geneveith/2013/01/the-grace-vs-holiness-debate/

by Gene Veith
January 31, 2013

Christianity Today has set up a symposium discussing the following question: Do American Christians Need the Message of Grace or a Call to Holiness? As usual, no Lutherans were asked to participate, and the whole debate is maddening for a Lutheran to read, not just because of its false dichotomies but because of what is missing in the understanding of both terms.

For example, is it true that the Biblical definition of “holiness” means “being good”? For convenience, here is a link to every use of the term “holy” in the Bible, and here is a link to the uses of the word “holiness”. We learn that the Sabbath is holy, certain mountains and lands are holy; the Tabernacle (and later the Temple), its furnishings, the priests’ vestments and tools are holy. None of these inanimate objects are capable of moral action, but God’s Word declares them holy. There is a contrast with what is ritually unclean or profane, but this isn’t a matter of moral righteousness as such. God, above all, is supremely holy. So are His people. Christians constitute a “holy priesthood.” The holiness of Christians seems to be connected to the Holy Spirit. To be sure, God’s holy people must avoid contact with what is “impure,” just as holy objects must not be touched by something “unclean.”

There are indeed passages in the Epistles that call for holy conduct, but there is more to the concept than that. The word, of course, means “set apart” for God’s special use or for His spiritual presence. The word “sacrament” comes from the word “sacred,” which, says the Online Etymological Dictionary, derives from the “obsolete verb sacren ‘to make holy’ (early 13c.).” In Baptism, God sets us apart. He makes us holy. In Holy Communion, Christ makes us holy. In the Holy Bible, God’s Word brings us His holiness through the Holy Spirit.

I’m not saying this exhausts the issue, but it is strange, in Lutheran eyes, to talk about “holiness” simply in behavioral terms. It is also strange to talk about “grace” as an abstract quality without mentioning Christ, the Cross, or the tangible “means of grace,” which gets us back to “holiness.”

Good works? Of course! But these grow out of both grace and holiness. Both have to do with God’s gifts and what God bestows through Christ. How can they be set against each other?


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