|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
Part eleven of a series. Read part ten.
Far too often, postmodern Evangelical churches have made a corrupt bargain to attract and retain members.
"For this is the will of God, your sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
"As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy' " (1 Peter 1:15-16).
The Sad Moral State of Today's Church
Holiness is at the very core, the essence, of the will of God. But the holiness of which Scripture consistently speaks, in both Old Testament and New, is sorely lacking among people who call themselves born-again Christians today.
According to a recent survey, one out of every five people who are living together with someone of the opposite sex outside of marriage, are members of an Evangelical church. One large multi-campus church in the American Midwest that is built on the Purpose-Driven Church model did a confidential survey of its membership. The results were shocking. The survey disclosed that 25% of the church's singles, 38% of its single parents, and 41% of its divorced members admitted to having had a sexual relationship with someone outside of marriage within the last six months. This is not an isolated result, but a more and more commonplace condition among those who claim to be the people of God.
Come As You Are - Stay As You Are?
The problem is that far too many Evangelical churches today are telling people to "come as you are" when what they really mean is "stay as you are." Postmodern Evangelical churches make a corrupt bargain to gain and retain membership: We do not want you to feel uncomfortable, so we will not preach against sin. Our goal is to have you come to our church and feel good, and go out feeling even better. If what it takes to keep you coming is for our pastor to stay off the touchy subjects of sin, sanctification, and holiness, that is what we will do.
And so most 21st-century Evangelical churches are affirming people in their sins, rather than confronting them, from Scripture, with their need for repentance toward God and faith toward Christ (Acts 20:21). Most of the Evangelical church today is not proclaiming the Bible's message that, while those who are truly born from above are not yet perfect people, their life and behavior will change as a result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If a professing Christian's life does not change, it is a strong indicator that such a person is not truly a Christian. Such a person needs to go back and truly understand the Gospel, get right with God, and understand what it means to "pursue...holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).
This was the Holy Spirit's consistent message to the early church, and it has not changed in two thousand years:
Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8).
Only let your conduct be worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God (Philippians 1:27-28).
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:10-13).
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial [that is, the devil]? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.' Therefore 'Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.' 'I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.' Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1).
Be Not Conformed, But Be Transformed
Another passage that expressed the heart of God's will for every believer is Romans 12:1-2 -
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Here the Holy Spirit tells the Christian that how you think and what you do needs to agree with who you are. If you are truly a Christian, do not take on an outward worldly appearance that does not agree with the inward nature that is yours because of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Do not think, and talk, and act like the unsaved world. If you are truly a believer, then acting like the world is a masquerade, a deception - living a lie. Your thinking, your talking, and your actions must reflect your new life in Christ, and the eternal values that characterize that new life. It must be a walk that is worthy of the Lord (Colossians 1:10). As Paul writes in Philippians 3:20, "our citizenship is in heaven."
Instead of being "conformed to this world" you are to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind." The word "transformed" means that what you are on the outside before your fellow believers and the unbelieving world must be an accurate representation of what you are on the inside, because of Jesus Christ.
To what are we to be transformed? Paul tells us in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined believers "to be conformed to the image of His Son." Colossians 3:10 tells us that we "have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him."
How are we to be transformed? We are transformed "by the renewing of [our] minds" (Romans 12:2). The word "renewing" literally means a renovation of our thinking. As the Holy Spirit works in us we are undergoing a transformation - literally, the original language of the Bible calls it a metamorphosis. By that transformation, the true nature of Christ in us is to become more and more evident to our fellow believers and to the world. It is a process. This is sanctification. It does not happen all at once, but it does happen, if you are truly a believer. Our transformation takes place over the course of life, as we think and meditate upon God's will as revealed in His Word, and we put that knowledge into action in our living.
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