Archive for the ‘A Holiness People’ Category

When in Rome-What are Christians to Do?

When in Rome-What are Christians to Do?

 by Al Truesdale
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Al Truesdale

The writings of the apostle Peter might have first been penned nearly 2,000 years ago, but as time passes, they become more and more relevant to believers seeking to serve Christ. For in many ways, our society is beginning to mirror the culture in which early believers lived.

The apostle Peter urged his audience to rigorously discipline their values and practices. Greco-Roman culture contrasted sharply with his description of Christian discipleship. For example, Greco-Roman society was honeycombed by polytheism (worship of many gods). The Romans even encouraged their citizens to worship multiple gods, as long as people recognized the supremacy of Rome and its central deities. The absence of hope, as well as fear of demons, death, and judgment, marked Greco-Roman culture. So one issue that made the gospel attractive was its promise of refuge from a pervasive fear of spiritual enemies.

Also, from a Christian standpoint, Greco-Roman society was morally rudderless. This was evident in Greco-Roman sexuality practices and entertainment. Laws placed few restraints upon sexual expression. Greeks saw human sexuality as only a pleasurable art. The Romans viewed it as that part of humanity where the animal still resided, and did not consider the idea that sexual intercourse should express a sacred bond of love between husband and wife. Between the ready availability of prostitutes and the presence of slaves in many households, sex was in plentiful supply.

Roman entertainment also depicted their lack of value for life and morals. The Roman Coliseum evidenced an expanding thirst for violence as the games degenerated into pointless massacre and the crowds became immune to cruelty and bloodshed. Claudius (A.D. 41-54) required that mortally wounded combatants remove their helmets so he and the crowd could better watch death’s agony.

Against this pagan backdrop, Peter called for Christians to conform to an entirely different way of life. Darkened passion, ignorance, and futility marked the old way. An imperishable hope, confidence in God, and holiness characterize the new. The Greco-Roman gods required strict attention to religious ritual, but they did not require strict moral conduct.

How unlike the holy God! The contrast between the promiscuity of many Greco-Roman deities and the holy discipline required of God’s children was unmistakable. No God like Him could be found among the Greco-Roman deities. Ransomed from futile ways, God’s children were now to express and share in His very nature (2 Peter 1:4).

Against this pagan backdrop, Peter called for Christians to conform to an entirely different way of life. (Design Pics)

Peter had no illusion about reconciling the kingdom of God with a pagan world. Neither should we. That doesn’t mean we should ignore or discount honorable conduct by those who are not Christians-many people display commendable efforts to lift the human spirit. But it does require us to vigilantly examine our social environment. Rigorous attention and discipline, as guided by the Holy Spirit, are as imperative today as they were in the first century.

The Western world is experiencing a “resurgent paganism” similar in many ways to the New Testament Greco-Roman context. As the light of morality and Christian practices dims, more and more people steer their lives by values and ideas that are “pagan” by first century standards. One of the greatest dangers Christians face today is that of subtly absorbing “pagan” values. Escaping this danger requires us to pursue the kind of alert and disciplined life in Christ that Peter urged.

Let’s identify three prominent characteristics of “resurgent paganism.”

1. The first is moral relativism. Society’s belief in moral norms that apply to everyone is decaying. Our shared Judeo-Christian moral fabric is fraying. This erosion has been described as a “fragmented moral universe.” No divine center is generally recognized as grounding morality. Our crumbling foundations are often replaced by the belief that “right” and “wrong” depend upon individual preferences. Morality is “relative” to a person’s social and temporal context. Its content can change from one circumstance and person to another.

Pop culture, advertising, and news and entertainment media regularly invite us to embrace moral relativism. The invitation is sometimes subtle, sometimes bold. Moral relativism contradicts the revealed character and will of God. Like acid, it will eat through a mind and life not disciplined by the Holy Spirit. Peter assures us that God has given us “everything needed for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3, NRSV).

2. The second characteristic of “resurgent paganism” is the idolatry of human sexuality. Billions of advertising dollars and an entertainment industry that knows no satisfaction drive the worship of sexuality. More and more ways are sought to exploit human sexuality. We are witnessing a revival of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, and sexual rapture. Her temple in Corinth once housed perhaps hundreds of sacred prostitutes who “ministered” a steady stream of worshipers. Aphrodite’s “temples” are now prevalent in society. This feature of “resurgent paganism” measures the value of everything by how well it exploits sex. The standard applies to people, toothpaste, clothing, corrective lenses, and automobiles.

3. A third characteristic of “resurgent paganism” is that a person “is” what he “owns.” The more a person “owns” the more of a “person” he or she is. Contrary to what Jesus said, we measure humans as quantitative, not qualitative. For example, advertising tries to convince us that people who wear certain labels are valued more highly. Cable news programming commits endless hours to tracking the careless behavior of a wealthy starlet. Judging by the airtime given, she is more of a person than a faithful schoolteacher or dedicated foster parents.

So, across the centuries the Apostle Peter now speaks to us in a period of resurgent paganism: “Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:13). Our unfailing resource is the power of God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

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Al Truesdale is emeritus professor of philosophy of religion and Christian ethics, Nazarene Theological Seminary.

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Originally published in Holiness Today, March/April 2009.  Currently found at Holiness Today Online.

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We Believe in Entire Sanctification

We Believe in Entire Sanctification

by David J. Felter

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David J. Felter (Attig Photography)

In what is being called the “historic” 27th General Assembly this past June [2009], delegates once again affirmed Article X-Entire Sanctification, from our Articles of Faith. It is important that every Nazarene understand what many call, “our distinguishing doctrine.”

Scriptures remind us that all who are in proper relationship with God are called to be holy. Christian holiness obviously points to Jesus Christ and is descriptive of those persons who exist in a dependent relationship with Jesus. Christians are at once a holy people, and are also called to pursue holiness in expressions of their relationship with Jesus Christ.

The word sanctification is different from the word holiness. We might say that sanctification is the means to the end, which is holiness. The Christian Church believes in the sanctifying work of God, (1 Peter 1:2) We believe this call to holiness originates in the First Testament’s call to holiness (Leviticus 11:44-45) and continues on into the New Testament (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Bible scholars have understood the term sanctification as an “umbrella” term with differing levels of meaning. The term may refer to something we do, as well as to something God does. It has both the element of process and crisis inherent within its range of meanings. We believe that Christian holiness requires the entire sanctification of believers and that this involves both a process whereby we express our deepening devotion to God and our willingness to experience a “moment” of total submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Also, we believe the Holy Spirit is doing the work of sanctification-setting us apart as the exclusive property of God-and cleansing our interior being of all that conflicts with love for God and our neighbor.

Further, we believe the best definition of Christian holiness is the simplest one: Christlikeness. Christian holiness is about love and the renewal of God’s image in our being. It was summed up by our Lord when He stated: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’, and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27).

dove_with_flameWe believe entire sanctification is that act of God following our conversion experience by which Christians are freed from competing loyalties that hinder or obstruct uncontested love for God and one’s neighbor. Further, we believe the heart is cleansed from the principle of sin, which is undeniably selfishness. By the power of the Sanctifying Spirit, we are enabled and empowered to love God with the totality of our being, and our neighbor as ourselves.

Entire sanctification is provided for every Christian by the blood of Jesus. It is by grace through faith and follows our willing, complete surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The sanctifying Spirit affirms this gracious relationship to our consciousness, commonly known as the witness of the Spirit.

We believe that there is a difference between a pure heart and a mature character. The former is obtained in an instant, the result of entire sanctification; the latter is the result of growth in grace. The sanctifying Spirit motivates us toward spiritual growth and Christian maturity. Our responsibility is to nurture this impulse by incorporating all the means of grace.

Our distinguishing doctrine, drawn from the inspirational insights of Wesley and a long line of Scripture students, back to the apostolic New Testament Church, has never been more important or relevant. It stands the test of scriptural scrutiny, and responds to the spiritual and social needs of every culture, in every location. Every Christian can experience what John Wesley called, “an entire renewal in the love and image of God.”

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David J. Felter is editor in chief of Holiness Today, though just this week he announced his retirement. This article was originally published in Holiness Today, November/December 2009; it can currently be  found at Holiness Today.

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We Are a Holiness People

God, who is holy, calls us to a life of holiness. We believe that the Holy Spirit seeks to do in us a second work of grace, called by various terms including “entire sanctification” and “baptism with the Holy Spirit”-cleansing us from all sin, renewing us in the image of God, empowering us to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves, and producing in us the character of Christ. Holiness in the life of believers is most clearly understood as Christlikeness.
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Because we are called by Scripture and drawn by grace to worship God and to love Him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves, we commit ourselves fully and completely to God, believing that we can be “sanctified wholly,” as a second crisis experience. We believe that the Holy Spirit convicts, cleanses, fills, and empowers us as the grace of God transforms us day by day into a people of love, spiritual discipline, ethical and moral purity, compassion, and justice. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that restores us in the image of God and produces in us the character of Christ.

We believe in God the Father, the Creator, who calls into being what does not exist. We once were not, but God called us into being, made us for himself, and fashioned us in His own image. We have been commissioned to bear the image of God: “I am the LORD . . . your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44).

Jesus Christ revealed the one holy God to us and modeled worshipful, holy living for us. Our hunger to be a Holiness people is rooted in the holiness of God himself. The holiness of God refers to His deity, His utter singularity of being. There is none like Him in majesty and glory. The appropriate human response in the presence of such a glorious being is worship of God as God. God’s holiness is expressed in His gracious redemptive acts. Encountering the God who reveals and gives himself makes worship possible, and worship becomes the primary way of knowing Him. We worship the holy redeeming God by loving what He loves.

Our worship of the great and gracious God takes many forms. Often it is praise and prayer with the faith community. It also expresses itself in acts of private devotion, thanksgiving, praise, and obedience. Evangelistic sharing of the faith, compassion toward our neighbor, working for justice, and moral uprightness are all acts of worship before our God of blazing holiness. Even the ordinary tasks of life become acts of worship and take on a sacramental significance as worship of a holy God becomes our way of life.

Jesus informs our understanding of holiness through His life, sacrifice, and teachings as found in the Gospels, particularly the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). As a Holiness people we seek to be like Jesus in every attitude and action. By His grace God enables believers who worship Him with their whole hearts to live Christlike lives. This we understand to be the essence of holiness.

God has also given us the gift and responsibility of choice. Because we were born with a tendency to sin, we are inclined to choose our own way rather than God’s (Isaiah 53:6). Having corrupted God’s creation with our sin, we are dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). If we are to live again spiritually, God, who calls into being what does not exist, must graciously create us anew through the redemptive acts of His own Son.

We believe that God uniquely entered our world through the incarnation of His only Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the historical God-man. Jesus came to renew the image of God in us, enabling us to become holy people. We believe that holiness in the life of the believer is the result of both a crisis experience and a lifelong process. Following regeneration, the Spirit of our Lord draws us by grace to the full consecration of our lives to Him. Then, in the divine act of entire sanctification, also called the baptism with the Holy Spirit, He cleanses us from original sin and indwells us with His holy presence. He perfects us in love, enables us to live in moral uprightness, and empowers us to serve.

The Spirit of Jesus works within us to reproduce in us His own character of holy love. He enables us to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). To be like God is to be like Jesus. Having had the divine image restored in us in God’s act of entire sanctification, we acknowledge that we have not yet arrived spiritually; our lifelong goal is Christlikeness in every word, thought, and deed. By continued yieldedness, obedience, and faith, we believe that we are “being transformed into his [Christ’s] likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We participate further in this process as we live a life of worship expressed in many ways, including embracing the spiritual disciplines and the fellowship and accountability of the local church. As a body of believers in a specific congregation, we endeavor to be a Christlike community, worshiping God with our whole hearts and receiving His gifts of love, purity, power, and compassion.

As a Holiness people we do not exist in a historical and ecclesiastical vacuum. We identify with the New Testament and the Early Church. Our Articles of Faith clearly place us in the tradition of classical Christianity. We identify with the Arminian tradition of free grace-Jesus died for all-and human freedom-the God-given capacity of all to choose God and salvation. We also trace our ecclesiastical heritage to the Wesleyan Revival of the 18th century and to the Holiness Movement of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Through the centuries the Holiness people have had a “magnificent obsession” with Jesus. We worship Jesus! We love Jesus! We think Jesus! We talk Jesus! We live Jesus! This is the essence and overflow of holiness for us. This is what characterizes Holiness people.

All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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(from:  http://nazarene.org/ministries/administration/visitorcenter/values/holiness/display.html)