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Christian Character Holiness

How To Acquire Christian Zeal: Holiness, Part 2

In continuing the series discussing the holiness that produces Christian zeal, I want to take a look at following passage from Paul to the church in Corinth.

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God,and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 6:16-18. 2 Corinthians 7:1 ESV)

I struggled for many years with the question of how the Christian can promote a true spiritual zeal, the kind of zeal that is marked by an overwhelming sense of passion and affection for the Lord–the kind of zeal that engulfs one’s heart and mind with desire for spiritual food while finding everything else to be like unseasoned tofu. And the whole time during my struggle, verses like these stared me right in the face. Here is God telling us exactly what we must do to be close to Him, and even beyond these prerequisite actions, more importantly this closeness occurs in a very real supernatural sense. You see, those that profess to know Him are much more than followers of a religion. Christians are much more than adherents to a philosophical or religious worldview. Christianity is much more than an occupation or a set of beliefs that guide our lives, but in fact we are temples of a living God Who is mighty and has redeemed us and bought us and is spiritually transforming us into the image of his Son, and He means to dwell in the tent of our hearts, enlarging and drawing and holding our consciences close to Him, using us for every good work that He has prepared before the very foundation of the world. We are a temple–a temple of holiness and purity. God cannot dwell in a filthy defiled temple, and if we would have God dwell closely in our hearts and fill us with the Spirit, we must not touch unclean things. If we want to be passionate and zealous for God and abound in our love for Him, we must prepare a place for Him to dwell. We must pursue holiness with all of our heart and all of our minds. Every defilement of body and spirit must be cut off. If anything holds and entangles our consciences in bondage, we must cut it off. It must die. If we desire to be perfected in the Spirit, we must pursue holiness. We must set ourselves apart so that the Lord might make his dwelling within us. Do we want zeal? Do we want to be close to God? Then let us pursue holiness with all our might, and let us not think about doing it, but let us DO it and never turn back. When we are discouraged about our lack of passion but are still beset by lingering sins, we should not wonder about our state and feelings of separation from God. Then let us cast aside our sin at all costs, refuse to be controlled by it, and flee to Christ. Prepare your temple for the LORD and He will dwell closely with you.

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Christian Character Holiness

How To Acquire Christian Zeal: Holiness, Part 1

Haven’t had time to write today, but wanted to share this challenging and convicting quote by J.C. Ryle from his great book Holiness which I’m currently reading:

You may say, “It was never meant that all Christians should be holy, and that holiness, such as I have described, is only for great saints, and people of uncommon gifts.” I answer, “I cannot see that in Scripture. I read that every man who hath hope in Christ purifieth himself.” (1 John 3:3)—“Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”

You may say, “It is impossible to be so holy and to do our duty in this life at the same time: the thing cannot be done.” I answer, “You are mistaken. It can be done. With Christ on your side nothing is impossible. It has been done by many. David, and Obadiah, and Daniel, and the servants of Nero’s household, are all examples that go to prove it.”

You may say, “If I were so holy I would be unlike other people.” I answer, “I know it well. It is just what you ought to be. Christ’s true servants always were unlike the world around them—a separate nation, a peculiar people;—and you must be so too, if you would be saved!”

You may say, “At this rate very few will be saved.” I answer, “I know it. It is precisely what we are told in the Sermon on the Mount.” The Lord Jesus said so 1,900 years ago. “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:14.) Few will be saved, because few will take the trouble to seek salvation. Men will not deny themselves the pleasures of sin and their own way for a little season. They turn their backs on an “inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” “Ye will not come unto Me,” says Jesus, “that ye might have life.” (John 5:40.)

You may say, “These are hard sayings: the way is very narrow.” I answer, “I know it. So says the Sermon on the Mount.” The Lord Jesus said so 1,900 years ago. He always said that men must take up the cross daily, and that they must be ready to cut off hand or foot, if they would be His disciples. It is in religion as it is in other things, “there are no gains without pains.” That which costs nothing is worth nothing.

Whatever we may think fit to say, we must be holy, if we would see the Lord. Where is our Christianity if we are not? We must not merely have a Christian name, and Christian knowledge, we must have a Christian character also. We must be saints on earth, if ever we mean to be saints in heaven. God has said it, and He will not go back: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”

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Christian Character Holiness

Christians, We Are Commanded To Be Zealous For Christ

Did you know that Christians are commanded to be zealous for the Lord? It’s not just a recommendation or a goal. Christians (and not just full-time ministers) are expected to be fervent in spirit. I find this incredibly self-convicting, and I hope to convict you as well. Let me explain.

Paul said to the church at Rome, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” (Romans 12:11 ESV) The Greek word for “fervent” is “zeó,” which was commonly used by famous Greek author Homer to describe boiling water. Authors like Plato and Plutarch also used this word metaphorically to describe the boiling over of emotions such as anger and love, or a strong desire to do good or evil. The technical Greek meaning is literally to bubble over in boiling and also figuratively boiling with interest or desire.

Do we understand what this means? It means all Christians are expected to be boiling hot for Christ. Why? Because God is glorified when we give Him our whole hearts. He wants all of us. He wants our entire wills. He wants our heart, soul, and mind. He wants us to say with Paul that we count all things as loss compared to the priceless privilege of knowing Christ. Read what Paul says similarly to the church at Corinth.

Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them.
(2 Corinthians 9:1-2 ESV)

Paul says that the Corinthian church as a whole was boiling hot for Christ, and many were “stirred” as a result. He makes no distinction of rank in the church, but addresses the church as a collective whole. He praises the whole church for her boiling hot affections for Christ, which erupted in service toward the church in Macedonia. In fact this same expectation is illustrated in Revelation when the church in Laodicea is addressed, as quoted in the passage below.

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
(Revelation 3:15-19 ESV)

The Laodicean church was rebuked for their lack of boiling hot affection for God. They were lukewarm. They were neither cold nor hot. God wanted them to be boiling hot. Lukewarm was not good enough. They forgot that they were “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” They were satisfied with the work of their hands. They thought they needed nothing; their hearts for God were cold and dim. They were to repent of their pride, humble themselves before God, and burn in their hearts with flaming hot affection for Christ, or they would be reproved and disciplined by God.

So we must ask ourselves, are we doing all that we can to be boiling hot for Christ? If not, why? If our hearts are not burning hot for Christ, then we need to ask God to help us figure out the cause. We need to determine what is holding our affections captive. Once we do that, we must repent (stop) . We must cut off any affections that divert our hearts away from God, stop quenching the Spirit, and be “fervent (boiling hot) in spirit, serving the LORD.”

How do we do this? I will write more on this in the next post, but it can be summarized in one word: holiness.