Thursday, July 4, 2013

Piper's Pen and Prose: The Pursuit of The Holy~ My longing is to see the Church transformed

The Pursuit of the Holy by Simon Ponsonby

Chapter One- The Longing to be Holy

~ No, my longing is to see the Church transformed so that we might transform society.

~ “The darkness is deepening.” So said Gandalf in Tolkien’s classic The Lord of The Rings Trilogy. And so it is for us. Faced with an unconvincing Church, society is looking to alternatives.

~ And yet, while sinners are certainly responsible for their own sin, I don’t entirely blame the world. They merely do what is in line with their natures: They Sin. You cannot be surprised when sinners act sinfully- they have no power to purify themselves. Can a godless society be expected to be godly without seeing what godliness is?

~ The Church has all too often blended in in with the world rather than revealed Christ and his ways to the world.

~ Somewhere along the line we have forgotten our vocation—to be a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus said it is part of the Church’s role through conforming to him and conveying him to the world, to be a sanctifying, salting, influence in society (Matt. 5:13-16).

~ No one will listen to our gospel if we aren’t living it. We cannot influence or infect society with something that has not yet infected us. A saltless salt cannot savor and flavor. The Church cannot light a fire if she is not on fire.

~ We need reformation, a revival—and holiness will be at the heart of it. The Church must again find and follow Jesus—not as a doctrine to be believed but as a Lord to be served and a life to be lived.

~ A holy Church can influence an unholy world. Where Christ is seen, he is attractive, wooing and winning people to himself.

~ And as Paul said, “Through us [God] spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Cor. 2:14).

~ The world looks on hateful, self-serving, undisciplined, greedy, impure people who never the less claim to be the people of God and says, “You lie.”

~ It is not as if we are addressing a marginal issue here—it is central. In the latest celebrated “revival” in the West, a feted evangelist suddenly walked off the stage and walked out on his wife. Claims of numerous extraordinary miracles could not be substantiated—not even one. I attended churches and watched ministers manipulate money out of church members for the promise of miracles. Pretense, fabrication, and nonsense were rife. Nothing new here, of course, but I groaned along with many others in the Church: where was the bride of Christ, making herself ready for Christ (Rev. 21:2)?

~ Isaiah spoke more about holiness than any other prophet. It was part of his ministry to call the nations to holiness.

~ The prophet had preached the nation’s guilt only to see his own.

~ And lest we be hypocrites, we ought not do that before we have applied the message to the sinfulness of our own hearts.

~ We must go on to know, as Isaiah knew, a deep cleansing from God’s fire and a commissioning for his service. I do not believe that Isaiah had been a hypocrite—he had said what he saw in the world and what he heard from God; but lest he fall, thinking he stood tall, God also showed him himself. Now his message could be tempered by self-awareness a much-needed humility in the face of burning-coal grace for the sinner.

~ I confess, I resign myself to the presence of sin and weakness rather than feeling wretched or wrestling against it.

~ God is holy. Holiness is his nature and character. It is not an attribute: it is who he is.

~ The language and practices of holiness have atrophied under the impact of modernity and secularization.

~ The holy life is a foretaste of heaven on earth. It is not God’s burden for us but God’s best for us.

~ Any form of holiness that leads to someone looking like they just drank a gallon of vinegar is not biblical holiness; it is more likely Pharisaism. The Church has lost something of this notion of holiness as happiness. We need to look at the Jews celebrating the Sabbath, their holiest of times. Men gather in the streets, linking arms and dancing. Home is turned into a place of wonder, mystery, and glory as families welcome the Sabbath. How much more should the Church now celebrate holiness joyfully, knowing that the Messiah Jesus has in one day, by his death for us at Golgotha, taken away all our sin?

~ The traditional places for the Jewish woman to articulate holiness were in her home and in her diet, making a distinction between the sacred and the profane, offering her life and work as worship to God.

~ Holiness is about having the right clothing to be with the King of Kings (Matt. 22:11-12).

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