Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Rayola Kelley

Have you ever thought about God being black and white in how He judges all matters? In my personal encounters with God, I have discovered in light of the cross of Jesus that He is loving, compassionate, quick to forgive, and committed to my spiritual well-being. Therefore it is hard to believe He has characteristics that make Him defined as black and white but He does and this decisiveness is found in His holiness.

Holiness expresses itself in traits such as righteousness, justice, and judgment. It was unveiled on the cross when Jesus became sin for us in order to suffice God’s judgment upon this terminal disease of man’s soul. It demands the work of sanctification and without it a person will not see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

Conflict arises because some Christians feel that God’s holiness and His love are incompatible causing some to present Him as a harsh God that will not tolerate any deviance, or a loving God who embraces everything. Needless to say, both perspectives are incorrect.

It is easy to see both God’s love and holiness in operation on the cross. Because He is holy, He can’t tolerate sin but because He is love He provided a way for sin to be dealt with. His provision cost Him dearly because it cost the life of His Son. On the cross mercy and judgment came together to produce grace. The beauty of grace is that where sin abounds, grace can abound in a greater measure (Romans 5:20).

Grace is another truth that has caused great conflict. Many people feel that they can’t live the Christian life; therefore, grace becomes a term that many hide behind as they excuse away unrighteous attitudes and lifestyles. First Peter 1:15-16 clearly commands: “But, as he who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation, Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Grace is not meant to be an excuse or a way to blur the lines of holiness but rather it is the means to empower a person to live upright. Grace is active for it abounds or operates in greater measure than sin. Sin has only one boundary and that is repentance, which entails a complete change of heart, mind, and direction. This is why Jesus said: “I tell you, Nay. But, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3 & 5). But grace is infinite

Once a person repents, God can meet him or her in His grace. This will give the individual the liberty and power to walk in it and become the person God has designed him or her to be.

Likewise Christianity is a life of black and white. This life is simple and comes down to making the right or wrong choices. These choices are often perverted by people’s ideas or blurred by compromises and excuses. Let me give you some examples of the decisiveness of this life.

Salvation is black and white. It lies at the heart of God’s commitment to every individual. A person can accept God’s provision of salvation or reject it. Therefore, people are either saved or they are lost and on a destructive path; but nevertheless, the lines that constitute real salvation have been blurred, causing a false presentation of it.

The Word tells us a person must believe in his or her heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess Him as Lord (Romans 10:9-10). These lines have been blurred as salvation is often reduced from a heart reality to a mental assent or even a sinner’s prayer that focuses on avoiding eternal destruction but is devoid of understanding the real Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

When it comes to the Christian walk, we must enter into the narrow gate or we will be walking down the broad way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). We are told that the way to life is hard and straight and comes down to the cross of Jesus. Everything must come by way of this cross or it will lack the marks that clearly distinguish it as the way and essence of true life. People blur this line by adjusting Christianity to religious preferences and reducing this life down to a belief system rather than a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells us if we love Him we will abide in Him (John 15:1-14). If we are not abiding in the vine and producing fruit, we will be cast forth as useless branches. Abiding points to dependency on the vine (faith), compliance or obedience, and intimacy. Without faith, we can’t please God and intimacy points to knowing Him in a personal way (Hebrews 11:6; 15:15-16).

Obedience is not optional but a response of salvation. Hebrews 5:9 confirms this: “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” But the lines are often blurred in regards to abiding and obedience. Instead of testing our life in light of fruits and our commitment in light of obedience to the Word of God, we test them according to our personal self-righteousness and all of the religious activities we do in the name of God (Matthew 7:15-20; James 1:22-25). Sadly, we are the only ones who become impressed with our personal religious life as we choose to stay in our deluded bliss.

Jesus points out another choice. He tells us that in order to be His disciples, we must deny self, pick up the cross, and follow Him. Everyone one will end up denying something. For example, if you do not deny self, you will deny Jesus along the way as you will compromise with the world to find your place, identity, and purpose in it instead of the Son of God.

The idea of denying self and picking up the cross is not attractive to most believers; therefore, some blur the lines by doing just enough to soothe their religious conscience without paying the price of self-denial and death. To the people observing from without, it may appear impressive but to God it is an unacceptable offering because there is no real sacrifice (See Mark 12:41-44). Without such denial, one can’t truly obey God or know His will (Romans 12:1-2).

Another area of decisiveness in the Christian life is servitude. People are servants of something. They are either a servant to sin or Jesus Christ. Although man is a servant, he does not have a disposition to be a servant of God. In fact, he will serve everything from the lust of the flesh, pride of life, and the lust of the eyes to please self but will not humble himself to serve the Living God in order to please Him.

To become a servant of God, people have to deny self and apply the cross to their flesh and become crucified to the world (Galatians 6:14). They need to give way to the work of the Spirit who will develop the disposition of a servant of God within them.

This brings us to another area that is black and white in the Christian life and that is conformity. The Word of God talks about being conformed to the image of Jesus or to the world (Romans 8:29; 12:1-2; Philippians 3:10). Some Christians conform outwardly to religious standards while inwardly holding on to self and the world.

Although Jesus was externally fashioned as a man, He was unlike man because He was without sin. In order to be conformed to the image of Christ, Christians must be inwardly transformed. This inward transformation involves developing the mind of Christ to outwardly manifest His life. This transformation can’t take place unless a person becomes a servant of God. After all, a person will only be conformed to what he or she is serving. Such servitude begins with self-denial that finds its origins in obedience and the love of God.

The right decisions in these areas will develop upright conduct that expresses the holiness of God. This upright conduct will put a person on the way to heaven which brings us down to the clarity found in the issue of eternal destination. People need to realize they are preparing for heaven or hell by the way they live. Many Christians have told me they just want to get to heaven but yet some are living a life contrary to heaven. For example, they are being conformed to this world, serving self, denying Christ through compromising actions, and displaying attitudes that are contrary to the life of Jesus. In fact, they give the impression that they can live unto themselves until they get to heaven.

Our time in this life is nothing more than a preparation for the next. The Word is clear about what this preparation entails in regards to heaven but many people are living a life contrary to the nature or reality of heaven. In a way, they are preparing for an eternity that lacks holiness, is void of godly love, masks self-serving pursuits behind religion, and neglects the responsibility of being a child of God who is saved by grace unto good works (Ephesians 2:8-10; Hebrews 2:3).

The question is what are you preparing for on earth? Eternity with Jesus or being turned over to an eternal reality of vain and empty pursuits that are void of the reality of Jesus?

As you can see the issues discussed in this article are not optional but choices that will determine a person’s life, attitudes, and eternal destination. These choices are sometimes made daily and will produce either holiness or iniquity in individuals.

What about you? Have you made all the right choices to ensure holiness in your life?