CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Hating Sin, Loving Holiness

Nov 12, 2014

There are millions of Christians today who read Scriptures many times over, but live just like atheists. They read the Word of God but they don’t believe, they don’t live it. To read the Word daily yet ignore its clear demands and teachings means we are simply ‘Christian’ atheists.

Consider just one passage of Holy Scripture: Hebrews 12:14b which says this: “without holiness no one will see the Lord”. How many millions of Christians have read this countless times. But who actually believes it? Who takes a passage such as this seriously?

holiness 2Without holiness we will not see the Lord. End of the story. No getting around it. Now of course New Testament Christianity is clear in teaching that the initial step in getting right with God (justification), and the ongoing step (sanctification) are a package deal. We cannot have one without the other.

By grace through faith we are declared righteous and holy by the finished work of Christ. But that is only the beginning. The next step is to live like what we have been declared to be. Living a holy life experientially is also of grace through faith, but we must take the necessary steps to achieve this. We must be obedient. The gospel really is, as David Pawson reminds us, quite simple:

“It is not, ‘you must now be holy’. It is not, ‘you needn’t be holy – you’re still going to heaven’. It is, rather, ‘you can be holy’. Holiness is on offer as well as forgiveness. Both are by faith from beginning to end. It is not only to be covered by his righteousness, but to have his righteousness created within me.”

We are to be holy not just in our standing, but in our state. We are pronounced holy and righteous because of what Jesus did for us, but now we are to appropriate that, experience it, and slowly but surely live it out in our lives. It does no good to raise your hand as an emotional response to some gospel pitch years ago, but to keep on living like the devil.

A real Christian – over time at least – learns to hate sin – beginning with his own – and to love righteousness and holiness. But the reason so few Christians are moving down this path is because we have proclaimed a false gospel to people. We have emphasised the love of God but totally ignored the holiness and righteousness of God.

Thus our gospel is truncated and incomplete. We tell people that God loves them unconditionally and accepts them just as they are, and all they have to do is give a mental assent to all this. We no longer preach the horribleness of sin, the utter need of repentance, and a willingness to renounce self and take up our cross daily.

So we have plenty of Christians who have sung ten choruses of “Just As I Am” who leave a gospel meeting just as they were. They have never been regenerated because they have never repented. And they have never repented because they have never been told there is need to. Just accept God’s love – end of story. As Pawson says:

The idea that God loves everybody unconditionally, wants them all to come to him just as they are, and everyone can then be happy – that is not the gospel, or the God that we are to present to the world. It implies when we emphasise to unbelievers that God is love that we are lovable. Because we measure His love by ours…. God had to tell the Jews, ‘I don’t love you because you are special; you are special because I love you’. And that is the biblical emphasis. God doesn’t love us because we are lovable, but because He is love. That’s a very different thing. And so we have had an overemphasis on a God of Love in our preaching to unbelievers – something that the New Testament apostles never did.

He is quite right. I will give you a hundred dollars for every time you can find for me the love of God being mentioned in the book of Acts. Surely if we want to know what biblical evangelism is all about, we will find it here. But in Acts we find a gospel of repentance, and a God of righteousness and holiness being proclaimed.

We need to get back to New Testament evangelism. We need to get back to the gospel message of the New Testament. It is never about ‘your best life now’ or how to be happy and prosperous and feel good about yourself. It is about: Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

All the great preachers and evangelists know these truths, which is why they had such a powerful impact, and why their converts remained – they preached sin and repentance, and they preached holiness. And that is what we must once again do as well if we want to have a real impact, and if we want to make real disciples of Jesus Christ.

Let me close with some of these great men of God, and their great words on sin, repentance, and holiness. Let their words soak in deeply and with great Holy Ghost conviction:

“You know, we live in a day when we are more afraid of holiness than we are of sinfulness.” Leonard Ravenhill

“It is not the absence of sin but the grieving over it which distinguishes the child of God from empty professors.” A. W. Pink

“Listen, I’m against sin. I’ll kick it as long as I’ve got a foot, I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist, I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head, and I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. And when I’m old, fistless, footless, and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to glory and it goes home to perdition.” Billy Sunday

“There must be a divorce between you and sin, or there can be no marriage between you and Christ.” Charles Spurgeon

“Sin is the greatest power in the world, with one exception, and this is the power of God.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“True repentance begins with KNOWLEDGE of sin. It goes on to work SORROW for sin. It leads to CONFESSION of sin before God. It shows itself before a person by a thorough BREAKING OFF from sin. It results in producing a DEEP HATRED for all sin.” J.C. Ryle

“The idea that God will pardon a rebel who has not given up his rebellion is contrary both to the Scriptures and to common sense.” A.W. Tozer

“If the man does not live differently from what he did before, both at home and abroad, his repentance needs to be repented of, and his conversion is a fiction.” C.H. Spurgeon

“Before I preach love, mercy, and grace, I must preach sin, law, and judgement.” John Wesley

“True repentance will entirely change you; the bias of your souls will be changed, then you will delight in God, in Christ, in His Law, and in His people.” George Whitefield

“The holiest person is one who is most conscious of what sin is.” Oswald Chambers

“I believe the holier a man becomes, the more he mourns over the unholiness which remains in him.” Charles Spurgeon

“People may refuse to see the truth of our arguments, but they cannot evade the evidence of a holy life.” J.C. Ryle

“The failure of modern evangelicalism is the failure to understand the holiness of God.” R.C. Sproul

“As we grow in holiness, we grow in hatred of sin; and God, being infinitely holy, has an infinite hatred of sin.” Jerry Bridges

“It is not surprising that the cross has been discounted by modern theologians; it is because they have started with the love of God without His holiness.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“Every man is as holy as he really wants to be.” A. W. Tozer

“The holy man is not one who cannot sin. A holy man is one who will not sin.” A. W. Tozer

“The greatest miracle that God can do today is to take an unholy man out of an unholy world, and make that man holy and put him back into that unholy world and keep him holy in it.” Leonard Ravenhill

“Without holiness, no one shall see the Lord. Jesus didn’t die to save us from hell. That’s a fringe benefit! He died to get total occupation of us. To be holy in speech… in actions… in everything.” Leonard Ravenhill

Please take 80 minutes to hear David Pawson teaching on these truths here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQ3XnhIhkUY

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10 Responses to Hating Sin, Loving Holiness

  • Thanks for the reminder Bill, we need to be reminded of this reality on a daily basis. If I may add these words by John Owen:
    “It is our duty to be perfecting holiness in the fear of The Lord; to be growing in grace every day; to be renewing our inward man day by day. Now this cannot be done without the daily mortifying of sin: sin sets its strength against every act of holiness, and against every degree we grow to. Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness, who walks not over the neck of his lusts.He, who does not kill sin in his way, takes no steps towards his journey’s end. He, who finds not opposition from it, and who sets not himself in every particular to its mortification, is at peace with it, not dying to it.”

  • Unfortunately there are too many otherwise “good” church leaders today who are avoiding this topic like the plague. Keep up the good work, Bill.

  • I still remember the shock I felt when a friend of mine said about six years ago ” we go to church but we don’t believe in God – because of what science tells us”; And another female ex-friend who said even more years ago “I would like a baby but I don’t want the father”; and another ex friend who had a gender identity change from man to woman and wanted to talk to me all day about cosmetics and fashion. The concept of holiness is noticeable by its absence although the transsexual did say he realised he should change sex when in a church – well known for its medieval fresco depicting heaven and hell.

  • Thanks for the article, Bill, it is very challenging!

    I just had a question about the David Pawson quotation:

    God had to tell the Jews, ‘I don’t love you because you are special; you are special because I love you’.

    I would imagine that David Pawson’s quote is a paraphrase from the bible, would anyone be able to tell me where it comes from, please?

  • Oh Well said!!! How I pray more men of God in our churches would speak this out in Australia. Thank you.

  • Thanks Matthew. Pawson was of course just putting in his own words what a number of Scriptures say on this theme. Here are just three of them:

    Deut. 7:7,8 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

    Deut. 8:17, 18 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

    Deut. 9:4-6 After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

  • This post is excellent and the quotes are also terrific! Thank you!

  • I thought of your article when I read McCheyne’s sermon Conviction of Sin based on the text by Robert Murray M’Cheyne where the first work of the Spirit is to convince of sin.

    “And when He [the Comforter] is come, He will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (John 16:8) http://www.eternallifeministries.org/rm_sin.htm

  • This article is spot on Bill, the only problem I see is that you don’t give your readers a definition of ‘sin’? Many people decide what is right in their own eyes! for example some Christians don’t see anything wrong living together but not marrying. Paul demanded the Church at Corinth expel the wicked man from their midst who was guilty of sexual immorality. ‘everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact’, ‘SIN IS LAWLESSNESS’ 1 Jn 3:4

  • Christianity in America has been reduced to saying a prayer and waiting for a bus ride to Heaven. It’s very unfortunate. Jesus said to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him. He was a human, walking the Earth infilled with the Holy Spirit. He said follow, so I know it’s possible. He didn’t merely come to Earth to show what a supreme being He was. He modeled the Christian life for us. He was love personified. We are righteous and holy before God because of the finished work of the Cross. Awesome!

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