Friday, July 6, 2012

The Pursuit of Perfection or a Hint of Harlotry?

What do you expect from God?

Movies such as "Clash of the Titans" and "Wrath of the Titans" portray the gods on Mount Olympus as fickle and prone to mood swings, not caring about a man's behavior as long as he prays, feeding their power and fueling their immortality.

Personally, I expect more from God that that. If God is holy, then I would expect His offspring to be holy. I would expect His creations to be holy. I expect a perfect God.

If there is one criticism I have heard more than any other in my lifetime, it is this: There are too many hypocrites in the church. For years, as a minister, I have excused the behavior with lines such as: "Well, at least they're going to church. That's the best place for them." But now, I have come to believe that the criticism is valid. There ARE too many hypocrites in church. ONE hypocrite is too many in church.

The real questions isn't what I expect from God. He has no obligation to live up to my expectations. The question is: What does God expect from me? What does He expect from His people?

I certainly understand the church is no longer bound by the Law of Moses, but that does not mean it is without value - the same perfect God created both the Old and the New Covenants. Within the Law, He declared - clearly - His expectations from man.

Take, for example, those who would serve as His priests. "They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God" (Leviticus 21:6). If God is holy and perfect, then isn't it right that He would expect such behavior from those who serve Him?

Examples of such perfection are offered in the chapter. "They shall not take a woman who is profaned by harlotry, nor shall they take a woman divorced from her husband; for he is holy to his God" (Leviticus 21:7). When they married, they were to marry someone "perfect" ... "He shall take a wife in her virginity" (Leviticus 21:13). 
 
The priests themselves were also to be perfect. "No man of your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the food of his God" (Leviticus 21:17) ... and the defects are listed in the following verses - no one who was blind, lame, disfigured or deformed could serve as a priest of God.

Is God anti-women? Is God anti-handicapped? *sigh* Those aren't the focus the passage ... perfection is the point! God is perfect, and He expects His servants to be perfect. The reason we of the New Covenant have been given the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is to allow us to fulfill that expectation. He is rightly called "the Spirit of holiness" (Romans 1:4).

But today, I see just the opposite. So called "men of God" are reveling in their imperfections. They are shouting from their religious rooftops, "Hey, we're all just sinners!" There is no effort toward holiness in their own behavior ... no expectation of perfection in their preaching or teaching.

What we see today is the hint of harlotry. Churches claim that God is their Husband, yet chase after worldly lovers. Such has never been God's expectation. God speaks to His church, "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

God's desire has not changed. He still expects us to be holy before Him, and not to profane His name. But we cannot do that as long as the hint of harlotry remains. "... beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1).

1 comment:

  1. I am reminded of the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said, "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, (it is) baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate." Though this is not the popular gospel, it does underscore the biblical thread of holiness that remains true; God is holy, His people should aspire and strive for holiness, and therefore, God is not OK with unholy living. Well said my brother.

    Tim Bolen

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