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Personal Holiness - Why so many get it wrong
The other day, I heard a preacher on the radio. Now this radio station is known for being "Calvinistic". However, I do not believe Calvin would be in agreement with a large chunk of their theology. Similar to how John Wesley would not be happy with the state of affairs in the Methodist Church.
At any rate, I was listening to this preacher's sermon on personal holiness. What struck me about the sermon was the fact that most everything he said was in error. Now, I am not refering to "obvious errors" everyone could point out, per se, but more along the lines of something preachers are often blind to.
Here is a Synopsis of his points:
Now, as I said earlier, he is essentially wrong about everything he said. Let me explain, as I am sure a few of you are thinking I am not fully correct here. The fact is, we can live a holy life, as Jesus said: "Be ye holy as I am holy" and "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light".
The fact is, Christ calls us to be holy. If it were not possible, he would not command it of us. Further, he said his burden is light for those who follow him.
So, why is it this preacher thinks it is very difficult to live a holy life?
Well, he mentions "sexual thoughts". As it is difficult to avoid thinking sexually about the opposite sex. And it is clear in his sermon, he is refering to men or women thinking sexual or erotic thoughts.
I guess then the question is, why is it hard to avoid, if Jesus said, "my yoke is easy and my burden is light"?
I believe the answer is because most preachers misunderstand Matthew 5:27-28.
Did you know that all of the protestant dogma against eroticism and nudity hinges on this one verse? I am guessing you do not realize this. For, if I was able to show you how many misunderstand this verse, and show you its true meaning, you will discover, there is no other verse in the Bible that forbids general (non-coveting another's wife) sexual thought.
So what is the meaning of Matthew 5:27-28?
I will just tell you plainly. Most pastors do not realize they are not reading the passage in the context of biblical definitions.
If adultery was defined in the Old Testament first and polygamy was not a sin in the Old Testament, we find that the common secular definition of adultery is not actually the biblical definition.
Adultery is defined as "unlawful intercourse with another man's wife" in both the original greek and hebrew of the New and Old Testament. However, people do not like that definition. As it does not fit monogamy or the current stance of the church on polygamy.
As a result, if we just use a simple "Strong's Concordance", we find out the real meaning of Matthew 5:27-28.
Now, before you go whipping out your Strong's Concordance, I will have to ask you, "What version do you own?" As the current versions have been "altered" from the originals. Meaning, they have changed the meaning of these definitions over time.
So, they have put theological spins on various words on the "updated" versions of the Strong's Concordance. Now, the "Old" Strong's Concordance just focuses on the meaning of the words. The new Strong's Concordance have been designed to "fit" common Protestant and Catholic theological ideas.
At any rate, here is the rub:
So, if we use the old Strong's Concordance and just write out the meaning of the verse, it says:
Now, some of you are thinking, "How could this be possible?" Well, the fact is, people are not diligent in studying scripture. It took me several years to even notice this inconsistancy in protestant theology, because it is so engrained in protestant teaching.
The fact is, I am not the only one who interpreted it this way. Matter of fact, a man named Theophilus of Antioch about 100 years after the apostles, wrote the very same thing. The fact is, he used King Solomon as a "good" example of someone following Matthew 5:27-28.
Note to reader: King Solomon had 1000 wives. To say he never lusted after another woman other than one of his wives, would be quite a rediculous statement.
And if that was not enough, it appears that the text of Matthew 5:27-28 (greek) is actually just a paraphrase of Exodus 20 from the Septuagint (Greek OT). The 10th Commandment, "Thou shalt not covet.... neighbor's wife".
So, Jesus was just quoting the 7th Commandment (Thou shalt not commit adultery) and the 10th Commandment (Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's ... wife) and explaining the theology of the 7th Commandment with the 10th Commandment. Doesn't that make sense? He said he did not come to change the Law, but to fulfill. So it would make sense he would stick with his scripture, namely the Old Testament.
To see how engrained it is in your mind, ask yourself this, "Why didn't I notice Jesus parable of the 10 virgins marrying the Bridegroom?" How is it Jesus can say you can not lust after any woman but your wife, yet then make a parable about Him marrying 5 virgins? And why do we assume, Jesus automatically was against polygamy? It is Protestantism, not Jesus who came up with these ideas.
So, here we are. Why did this pastor say no one can live righteously? Because he believes that its very difficult to not think sexual thoughts. That was his main beef with living holy lives, but says we need to really try?
Maybe the real problem is that this pastor has gnostic influences. The Gnostics believe that some knowledge (gnosis means "knowledge") can save us. Do you have "saving knowledge" of Christ? Or is it a relationship with Christ? Is it saying a prayer and believing Jesus is God? Or living in repentance and committed faith to Christ? Can you be married to Christ with just "knowledge"?
Gnostics also believed the physical was evil, because an evil devil/god created the physical world, while a good God created the spiritual world. Hence, the gnostics concluded that all sex is evil. Where have you heard that before? Were not many of the early fathers like this? People like St. Augustine believed all sex was evil, even maritial sex.
Who most influenced Christian thought on the topic of sex? It was St. Augustine. And he was a gnostic prior to his Christian conversion. Matter of fact, St. Augustine was a Manichean Gnostic prior to becoming a Christian. A Manichean is a lot like a neo-Calvinist today. Manichean's believed that all physical desire and pleasure was evil. However, they also believed that since they were "enlightened" (or maybe "saved"), it did not matter what they did with their physical bodies. So, since they are "saved" they can sin like the Devil. As a result, many had unrestrained sex and various deviancies.
But what happened after St. Augustine became a Christian? Well, he still remained gnostic on many topics. Yes, he did become orthodox on the ressurrection, baptism, etc. However, he did not give up his gnostic ways on other topics, such as sex. And the fact is, he is the one who influenced all of Christiandom. Today, your viewpoints are partially a result of his teachings.
But, this was not the end of gnostic influences on the church. Did you know that even from Day 1 of the church, we find gnosticism to be the number 1 problem and heresy to be fought? Even the Apostle John deals with gnosticism in the Book of John. When he mentions the "Logos" who came to save the world, he is actually refering to how Christ differs from the "Logos" of gnosticism and points out how Christ the true Logos is clearly different (via attributes indicated in the text). So, even the Apostle John and the Apostle Paul dealt with gnosticism in their time.
And is today any different? We have people saying a certain "secret knowledge" will save you. And we have Manicheans today. Are not neo-Calvinists essentially Manicheans?
Let me illustrate:
Maybe some of you Wesleyans or Arminians think you are in the right? Or that you have escaped this gnostic influence?
No, in reality, some of you are St. Augustine after his conversion to Christianity. He turned his viewpoint from:
Does that not sound like many conservative Wesleyans and Arminians? Declaring all forms of pleasure, entertainments and sexual desire as "sinful". Further, do they not teach you have to avoid?
What about covering every inch of your body so as to avoid any showing of curvature, skin, etc? There is a point of respect, but does it make you "holy" to wear long sleeves? To wear a long dress? Isn't this a result of assuming Matthew 5:27-28 says you can not think sexual thoughts?
I have a question for you, "If it is truly holy to do this, why is it those who hate Christianity and even who kill Christians teach the very same covering techniques?" If it is truly holy, should not religions like Islam teach the opposite? If it is truly sinful to be attracted sexually to another person, should not Islam allow such things? Isn't Islam against TV, and entertainments?
Well, I lean towards Arminianism or Wesleyanism, however, I reject the "overtly conservative dress" theology and also the "pleasure and entertainments are sinful" theology. As it is unscriptural and if anything, it is Gnostic in origin. I do believe a person has to be committed to God, of course, as faith in the greek, actually means "commitment" as well.
God created all physical nature, including sexuality. It is not the Devil's creation. Gnostics believed the Devil created sex. Even some early fathers taught the first sin in the Garden of Eden was sex.
Of course, I do believe there are many evil entertainments out there. But, I do not believe you will goto Hell for watching TV or wearing short sleeves or thinking some natural sexual thoughts.
So, we can say the Wesleyans and Arminians are atleast right on the concept of living righteously before God. However, they are sometimes in error on "how" to live holy. Holiness has nothing to do with self-deprivation, clothes you wear, avoiding sex or sexual thoughts, avoiding the TV or "worldly pleasures" (which is often defined as anything that includes pleasure or entertainment).
To the contrary, holiness is about living for God and following his rules, rather than some man-made rules from your local church or pastor. God's rules can be broken down into two rules: Love God, love neighbor; or ten rules: The Ten Commandments; or more elaborate.
Does all this gnostic influence end at sex? Or does it extend into other doctrines?
Unfortunately, it does extend into other doctrines, even core ones, such as Baptism, the Eucharist, Heaven/Hell, etc.
Maybe as a result of Protestants wanting to distance themselves from Catholics, some went too far, into another error. As some teach that baptism is not relevant to salvation.
The problem, though, with this salvation by knowledge is it leads to other errors. Spiritual Baptism IS required for salvation. By spiritual baptism, I am refering to Christ washing away your sins. Now, physical baptism represents this spirtual baptism and is a command by God and since "knowledge" does not save us, but rather Christ through repentance and living faith, we know that minimizing baptism is actually just another error. By the way, the gnostics were known for saying baptism was not part of the salvation process as well.
So, it is not your work of baptism that saves you. As no work you do can save you. Yet, it is Christ's spiritual baptism that now does save you (1 Peter 3:21). So, you can not minimize baptism in preaching.
Same is the case with Heaven/Hell, the Eucharist, etc. You can see gnostic influence even today. I discuss all of this in great detail here:
A Short Summation:
We don't go directly to Heaven, but first face the Judgement. You do not float in Heaven as a spirit. All things will be restored, even your physical nature. Christ is spiritually present in the eucharist. It is not mere symbolism and it is not literally physically transforming into Christ's physical body (yet, Christ is indeed present in the eucharist and it is his Body and Blood).
Do you see how Protestantism has been falling partially for Gnosticism? Can you see it in your church? Do they think its OK to sin? Or maybe their idea of personal holiness is throwing away the TV and dressing in a business suit? Do they say "just believe" and no repentance is required? Do they minimize important doctrines?
Frankly, I think the protestant church is just as bad or worse than the Catholic church right now. I would say the Catholic church has become somewhat more biblical in many ways, while the protestant has become less and less biblical. Of course, I still think the Catholic church has a long way to go to be "biblical", but atleast in the last few hundred years they have become more biblical, while protestants have become less. Of course, we can not neglect to mention the Orthodox (Greek, Russian, etc), which seems anymore to be more biblical than both the Catholic or Protestant churches. Atleast the Orthodox church can retain core Orthodoxy without heresy or error creeping into its midst. By "core", I mean the fundamental teachings of Christianity (which seems to be a challenge for Protestants these days).
Where do most of the cults come from today? Do they not come from the protestant's ranks? Where did the Emergent Church come from? Did it not come from Protestantism? How about Neo-Calvinism or this McDonald's type spirituality? Did it not come from Protestantism? How about all those glorified salesman on TV? Was it not Protestantism that created the Word of Faith Movement?
Do not be deceived. The protestant church is in dire straights. It very much needs to return to its roots. It did not have perfection even from the beginning, but as with our American Constitution, it had a start on the right foot, which could lead to greater perfection.