Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Holiness (page 2 of 2)

Do you look like God?

Have you ever wondered what it means that we are created in the image of God? It’s remarkable how from the very beginning to the very end of the Bible’s storyline, the purpose of humanity has been tied up with one simple concept: Bearing God’s image.

If you haven’t thought much about it, I’d encourage you to. It strikes at the heart of why you were created, why you are unhappy with so many of the things you do, and why it always feels like were created for more. This reality is what can give us joy, meaning, and purpose. It’s why the Father made us, why the Son redeemed us, and what the Spirit is actively doing right now in your life if you’re a Christian.

Here are some quick hits from various stages in the Bible’s storyline reminding us that we have been created for something meaningful: We have been created to look like God.

  • Gen 1 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” …   27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
  • Gen 5 1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.
  • Lev 11 44 For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.
  • John 14 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
  • Col 1 15 [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
  • Heb 1 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature….
  • 2Cor 3 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
  • Rom 8 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
  • 1John 3 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when [Jesus] appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

I Love My God

This morning I was reading from Leviticus 19. In the midst of a long string of commands, where God’s people are told what they must either do or not do in order to be holy as their God is holy, God gives these instructions.

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God. 

In these books of Law we find all kinds of laws that we would expect: Don’t murder; don’t steal; don’t take someone else’s wife; if you’re a judge, don’t take a bribe; if you kill an unborn baby, you are guilty before God; all kinds of laws like that. But then there are times when we come across passages like this one that can just seem totally unexpected.

Our God’s justice is not like our justice. Intrinsic to the founding of ‘the City of God’ is this notion that the poor, the widow, the orphan, the sojourner must find a home. They must be taken care of. Why? Because it is a reflection of God’s heart for the downtrodden. If God’s people are to be holy, as he is holy, they must reflect the same heart as him: the poor must be comforted.

So how does that translate into the new covenant? I would suggest that we see this fulfilled in no less than three ways as we live in the current ‘City of God’.

  1. Jesus’ message could be summarized this way: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matt 4.17). This call to repentance is filled out a little more in this way: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 5.3). In other words, the kingdom of heaven has come, and is possessed by those who are poor–in spirit. These are the ones who are broken over their sin before a holy God (Matt 5.4); the ones who realize they are not perfect as God is perfect (Matt 5.48). They are therefore quick to show mercy, as God has shown them mercy (Matt 5.7; 39-47; 6.14-15; 7.1-5). This is the exact same calling as those citizens of the City of God in the OT received (Lev 19.33-34).
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  3. Just as the thrust of the commands throughout the OT were to be kind to the poor in their midst, so in the NT, kingdom citizens are to be abundantly merciful and generous to meet the needs of other kingdom citizens. The early church did not miss this at all, but saw it quite clearly (Acts 2.44-45). The emphasis must be placed here: the first place we must give and look after the poor is in our own midst–this was so in the OT, just as it is in the NT (see also Gal 6.9-10).
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  5. The Christian must be known as one who does not withhold the wages of the labourer, but gives to each what is due. The cries of even the unbeliever, when he is oppressed, will reach the ears of the Lord and the one who has withheld good from him, will bear his guilt (Jas 5:1-6). The Christian must never be known as one who values his money more than he values people; this would not reflect the character of our God at all.

I love my God because he cares for the spiritually poor (broken) and the destitute. He is a God of mercy, compassion, and grace–this is clearly revealed in both testaments. If we are to be his ‘City’ then we must reflect his character, his person, his passions. We must show mercy to others, as he has shown mercy to us.

The Past Weekend

This past weekend I was extremely humbled and blessed to be invited to preach at the Winter Retreat for the Nipissing University / Canadore College Christian Fellowship. We gathered on Friday evening at Camp Kahquah in Magnetawan, ON.

As a group, they’re studying The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges this year, so they asked me to come and preach on the topic of holiness. I was asked to preach on Friday night, twice on Saturday, and again on Sunday morning.

To be honest, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this group. Some campus ministry groups I’ve known have been pretty flaky, so I was suspicious. But when I got there, I was pleasantly surprised.

As a group, they were attentive to the word being preached (which is saying a lot, given the preacher!), they were eager to think through the hard issues brought up, challenge each other through discussions in small groups, and were full of questions for me on practical issues of holy living that each of them were facing in their own lives.

I was truly blessed to have spent this time with these dear brothers and sisters, and have been truly humbled by the invitation to come and teach the word of God to them.

I would like to give special thanks to Nathan for putting my name forward as a possibility to come and preach. If it weren’t for his recommendation I wouldn’t have had the chance to be encouraged by these believers in North Bay. This was a weekend for which I am truly thankful to God.

Thoughts on Poverty of Spirit – 2

So how could it be that Christians would become proud? Having started with nothing, how could receiving freely give us reason to boast? It seems that pride is the sneakiest of all sins, working from the core of the heart, seeking any opportunity to morph and reappear undetected.

I think the first step in losing poverty of spirit is losing sight of who God is and what he demands.

The two most famous theophanies seem to be Moses on Sinai and Isaiah’s vision in the year that Uzziah died. With everything in me, try as I might, I can’t imagine a way that a person could remain proud in those circumstances. Even Moses, with whom God would speak(!) could not see him or else he would die.

In Isaiah’s vision even the creatures around Jesus’ throne could not look upon him, but were forced to cover both their faces and their feet. When Christians fail to recognize that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God who is a consuming fire, we cease to lose touch with the God of the Bible. When we forget that we ought rightly to be afraid of him, we are venturing toward pride.

But not only do we need to remember who God is, but we also need to remember what he demands of us. Throughout the Old Testament God thundered down the Law and declared through the prophets, ‘Be holy, as I am holy! It startles me to think that we as Christians can be so easy on our sin when we read this. Do we not realize what it says? And it is not merely an ‘Old Testament’ thing, either! Jesus declares that we must ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

In other words, the standard is God. Now, if you haven’t rightly evaluated who God is, that’s not that big of a deal. But if you have truly seen the God of the Bible for who he is, and then have realized that he himself is the standard, then you realize quite quickly why exactly Isaiah cried out ‘woe is me!’ and why Paul could so brazenly say ‘all have fallen short of the glory of God’ because all have broken the law. The law is not the standard… the law bears witness to the standard, but the standard is God himself!

I may think that I measure up okay in my Christian life… I don’t sin openly. I’ve read more books than other Christians (and better books too!). I go to church all the time, I teach Sunday school, all my friends are Christians… But in reality, how I measure up against other Christians is never, ever used as a realistic standard by which we ought to measure ourselves.

If we evaluate ourselves against others around us we might think we’re doing alright. In reality, however, we ought to be measuring ourselves against God, because he is what he demands from us, and nothing less.

Honestly comparing ourselves to the God of the Bible should produce poverty of Spirit where nothing else will. Once again, our greatest need is to turn to the word of God, to behold God, to know him for who he is. Only that will make us who and what we need to be.

The Self-Policing Church

I don’t know why it continues to amaze me, but it does: God is concerned with purity. He hates sin and will not tolerate the arrogance and abomination of sinners in his assembly. Of course, this makes sense, given that he himself is “holy, holy, holy“; altogether separate, pure, and entirely other from us.

As I’ve been reading through Deuteronomy again the past few days it has hit me that over and over again God demands purity in his people because he is pure. But more than that, he demands that his people maintain a standard of purity and holiness as well, because of their relation to him who is pure! They are to be a people holy, even as he is holy, because they are to be a nation of priests: witnesses of him to the world.

The repetition of this theme throughout Deuteronomy (the Mosaic “farewell discourse” as the people of God prepare to enter the promised land) is astounding. What is even more astounding is that they are to “police” themselves! See here for some examples.

So that was then, what about now? If this was how the people of the OT were to handle sin and impurity, what about the people of the NT? Afterall, the OT is “copies” and “shadows” of the real things. The Church, in the NT is the true “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for (God’s) own possession” (1 Peter 2.9).

This idea of being a people and nation for God in the NT–just as in the OT–is used to exhort God’s people to increased purity and holiness of life! That’s why Peter continues: “I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul…”

This is more than an individualistic call to a righteous life. It’s a call to consider the fact that we are a people who are to represent God collectively, as a nation! When our members begin to make mockery of the God we are to glorify by the way that they live, we are to purge the guilt of that sin from our midst.

Obviously that was easier to do, theoretically, when they people of God were a physical nation, but it is no less important now. For the church to be effective in glorifying the God of holiness by remaining pure, she must be “self-policing.”

Where it seems many in our day have trouble with this is this notion that the Christian “ought never judge.” The problem here is mistaking a concern for the glory of God’s name in the purity of his people with a self-righteous pride. The solution, it would seem, is for Christians concerned with the glory of Christ and the purity of his bride to remain humble “gate-keepers” and for all Christians to be open to loving correction.

In a culture that says no-one is allowed to correct anyone, this would be light and salt indeed.

And in a western-world where it seems that much of Christendom has nothing else to do, other than to re-discover old heresies abandoned in the purification of the church in days of persecution in the past, this means we must police our own doctrine as well. It would be absurd to think that God is this concerned with his glory in the way that we live, because it represents him, but that he won’t care if we teach (or “discuss” or “humbly question”) the wrong things about him.

A father is embarassed when his boys misbehave at school. He’s also embarassed when they describe him to their teacher as a guy who “looks just like us… only more girly.”

Glorifying God as his chosen, holy nation, means acting like him and describing him as accurately as possible in all circumstances. To this end, the church must be “self-policing,” watching our life and doctrine closely.

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