Be Holy

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts in your ignorance; But as He who called you is holy, you also become holy in all conduct, because it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.

1 Peter 1:15-16

The command to be holy is one God always gives to His people. In the Old Testament it was given to Israel. In the New Testament it is given to us believers. We are a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9), God’s people, and we are to be like Him in this way. To understand the call to holiness, we must first define what holy means.

Many people have a vague idea of what holiness means. In art, it is portrayed by a halo or glow around a person’s head, and sometimes a particular pose. (Whenever I see a painting of Jesus, I have this silly mind picture of Jesus posing for the artist as he paints the picture… perhaps two fingers pointing on his upraised hand… eyes focused upward… holding this supposedly “holy” pose for an hour or two until the painting is finished.) But this is man’s idea. Holiness is not about appearances. You can’t sense it physically.

There are various definitions of the word ‘holy’. Among the more well known are to be set apart to God, and to be morally perfect. These are good definitions, but neither one of them applies to all usages of the word. It is somewhat meaningless to say that, because God is holy, He is ‘set apart’ to Himself. And moral perfection can only apply to people, not to inanimate objects like the holy anointing oil used in the Old Testament temple.

While these two different definitions are adequate in their proper contexts, I think there is another way to understand holiness using a single all-inclusive definition, summed up by the phrase “No compromise.” We can see how this applies to the holiness of God, His people, and objects.

God is holy. He has absolute integrity. He will not compromise His character in any way. “Holy” describes the degree to which God is who He is. God is 100% righteous. He is 100% just. He is 100% loving. We think of the holiness of God as something to be afraid of, but it is also a source of great comfort. Because God is holy, we can trust Him to be 100% faithful to His promises. He will not deny Himself (Malachi 3:6).

The Old Testament tabernacle was made up entirely of holy things. Not only were the prominent items like the ark and the altar holy, so were the accoutrements such as the wash basin and various utensils used in the service. Every item was to be used only for the worship of Yahweh, and only in the way that was prescribed to do so. You could not borrow a pan from the temple to make a cake for your friends. That would have treated the item as common, compromising its purpose.

As Christians, we are God’s people, set apart for Him. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), and we must not compromise ourselves, living for the world, our friends, or ourselves – even the slightest. We have been bought with a price, and we are no longer our own. We are no longer common. Let us not compromise ourselves.

Titanic

The world is like the Titanic. When Adam disobeyed God, we struck the iceberg. At that point the ship was doomed, even though things didn’t look too bad on the surface. But now the end is near. The ship is up-end and sinking fast. The opportunities to get into the lifeboat are drawing to a close.

But even with the world falling apart, people are still trying to enjoy the cruise. They’re ignoring the danger and refusing the warnings of those who really care for their well-being.

Satan has this world convinced that Christians hate sinners. But we don’t hate sinners. We love sinners. If we really hated them, we wouldn’t warn them of the consequences of their sin. We wouldn’t tell them about Jesus. We’d let them go to hell.

It is every believer’s responsibility to warn the lost in love, directing them to the Lifeboat (Jesus) with humility, gentleness, and urgency. Most will not listen (Revelation 9:20-21). They prefer to listen to the one who really does hate them (Satan). But a few will listen, repent, and turn to Jesus.

Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.

– Acts 17:30-31 HCSB

I don’t judge anyone because I am not qualified to do so, but soon it will be time for the One who is. Be ready!

Second-Hand Faith

“…I am left, I alone…”

– 1 Kings 19:10

Hypothetical questions: If the person who led you to Christ suddenly told you, “I’m sorry. I misled you. I was wrong. There is no heaven or hell. Jesus is a fairy tale. God does not exist. … I have proof, and here it is…,” how would your faith fare?

What if all of the great Christian preachers, teachers, authors, apologists, radio and TV personalities, etc. you look up to suddenly said the same thing? What if everyone in the world abandoned Jesus and urged you to do so… what would you do?

I’ve thought about questions like these off and on for many years as a way of identifying whether my faith is real or not. It’s somewhat hypothetical: there will always be true believers. But there may come a time when it seems everyone around me has abandoned the faith once for all delivered to the saints. It has happened to some degree before and will happen again.

Since the early church, there have been those who appeared to be saved, and even had leadership roles in the church, but who fell away (2 Timothy 4:10). John tells us they left because “they were not of us” (1 John 2:19), meaning they were not really saved. These are somewhat isolated examples, but 2 Thessalonians 2:3 speaks of ‘the apostasy’ of the last days. There will come a time when there is a mass defection from the faith. I believe this speaks of people in the church that we would identify as believers, maybe even strong believers, because you can’t fall away from the truth unless you first have the truth. Some will fall away completely, while others will be seduced by a different gospel. I think we’re seeing this happen in America today. 1

I think one reason people fall away is because they have a second-hand faith. They believe in the doctrines of the Bible, and they say they believe in Jesus, but they don’t really trust in Him. They think they are saved because they agree with what the Bible says, but God hasn’t given them new birth. They don’t have the internal Witness, the Holy Spirit, who convicts of sin and helps them become more like Christ. They’ve heard or read inspiring stories of other people’s faith, but they haven’t stepped out in trusting obedience to the Lord and seen Him work in their lives. Then, when someone comes up with a convincing-sounding argument, or when difficulties arise, they easily fall away. Their faith is built on sand, not the Rock.

Do you believe in Jesus only because you’ve been taught to? Do you have a second-hand faith? Or have you stepped out in obedient faith and seen God prove Himself to be true?

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, supply with your faith virtue, with virtue knowledge, with knowledge self-control, with self-control perseverance, with perseverance godliness, with godliness brotherly affection, and with brotherly affection love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the full true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his sins of the past. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make sure of your calling and election, for if you do these things you will not ever stumble; for so an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you.

– 1 Peter 1:5-11 (VW)

Notes:

  1. I don’t believe this has anything to do with losing salvation. Salvation cannot be truly lost if you have it. But there are many in the church who think because they did this or that at some time in their lives they are saved. Although repentance and faith are necessary prerequisites, salvation is not based on something we do. It is entirely the work of God, and what He does, He carries on to completion.

I See Dead People

In the movie The Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis’ character meets a boy who is ‘gifted’ with the ability to see ghosts – dead people. But these dead people don’t realize they are dead. They go on with their ‘lives’, moving around their old haunts, talking to those they knew… all in ignorance of their condition, until they suddenly realize what has happened. The movie is fiction, but the concept is real on a different level.

I see dead people every day. I pass them on the highway. I work with them. I talk with them. But they don’t realize they’re dead. They see the stars in the night sky, they hear the birds sing, and the feel the wind on their face. They talk among themselves. They have physical life in them, but they’re dead all the same.

They are cut off from the living God because of their sin.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

– Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)

Do you see dead people, too? …or are you dead yourself – dead in your sins? A dead person is not aware that he is dead. He has no idea that his sins have separated him from God. He thinks he is okay and sin is okay. But a living person is aware that he is alive. He remembers the time when God forgave his sins in Christ and gave him new birth. He perceives the life of God in him. It is not just a doctrine he believes, but God actively assures him of it through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16, 1 John 4:13, 5:10). And he seeks to avoid being in that sinful state he was in before because he values his new relationship with God.

Has God given you new life in His Son? Do you have the internal Witness?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

– John 3:16 (KJV)

Cerebro Consciousness Argument

(The following is another approach to my argument for the necessity of the human spirit given in More Than Matter, and Independently Conscious.

Imagine you are an X-Man like Charles Xavier, but with much more extreme capabilities. You also have a Cerebro-like machine that allows you to see every human being in the world and know everything there is to know about them. With your superhuman powers, you look at Cerebro’s screen and see billions of human beings at once in infinite detail. You know each person’s exact physical makeup. You can see their every neuron firing. And you fully comprehend what you see.

You also know virtually every human being on the screen is self-aware. Each has an independent conscious that allows them to experience the world around them from their own unique perspective. Virtually every one of those billions of bodies is not yours, but you could in theory experience reality through any one of them, because they are all capable of consciousness – because they are conscious. However, one of those bodies is yours, and you experience the world through it for the lifetime of that body. What is it about your particular body that allows you to perceive reality through it and no other?

You see that the neural activity in your brain is different from, say, Body A. It is also different from Body B, and different from all the other bodies. But the same thing can be said of Body A: It is also different from Body B, Body C, and all other bodies. Every body has this thing in common: they all have neural activity that is different from each other, yet not in any fundamentally unique way. This is to be expected, as each brain is thinking different things and working in different ways. But what a brain is thinking or doing has nothing to do with which body you are self-aware through or which body your neighbor is self-aware through. Neural activity differences can explain various mental processes going on in different brains, but they don’t explain why your self-awareness is tied to your particular body. If you could somehow force Body B’s neural connections and activity to exactly match yours, you wouldn’t suddenly start perceiving reality through both bodies!

Your self-awareness remains bound to your body for as long as your body lives. It does not change, even though the material that makes up your body changes over time. Most of the atoms and molecules that make up your body as a newborn child are gone when you reach old age. Your neural connections also change as you learn and age – your brain processes information differently over time. The firing of your neurons also constantly varies. You are different than you were as a child, or even a day ago. But your awareness stays the same. It doesn’t occasionally leave your body and maybe move to someone else’s.

If you believe the physical universe is all there is, can you give any scientific reason for why you are aware through your particular body, other than pulling groundless theories out of the air?

How can you prove that your particular consciousness is a product of neural activity, and not (at least to some degree) the other way around. I’m not talking about mentally processing information such as doing a math problem in your head, remembering something from the past, telling a story, and so on. A brain can theoretically do these things without requiring self-awareness – just like a computer. But self-awareness goes beyond this. How do you explain your personal self-awareness, as distinct from others’ self-awareness, purely as the result of physical processes?

I’m not asking for proof. There are many things that we can’t prove because of the limitations of time, money, energy, etc. But if the only things that are true are things that can be proven scientifically, then there must be a scientific way to prove your self-awareness is purely a physical phenomenon.

I do not think self-awareness is a purely physical phenomenon. I believe it is due to the interaction of body and spirit. Without a spirit, you would be no more self-aware through your body than you are self-aware through anyone else’s body.

The reason we are self-aware is a very important thing to find out, because if consciousness requires more than what is physical, the whole foundation of Godless scientific materialism falls apart.

Knowing God Through The Psalms

The path to greater faith is to know God better, for how can you trust someone you don’t know, and how can you trust someone more if you don’t know him more?

For the last 9 years I’ve kept a journal of my Bible readings. I keep track of each date, passage, and thing I’ve discovered. My primary focus is to know God better, so when I find something in my reading that directly or indirectly describes who God is, what He does, why He does it, to whom He does it, and so on, I write it down so I can remember for the benefit of my relationship with Him.

Psalm 18 is one of those psalms that contains much of who God is and what He does. It begins with David saying, “I love You”, and then continues with his reasons why. Here’s what the first verse tells me about my God…

He is to be served. David, the king of Israel willingly served God. But Yahweh is a kind and loving master who does more for us than we can do for Him, as the rest of the psalm shows. He is worthy to be served…

God saves us from our enemies. This is not to say that we will not be persecuted, but that we can trust that He will bring us through those trials. David was persecuted by Saul, but God delivered him. God delivers us from Satan, our enemy.

God is our strength. He doesn’t just give us strength – He is our strength. Rather than taking matters into his own hands, David relied on God for deliverance. He proved God through trust, and God came through. Ultimately, this is also the experience of those who also trust in God.

What else does this psalm tell you about God?

God Is Good

God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.

– Genesis 1:31a

Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

– Acts 14:17

Paul said that everyone can see God’s power and deity through what He has created (Romans 1:20). I believe you can also add God’s goodness to that. What are some of the practical, everyday things you see and experience that let you know that God is good?

For myself I see incredible beauty in what God has created, from the galaxies down to the sub-microscopic details. But more than that, I see that God gave us the capacity to enjoy what He has created, to get pleasure from these things.

Imagine a world in which we can see, but not in color, where we can eat, but it all tastes bland or awful, and where we can hear, but we can’t appreciate vibrations in the air as music and singing. God could have made the world that way if He wanted to. We would have to eat to survive, but we would avoid it otherwise. I’m so thankful that God made the world enjoyable. It tells me that God is a good, loving God.

Whenever I eat a cherry, I marvel as I think about how different it is from foods we make on assembly lines. There’s no comparison between our candy and God’s. A cherry looks and tastes better, and is better for you. There’s no wrapper to throw away (the skin is edible), and the throw-away part (the pit) is good to toss since it can grow into a cherry tree. A cherry is incredibly complex, and yet God makes trillions of them every year with no effort at all, along with strawberries, bananas, kiwis, etc. … yes, and even okra :P.

I believe that God has the wisdom and power to create the world instantly, in less than a nano-second, but I think He took time to make it beautiful and enjoyable, a thing of glory, a piece of art.

And all this in a world affected by the curse. I can’t image what things were like before the fall, of what the new heavens and new earth will be like.

Praying For Patience

Take thy share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

– 2 Timothy 2:3 (JND)

It is not our purpose to seek out suffering, but neither is it to avoid it.

It is jokingly said that one thing you should not pray for is patience, because if you do, God is going to send all sorts of calamity to try what little patience you do have. However, patience is a virtue that we need to have. It is a fruit of the Spirit. Patience is a good, godly thing, and the only way to acquire it is to have it tried. To say, even jokingly, that you should not pray for patience focuses on the suffering rather than the goal. It cheats you out of Christ-likeness.

It is good to pray for patience, for that leads us to a greater likeness to our Master. To live as a Christian means we will suffer for Christ, and to suffer for Christ is to know Him better. Does our desire to avoid suffering exceed our desire to know Christ?

…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, …

– Philippians 3:10 (JND)

Book Giveaway: How To Gain Victory Over Sin

It’s been a few months since I published my second book, How To Gain Victory Over Sin. The ebook is free, but the paperback version isn’t simply because it costs money to print books.

But from now until May 3, you have the chance to win one of 10 free paperback editions of the book through Goodreads.com. All you need to do is click on the ‘Enter To Win’ button below. If you do win, I’ll send you the book, asking you for an honest review on Goodreads, Amazon, or wherever. (Of course, you don’t have to enter the contest to post a review!)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

How to Gain Victory Over Sin by Andrew Bernhardt

How to Gain Victory Over Sin

by Andrew Bernhardt

Giveaway ends May 03, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Abandoning Fleshly Righteousness

The fleshly nature has two ways of expressing itself. The first is the one we are most aware and ashamed of: it is our desire to sin. But the second way is also bad, and maybe worse because we are not ashamed of it – we’re even proud of it: it is our desire for self-righteousness.

When I say self-righteousness, I’m not talking about a holier-than-thou attitude, or a hypocritical righteous facade. I mean sincerely trying to do the right thing through one’s own willpower and determination, but apart from reliance on the power of God. This kind of ‘righteousness’ falls far short of the righteousness God requires for salvation or for living the Christian life. That law-keeping is insufficient for salvation can be seen in Mark 10:17-23.

A young man came to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied with the commandments, “Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not give false testimony, Do not defraud, and Honor your father and mother.” The man replied, “Teacher, I have observed all these things from my youth.”

Jesus did not call the man a liar, nor did He try to undeceive the man on his ability to keep the ten commandments. This young man was able to keep the letter of the law – I’m sure not perfectly, but Jesus didn’t make an issue of it. But also notice Jesus did not say, “Don’t worry about it then. You kept the Law, you’re in!” Instead, He said, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross.” Jesus said eternal life requires more than just keeping the ten commandments.

As he walked away in sorrow, Jesus said, “How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!” This amazed His disciples because the Law says nothing about wealth hindering one’s entrance into heaven. (Actually, the Law mentions nothing about heaven.) The Law even includes blessings of wealth on those who keep its commands (Deuteronomy 7:12-24, 28:1-14). But Jesus’ told the man to sell all he had, give to the poor, take up the cross and follow Him. The reason He did so was to reveal the fleshly heart condition that was keeping him from eternal life. The man was still a slave to his fleshly desires. 1

The righteousness of the flesh looks deceptively good because it claims the letter of the Law as its standard. We think if we can keep the letter of the Law, we’re righteous. We can see this in the Pharisee’s prayer in Luke 18:11-12:

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus to himself, God, I thank You that I am not like other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.

– Luke 18:11-12 (VW)

Again, there is no indication that the Pharisee was being deceptive in his prayer. He was able to live up to the letter of the Law. And yet, it was the sinful tax collector who left justified, not the law-keeping Pharisee.

I can see Paul in this Pharisee. Before he was saved, Paul was also able to live up to the letter of the Law “blamelessly” (Philippians 3:4-6). But once he was saved, Paul realized his legalistic self-righteousness had brought him no closer to God. You see, the letter of the Law covers only a portion of the standard of righteousness. It is only the beginning.

Imagine somebody handed you a bottle with the label “Lemon Juice” on it, but you were suspicious that it might contain something else that was perhaps poisonous. How would you know the contents matched the label? You would test it against the characteristics of real lemon juice.

Lemon juice is a slightly yellow sour liquid. As you look at the bottle, you see it is a yellowish liquid, but how can you tell it is sour without tasting it? You can do a litmus test. Blue litmus paper turns red when dipped in acid. So you dip the litmus paper in the liquid and it doesn’t turn red. You have proved the liquid is not lemon juice.

But even if the paper did turn red, that would not prove the liquid was lemon juice, because any acid will do that. To prove the liquid is what it says it is, it has to pass all tests for lemon juice (which goes beyond testing just for ‘a slightly yellow sour liquid’). Each test by itself can only disprove what it is. Only all of the tests together can prove what it is.

The Old Testament Law is like a litmus test for righteousness. If you break just one command, then you are not righteous. But even if you keep all of the Law to the letter, that still doesn’t prove you are righteous. The Law is only one test – just enough to disprove our righteousness, but not enough to prove it. Jesus gives more tests for righteousness in Matthew 5:17-48. You may have kept the letter of the Law in regards to murder, and yet still be guilty of murder. You may not have committed adultery by the letter of the Law, and yet still be guilty of adultery. Keeping the letter of the Law does not prove you are righteous, because you still fail the other tests. But by breaking the letter of the Law (i.e. any one command), you immediately prove yourself a sinner.

For whoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

– James 2:10 VW 2

If you break one command of the Law, the Law has done its job in proving you a sinner (Romans 3:20).

The flesh thinks it can live up to the Law, but doesn’t realize the Law actually condemns it. Jesus shows us God’s righteousness is so perfect, we have no hope of fully meeting all of its requirements. We have to exceed the letter-of-the-Law righteousness of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). The Pharisee’s righteousness, and ours, are just filthy rags.

Self-righteousness is done in our own power, with no real need to be grateful to God. It is not the righteousness of (i.e. from) God 3. Only Christ’s righteousness satisfies God’s standard. But that righteousness will only do us good if we forsake our own weak, fleshly attempts. When Paul was saved, he abandoned his own “blameless” legalistic self-righteousness, and trusted entirely in the righteousness of Christ. Let’s follow his example.

But no, rather, I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

– Philippians 3:8-11 (VW)

Notes:

  1. Notice Jesus told the man, “One thing you lack,” then proceeded to mention four things: sell all, give to the poor, follow me, take up the cross. What the man lacked was not these things he had to do, but a heart that was fully submitted to Jesus.
  2. Likewise, Galatians 3:10 says, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the Law, to do them.”
  3. Isaiah 54:17, Romans 3:21-22, 10:3, 2 Corinthians 5:21, James 2:23