As we go through this roller-coaster ride of planting a church in Bucureşti, I have often found myself asking: “Why on earth did we decide we needed to do this, anyhow?” These last few weeks, as numbers have dipped especially low, this question has had a tendency to come to mind much more frequently.
So, why are we planting a church here in Bucureşti?
There are many reasons. Here’s one: România needs more bodies of believers who trust God for total holiness and experience his total liberty.
Some churches believe that holiness isn’t really attainable and so you might as well just go on sinning and trust Jesus forgives you. Others seem to think the entire Christian life is an austere and painful struggle to live holy and free from any and every minute imperfection in spirit, soul, and body.
I believe the Bible teaches holiness is completely attainable and that through Jesus we also have incredible liberty. This is an important dichotomy: we can be totally and fully pure before God, in body, soul, and spirit; and we can also enjoy life to the full and experience tremendous liberty.
Here are thirteen quick thoughts related to holiness and liberty:
1. Holiness should not be austere and sullen but full of life and joy. After all, sin brings bondage and addiction; and holiness is the absence of that enslaving sin. Without the bondage of sin, there is JOY inexpressible.
2. Watching an R-rated movie or enjoying a beer or not wearing a head covering or wearing jeans to church will not necessarily make a man unclean. Jesus himself tells us that it’s not what goes into a man but what comes out that makes him unclean (Mark 7:15). Though our external actions certainly are important, it’s the heart of wickedness inside a man and the garbage that comes from it that needs to be remade.
3. I was saved by the blood of Jesus, I am saved by the blood of Jesus, and I will be saved by the blood of Jesus. Salvation is a process that begins, continues, and ends with the work of Jesus on the cross.
4. Moral failure in your Christian life is not beyond redemption, no matter how great the failure or how often it happens. “The righteous man falls seven times, but he gets back up again” (Proverbs 24:16). Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost, no matter how often it gets lost again.
5. I can dance, shout for joy, laugh, smile, lift up my hands and look like a fool before my God because I have been freed from the greatest debt a man could ever owe. I have been set free, not figuratively but literally, and this makes me happier than anything else ever could.
6. My holiness is fully dependent on the blood of Jesus. He has imparted it to me free of charge, but I am an idiot if I act against that work of grace and push this gift of holiness from me.
7. The most joy-filled life available to a person is the one lived in surrender to Jesus. It is not bitter, agonizing, burdensome, or guilt-ridden but filled with joy, peace, and goodness. There is no greater joy than in his presence; there are no greater pleasures than at his right hand (Psalm 16:11).
8. Total and perfect holiness is fully attainable to us because of the overwhelmingly powerful work of Jesus on the cross. I am saved not by my hard work but by HIS finished work (Ephesians 2:9).
9. If I can walk without sin for 30 seconds, I can do it for a minute. If I can trust him to keep me holy for a minute, I can trust him for an hour. If I can last an hour without sinning, I can last a day. If I can do a day, I can do two days. If his blood is strong enough to keep me two days, it’s strong enough to keep me a week… And if I fail, I admit my failure, he cleans me, and I get going again.
10. You have been destined for perfect holiness and complete surrender to God, and he is working to bring this about in you. It may be a long process or a short one, but it is always a process guided and empowered by our Creator and worked in relationship with his surrendered people.
11. I give my full attention and the best of my strength to the salvation and holiness of my soul because God himself is working this very holiness into me (Philippians 2:12-13).
12. What is sinful or spiritually unhealthy for me may not be so for another. Although there are many black-and-white issues in the Bible, matters of sin stated bluntly and without compromise, there are many other things left up to the individual and God to decide. Knowing my weaknesses and my temptations, I cannot have a computer without an extensive porn filter; the same is not true for everyone. While I was doing youth ministry, I refused to drink alcohol (except for communion); but I cannot place this personal standard on others.
13. Each man is accountable to God, not to me. My job is to explain the heart of the Father as much as I know it and to make clear what I believe his desires to be.