When you are reading here whether you found me intentionally or accidently, please take time to leave a comment and let me know where you are and what you are thinking. I love feed back. Vondi

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Holding Up the 'Standard of Holiness"

Let me say right off that I DO believe in the necessity of holiness in our lives. Although I don’t find “a Standard” discussed in the New Testament, I do find repeated instructions that we are to live a life free of sin. If we look in the Word we find several specific lists of sins of which we are not to partake if we are to be one of God's Own. ( Gal. 5:19-21; Eph 5:3-7; I Cor. 6:9-11) We also find additional admonitions regarding how we are to live a life of righteousness. We call these ‘standards’ and apply various Old Testament scriptures to support using that term. Technically, the usage of the term ‘standard’ in the OT refers to a banner or iconic emblem displayed on the top of a rod or staff signifying a specific area of authority. We use the same word ‘standard,’ in one its alternative definitions, to mean a principle of excellence in saintly conduct. That principle of excellence doesn’t change, but it is administered by the Lord. There is also a imperative found in the Word for us to bear witness to that principle of excellence in our lives in a daily basis.

We speak often of the need for us to ‘hold up a standard’ against the enemy. This many times becomes the focus of much conflict among those who confess Christ as Savior. I believe that the conflict derives from the idea that WE are mandated to ‘hold up the standard” i.e. demand that all men and women who call themselves children of God comply with our own particular standard. This has resulted in a myriad of splinter groups among the church. (I’m not talking about false doctrine or Babylon here, but only among those who understand and teach salvation, freedom for sin and the Church as presented in the Bible) One group will not fellowship or accept into the local fellowship any who don’t maintain a certain style of dress. Another will not accept those who use instruments in their worship. Another requires certain standards of hair on men and women. Another mandates which holidays can be celebrated and how the celebrations may take place.

One of the things the internet has done is to allow friendships and yes, real relationships, with other people of God not in their area. (Of course, I’m not talking ridiculous dating sites and relationship sites that pander to the flesh.) There are myriads of bible discussion groups and study groups that accept members freely. I’ve visited many of them. Some have a very worldly and sectarian spirit that is not of God at all. Others evidence a loving and Christ-like spirit. Even online, it is immediately evident to the discerning saint whether or not the spirit is of the Lord. It is usually quite a while after I’ve been discussing Bible topics that I have an opportunity to discover what we like to call "Bible standards” as they might be lived among the ones I shared with so long. I have come to realize that when the visual aspects are non-existent (when we can’t see the style of dress, the length of hair or facial hair, the presence of musical instruments or jewelry or Christmas decorations, etc etc) we can meet in full and sweet fellowship.

I experienced this very thing once sometime ago. I had been connected with a sister through a mutual friend. We had shared much in the Lordof our burdens, joys, and triumphs. I considered her my sister in the Lord with no reservations. After a fairly lengthy time I had occasion to meet some members of her congregation. We talked for quite a while, but there was much constraint on the part of the members and my every reference to burdens or blessings of God met a brick wall.

I attribute this attitude on their part to two conditions. First, although for much of my life I wore my hair very long, in recent years my physical situation has mandated a shorter hair style. No one in any way, meeting me or seeing my photo could ever mistake me for a man, but my hair is not as long as it once was, nor as long as many preachers require of their women. Secondly, a close friend had on that same day given me a piece of jewelry. They gave it in love and probably at some sacrifice. To their joy, I put it on and wore it. Although I do not wear jewelry, I would not have thrown that loving gift back in their face for anything in the world. I believe my influence on their life would have been tremendously hindered by that action. It hurt nothing for me to wear it for a few hours and then put it away when I returned home. It still remains in the box in a safe place, a concrete memento of their affection. With no information other than these two visual facts, the congregation members relegated me to a position unworthy of their “Christian” regard.

In the days and weeks following this meeting the sister that I loved ceased to communicate with me. My emails and little bible study excerpts that previously we had shared back and forth now fell into empty space. After some length of time, the sister worked her way through the report she received from the members who had met me. She was able to balance the spirit we had shared and the attitude from the members. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. (I John 4:17) She began corresponding with me again. We have returned to the joy we once shared.

I’ve said that all to illustrate that fellowship is not dependent on how we dress (within the confines of modesty), nor whether we play music in church or wear a certain piece of jewelry. Fellowship must come from a shared Spirit within us. That is not to say we may abandon all of the ‘standards’ the Holy Spirit has made evident to us. If the Lord has laid His Hand upon our hearts individually, and impressed us that a certain style of dress or lifestyle is not acceptable to Him we had better not be pursuing it. If we continue in it we will lose our salvation. However, it is not our responsibility to impose that lifestyle on others. It is our responsibility to witness of the Lord’s leading and to testify of the joy and blessing that comes from carrying out His Will, but it is NOT our responsibility to demand others maintain it under the risk of being cut off from our fellowship.

Finally, as I studied on this I read many scriptures in the Old Testament regarding the setting of the banners or device attached to a pole that indicated the rallying point of a military group. The only verse that I found which really alluded to a kind of action or force was in Isaiah 59: 18-20. So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. 20And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. How wonderful is this! When we fear the Lord and live righteously before Him, HE, HE, HE will lift up the standard against the enemy—not against people notice, but against the Enemy, Satan. All we need to do is live as He has directed us personally and individually. The Lord will do the lifting of the Standard.

Let’s stop worrying so much about holding others accountable to our perceived standard of Holiness. Let’s worry more about holding ourselves to the Standard God has revealed to us personally! When we do that our lives will be a witness that draws others to Him. We need not say or demand anything.

No comments:

Post a Comment