Called unto Holiness – Part 3 of 3

This week we have been exploring the characteristics of a holy life as outlined by Dr. Nina Gunter.  We have reproduced the introduction and the first part of the body of her sermon “Called unto Holiness.” Now we finish this message by detailing the final five traits of a holiness people.

  1. Holistic faith (life) based upon the provenance and preeminence of God.

He is the source of all we are, and He is Lord of all we do.The disciplines are integrated.

Everything is permeated with God’s presence . . . all we are7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and all we do.

Our lives are not compartmentalized.  It is God in us—in all: at home, work/office, school, church, traveling—a living out of the reality of God’s constant presence.

John Wesley’s question at the beginning of his class meetings was, “How goes it with your soul?” Holistic faith influences every walk of life.

  1. Purposeful hearts based on the love of God.

The love of God—the unconditional, holy love of God—is the bottom line.  It is the heart of God’s message.

This is about the theology of love . . . God’s love is not based on performance.  God’s love is not based on good works, but on the love, grace, and mercy of God Himself.

We are who we are—children of God—because we are filled with God’s love.  This love empowers us to be people of integrity and authenticity. God is serious about our loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. This is the essence of holiness.

Be holy. 

Be my witnesses. Being comes before doing. 

Be the people of God.

  1. Servant leadership based upon the servant mind of Christ.

“Jesus humbled Himself.” He girded Himself with the towel of Service.  He was interested in the towel—not toys, titles, and trinkets.

We serve God in ministry to people.

We empty our rights in submission to God’s right.

Illustration:  A pastor in the Democratic Republic of Congo walked for days to get to Assembly to be ordained.  He was asked the traditional questions by the General Superintendent:  Do you preach holiness?  Do your people understand holiness?  How do you know?  His answer: “When problems arise we come together.  We identify the problem, then together in love seek the solution.”

Holy people empty themselves of themselves to serve God’s purposes.

  1. Meaningful work based upon the call of God.

The meaningof our work is not seen through the results—even though that is important.  No – the meaning of our workis based on the call of God.

We believe in a God-called ministry.

Did you hear “The Voice”?

It is the heart of God.  Behind the voice is a person. That’s God.

Where is the value in what we do?  Not the money…not the benefits.  But there is a Caller who gives our work meaning and purpose.

That caller does not leave us or forsake us.  When the clouds are low, the nights long, and the duties many—The Caller is there giving meaning to all we do.  Psalm 46:10

There is no God-forsaken place. 

  1. Restored self based on the image of God.

A sense of being broken drives people to seek wholeness to be restored.

Salvation is the restoration of God’s image in us.

            “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.

              Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

              All the King’s horses and all the King’s men

              Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.”

But God can put people back together again.

We Nazarenes believe no one is so lost but what he/she can be found—no one so bad but what he/she can be redeemed—no one so far gone but what he/she can’t come back.

If you are convinced you have a treasure, it’s easy to recommend it to others.

In every person, there is the covered-up image of God. 

Holiness will never be a dated theology because human nature has not changed.  Holiness is about God’s nature transforming our nature to be like his nature.

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Therefore, we can preach a message of hope and holiness.  The holiness message is a message of hope.

We can be delivered from the power of sin!  We can be purified, wholly sanctified, empowered with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, restored in the image of God.

There are crisismoments in this.  And there is processin this.

God can deliver us from whatever is in our lives that is contrary to the nature of God that puts us in bondage.

Closing:

John Wesley: “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist in Europe of America.  But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.  And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”

Nazarenes, what is our basic doctrine, spirit, and discipline? It is the same as John Wesley defined for the Methodists—that Nazarenes experienceand growin holiness of heart and life.

The greatest compliment paid to you as districts, churches, offices, or schools:  A holy God walks among holy people in this place.

Is the holiness movement alive in your district?  At the Global Ministries Center?  Your church? Your school?  Your home?

It’s in your hands.

Called unto Holiness – Part 2 of 3

In the previous blog entry, I shared the introduction to a classic holiness message by Dr. Nina Gunter.  Today and in the final installment of the week, I am providing the remainder of her sermon.

In the 11 pages of the Historical Statement of our Manual, the words holiness and sanctification are referenced more than 70 times.

Holiness is our calling.

Holiness is our impetus.

Holiness is our passion.

Holiness is our fire.

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  • People are asking questions about holiness.
  • Mainline denominations are wanting to know more about the holiness movement.
  • The Roman Catholic church is asking questions. In fact, they sent a representative to the Wesleyan Holiness Study Project meeting.
  • Young people are drawn to the integrative force of the holiness message.

The Board of General Superintendents with general superintendents and bishops of the Wesleyan tradition participated, through Board representation, in a consortium to define the holiness movement.

The convenor, Kevin Mannoia, former bishop of the Free Methodist church and currently the graduate chaplain at Azusa Pacific University, released 10 phrases (the first five of which will be shared here, and the last five later this week) that are descriptors or characteristics of the holiness movement.

  1. Transformed character based, in large part, in the otherness of God.

We too will be “other.”

We have received the mandate: “Do not conform to this world.”

  • Jesus prayed for His followers, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
  • As believers, we are “set apart.”
  • Jesus gave Himself for us and purified for Himself “a peculiar people” or “a special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2:14
  • This does not mean we are extreme—if so, we would tend toward being sectarian. But we areto be a special people.
  • The community around will then see the followers of Christ as a different people with godly values, Christian principles, right attitudes, and as honest, upright citizens.
  • Across the years, all over the world, the Church of the Nazarene has gone where we were not wanted, stayed, and lived Christ-like until the community said, “Don’t leave. We can’t do it without you.”
  1. Responsible engagement based in God’s incarnation.

God was not satisfied to be “other”, but rather took the initiative to live with and in us.

As a result, we take the initiative to engage in that which is broken among us.  This is the Missio Dei that derives from the nature of God.

Social and Missional engagement—incarnational expressions of personal and social holiness.

This includes ministry—making Christ-like disciples in all nations.  You cannot separate holiness and missions.

This missional engagement is here—there—everywhere—and includes ministry among the poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized.  It engages us to redress injustice.  Now we join with God in His purposes.  This is the optimism of grace.  Grace brings wholeness out of chaos.

The Missio Dei (The Mission of God) is best understood in the language of the Kingdom.  Kingdom living embraces God in worship in the midst of transnational, multilingual, multicultural, and transgenerational settings.

  1. Healthy relationships based upon the triune nature of God.

      Relationships based on the Kingdom model of mutuality.

  • Voluntary submission
  • Unity out of diversity

There is no unity until first there is diversity.  If there is no unity, there is no power.

  • We disagree, but we don’t destroy.

It was said of the New Testament church, “See how they love one another.”  That is, “See how they get along, accept each other, include each other.”

Healthy relationships are characteristic of a holy people—a holy church.

The Holy Spirit is the great unifier.  The proof of the Spirit is the works of love.  John Wesley spoke of a “pure love to God and men.”  God sanctifies together.

  1. Wise decisions based on the free choice of God to impart free will.

God has graced us with the freedom of choice.

Determinationdoesn’t make sense.

Wisdomcomes from the presence of Christ in us.

“If we lack wisdom, ask God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

God gives us freedomto use the wisdom He gives us.

  1. Curious thinking based upon the awesomeness of God.

            In His creativity God made us in His image.  He releases His creativity in us.  God is not a micro-manager.  He is the Creator and He hands it off to humanity.  God said, “You go rule over the earth.  You take care of my creation.”

            This curious thinking relates to our philosophy of liberal arts.  We pursue God in all the disciplines . . . with all the adventures . . . all the great discoveries.  We become lifelong learners of God’s truth . . . of His world . . . His people.

Therefore, the church embraces education—liberal arts—learning.

J.B. Chapman said, “We must build schools or die as a church.  We must be spiritually right, intellectually correct and scholastically strong.”  In a holiness movement, there is curious, critical thinking based upon the awesomeness of God.

***The rest of this sermon will be published later this week.

Called unto Holiness – Part 1 of 3

Several years ago, I had the privilege of translating for Dr. Nina Gunter in the Holiness Summit held in San José, Costa Rica.  Her message, as many of hers do, had to do with holiness.  As I was reflecting on her words anew just days ago, I decided to reproduce her sermon this week, with her permission.  The following is the introduction to her marvelous sermon.

Called unto Holiness
1 Peter 1:13-16

By Nina Gunter

A gathering of Wesleyan scholars and leaders explored the mission of the churches of the holiness movement.  This Wesleyan Holiness Study Project asked serious questions, such as, “Is the concept of holiness relevant for Christians in the 21stcentury or is it a relic of the past?”

I offer these conclusions for the Church of the Nazarene:

  1. The Church of the Nazarene unequivocally insists that holiness is not only relevant but essential in the postmodern world.
  2. Nazarenes hunger for a coherent message that is compelling.
  3. Nazarenes have an opportunity, as never before, to embrace the emerging realities of this holiness doctrine and become catalysts for spiritual renewal and growth in the Christian church through the mighty power of the Holy Spirit.
  4. If Nazarenes would invest more effort in preaching and teaching holiness with conviction and clarity and in giving witness to the Spirit-filled life, there would be unprecedented victory and growth in our churches.

            Illustration:  A mischievous little boy caught a bird and thought he’d have some fun with a wise old man who was blind.  The boy held the bird in his hands, walked up to the old gentleman and said, “Mister—if you are so wise—tell me.  Is the bird in my hands dead or alive?”  

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The wise old man thought to himself, “If I say he is alive the boy will squeeze the bird to death. If I say the bird is dead, the boy will turn the bird loose.”

So the wise old man replied, “It’s in your hands.”

I ask you leaders in the Church of the Nazarene, will the doctrine and experience of holiness continue to be the blessed message, mission, and lifestyle of the people called Nazarenes?  Or will holiness become a nice, quaint, but antiquated part of our story?

Christ-Centered Discipleship

A few months ago, Dr. Rubén Fernández published in the Didache theological resource website an essay on discipleship within the context of the Mesoamerica Region.  I found it to be a bold, insightful rebuke of our current Church leadership and methodology (I include myself in that distinction).  Below I have provided an extract of this article that I hope you’ll find challenging.  The entire document is here.

We need a greater commitment to the life of holiness. As disciples of Christ we need to fight against the desires of the flesh that want to impose themselves on those of the Spirit. Desires that lead us to accommodate ourselves, to avoid situations or confrontations that may cause us harm, to believe that we have the right to ‘enjoy life’ by turning a blind eye to sin and the suffering that surrounds us.

We must practice a biblical and Christ-centered discipleship that mobilizes the Church to serve the world.

Today, for many Christians (both Roman Catholic and Evangelical), the cross is simply an element that is part of their dress code or a sort of protective amulet for their house or vehicle. Jesus died for our sins. That’s true. But it is also equally true that Jesus died because he confronted the corruption of power. The ministry of Jesus, was really transformative, countercultural and revolutionary and, therefore, highly dangerous.

Biblical and Christ-centered discipleship should shake the church out of its comfort zone and out of its ‘heavenly spirituality’ and lead the church to serve people by transforming their communities.

Young people are waiting for a militant, dissenting, reactive church. We are losing the new generations that reject a church interested in keeping things as they are.

How much do we teach people what it would be like to take up the cross today? To be radical will involve denouncing violence, defending those who are attacked unjustly, taking the side of the weakest, children, the elderly, the unprotected, etc.

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What is the price that a person pays for condemning these things? They will not have more money or win friends. More likely, they will probably be ‘in the sight’ of the Central American gangs, drug cartels or human trafficking in Mexico, corrupt police, purchased judges or unscrupulous politicians almost everywhere. If we put ourselves in the place of those brothers and sisters who have been victimized and others who live under threat to their families, it seems difficult to believe that our ‘prophetic voice’ could deal with those issues.

John Wesley said, “The world is my parish.” How can we mobilize each Nazarene to carry their cross with dignity, so that they may respond to their personal call and become actively involved in the transformation of that place in the world where God has sent them to serve?

My observation in Mesoamerica is that the leadership of the evangelical church in general terms is of a conformist type. What we do well is preserve the status quo. We do not develop true discipleship on the road to the cross. We do not carry out real transformational leadership, like that of Jesus; we only put bandages on the wounds (and not that that’s wrong, but is it enough?). There are some of the countries in our region, such as in Central America, where the percentage of evangelicals is high and growing, but with a tiny impact on the change of society.

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who was murdered in cold blood at mass in 1980, said in a homily a year before his death: “A sermon that does not point to sin is not a gospel sermon…When the Church hears the weeping of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that nourish and perpetuate the misery from which the cry comes.”

How do we Nazarenes see the involvement of our church members in political careers? What message are we communicating to our members about the value of investing life in professions related to service and public administration?

How can we change the paradigm that still exists in many churches that the only way to serve God is through the pastoral profession or intra-ecclesial leadership?

How can we change from being trainers of church leaders to being trainers of leaders for our present context and reality?

***Dr. Rubén Fernández is Rector of the Seminario Nazareno de las Américas (SENDAS) in San José, Costa Rica.

A Swift and Radical Change

In one of the neighborhoods in the city, two missionaries were doing door to door evangelism, knocking on doors to present the gospel using the “Wordless Book.” They knocked on the door insistently, but no one would open. When they were about to leave, a woman about 40 years old leaned out of a small window.  They told her why they were there. Even though the weather was not cold, the woman was wearing a coat; she seemed nervous and concerned, and she was walking from one place to another. She told the missionaries she couldn’t receive them because she was waiting for her therapy session with her psychologist. The missionaries asked for ten minutes to share a Bible story, and so she let them.  At the end, they guided her to accept Christ as her Savior.

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During the prayer, the woman broke down weeping. She told the missionaries that when they prayed she started sweating, feeling really hot and restless at the same time. After giving her some advice, they left, promising her that they would return the next day to give her a discipleship lesson. When they came back, she shared with the missionaries how she had wanted to cancel the appointment with them.  Unable to contact them, though, she began to think that it might be important – even exciting – to receive them again.

At the end of the discipleship lesson, once again the missionaries prayed for her.  But this time the Holy Spirit started to minister to her in a beautiful way, performing a miracle of change in her life. When the missionaries returned for the third time, they were astonished: the woman’s appearance had changed, she looked healthy, and her house was cleaned and organized. She shared that for ten years she had dealt with depression and anxiety; in fact, for the past eight years she hadn’t been able to leave her house. She told them that she kept a lot of resentment in her heart against people that had hurt her, and she had even thought about ending her life to stop the suffering. But on that day, when the missionaries talked to her about Jesus and then prayed for her, she felt a strange heat that invaded her body, and it felt like someone had removed a weight from above. She started to feel joy and shared the news with her parents and brothers whom were disconcerted when listening to her.

After reading the Bible, the missionaries prayed for her once again. This time the woman started crying, asking for God’s healing for her life. By the fourth visit the woman was beaming, and she told them that for the first time in eight years she was able to leave the house and go with her husband to the main square of the city. She told them she was amazed by the joy she felt without medication, any therapy sessions, or even consulting with her psychiatrist at all (who, by the way, had never showed up for the appointment).

The missionaries were joyful to see this swift and radical change. When they were about to pray for her, she asked them to wait.  She ran to the house next door to call her parents, husband and brothers so they could also be a part of the prayer. Her family came and told the missionaries that they couldn’t explain what they were seeing in her life. They said they were religious people, members of the main church in town, but they were amazed by the change in her. They asked the missionaries to pray for them, too, and for other family members. The missionaries prayed for everyone and promised them to continue sharing with them about Jesus. The missionaries are members of a local Nazarene Church, and before this encounter, they had never shared their faith with anyone who did not know Jesus.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

This information has been provided by Rev. Manuel Molina, and comes from one of many “Project Paul” church planting trips in the north of Mexico.

 

Four Quotes from Billy Graham that I Can’t Get Away From

By Scott Armstrong

In the three weeks since Billy Graham died at the age of 99, I have been reflecting on his life and his legacy.  Four of his quotes have stuck with me and I would like to offer them to you here.

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  1. “Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”

Almost any scholar would categorize Rev. Graham as a “Reformed” theologian and preacher, so some of us as Wesleyans may be surprised that he preached and wrote often on sanctification.  Although he stopped short of understanding entire sanctification the way John Wesley defined it, Graham knew that the legions of new believers who came forward at his revivals needed to continue on to be “made righteous” in holiness.  How was this “progressive sanctification” to take place? Graham consistently referred to the two-fold practice of abiding daily in Christ and obeying his Word.

In his book, The Holy Spirit, Graham beautifully puts it this way, “We are as much sanctified as we are possessed by the Holy Spirit.  It is never a question of how much you and I have of the Spirit, but how much He has of us.”

  1. “Many people are willing to have Jesus as part of their lives – as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. They may even profess faith in Jesus and join a church.  But Jesus to them is almost like an insurance policy – something they obtain and then forget about until they die.  What keeps you from being His disciple?”

In a short reflection on Matthew 8:21-22, Billy Graham penned those words.  He knew Jesus to be clear: absolutely nothing should stand in the way of being His disciple.  In an echo to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship, he calls out anyone who would use Christ and Christianity as a commodity: something that makes us comfortable in our eternal destiny while demanding nothing of us in our daily lives.  No!  Discipleship requires discipline, and, indeed, is best known as a cross we carry to our own death along the way.

  1. “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”

Interestingly enough, this quote may be his most famous.  It is cited in an endless number of “Quick Quotes” websites and came to have wide appeal when it appeared for the first time in his article, “A Time for Moral Courage”, in Reader’s Digest in July 1964.  Rev. Graham later would admit that the times had changed dramatically in the decades since he wrote those words, but that the need for character was still the same.  In fact, he always believed the problem of sin and the essence of the gospel remained the same, even when culture and current events evolved with astonishing speed.  Who would have the valor to live a life of integrity and speak the truth in love to this hurting world? His own life was the answer to that question, even as it invited us to respond – and live – likewise.

  1. “The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”

Let’s end on this one, for it speaks deeply of mission and evangelism.  May the heart and life of Billy Graham be multiplied thousands of times over in a present-day army of Christ-followers passionately demonstrating God’s love to a broken world!

 

Learning from Mary

By Charles W. Christian

I once heard a Catholic priest tell a joke about a scene in Heaven. Jesus walks up to a Protestant and a Catholic and says to them, “I am glad to see you two getting along so well.” Then Jesus turns to the Protestant and says, “I would like to introduce you to my mother.  I don’t think you two have met!”

We Protestants in the crowd laughed, but it challenged me to take a closer look at what we as Christians – both Protestants and Catholics – can learn from Mary.

Based on the Gospels, here are a few lessons that come to mind:

  • We can be available for the work of God: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
  • We can allow faith in God to override our fears:  [Elizabeth said to her], “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her” (Luke 1:45).
  • We can embody thankfulness:  “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).
  • We can allow God to use us to speak prophetically to a world in need of a Savior: “He [God] has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered the proud. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (Luke 1:51-52).
  • We can learn to treasure God’s gifts: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

There are many other lessons we can learn from Mary’s example.  During this season of Advent, may we, like Mary, approach the future with humility, faithfulness, and hope.

God has chosen His Church to be the bearers of the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Let us adore Him, and let us share this good news by the power of the Holy Spirit as we journey together through Advent.

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Prayer for the week:

Teach us obedience, Lord
In every part of our lives
Ears to hear your word
Hands to do your work
Feet to walk your path
A heart for all your people
A mouth to shout your praise
A childlike faith
Humility
Confidence
That says
To the possible
And the impossible
I am the Lord’s servant
May it be to me as you have said.
Amen

(John Birch at faithandworship.com)

This article was originally published at: Holiness Today