Thursday, February 5, 2009

The False Separation of Secular versus Sacred, Part 1

The first false lens we must remove to see life correctly is the division between the secular and the sacred.

Paul writes, “To the pure, all things are pure” (Titus 1:15). When Jesus redeemed you and me, he made us holy. We are no longer striving to be holy; in actuality we are already holy.

I know that our life experience doesn’t seem to reflect this truth, but it is true nonetheless. From God’s point of view we are already redeemed, cleaned, and esteemed in the high courts in heaven. Now from your spouse’s point of view, this may not be as clear! But one of our problems is that we do not respect that God’s point of view is more true and real than our own.

There is indeed a struggle we face in seeing the reality of our position in Christ actualized in our lives. Our holiness is in process. We are holy and we are becoming holy. Theologians refer to this as the sanctification process. It is a big word for being set apart, which is what holy really means.

The way I see it: holiness is already ours, and we are learning to become at home in it as we mature in Christ. We are learning to lay aside old destructive patterns and live out a life that reflects Christ’s beauty and transcendence. This will not be accomplished in the seventy to one hundred years we have to live, so none of us ever totally arrives at holiness in this life. We always have some of the crusty residue of the flesh. But trust me, if you are in Christ, Christ is in you, and therefore you are holy—right now.

That crusty residue doesn’t make you unclean. The atoning sacrifice of Christ has cleansed you wholly and made you holy. It covers every flaw, every mistake, and every blemish—past, present, and future. Its redeeming power doesn’t change. Christ’s work is eternal, powerful, and stable. As he said on the cross, “It is finished.”

In the New Testament there is not a single church that struggled more obviously with immorality and carnality than the Corinthians. They were wrestling with all sorts of evil—divisions (1 Cor. 1:10–11), pride issues (3:18), and even gross sexual immorality (5:1). Yet when writing to them, Paul says they are “saints” (1:2). Wow, there’s a word we don’t understand after centuries of reinforcing false ideas about what a saint is. Literally saint means a “holy one” and can be used to refer to all who are in Christ. Paul calls the carnal Corinthians “holy ones.” He remarks in chapter 3, verse 17, that the temple of God is holy and that they are indeed “holy”! How remarkable this is!


Anonymous said...

Great post. I'm so amazed every time I read the opening statements of 1 Corinthians. As screwed up as they were, Paul still calls them the church.

Looking forward to the rest of this...

Nick said...

Hi Neil, this is Nick Howes from Coventry, England. Just discovered your blog and look forward to keeping up to date with it. Your writing has really helped us in what we are doing here, so thank you!

Amusingly, I had an email this week from someone wanting to book into our w/e conference with you that we held in Feb 08!

Would love to be in CA for the Organic Leadership conf, but sadly not poss this time. Maybe next year!

with love, Nick & the rest of the gang.

Ruth said...

Yeah, Paul called them Saints. Pauls' heart is so amazing, i see that more and more. He was always thanking God for the faith of the brethren, encouraging them, praying unceasingly for them , longing to be with them, and yet he was bold to preach the gospel , even in the midst of so much sin and despair.

Anonymous said...

sadly i dont think most christians come close to understanding this bc of the constant reinforcement to the contrary.

Neil Cole said...

graceshaker, I agree, hence the reason I am writing so much about it and our conference this month is dedicated to unleashing our minds from this horrendous lie.

Keith Giles said...


Great insights, as usual.

Can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Keep the faith, my friend.