[anzac] FATAL TRAP of HOLINESS EXTREMES

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From: "REVIVAL List" <prophetic@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2007 01:00:33 -0700
ANDREW's NOTE:  You will notice that in our preaching we always
emphasise having a "clean heart" and a clean conscience before
God - being free from all "known" sin. We do NOT preach "BEING
PERFECT" or anything like it - and below is a very good article
on why there can be real danger in "Holiness extremes".


"The FATAL TRAP of HOLINESS PREACHING"

A solemn warning to guard against the error of extremes

-by Josef Urban.

The FATAL TRAP is HIDDEN DEEP WITHIN the DOCTRINE

There is a terrifying trap; a sinister snare; a wicked wile; a deadly
delusion that a great too many saints of the Lord have fallen into
to the peril, and sometimes even destruction, of their souls. This
is an issue that must be addressed. If you would consider yourself
to be a true saint of the Living God, and you adhere to the doctrines
of holiness, then don’t let anything divert your attention from
understanding, recognizing, and identifying this fatal trap. This trap
is often laid hidden deep within the doctrines of holiness. We know
that holiness preaching is Gospel preaching, and there is no other
true Gospel other than that Gospel which promotes holiness
through Christ, but dear saints, there is an error of extremes that
we must stand guard against! There is a fatal trap in over-
emphasizing a hyped up view of holiness, and we must take heed
to beware of it, because many, failing to recognize this trap, have
fallen into this error.

The ABSOLUTE NECESSITY of HOLINESS

Before we begin, let us understand that God is a holy God. The
essence, substance and nature of His very Being is holiness. He
dwells in a holy place, sitting on a holy Throne, surrounded by
the holy angels and holy saints who worship Him in the beauty of
holiness. Four living creatures, terrifying angelic beings who are
sinless and absolutely holy themselves, surround His glorious
Throne and say unceasingly, day and night, nonstop, “Holy, holy,
holy is the Lord God Almighty”. Not only is God holy – He is
thrice holy, completely holy, utterly and totally holy without the
least imperfection, blemish or inconsistency in His holiness.

It is an undisputable fact that no sin can truly stand in His
presence. Nothing but that which is holy may enter in to this
majestic dwelling place of such a holy Being and remain in such
a terrifying place without penalty. Only those who are holy will
inherit this holy Kingdom. Since He is holy, His people are
commanded – not suggested, but commanded – to be holy as
well. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord. Only those
who purify themselves even as He is pure in their lives on this
earth will ever attain to inheriting the pure holiness of Heaven in
their lives hereafter. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall
see God, and woe to those who are not pure in heart, but who
live in uncleanness, for they shall not see this holy God in the
splendor of His holy perfection.

Holiness of heart, in our lives here and now on this earth, is
essential to salvation. Christ came to purchase for Himself a
glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but
one that would be holy and without blemish before Him. Therefore,
if any individual is not holy, but is polluted with the spots, wrinkles,
and blemishes of known sins, then they are not a part of the true
church of God, consisting of His blood-bought saints, whose
names are written in Heaven. Christ shed the Holy Ghost forth
upon His church to enable and empower His people to be holy
and to walk in holiness, so having these great and precious
promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh
and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

The holiness of God and the fact of the essentiality of holiness in
the life of any true Christian is a blessed and undeniable fact of
the pure, unadulterated gospel truth. Let us preach this truth with
a holy unction, proclaim it with a holy zeal, shout it abroad with a
holy urgency, and march forth into the frontlines of the enemy’s
territory with a holy determination, the blood-stained banner of the
Lamb of God being raised on high, chanting, “Holiness to the Lord”
as our battle-cry, and if we have to die in the midst of the battle,
may we die with the truth of holiness upon our lips!

The ERROR of OVER-STRESSING HOLINESS

Knowing these blessed truths, however, let us take heed to
ourselves, lest we fall into a disastrous soul-dooming snare. We
must not be ignorant of the wiles and clever schemes of the
wicked one. Oh, how the devil loves it when such an emphasis is
placed on holiness that it leads to setting up a standard in the
minds of the saints of God such an impossibility of perfection that
they can never attain to it. If we must preach, Satan would much
prefer that we preach an impossibly high standard of perfection
and holiness than to preach no holiness at all, because it is by
this that he can get a foothold in the lives of God’s true children
through the weakness of their own conscience – their consciences
being weakened by their failure to measure up to the standards of
perfection – and through this foothold he can begin his dastardly
work of tearing down the walls of their blessed assurance and
thereby strip them of the faith by which they were justified.

The sad fact is; there is such an extreme heresy that is propagated
abroad across our land today that proclaims a Savior from hell but
not from sin. It preaches a salvation of forgiveness but not
redemption. It teaches a form of justification by faith but not
sanctification by faith. It preaches, “Ye must be born again” but
doesn’t teach the marks of true regeneration. It teaches that a
man becomes a new creature in Christ while he remains just the
same. As a result, we have a gospel being spread abroad, which
is another gospel (and no gospel at all), that says, “You can live
in willful sin and still go to Heaven when you die”; containing a
form of godliness that somehow forgives sins but contains no
power to redeem from the current presence and dominion of sin in
the life of a believer. This is heresy, damnable heresy, and is
something the true saints of God don’t want to be found touching
with a ten-foot stick, unless they are using such a stick to bash it
down with a holy violence like that of Jehu when he went on an
idol-smashing rampage in tearing down the image of Baal (see 2
Kings 10:24-28).

However, such an intense zeal to combat this error is precisely
what leads to the problem. Zeal without the proper knowledge to
direct it is potentially more disastrous than the proper knowledge
without the zeal to ignite it. In combating the error of “sin-your-way-
to-heaven” Antinomianism, many have fallen into the fatal trap of
swinging the pendulum too far to the opposite extreme, preaching
an impossibly high standard of holiness. Then, since nobody can
meet these incredibly high standards, those who are truly born of
God begin to condemn themselves and question their salvation
because they cannot meet such standards. Thus, their assurance
before God is shaken, their faith is destroyed, and they fall into
the pit of self-condemnation.

Some, in attempting to combat the error of cheap grace, even go
so far as to preach sinless perfection. This is error, serious error,
and must be avoided as a deadly plague, lest we fall into the snare
of the wicked one and cause the faith of God’s people to be
shipwrecked. What is “sinless perfection”? It is a doctrine that
teaches that true Christians live in a state of sinless-ness, having
no sin. It teaches that from the moment one is truly born again,
they will never sin again, and that anyone who does not live and
walk in such a state is not saved. It teaches a standard of
absolute perfection, and that if a Christian is not perfect and
without sin, then such a person is no Christian at all. It teaches
that if somebody gets born again, but then stumbles into any form
of sin, no matter how small, then they are immediately thrust
back under the wrath of God until they repent again (and there are
greater and lesser sins; see Matthew 23:14, Luke 17:1-2, John
19:11, 1 John 5:16). Thus, there is no assurance for the believer
in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, or in the one and
perfect offering for sin by the precious blood of the eternal
Covenant. Instead the life of the Christian becomes a fearful and
vicious cycle containing bouts of assurance and happiness when
they think they are being holy enough, and condemnation and
depression when they fail to meet the standards of perfect holiness.

It is not necessary to take our stand on an extreme in order to
combat the opposite extreme. Many, trying to refute the heresy of
modern teachings that teach the grace of God as a license to sin,
going too far to the opposite extreme, preach an incredibly and
impossibly high standard of holiness. They have attempted to
root out all the tares growing among the wheat. In doing so,
however, they have sadly plucked out a few good grains of wheat.
This is precisely what Jesus was warning about in Matthew
13:24-30, and this is what holiness preachers need to guard against.

The reason we need to guard against this fatal trap of extreme
holiness preaching is because faith is directly related to
conscience. When an individual gets born again, the blood of
Christ is applied to the heart and the conscience is cleansed.
They experience the peace of God that passes all understanding,
the weight and burden of sin is removed, and their heart is
cleansed by the living faith that the Holy Ghost imparts to their
soul. As a result, they obtain the blessed assurance of sins
forgiven. Since a man is initially justified by faith in Christ, and
faith alone apart from works, and since the assurance of this faith
is directly dependant on the state of the conscience, it is
imperative that he keeps a clean conscience before God in order
to maintain the faith necessary to believe unto salvation, because
having true faith is directly related to having a clean conscience.

If the conscience gets spotted or defiled with any known or even
perceived wrongdoing, then assurance before God is stripped
away. If assurance before God is stripped away, then one begins
to feel as if God has cut them off. In thinking this, faith itself in
God as the Justifier of the ungodly is stripped away, and the
individual is brought into a sad state of self-condemnation. Their
faith then becomes utterly destroyed and justification before God
becomes an impossibility, because without faith it is impossible
to please God.

Over-emphasizing a high degree of holiness causes those who sit
under such teaching, if they believe it, to examine themselves
vigorously, over and over, to see if there is the smallest or tiniest
degree of anything unholy in them. As extreme holiness is
continually emphasized, they continue to examine themselves,
and as soon as they find something unholy, they condemn
themselves for it and fall into the trap of self-condemnation. They
then continue to examine themselves almost endlessly, and their
focus gets removed from Christ and His love, grace, and mercy,
and their focus gets put on themselves and their works. Their
righteousness becomes based on their deeds, works, and
performance before God, rather than in the finished work of the
Cross through the faith of Christ. Perfection becomes an
obsession, and the sight of the Cross is at a loss.

Rather than preaching in such a way as to convict sinners and
strengthen the faith of the saints, many go to the error of extreme
holiness and preach in such a way as to condemn both sinners
and saints alike. Now, this is not to say that a true saint will never
need to be convicted about anything, or that we should never
preach hard messages. Our preaching needs to be designed in
such a way that it convicts instead of condemns, and that it is
useful for spiritual growth and not spiritual destruction. If our
preaching doesn’t pierce through and cut asunder the hearts of
men like a sharp, two-edged sword, then what we’re preaching
isn’t the true Word of God! But, at the same time, if it doesn’t
apply the healing properties of that blessed Balm of Gilead after
it wounds, and bind up the broken hearts with the bandages of
Christ’s love, then it is potentially destructive to the souls of men.
There is a fine line, and that line is determined by the perfect
orderly balance of God’s wisdom according to the leading of the Spirit.

Oh, the trickery of it all! The masterfully orchestrated wiles of the
devil! God forbid that we lay anything to the charge of God’s elect
when it is God that justified them and they are following the Lord
their God with all their heart! God forbid we join sides with the
Accuser of the Brethren and condemn the consciences of God’s
saints and destroy their faith! God forbid that we, through the good
intentions of combating heresy, preach heresy ourselves! But on
the other end, God forbid that we fail to preach holiness! God
forbid we tolerate any known form of sin in the least! God forbid
we fail to stand on the uncompromising truth of the word of God
and declare the severity, justice, holiness and wrath of God!

We holiness preachers are walking a tightrope of truth, and erring
on either side can be fatal! As it was in the days of Nehemiah,
when the men who were building the walls of Jerusalem had to
build with one hand and yield a weapon in the other, in the same
way, we need to build the Church with one hand to edify the saints
with revelations of the true grace of God, and hold our sword in the
other to uncompromisingly fight against every sin which so easily
besets us (see Nehemiah 4:17)! The enemy is surrounding us on
all sides, and when he’s attacking the gates on the city walls,
we’re still busy dealing with internal problems and uprisings –
danger from within and danger from without!

The fact is: preaching and overemphasizing an extreme degree of
holiness destroys the assurance and faith of the saints. No one is
perfectly sinless. Ask any saint, any true born again child of God
that has been walking with the Lord for a number of years; ask
them if they have sinned even once since their conversion. Ask
them if they’ve ever committed a single sin against God since
they got born again. If they are not blind and stupid to the laws of
God, they will most certainly and ashamedly tell you they have.
Does this mean they weren’t born again? Does this mean that as
soon as they sinned, God cut them off and declared them children
of the devil and bound them fit for destruction in Hell?

If We SAY WE HAVE NO SIN, We DECEIVE OURSELVES

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth
is not in us.” (1 John 1:8).

The beloved Apostle John, in inscribing these words on the sacred
parchment of his first epistle, being a holy man moved upon by
the Holy Ghost to record these holy words, has clearly said in the
most plain and straightforward language, “If we say that we have
no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”. This
epistle is addressed to saints, warning against various dangers,
extremes, and heresies that were attempting to creep their way
into the Church in John’s old age, and as a guideline to the faith
of Christ and the nature of true conversion.

Let us observe some facts concerning this statement of Scripture:

First, as we have already observed, it is written to Christians. John
was not writing to heathen, nor was he writing to unconverted
sinners. We know that this first epistle was directed toward
Christians, “that [their] joy may be full” (1:4). Certainly, he is not
writing that the joy of sinners may be full, but that the joy of the
saints may be full, which proves that this epistle is directed
toward those who already have a degree and measure of the joy
of Christ. Only the saints have the joy of Christ.

Second, the great, holy and beloved Apostle includes himself by
saying, “we”. He didn’t say, “If YOU say that you have no sin”, but
he said, “If WE say that we have no sin…” This is a very
remarkable and undeniably true observation. As holy as we know
this great Apostle must have been, especially in the old age he
was in when he wrote this epistle, he was still walking in such a
degree of self-abasement and humility as to recognize his true
condition before God, a condition that still had a measure of sin
dwelling within the flesh and that didn’t yet have full and final
redemption from the presence of sin (which would take place at
final glorification – see 1 John 3:2). John knew that even he was
not without sin, and he certainly knew he wasn’t “sinlessly
perfect”, as some would say, which is why he includes himself in
this statement.

Even the Apostle Paul agreed and admitted to the personal
imperfections of his righteousness before God: “Not as though I
had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after,
if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of
Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:
but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press
toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ
Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14). This was written at about 61 AD,
which was after his third missionary journey. If sinless perfection
could be obtained, then without a doubt it should have been
obtained by the Apostle Paul after enduring so much hardship,
living in such devotion, and following hard after God for so many
years, being “not a whit behind the chiefest Apostles”. In context
of the perfection of which Paul is speaking, he is speaking of
“attaining unto the resurrection of the dead” (verse 10) by being
found in the righteousness of Christ by faith (verse 9). So, namely,
he is talking about righteousness, and admitting that even he
didn’t have a perfect righteousness on this earth, looking forward
to full and final redemption, which would take place in the final
work of redemption at the time of glorification.

The third thing we must observe is that it is in the present tense. It
is not talking in the past tense. In other words, he is not talking
about one saying that they have no sin prior to conversion, but one
saying they have no sin after conversion. He is talking about sin
dwelling in some measure in born again believers, and that if
anyone denies this, they deceive themselves, being blind to their
own unworthiness in the sight of God.

~[TO BE CONTINUED in PART 2]