Conflict Between Grace And Holiness

Q. I have an on-going battle or conflict in reconciling the doctrines of grace and forgiveness with the call to holiness (1 Peter 1:15,16 – But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”) I understand that even that work needs to be exacted by the Holy Spirit’s work in my life. It’s just so easy to fall into legalism. Do you have any insights?

I’m leading a study using AW Tozer’s book The Pursuit of God. Tozer deals with some pretty heavy things in our lives that rival God’s rightful place, covetousness, self-life, etc. My apprehension, now that we’re on the 3rd chapter, is that the group may not agree with his approach – heavy on the experiential as opposed to the positional-only stance of being in the presence of God. Are you familiar with this author and book?

I pray God’s richest blessings on you and your family. Peace!

A. It seems to me that your concern only highlights the need for the teaching that we literally stand in the presence of God and need to conduct ourselves accordingly. Not out of a misplaced effort for gain, but out of respect for our Constant Companion. I’ve often asked people to imagine they were getting ready for a meeting in the Oval Office with the President. Whether or not we agreed with his politics, we would dress and act in a manner that conveys our respect for the office and position. How much more so with God?

So often by our actions we prove the extent to which we take our standing for granted. For example take Sunday mornings, a time when we’re probably on our best behavior. People often arrive late for church, disrupting the worship or prayers they’ve walked in on. They dress as if they’re either on their way to a single’s bar or health club (or where I am, a rodeo) or are just coming back from one. They’re way more concerned about connecting with others than with God, the One they’ve supposedly come to visit. Far from acting as if they’re in the very presence of God, they often don’t even show the respect due their peers.

If they behave that way on Sunday morning when they’re consciously coming to “God’s House” how much more so on the other 6 days, when they’re just as certainly in the presence of God but don’t realize it.

Conduct your study, and focus on the difference between the familiarity we’ve been granted at the cross and the indifference we exhibit by our lack of respect. I like Ephesians 4-6 as supporting text. The way I read it, Paul failed to recognize any difference between positional and experiential standing.

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