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A reminder for holiness

August 10, 2014

8th Sunday after Holy Trinitysantidad

” I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.  When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.  What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 Romans 6:19-23

The traditional theme for this Sunday is the fruits of the Spirit. Each one of us, who call ourselves Christian, is called, as Paul says, to God’s service. One of the concrete ways to serve God is to live in holiness. On this day we are therefore called to be saints. Also, it would be nice to rescue the real meaning of the word “saint” as it means the same as “holy”. Today the words holy and saint have more negative connotations than positive.

Today we often associate the word “saint” with catholic personalities or former Catholic Church fathers. The Catholic Church establishes from time to time that one or more people from its flock are now to be considered a saint.

Another popular use of the word “saint” is when we refer to a person who is very good and has almost no evil in their character. You could almost say that “Saint” is synonymous with “terrifically good person” in our everyday language.

While some of these meanings may contain a great truth, they do not coincide exactly with the meaning of “saint” when the apostle speaks of holiness.

A saint or holy person, in the words of the New Testament, is a person who chooses a different life. The word saint would be best related to our word “different,” in the sense of alternative or special. With it we are thinking of living a different or special life compared with the rest of the “world,” that is, compared to the people of the world who have not yet decided to believe in and follow Jesus Christ.

With this understanding, we can better comprehend what the apostle Paul is referring to when he says that we should live a life that leads to holiness.

These early Roman Christians were able to hear the good news of the gospel for the first time. They had gone from living a life that did not agree with what Christ called living according to God. A fundamental change had taken place inside them in the way they believe in God, trust in Him and how they think a life should be lived. This fundamental change is often referred to as ‘conversion’. The word conversion, like the word saint, is also used in our everyday language in ways that are different and often have nothing to do with describing this fundamental change that was taking place in those early believers.

Today I am going to refer to the word conversion as that fundamental change that must have been experienced by the early believers when they approached Christ through the preaching of the Apostle, which changed their life from an impure and evil one to a righteous one that led to holiness.

The early Christians knew very well what Paul meant when he wrote these words. They could still view their old life and they could see the kind of life they were living today. They could compare them both.

A good question on this day would be: Can we compare these two types of lives for ourselves? Probably not, as most of us come from homes with parents and maybe even grandparents who have always been members of Christian churches. We have been educated in the faith. We have taken part in all the Christian rites that are needed in the institution … And all of this is fine and is highly edifying, as long as our lives show acts of “righteousness leading to holiness.” In simpler words, as that old saying goes: “Do not just be as one, but also act as one.”

Not only must we say that we are Christians or that we belong to this or that institution and be devout confessing our theologies and creeds, but we have to show the fruits of holiness in our lives as Christians. In short, we need to live a holy life. And as stated earlier, living a holy life means that we will live a different life than those people who do not believe in Christ. A Holy life is based on following the word of God, that is, the Bible.

A person once told me, “The Bible is interpreted as people like, there are many interpretations of the Bible,” thereby putting the Bible into question and criticizing the various interpretations of the Bible and the uncertain freedom that exists for many to interpret the Bible. There, I answered: –Most of the great scholars and exegetes of the Bible, even in the various Christian denominations, agree that there is one single common interpretation of the Bible. The problem is when our books or other particular interests want to be above the Bible. From there multiple interpretations arise. Therefore, when in doubt, it is up to us to choose what we are giving the most authority – our interests or the Word of God?

Living a holy life is not about being a perfect person. That is why the apostle says, “Offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.” It is true that some people are better than others in terms of obeying the word of God. That is something that nobody can deny. But that’s part of a process. When we are told that we must be saints, it is not telling us that we must be perfect, “real good”, or to participate in the competition of ‘who is best and can go to heaven.’ At the moment we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have already won heaven (Acts 16:31). What we are asked to do is to have self awareness that we are really Christians. We are asked to not be hypocrites. We are asked to be able to truly “attest” to that Christianity that we confess and say we are. If we consider ourselves to be Christians merely because we have belonged to a Christian institution since birth is not enough. For our faith to be really authentic it must be lived or that we at least consciously try to live a life in obedience to God’s word. And yet we know that some people think they are Christians but are not aware that they are not living a life that is pleasing to God. They are not aware that being a Christian involves trying everyday to please God according to his commandments. So, getting back to the topic for this Sunday, “the fruits” of a Christian life is their daily life. It is their way of thinking about themselves and others, their way of acting and the way they are committed to the things in this world that are righteous and from the word of God. It is not what we think that the word of God would be telling us to suit our particular interest, because this often cannot match what God is asking.

Many people need to be told that God loves them, that God will forgive them and that if they accept and believe in Him they will be saved.

Others need to be told that in order to be true Christians, they need to do more than simply know that they are already saved, as God also calls upon us to show off our good works. Simply being raised as a Christian and being taught the good news and accepting it by faith is not enough. As Christians, our fruits are good actions, all the good we do for others and for ourselves in thought, word and deed. This is what the Apostle James meant when he said: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?”(James 2: 12-14)

These works, naturally, are based on the word of God. Therefore one must measure their work within the parameter of the Word and use no other parameters. Our parameters for measurement may not be reliable while the Bible is unswerving.

Paul also tells these early believers: “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!”

They knew very well what Paul meant. Perhaps they had lived a life of immorality, or maybe simply a life without Christ, that is, without the word of Christ and without the Holy Spirit. No one can know their early life better than them. Yet Paul reminds them to avoid falling back into a life that is apart from God and that only brings death as payment for disobedience to the Word.

And it is important that we be reminded, as many of us do not know (Thanks God) what it means to live apart from God’s fellowship. For there’s a great danger for us to leave the faith, to leave the church and to leave our relationship and fellowship with God or for us to remain in the  church and not give credit to the Bible as the word of God.

Paul’s words about what will result are severe: “The wages of sin is death.” As we said last Sunday: Sin is separation from God, a broken relationship with God that arises through these things listed above.

Sin is not only a major crime. It is also a sin to not trust God and to get away from the fellowship of his word.

A reminder, or as we used to say in the church, an exhortation that Paul brings to us on this day is for every one of us who considers themselves part of the faith:

Let us seek to live a holy life, yes, as saints, doing good works, because we are already saved, as God has promised us. God wants to see us serving Him, pleasing Him, showing Him our Christianity and producing a kind of miraculous mission that is only successful when we see a church doing good works of love for others.

Let us show that we are Christians so that God is happy with us and many more can find Him through our testimony.

If you’ve never tried consciously to do good works, the easiest and most needed place to begin is in the church. From there, you will be able to please God outside the church, but in the name of Christ.

These are the miracles that allow the mission of the church to be effective. Let’s show that “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

Soli Deo Gloria

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