HOLINESS STANDARDS

by Mel Berglund

Introduction to Mel's writings:

The United Pentecostal Church is not perfect. Each local United Pentecostal congregation has it's own strengths and weaknesses. It is unreasonable to fault the entire United Pentecostal Church and its thousands of assemblies for mistakes that occur in a local gathering. It is improper and imprudent to ignore a series of complaints across our fellowship. Located at this web site are a group brothers and sisters who have been wounded in our midst. While you and I may not be the source of their hurt, we can we try to be a source of their healing. As mature believers in Christ, we adequately recognize that the church is not a showroom for faultless saints, but more often a hospital for the wounded in spirit. It is unfortunate when someone comes to our church with a genuine need, and ultimately leaves with unresolved problems and even deeper injury. I realize that the UPC is not for everyone. If someone finds that they can not embrace the doctrines of a "Oneness-Pentecostal-Holiness-Church", they should find a church that fits their beliefs. No organization can make everyone happy. Aside from that, we must admit when we have done wrong and hurt someone. The church must feel remorse and true repentance over offences that we cause. In this spirit, I apologize for your hurt. I ask your forgiveness and pray that you will not loose faith in Jesus Christ because of His people. I do not apologize for the doctrines of the United Pentecostal Church, but rather for the way in which they may have been presented. The United Pentecostal Church strongly believes that it stands tall as a clarion of truth to the last generation. Doctrinal compromise is anathema within the ranks of the UPC, therefore patience, temperance and love must rule our spirit as the gospel is preached.

It will be noticed that many of the problems within our churches are the results of methodology used in local assemblies. (At this point I add that people are never a "problem" and should not be thought of as such. Problems are circumstances to be resolved, not people to be criticized.) Every organization has both good and bad qualities. The UPC is no exception. Problems that plague a church today may be gone next year. To deal with these local church issues, each local pastor has their own methods. In turn each district has due process for dealing with situations that spill out of the local assemblies. Some types of problems are reoccurring and appear on these web pages. The standards of the United Pentecostal seem to be a source of much of this conflict.

I have been involved with the UPC for over 30 years and I speak from the voice of experience. I personally know this church to be kind and loving in receiving me as a young man into its fellowship. I know this church as being forgiving of my failures. As a member of this church I believe in the message of the United Pentecostal Church.

I have prepared a series of Bible studies that I hope may help all of us to take a different look at some of our difficult issues, and in so doing, help us to find the grace to love one another. Up front I want to make it clear that I do not advocate:

Forgiveness without repentance,

Discipleship without discipline,  
Christianity without Christ likeness      
A sacrifice without an offering,
A crown without a cross, and
Hope without holiness.

I am opposed to legalism, but I feel that legalism is no worse than:

Worldliness,

Ungodliness,  
Carnality, or
Sin.

Therefore my advice to all who read these lessons is to:

Build your house upon the rock,
Walk in the Spirit,
Present your bodies as a living sacrifice,
Resist the devil,
Obey those that have the rule over you,
Flee youthful lust,
Be not conformed to this world,
Perfect holiness in the fear of God, and
Submit yourself to God.

 In so doing we will never need a set of rules, for we will have become:

An epistle known and read of all men,  

An example to the believers, and
The light of the world.

I welcome your comments.

Thank you  

Mel Berglund

......

Just as love is best portrayed by poets, holiness seems find its highest expressions in the anointed utterances of songwriters. For a scientist to stab at the abstraction of love with a knife to expose its parts, is a violation of its very spirit. In similar fashion, scholars often grapple over the issues of holiness and ultimately distill it into a set of conditions and actions that miss the significance of true holiness. Songwriters are more content to just sing "All to Jesus, I surrender" and leave the details to the singer. Yet do we not miss the mark of holiness when we proclaim "I want to be a sold out believer" while lowering the price of 'selling out' to one hour in church while dressed in our Sunday best?

What does Jesus want from me? The law demands, but love suggests. Do not look for a list of demands in the New Testament. A hint of desire from the heart of God should spur His loving bride into action. If a husband must demand his way, the marriage is in trouble. The deterioration of a marriage relationship becomes obvious when each partner begins to meet their own needs while demanding obedience from the other. Jesus, when dying upon the cross, was offered a sponge to take away his pain. This unsolicited act of kindness by a Roman soldier at Calvary puts to shame some of the followers of Christ who refuse to give Him the time of day. Yet for Christ to demand from us would distract from the holiness of the moment.

SAINTS

To be holy is to be reserved for a special purpose. Holiness is sanctification. Sanctification is what makes a 'saint' to differ from an 'aint'. Some think that a saint is an afterlife mix of an angel and a dead man living out eternity seated upon clouds. Others perceive saints to be self sacrificing role-models such as Mother Theresa who subsist in lifes gutters, daily giving of themselves to the lost.

The fact is that every follower of Christ is called to be a saint "right here and right now". The normal Christian experience is to be saint-ified. When someone turns from their own course to follow in the footsteps of Christ, their life is constrained by the path that He takes. When He said "Be ye holy, for I am holy", He had already chosen the path that we will walk with Him. Toss away your notion of halo rimmed saints seated upon heavenly vapor, dress them in shoe leather and put then down here on the Earth. A saint is a day by day follower of Christ. Holiness is a process, that comes from a walk with God more than from a talk about God.

THE HEART

In the Old Testament, items such as pots and pans were set aside for the priestly work in the Tabernacle. In that respect they were called holy. Lev 10:9-10 forbade drunkenness among the priests so that they would have a clear mind and be able to "put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;".  When God sets something aside, man must guard against mixing the holy with the unholy.

In the New Testament, holiness becomes a personal matter of the heart rather than a legal matter of the temple. The logic behind this change is that the believers' heart is the New Testament Temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus aimed some of His strongest words, not at vile sinners, but rather those who presented a heartless display of holiness.

An outward show of holiness that does not come from the heart is not sanctification, but rather a fleshy exhibition of self-display-ification. The vacant, empty husk of show-holiness is always condemned by the One who can read men's hearts. Jesus speaks loudly in Matthew 23:27 where He cried: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness."  (KJV)

True holiness is a devotion that is based upon a discernible love for God. This invisible dedication to the cause of Christ will frequently manifest itself in some visible manner. A mother's love for her child is shown in the daily care that she gives to her beloved. There is a maternal holiness in the heart of a mother that flows into the life of the child. This is a natural process that may need training, but needs very little coaching. Peter touches on this love of God that burns in the heart of every born again saint: "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently."  (I Peter 1:22 KJV)

DITCHES ON THE HIGHWAY OF HOLINESS

A wise man once perceived that a ditch lies on both sides of a road. Steering too far to the right is just as hazardous as wandering too far to the left. Discretion must be used in holiness.

Our dedication to God can be displayed in the types and the amounts of food that we chose to eat. Fasting is an act of holiness in eating. Fasting is abstinence from a desirable and necessary source of life and health. Our Lord fasted for forty days in the wilderness. This same Jesus, who obviously saw the value in fasting, warns those who "fast for show" that they have no lasting reward. He put the fasting facts right out on the table and laid bare the bone of the matter: fasting is a matter of the heart, as much as a matter of the belly. Fasting is therefore the giving away of the 'good' for the 'better'.

Holiness is the giving away of self for Christ. Holiness is not the giving up of 'sin' for 'righteousness'. Holiness is the offering of a gift to God . Holiness is what results when we give something good to God. Do not give/live to be seen or you will join ranks with the "holier than thou" saints who have their reward. (see: Isaiah 65:5 Matthew 6:16)

Life is filled with tension. Push and pull exert equal forces from the left and the right. The truth is in the middle. The wise driver navigates somewhere between commitment and condemnation; steer far away from both legalism and loose living. Be an example without putting yourself on display.

THE STANDARD/BANNER

A standard is a military flag or a banner that is hoisted upon a mast to identify warring armies. The standard identifies an army and shows to all 'which side you are on'. 'Holiness standards' are the identifying marks of the 'holiness people'. True holiness standards have always been based upon love, modesty, dedication and giving.

Standards can be seen as they are lifted high upon the battlefields of spiritual conflict. Standards of sobriety and honesty are seen flying above the carnage of worldliness and greed. The banners of prayer and intercession wave a beacon of personal victory on our battlefields of carnality.

Standards will often make a Christian 'stick out in a crowd'. Submission becomes more visible in a world filled with rebellion. Modesty is quite obvious in a crowded room where lewdness abounds. Wherever a spiritual battle rages, the holiness banners of the followers of Christ are seen waving high above the clamor.

These banners or standards are the outward manifestation of the inner holiness that God's Spirit is working in the heart of the believer. Standards are not meaningless flaps of cloth wafted upon a pole of religious showmanship, but rather the blood bought manifestations of the Spirit controlled life.

COMFORT LEVEL

Standards exist because of a real need. When we are hungry, we say: 'I feel the need to eat more'. A dinning room triumph is won when the hunger is overcome with food. To say that we feel hunger, while refusing to eat will reveal a double minded commitment to our belly.

A spiritual hunger likewise craves a banquet of spiritual food. This hunger is sometimes referred to as conviction. Coming out of a shameless, brazen world, new babes in Christ feel their need for personal modesty. Holiness springs from a craving need that is felt in the heart where Christ dwells. When something is done to meet the need of the inner voice, a standard is lifted up. Once the need has been satisfied, the inner voice becomes hushed and calm. 'Comfort level' is the feeling we achieve when our commitment has been performed. In the natural, we say that we are full.

Growth in Christ is realized when we realize that our 'comfort level' is not the only indicator of a Spirit controlled life. It is possible to lull the inner voice of the Spirit, just as some ignore their hunger pangs and eventually silence them with an untimely death. On the other hand, to excessively meet the need of our hunger can result in gluttony. These two extremes show the two ditches on the highway of holiness. On the one side, we should not ignore the voices that draw us closer to God, yet on the other fringe we do not want to develop an unnatural dependency upon our own good works in an attempt to earn our salvation. On the battlefield of these two tensions is the spiritual front line of true holiness.

EXTERNAL VOICES

The call to holiness and commitment is prompted by an inner voice. This statement does not negate the value of external forces. The written Word of God is an external force in the life of every Christian. Prophecy, preaching and the testimonies of other believers also serve as powerful external voices that God has placed into the life of believers.

These external voices are designed to blow upon the fire of the heart. As the Bible is preached, God's Spirit will convince, convict, and control us. The proper sequence for this is seen as: 'Faith that Works by Love'. (see: I Thess 1:6) Love is sown in the heart of all true believers by God's Spirit. Faith comes through the Word of God entering our lives through our ears and our eyes. This faith is a fire that ignites the heart filled with love. Flames and heat are the manifested works of the Spirit in our lives. Love is transformed into visible actions through internal and external forces in the life of the believer, but the motive and the source are found in the heart.

LEVELS AND DEPTH

Young Christians mature just as natural children develop into adults. High levels of commitment that at one time seemed impossible for the babe in Christ become daily routine to the mature saint.

'Routine and commonplace' actually become the enemies of the established warrior. Established church members will struggle to keep their faith alive and relevant. The danger is that 'routine walking with Christ' will turn holiness into a set of memorized rules. As any living thing begins to grow old, it tends to harden and get set in its ways. While a set routine is comfortable, a fresh new offering is required daily upon the altar.

To a new follower of Christ, the established members of a church may appear as either powerful apostles of the faith, or legalists on display with a holier than thou attitude. This is the struggle of the established believer. New Christians fight the flesh as it craves sin; older saints fight the flesh as it craves recognition, rules, and routine. Whatsoever is in the heart will invariably manifest itself in some outward display. "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."  (Proverbs 4:23 KJV)


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Posted August 3, 1998
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