The Horse or the Cart? Are You Trying to Be Holy?


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How can we as believers in Christ change our behavior?

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The Horse or the Cart? Are You Trying to Be Holy? Quiz Look at the pictures below and tick (☑) the correct answer. Is it ☐ A or ☐ B? A Discipleship 101 Albert L. Oberdorfer October 20, 2014 1. Identity 2. Behavior B 101 Discipleship Albert L. Oberdorfer October 20, 2014 1. Behavior 2. Identity


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2 He First Loved Us, so We Ought to Love One Other This morning the Holy Spirit reminded me of scriptures on the love of God, so I started thinking on them. Here’s what the Holy Spirit has shown me. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10) We love Him, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11) So God’s love came to us first. And because we have received His love, we now love Him in


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3 return. And because we have received God’s love, we also ought love one another. He Has Already Made Us Righteous, so We Now Ought to Live Righteously How about if we replace the word love with the word ‘righteousness’ in these scriptures? Let me try and paraphrase them. In this is righteousness, not that we were righteous but that He is righteous and send His son to make us righteous. If God made us righteous, we also ought to behave righteously towards one another. You might ask, “Are these thoughts scriptural?” Let’s see what the word of God says about righteousness. Pauls says that,


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4 For He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21) We know that Jesus did not commit any sins. He was without sin. He “knew no sin.” But on the cross an exchange took place. Jesus was made “sin for us.” The sinless One became Sin. Why did Jesus do that? So that we “become the righteousness of God in Him?” If we are ‘in Christ’ we are now “the righteousness of God.” In God’s sight we are completely (100%) righteous through what Jesus has done for us. We cannot add to it, nor can we take away from it. Now whenever this is preached, that a person who in Christ is righteous through what Jesus has done for him, and not through anything that person has done, some people will say, “Yes, but doesn’t this kind of doctrine embolden people to sin? Since they are already righteous, you are now saying that their behavior doesn’t matter?” (By the way, I’ve never said that sinful behavior doesn’t matter.


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5 Sin destroys people’s lives. So, I have never said that it doesn’t matter, if people sin. But more on this topic at some other time.) In other words, people will level this charge against you that, if you promote this kind of doctrine, you are ‘giving people a license to sin.’ Let’s see what Paul tells believers who he also told that they are ‘the righteousness in Christ.’ Paul said to the very same Corinthians, Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. (1 Corinthians 15:34) He is saying here (my extended paraphrase), “Look, awake to the fact that you are a new creation. This new creation is righteous. You have been made the righteousness of God in Christ, so this is who you really are. That’s why don’t sin any longer. I say this to you because there are some believers who don’t understand this.” So in other words, Paul is telling believers to awaken to who they are in Christ, so that


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6 they can then change their behavior to be in accordance with their new nature. The Biblical Way to Behavioral Change This is the biblical way of change. That’s why when you read Paul’s letters, he will always awaken believers in the first part of the letters to their true identity. He will tell them who they are in Christ. He will tell them what Christ has already done for them. He will tell them about their new nature. He will tell them about their new inheritance. He will them that they are new people with a new heart. Then in the final part of the letters, Paul will tell believers, “Look now, you are a new creation. You are no longer the old person. Sin has lost its foothold in you. You are no longer


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7 bound by it. So stop sinning. If you sin, this is not who you really are. So stop it.” Paul will always first remind believers of their new identity in Christ. He will remind them of their righteousness in Christ. And then he will tell them to change their behavior so that their behavior lines up with their new nature. This is the biblical way of behavioral change. The horse is our new righteous identity. The behavioral change is the cart. The horse needs to come first. If you put the cart before the horse you will run into problems! He Has Already Made Us Holy, So We Now Ought to Live Holy Lives Let’s look at the issue of holiness. In this letter I’m not going into the definitions of those rich words such as ‘righteousness’ and


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8 ‘holiness,’ but let me just say here that true holiness is so much more than just not sinning. True holiness is living from our position in Christ. True holiness is about living and walking in the Spirit. It’s not just about not sinning. A believer might not commit adultery. But if a husband who believes lives holy, he will love his spouse; and if a wife who believes lives holy, she will honor her husband. Living holy is so much more than not sinning. But let’s go back again to our paraphrasing, and talk about holiness. In this is holiness, not that we lived holy but that He is holy and send His son to make us holy. If God made us holy, we also ought to live holy lives. Here’s what the word of God says. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy,


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9 and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to ever y creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. (1 Colossians 1: 21-33) I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren . (1 Thessalonians 5:27) Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." And if you call on the Father, who without par tiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received


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10 by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Peter 1:13-19) The same principles remains. Through Jesus, we are made holy. Full stop. That is why we now ought to live holy lives. If people who are believers, don’t live holy lives, it can be because of 2 reasons. A) They are confused concerning their new identity. They don’t know that they are a new creation. They don’t know that they are indeed free from sin. (This would be a topic for another blog.) B) Those people are not really born again yet. They haven’t received the Holy Spirit yet. In other words, they are not really converted yet. True Behavior Change Stems From a Right Sense of Identity


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11 If we want to see true change in believers’ lives who have received the Holy Spirit and are indeed born again, we (1) need to teach them about their identity in Christ. They need to know who they really are in Christ. In the beginning parts of Paul’s letters, Paul focuses on this very topic. So if we feed on this, we will get a better sense of our true identity in Christ. (2) And then, we will also find that Paul exhorts us to change our behavior because any behavior that we might have that is not consistent with our new identity in Christ can and ought to be changed. We are righteous and because of that we ought to live righteously! We are holy and because of that we ought to live holy lives. There is much more that can be said about this, I might come back to this topic sometime later. Until then, rejoice in the Lord! Rejoice in His wonderful work in us! He has made us righteous in God’s sight. He has made us holy in God’s sight!


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12 Now live righteously! Live a holy life! If you don’t, change. Stop doing what is not right. This is is not who you truly are. You are a new creation! You are a part of a holy nation! For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you. (Titus 2:11-15) Grace be with you. ❍



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