Abstain from those things which are ungodly. Abstain from that which appears ungodly. Abstain from specific things scripture clearly defines as sin–gossip, talebearing, strife, pride. Abstain from foolish and unwise things. Abstain from impurity–in thought, word, or deed.
Can you manage that? Hmmmn. I tried for ten minutes and couldn’t get past the “thought” portion. For instance: while I was writing that first paragraph I thought of all the folks who’d assign particulars to each sentence. I thought of arguments it may provoke. I thought irritating thoughts about irritating people. I considered barbs and heat I might encounter. Yet, think about it. Is anything in that first paragraph I said hateful? offensive? untrue?
Some folks think that just because one person abstains from some particular action, and posits himself with reason, rationale, evidence, and biblical principle, that the “one person” condemns all those with an opposing position to eternal death. That is simply not true of all people who seek to live out the faith-walk the Lord gives.
Wonder why God had Paul tell us to abstain from even the appearance of evil. Think God meant it to make us miserable? Wonder why God tells us to love the unlovely. Think God wants us to perform the impossible? Wonder why God tells us not to become unequally yoked with the world? Think God believes we are better than the world? Abstaining.
Abstaining from things that are unseemly, or could cause another to stumble or falter in their faith, should not bother us. Should it? I figure it only bothers us when we want what we want when we want it. Our desires supercede any good God can bring about because of our obedience. Does our liberty in Christ supercede any harm that our actions or inaction could cause another seeker? I don’t think so.
Holiness isn’t all about abstaining. Holiness is living out the life of Christ within us; it separates us from the world. Holiness is the Holy Spirit within our spirit hungering and thirsting for the best of life. He seeks the newness of life for us. He seeks to transform and renew our minds to habitually walk in Christ, everyday, all day. He does not lead us in the way of any temptation…not one. He leads us away from temptation. He guides us and steers our thoughts to the purity of life. The devil has us focus on our own desires, our own enjoyments, our own pleasures and comforts. The devil doesn’t want us to suffer any inconvenience for the sake of the gospel. He tells us God will understand why we do or do not do something. He tells us we need not bother ourselves with living as Jesus lived, or is calling us to live. Do you think Satan even reminds us that God is merciful and what we do is covered in the liberty of God’s grace? I think he does. Just as he used the goodness of God to entice Eve to eat of the tree in the midst of the garden of Eden. The reminder Satan gives comes before the act, not after.
Grace fills the crevices of our faults and weaknesses, yet gives what we need to close those gaps in our walk with Christ as they are revealed to us. Grace is second chances. Grace is patience in our immaturity. Grace covers our deficiencies and creates in us a desire to correct them as we grow in it’s shadows. Grace even makes allowances for our stubborn refusal to give all to Christ. It lets us go our own way until we fall flat on our faces, and then grace is the cushion beneath the hard pavement of consequence. Grace covers our sin and picks us up. Grace cradles us in its arms till we are healed to walk again. Grace is sufficient to meet all our needs. All means all. Every single thing we need is fulfilled in the grace of God. We won’t be kicked out of the kingdom because we fail a test, or lose a battle with our flesh. We will be given more grace to meet the challenges before us. We will be given more grace to drop our nets and follow Him immediately. We will be given more grace to pick up our cross. We will be given more grace to deny ourselves and live for Him, with Him, in Him.
Well, at least that is grace as I understand it. How about you?