"1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God...4Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving...6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7Therefore do not become partners with them; 8for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them"
Ephesians 5:1-2, 4, 6-10
Holiness and sin share little in common. In fact, it would be acceptable to define the two as absolute opposites. However, one quality is consistent in the nature of both: they are utterly pervasive. We know the pervasive nature of sin all too well. Sin permeates every facet of our being. It defines our nature. It enslaves our will. It prohibits the beating of our hearts and envelops the words of our mouth. It sits on the throne of our souls and becomes the object of our affection. That pervasive sin is the product of fallen man untouched by the Gospel of the glory of Christ. One who has not experienced the new birth Jesus speaks of in John 3 cannot be "kind of" sinful just as a woman cannot be "kind of" pregnant; it is a state of being.
I am afraid for our generation of Christians, this of course including myself. Not that we are blind to the pervasive reality of sin, but that we reject the pervasive reality of holiness. My fear is that far too many of us model the belief that we can be "kind of" holy. The problem with this idea of holiness is simply that it is not true. The Biblical texts never describe holiness in this manner. The reborn and adopted child of God can be "kind of" holy no more than Saddam Hussein can be "kind of" dead. There is no part of the corpse which death does not touch. Its chilling effects are relentless and--- pervasive. If we are properly living in and savoring the victorious truths of the Gospel, holiness should seep through our pores like soap in an overflowing sponge.
I feel at this point that a clarification of terms is in order. In speaking of holiness, pervasiveness is not meant to imply perfection or completion. The writer of Hebrews helps clarify this issue for us by penning these words: "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." So there is a real sense in which we are perfected before the Father. Our justification is absolute and completed. But the story does not end there. We who stand before God completely holy in His sight because of Jesus, are being made holy on this side of glory until we leave our earthly bodies and our flesh forever. Until that moment, our flesh is a law, as Paul describes in Romans 7. So my intention is not to chastise our generation of Christians or myself for a lack of perfection; rather, I mean to expose our fatal tendency to compartmentalize our personal holiness seeking that it would never reach the areas of our lives we deem culturally relevant, cool, or comfortable. Our holiness may not be perfected on this earth, but it should be pervasive. There should be no area of our lives that holiness is not seeping into, attacking our flesh, and purifying our souls. The very fact that we blatantly ignore certain mandates of holiness is evidence that we value our culturally molded opinions above the precious Word of God.
Ephesians 5 addresses, in my recent observation, a mandate of holiness that many of us have absolutely disregarded. We have decided to ignore the call of Ephesians 5 for holiness in our jokes, speech, and meditations, justifying our sinful inconsistency with humor or empty explanations that seek to minimize this sin in hopes that it may be acceptable for us. Foul language has become a regular occurrence in the young Christian's speech. Explicit jokes turn no heads. Constant approval of media filth and acceptance toward these things flows freely because somehow it does not seem harmful. If anyone protests such behavior, they are clearly a full-time home school student who has never stepped foot out their front door for fear that they might be defiled by the unbelieving world. Clearly, they wear button downs snapped to their throats and their idea of fun is playing Bible Monopoly with their great aunt Judie. But is this not just a shoddy red-herring to avoid the ferocious issue raging in our hearts? My concern is not that we stop cussing. My concern is not that we avoid inappropriate jokes. My concern is for the heart that stares right at the Word of God and says, "No." My fear is for the Christian who justifies his sin with pathetic reasoning that will only lead to further moral compromise. Oh that we might see that obedience to Ephesians 5 has nothing to do with legalism! It has everything to do with letting the freedom of the Gospel permeate every facet of our being. We see this filth as interesting and exciting because we refuse to understand that we were once enslaved to it, and Christ has set us free.
We do not obey Ephesians 5 to gain favor with God. That is legalism. We have favor with God already because of His overwhelming grace in sending Jesus to wage war for our souls. We obey Ephesians 5 because we see that contrary to the inclinations of our flesh, nothing is more trite than sin, and nothing is more satisfying than God's all surpassing glory, shining in the face of Christ. That is the Gospel. Is your holiness as pervasive as your sin once was? When we get on board with this illuminating truth, we receive great joy, and our King receives great glory.