12 July 2008

Cheap Piety, Complementarianism and Transformation

When Luther really understood the holiness of God the tenuousness of his life was magnified exponentially to him. He became obsessed with his death and the judgment of God. Why? He knew what his sinful life looked like in comparison to the holiness of the Almighty.

John Owen understood that believers lives are about sanctification and holiness. He had this to say:

"This work of holiness in us is wonderful. It is a supernatural work and is known only by supernatural revelation.We must not be deceived by a false holiness. Holiness is not just a reformed life."

Holiness is not about being as good as you can be for as long as you can be. I was talking to my pastor's wife and telling her that I loved the fact that her husband reads my blog. I told her I liked the accountability and have caught myself asking, "Would I say that in front of Bill?" I also confessed to her that I would hold my tongue in front of her husband more than I would before God. Her response was, "God already knows." Exactly. I have stopped trying to fool myself that holding my tongue before God is productive when I know my heart is generating sin faster than my tongue can express it. Holding my tongue in front of others is an exercise of obedience, not evidence of my piety.

In his book The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul had this to say about being as good as you can be for as long as you can be: "Anyone can be a nonconformist for nonconformity's sake. Again I want to emphasize that this is cheap piety. What we are ultimately called to is more than nonconformity; we are called to transformation."

I didn't land in the complementarian camp by deciding that I would be as good as I could be. Nor did I decide that if I were going to accept reformed theology, I had to accept the complementarian position. I wasn't convinced by a stellar presentation or a logical argument. (Though the arguments in favor of complementarianism are logical.) I got here because my heart is being transformed. I am being sanctified.

Sanctification is one of those theological words that can be confusing, especially for new believers and folks new to theology. Sanctification, to paraphrase John MacArthur, is the what we call the process of being transformed. Let me quote him directly.

"Sanctification begins at our salvation and it ends, or culminates, at our glorification. We are justified: declared righteous at our salvation; we are glorified—made fully righteous when we see the Lord face to face. In the meantime we are being progressively sanctified, that is, we are progressively being separated from sin unto Christ."

I think it is important to remember that we believers are all in the process of being transformed. While we have many privileges extended to us as adopted heirs of the Almighty, being perfected and free from sin this side of being in heaven isn't one of them. It's a tough place to balance sometimes, knowing that we are to strive for obedience while resting in the merit of our Savior.

Ever consider the death of Uzzah a harsh consequence for touching the ark, especially when what he was doing was to reach out and stabilize it to keep it from falling in the dirt?(2 Samuel 6, 1Chronicals 13). I used to. It seemed patently unfair that God should kill him. Now I understand. Firstly, God decreed the ark could not be touched so touching it was a sin and the wages of sin is death. Secondly, what made Uzzah think that Almighty God was incapable of caring for the ark and in need of his assistance? Thirdly, the dirt had not been tainted by sin and was, therefore, far cleaner than Uzzah's hand.

My full embracement of complementarianism doesn't mean being exempt from learning sound doctrine. It doesn't mean being forbidden to present the gospel to anyone, including a man. It will not glorify God to set my jaw and decide to be outwardly submissive while inwardly I am seething and resentful. It doesn't mean I have lost my mind, nor that I am ignorant or incapable. I doubt very seriously it means that my struggle with what it means to be a woman of God is finished. It is evidence of being transformed, of my sanctification.

Romans 12:2
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Colossians 1:21-22
21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, {engaged} in evil deeds,
22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach--

Colossians 3:10
10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him

Titus 3:5-7
5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to {the} hope of eternal life.

Psalms 4:5
5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the LORD.
(NAS)


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