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Saturday, April 11, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Horace Greeley once said, "Fame is vapor. Popularity an accident. Riches take wings. Only one thing endures, that is character."

Looking at character from a biblical point of view, such is spelled HOLINESS. The highest level a human being can reach in this life spiritually speaking is the level of purity of heart and life. That produces the sterling character.

Do you have character? In other words, do you have "holiness in the street"--out there where people are? Are you living at your height in the Spirit of God?

When we become saved by diving grace, the Lord forgives us of our sins. But when we become sanctified in His Spirit, the Lord cleanses the carnal nature--inbred sin--the old man. Call it what you will, it is that rebellious nature against God's way in order to demand our own way.

There is the fact of the need for two operations--surgery upon the soul for cleansing of sins and surgery operation upon the soul for cleansing of the sin nature.

Then the Christian becomes complete in God--to go into moment-by-moment completeness, always arriving and yet never arriving.

What happens if a person does not permit the Spirit to have control over the old man, the self-centered life? Then you have a stinking tree in the back yard of the soul. You have a foul odor. You have the beginning of soul rot. It works its way out in pettiness, contrariness, selfishness, egotism, devilishness, gossip, wrangling, fighting, bickering, childishness, undercutting, spending every moment on self rather than spending energy on the Spirit's agenda.

You end up with an in-grown, stunted character, a dead end street, a sore that festers, a wound that never heals, a runny seepage that is repulsive on the body of Christ.

Jesus called such a state a white-washed tombstone--looking shiny on the outside--going through the motions of being right, carrying the Scriptures, knowing the sacred language, looking pretty--but on the inside there is death, stinking carcasses, decaying souls, spirits that have an awful stench to them, darkness, worm-eaten personalities, maggot-infested spirits. Is that too strong a terminology? Hardly, not when comparing the language used by Jesus.

Man may see the shiny exterior, but God sees the inside, and that is why Jesus said to the hypocrites of His day: "On the outside the cup looks clean; but on the inside you are all dirty."

Human nature has not changed. There are still those who on the outside look okay; they look like they are living out the doctrine of their orthodox theologies. But on the inside they are dirty; they are double-minded; they are devilish.

No wonder Thomas a Kempis of the Middle Ages cried out: "I beseech thee, Lord Jesus, thou crucified one, cleanse my heart from all that is worldly."

What did he mean by "worldly?" Pornography, drug misuse, cursing, promiscuity, theft? He meant all that is worldly within the sins of the spirit--not only the sins of the flesh but also the equally damning sins of the Spirit.

There are two main categories of sins: the sins of the flesh and the sins of the spirit. The sins of the flesh are outward; they are usually the ones that make the headlines: murder, rape, incest, robbery, adultery. But the sins of the spirit are just as deadly.

Paul lists both kinds of sins alongside one another when he provides his cataloguing of various wrongs. Murder is put right alongside gossip, for gossip is murder.

I have run into some people who would not put a literal knife into another person's back but who have killed the reputations of plenty of people They would not think of killing with a gun for fear of being put in jail; but they have killed others' characters and reputations.

They have sliced up and down the good names of other people.

These persons have yet to be sanctified They may testify to the experience and know how to spell the doctrinal terms. But that does not mean anything if there is not the life of "street holiness" to back it up.

In fact, it means much in reverse for it brings shame upon the church. It is also an embarrassment to those who are genuinely holy before God.

There are those who would not commit adultery. They would not even smoke a cigarette let alone dabble in harder drugs. But these pious folk will spend long periods of time on the phone gossiping about innocent persons, finding fault, having an unruly attitude, cutting up the work of the Lord in fine fashion.

Yet ask these same people to visit the ones in the convalescent homes or weekly call on a person who is bedridden or come to the aid of others in distress, and they do not seem to have the time for it.


Because they have to spend their energies on the things of the devil---plotting, scheming, undermining. They do not have time for the things of eternal good because they have to maintain their own selfish games.

It is frightening to see such persons within the church. I have a hunch that Jesus was thinking of these people when He said candidly: "On judgment day there will be those who will say: 'Did not we sit in a Sunday school class, were not we there with our thick King James Versions in hand, did not we stay away from the drugs and lustful license, did not we keep our refrigerators free from liquor, did not we keep our tidy skirts clean?'

"And then they will hear the Judge say: 'Depart--away from me--you who work sin, for I never knew your name. You did not do the Father's will. You did your "own thing" in the name of religion. You saw through YOUR plans and did not take time to seek out the FATHER'S plans.'"

Now you explain why Jesus has the right to tell those "good people" that they were committing sin? They were, that is why. It is that simple.

They committed sins of the spirit over and over again. They bucked the heart of God the Father. They came into the organization called "the church" in order to set loose their own petty, conceited aims. And with determination they did work their carnal goals to fruition.

No wonder Thomas a Kempis prayed: "O how needful for me is purification--the cleansing from my sins! Whatever thou findest in me that is carnal, cast it utterly away. Remove from me all that thou seest unclean in me. That being inwardly cleansed from sin and adorned with the beauty of holiness, I may have a perpetual love of thy holy name, and be found a meet partaker of thy heavenly kingdom."

Give us more prayers like that one today!