Sunday, August 5, 2018

William Booth's Mount Purity: The Six Stages of the Climb

Audio Message:

According to astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross, there are 122 constants that allow for life to exist on planet Earth. And if even one of these constants were adjusted, there would be no life on Earth.

Let’s look at a few of those constants. First, oxygen. 21% of our atmosphere is oxygen. If it were 25% fire would erupt spontaneously everywhere. If it were 15% we’d all suffocate instantly. It’s the same with the carbon dioxide levels, up or down, and we’d either burn up or suffocate.

Water vapor. If water vapor levels were even slightly different, no life.

Jupiter. Did you know the planet Jupiter acts like a cosmic vacuum cleaner, attracting asteroids and comets away from Earth? Without Jupiter, no life on Earth. We’d be annihilated by space debris. 

The Earth’s crust is also at just the perfect thickness, just right amount of oxygen is transferred to the crush, and it’s thick enough to prevent excessive volcanic activity.

The 24-hour day. If the Earth’s rotation took longer than 24 hours, temperature differences between night and day would render life impossible.

Earth actually rotates on a crooked axis tilt, at 23 degrees. If it were even a little different, by a single degree, surface temperatures would fluctuate too much for life to exist.

Lightning. If there was no lightning, no life. Seismic activity. If there were no earthquakes, no life on Earth.

Gravity. If gravity was only slightly different in our solar system, there would be no sun. No life. If the gravitational force were altered by 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent, no sun.

There are 122 constants all at play that allow life to exist on Earth, if any were changed even a little, there would be no life. Amazing isn’t it?

The Bible says the universe is a reflection of the glory of God. The heavens declare his glory. The expansiveness of the universe is an expression of the infinite nature of God. Which is why we praise God.

1st Peter 1:3-9 NIV says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

I like that part where it says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Even though you don’t see him now, you believe in Him.” That’s the hard part of Christianity isn’t it? It’s believing in Jesus, even though we’ve never met him. I’ve never personally looked into the eyes of my savior Jesus. I’ve never given him a hug. I’m never listened to him tell a story. It’s challenging, to believe in that which we can’t see.

We can reason from science that there seems to be a great order to the universe. We can reason that the complexity of human and animal life is evidence for God. We can look at the historical Jesus, and the manuscript evidence for the Bible. But at the end of the day, we have to dare to believe, and to trust in Jesus.

Many of us think of religion as trying to be good so God will accept us. That is not Christianity. For a Christian, we come to Jesus Christ, this historical figure, who was crucified on the cross, and rose from the dead. We come to Jesus, whom we believe is God who came to Earth. We come to Jesus where we are, in brokenness, in sin, and we ask Jesus to make us new. Then Jesus causes us to be born again, born a second time, but this is a spiritual rebirth. Then we are changed by Jesus, and we join a spiritual community, to grow in our relationship with Christ, be set free from every sin we struggle with, and to serve Jesus. When we do that, we have the promise of eternal life. Even after death, Jesus will resurrect us, just like He resurrected. And we'll live forever. It's not about trying to be good for God, it's about Jesus coming into us, removing our sins, and giving us a new pure life.

Now that can be information outside of us. Or it can become personal. How can we access this beautiful salvation, and be transformed by it? We have to come directly to Jesus Christ. And that starts with believing that Jesus Christ is really who he says he is.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” –John 11:25-26

We must cry out to Jesus. Jesus is alive right now. He conquered the grave. And Jesus went to the cross for each of us. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was nailed to the cross, and left to die, for our sins. Our sins were nailed to the cross with Jesus. All the sins we’ve committed, all the drinking, drugs, people we’ve hurt, pornography, lies, abuse, manipulation, we’re freed from it, and it’s put upon Jesus. And Jesus gives us his righteousness. 

And when Jesus makes us pure, by removing our sins, and putting them on himself, then we are pure and righteous because of Jesus, and because we become pure and righteous in Christ, then we are clean and spotless and able to go to heaven, to eternal life, where we will live with God in paradise, for all time. Can you dare to believe, right now, that your sins were nailed to the cross with Jesus? 

God loves you, but He hates your sins. So throw them upon Jesus on the cross. He will set you free, and make you to be born again. God has a plan for a new heavens and a new earth. And we will be immortal. We’ll never have to die. We’ll live in joy, with the animals, in a perfect place, in constant communion with God our heavenly Father. Jesus came, full of grace and truth, to save us.

And similarly, there are two primary attributes of God the Father. Firstly, God is love. God our heavenly Father loves us, like a good father loves his son or daughter. Many of us did not have good loving fathers. But God our heavenly father is perfect in his love. He cares about us. He’s calling us home to himself. He has great compassion for us. He loves you. Yes, even you. He is a very good and tenderly loving Father.

Secondly, but just as much as God is love, God is holy. To say God is holy is to say God is perfect, immaculate, and complete. Holy means perfect in morality, perfect in truth, perfect in judgments, perfect in all ways. God is not like us. God is holy, holy, holy, as the angelic beings say of Him. "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, who is, and who is to come. The alpha, and the omega, the first, and the last, the beginning and the end." -Revelation 4:8

God designed your soul. He decided the world needed one of you. He particularly crafted who you are, and knows you better than you know yourself. He sees your past, your present, and your future. He sees everything. 

He is 'other.'  He is not like us. He is holy beyond us, the architect of the universe, this planet, the human soul, and governor of all reality and space time. God made us in his likeness, in his own image. Therefore, we understand why God commands us:

"Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” -1st Peter 1:13-16

We are called to holiness. Holiness in the sense the Salvation Army uses it, according to William Booth the founder, is entire deliverance from sin. The essence of sin is selfishness. Holiness means to have a soul mastered by love. So holiness is deliverance from sin, and once sin is removed, that place is filled with love instead.

This is a journey that we all ought to take together. It’s a journey upon a great and beautiful mountain. William Booth calls it mount purity, in his book "The Seven Spirits, or What I teach My Officers" Booth wrote: “Those living on its summit have glorious glimpses of the towers and palaces of the celestial city. Those who reach that heavenly height must climb what the Bible calls the “Highway of Holiness.” And they will usually find it a rugged, difficult journey, often having to fight every inch of the way.” Booth refers to six stages of this journey up mount purity. Let us consider them together.

The first stage is the awakening stage. This is where we begin to see the mountain. We’ve become a Christian, but we begin to hunger for freedom from every sin. We want freedom from cigarettes, pornography, rage, selfishness, food addiction, lusting after women, television addiction, obsession with money, gossip, slandering others, and so on. We begin to desperately want freedom from sin. We despair of sin, because we know God hates sin. At the first stage we have no rest until we resolve to take the journey up the mountain.

The second stage is where we write our name in the book of: “I will have it.” We resolve to have holiness, no matter the cost. This is the stage of constant prayer. We are praying every day and night begging God for holiness. The song of our daily thoughts is of holiness, freedom from sin. This can go on for a long time.

The third stage is called the wrestling stage. This is where we’ll be tempted to turn back. This is where we come against opposition from others who don’t want us to make it. People try to pull us back and convince us not to go. This is where your mind will tell you again and again: "It can’t be done! You can’t be holy! There’s no way in this world." Your mind, and the people around you will all be insisting that you can’t make it, that you have to stay stuck in sin forever. “You can’t be holy,” the enemy whispers to you again and again. It’s a lie. Be patient. Fight on. And keep going. 

As the song says: “The Lamb shall take my sins away. It’s certain, though impossible. The thing impossible shall be, all things are possible to me.” When our mind insists its impossible, it’s because it is. Thankfully Christ makes the impossible, possible.

The fourth stage is a glorious plateau, all who enter by "this narrow passage of true repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" enter by faith. In this place, we pass from confusion, from unbelief, from the nagging assumption that it cannot be done, to a realization that it’s inevitable. We realize God is doing it, and we’ve yielded to the process. We go from endlessly suffering under the unbelief that: I can’t be holy, to the blessed assurance that: ‘I will be holy, thanks to Jesus.’ I’ve been declared holy in Christ, but now Christ is sanctifying me (Hebrews 10:14).

Booth said of stage four: “Here men and women walk with heads erect in holy confidence, and hearts glad with living faith, and mouths full of joyous song, and eyes steadily fixed on the holy light that streams from the summit of the mount above them.” God has made us conquerors of our inward foes, we’re living in confident victorious progress.

Stage five is the stage of deliverance, where the triumph begins. At the fifth stage “the separation from sin is entire: the heart is fully cleansed from evil; the promise is proved to be true.” –William Booth, The Seven Spirits, pg. 32. The Salvation Army believes that “Christ can make a poor sinner into a perfect saint.” As it is written: “Be perfect therefore, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” -Matthew 5:48

Stage six is the stage at which one comes to the highest plateau, in which the graces of the Spirit have been perfected by experience, faith, and obedience, and the soul does the will of God as it is done in Heaven, united in the eternal companionship of that lovely being, the Spirit. Stage five begins the triumph, and stage six is maturity and growth in victory.

Be holy God said, for I myself I am holy. Live a pure life. We can do that. We will do that. We will fight for that. We will trust in Christ for that. God will provide. We have a holy loving Father. And He is calling us to a holy loving life.