Hello my name is Andrew and I am a Nazarene. I know, that may come as a shocker to some of you seeing as how I am an Ordained Nazarene Elder and I pastor a Nazarene church and all, but I thought it would be good to let us all start off on the same foot. Now being a Nazarene has always come with some interesting traits. We are a unique tribe and still relatively small on the banquet platter of denominations served up in the western world. I would always have to explain to people growing up what a Nazarene was. ‘No we do not handle snakes.’ ‘Yes we believe in Jesus’. ‘No we are not a cult’. The easiest way I found to explain us to people was that we believed like Methodists and worshiped like Baptists (Which is sometimes still the case for some Nazarene churches although some may reverse the order). Growing up in the Nazarene church there was always this lingering expectation in the background that we referred to it as Holiness, but it always seemed a little off to me; at least the way I was seeing it lived out.
You see Holiness was portrayed and communicated to me as a certain standard. I guess the old adage was “We don’t drink and we don’t chew and we don’t go with the girls that do.” (This was pretty easy to fall in line with). But there was almost this sense that if you didn’t fall in line with the holy checklist that you had fallen out of God’s grace, as if it was something you earned in the first place. And the sad thing is that this attitude still permeates our Holiness thinking at times. I want to remind you of a passage the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Ephesus, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:8-10 Sometimes I think we end up ‘doing’ to try to earn God’s favor which in essence takes it out of the hands of God.
I like to think about it in terms of my marriage. I don’t really have to do anything to earn my wife’s love. It’s there already. But because she loves me I can’t do enough for her. I think it’s the same way with God. Salvation is His gift to us. It’s free and it’s beautiful and through the presence of the Holy Spirit we are being made into His ‘handiwork’. But I think it’s so important to remember that we can’t earn God. Regardless of the standard to which we hold ourselves, there is never enough that we can do to merit His grace. But we can receive God. And this may seem like too much, but at the end of the day it is all we will ever need. And suddenly we find ourselves responding out of love instead of obligation and before we know it, holiness has taken over. And that is a holy response to our gracious redemptive God.