Quote from P.F. Bresee concerning Nazarene doctrine

P.F. Bresee is considered to be the founder of the Church of the Nazarene.  He was one of the people instrumental in helping the various groups who came together to form the denomination to find common ground.  They didn’t agree at every point, but they agreed to allow people to arrive at their own understanding on a broad range of doctrinal issues while holding fast to certain core beliefs.  To find out what those core beliefs are, check out the “Agreed Statement of Belief” section around page 37 in the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene.

Concerning all the other stuff, Bresee urged tolerance governed by love.  I recently read something written by Fletcher Tink in which he quotes Brezee on this topic:

“On the great fundamentals we are all agreed. Pertaining to things not essential to salvation, we have liberty. To attempt to emphasize that which is not essential to salvation and thus to divide forces, would be a crime. An unwillingness for others to enjoy the liberty that we enjoy in reference to doctrines not vital to salvation is bigotry, from which the spirit of holiness withdraws itself.” (Bold by me)

I’ve heard various versions of the first part of this quote several times, but the second is new to me.  Apparently, Bresee isn’t just all warm and fuzzy on this topic.  Rather, he’s rather stern about it, saying those who insist on loading other stuff into the equation are practicing a sort of doctrinal “bigotry” and, because of that are operating somewhere outside the “spirit of holiness.”

I can’t help but wonder what he would think of some of the debates and finger pointing we see within our number today.

Great holiness song

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard this song on the radio but for some reason it’s come to mind a couple of times lately.  It comes from David Baroni’s “Promised Land” project and it’s called “Took me out of Egypt.”  The message of the song is powerful.  The singer thanks God for freedom from the old way of life – “Egypt” yet finds another level of slavery, this on the inside. I love the words of this song and these are, I think at the heart of the matter:

Lord You took me out of Egypt
Now take Egypt out of me
You delivered me from Pharaoh now set me free from me
Let my heart become a promised land
Where the desert used to be
Lord You took me out of Egypt
Now take Egypt out of me

Thank God for his deliverance from the old way of life, it’s a transformation that makes all things new.  However, in that delivered life, over time, the believer is dismayed to find that something of the old way remains.  There’s competition for the Lordship of one’s life.  Will it be God’s way or mine?  This song describes the believer coming to a decision.  Self must bow to the Lordship of Christ.  The prayer then, is “Lord, you took me out of the old life but something of that old life remains in me.  Now, I ask that you will do a deeper work in my heart that I might be not only free from the consequences of my sin, but from the nature of sin and self.  Take the throne of my heart.”

I love the message of this song and even more, I love what the Lord does in the lives of those who come to that place of full surrender.

Here’s a short sample of the song, “Took me out of Egypt.”

The sweet and brittle sides of holiness

Uncle Bud Robinson was, in his day, probably the best known Church of the Nazarene minister in the world. He was, without doubt, a one of a kind individual who was used of God in amazing ways.

He was especially known for his constant good humor and the ability to turn a phrase. In fact, his unique statements were repeated by pastors everywhere and when Uncle Buddy came to town, everyone looked forward to hearing him say some things that were already quite familiar to them.

One of his famous prayers was: “My prayer is now that the Lord will turn a hogshead of honey over in your soul and just let it ooze out between your ribs until you will be so sweet that every bumblebee and honeybee in the settlement will be abuzzing around your doorstep.”

Bud Robinson, himself, was especially known for his sweetness. To him, every biscuit he ate was the finest he’d ever tasted; every singer sang like an angel; every revival was the finest he’d ever experienced.

Uncle Buddy was before my time, so I have no first hand knowledge of him. However, when I read about him, certain people come to mind. These are folks I’ve known through the years who were “so sweet that every bumblebee and honeybee” buzzed around them.

Of course, I’ve seen the other side too. I’ve been around folks who were so brittle and sour that it was painful to be their friend and I sure didn’t want to be their enemy.

It seems to me that there’s a tipping point, even over here in the “holiness movement.” I think that everyone, sooner or later, realizes that not everything is going their way. In the church world, for instance, the new generation comes along and “they” don’t preach or sing like we used to. The times change but we don’t. Things aren’t done the way we know they should be done and we feel diminished and pushed out.

It’s at that point that we come to a fork in the road. Down one road is a sense of self-righteousness, judgment, and disappointment. It would be so easy to follow that path. After all, we’ve been on the road to Glory longer than they have. We’ve seen some things and learned some lessons that they ought to hear. When we feel ignored we’re tempted to feel hurt and angry. That’s the brittle side of holiness.

I’ve known some, though, who chose the “honey route.” It’s not that they tossed aside their values and convictions about things, because they haven’t. However, they’ve chosen to trust God with these disappointments.  They’ve decided to keep their eyes on Jesus and they’ve begun looking forward to heaven a bit more than they did before.  They’ve chosen to intentionally love people even when they don’t always agree with them.

The Heavenly Father looks at them and sees something of his beloved Son, Jesus in their spirit. Because they remain open hearted the Lord pours his love into them and, to borrow from Uncle Buddy, the honey fills them, oozes between their ribs and pours out over all who are around them.

In this changing world, we’re bound to sometimes be disappointed when things don’t go our way. Life has both good days and bad and can be both satisfying and disappointing. In all that, we holiness folk need to stand guard over our souls. Every time we’re pressured we must chose the “sweet route.”

When all the theology is set aside, the greatest witness for Jesus and heart holiness is an individual who has had, and maintains that “hogshead of honey” experience.

So what does the holiness message look like here in the early years of the 21st Century?

First, I think the basic message is still sound. When I preach about a deeper experience in which the heart is filled with God’s love I find a receptive audience. Sometimes, it’s hard for me, who heard and responded to this message early on, to remember what a powerful message of hope it is. However, when I proclaim it and see people respond, it reminds me that it’s a wonderful, positive message.

Second, I think people are still very interested in outward manifestations of the inward work. However, the old approach is giving way to a more Biblical view of what that is. It used to be about (1) emotions and (2) legalism. There was an expectation that folks who “got it” would have a shouting spell and then settle down to walking the straight and narrow. Now, though, folks expect to see more compassion for the hurting – greater loving Christ-likeness – in the lives of those who have “gone deeper” in the things of God.

Third, I think people respond to genuine passion. They’re interested in being part of something worth dying for. Our doctrinal debates are mildly interesting to them, but they want to hear about a relationship with the Lord that’s about life and death. Others, they see, are happily content to get a stamp on their ticket to heaven, but they want to be part of something that demands their all.

A message of full surrender, based on a genuine hunger for all of God, and evidenced by Christ-like love and compassion is the one I think will touch lives today.

Who is God?

God is “I am.” He has always existed and always will exist. He is the Creator of all things – if it exists he made it. He is Almighty God – if it can be done, he can do it. He knows all there is to be known and he sees all there is to see.

God is love. He loves all of his Creation. He seeks a relationship with every person. He is transformational, never leaving lives as he finds them. He is good and his desires for humanity are pure.

God is patient. He is single minded in his purposes, but at the same time he is patient – sometimes working across generations to accomplish those purposes. His purpose is to redeem humankind. Because of that, we was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to bring about that possibility.

God is holy. He is untouched by sin, separate from humanity, and filled with glory. In his holiness he desires that we be a holy people. Still, even the most holy person can only be said to have been “made holy.” Only God IS holy.

All of this we know about God because he has revealed himself to us. We know nothing about him except what he has told us about himself. In and of ourselves, he is unknowable.

Preaching on Second Blessing Holiness

Sermon mode: ON
I have been preaching a series of messages on the “Deeper Life.” It is a careful approach to our cardinal doctrine of entire sanctification.

The thing that comes to mind is how powerfully this message resonates in the lives of people. There is such a hungering for God — a longing for a deeper relationship with him.

Also, I have had such a strong sense of being “carried along” by the Holy Spirit as I preach along these lines. Numerous people have remarked on this anointing. I think the Lord is pleased with this theme.

Over the years I have envisioned the Nazarenes in town being known as such positive things as being the “praying church” or the “loving church” or the “caring church.” I certainly want all these things — but once again I have been reminded that, before all else, we are a holiness church. Without this distinctive we find ourselves just blending into the religious background.

All my life I have heard it said that the Church of the Nazarene was raised up to preach second blessing holiness. Today, at 33 years of ministry and counting, I am more convinced of that than ever.

We need to preach it carefully, correctly, and faithfully!
Sermon mode: OFF

Thanks for reading!

A holy God and a holy people

In my studies, I learned that the holiness of God has three aspects:

  1. Purity: God is absolutely free from sin
  2. “Otherness”: He is beyond us in every way – there is that about Him that we can never comprehend, and the only things we can know about Him are those things He reveals to us
  3. Transcendence: He is glorious, bright and beautiful

I have been considering what that means in relation to the holiness available to human beings. I think that the three aspects of God’s holiness are mirrored in the lives of those who have fully yielded their lives to Him:

  1. Purity: God is willing and able to purify the hearts of those who surrender their all to Him
  2. “Otherness”: God calls us, as a holy people to be separate from the world – to be “in it but not of it”
  3. Transcendent: that is, we are to reflect the glory of God – to be the “light of the world”

Please note that when we speak of holiness like this we must remember that God is holy and we, by his grace, are being made holy. Holiness in men and women is only possible by God’s creating a reflection of His holiness in us.