Selective Service: Picking and Choosing Where We Will Obey

by Joseph Franks

As children of Adam and Eve, men are by nature sinful and unholy. However, as reborn children of Jesus Christ, such are by grace declared to be holy. This is called “justification.” In addition, those freely justified are commanded by our Sovereign Lord to pursue holiness for the rest of their days. This is called “sanctification.” Christians are called to be perpetual worshipers, and this is seen in their attitudes of love. In addition, true worship is seen in their actions of faithfulness and obedience.

The Apostle Paul states this truth well in his famous declaration:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.     (Romans 12:1)

Likewise, the Apostle Peter quotes Moses:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”     (1 Peter 1:14-16)

To someone schooled in the sacred Scriptures, none of this is new. For them, this is Christianity 101. From the Old Covenant of Grace to the New Covenant of Grace, God requires no more of the believer in regards to justification, but he demands all of the believer in sanctification. Children of the Father are to be obedient, faithful, peculiar, clean, pure, spotless, exemplary, and above reproach. As they walk through this world, they are to be shining lights and doers of good works. As Moses and Peter wrote, and as Peter and Jesus preached, children of God are to be like Him who called them. They are to be holy!

However, that being said, a follow-up question can be asked of those long-time Christians who have been well-schooled in the Covenant of Grace: Are you “holy in all your conduct?” Are you “wholly holy?” Or, do you find yourself to be one who selectively serves your Savior and Lord?

An extreme example of “selective service” can be seen in Matthew 27:

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”      (Matthew 27:1-10)

In this historical scene, one sees the chief priests and elders committing many grievous sins. They have slandered and mocked the Son of God. They have blasphemed the Holy Spirit. They have threatened Jesus Christ, and have sought to intimidate those who would proclaim his words and works. (I.e. Blind man, Lazarus, Believing Pharisees)  They have plotted to put an innocent man to death, and have paid betrayal money to one of his disciples. With other funds they have secured liars ready to present false witness in the court of law. Upon the arrest of Jesus, they have ignored his divine power seen in the healing of Malchus’ and their being thrown backward on their posteriors. Illegally, they have arrested, incarcerated, interrogated, mocked, and abused Jesus; all night long he was treated in Jack Bauerish fashion. And now they are transporting Jesus to the Roman Governor with hopes of securing the most humiliating and excruciating execution imaginable – death on the Roman cross.

However, upon receiving back the silver from Judas, they became very holy and said, “It is not lawful to put them (silver pieces) into the treasury, since it is blood money.” (Matthew 27:6)  Seeking to be seen as holy men of the cloth, they gathered together in their “holy huddle” to discuss obedience and their options. Together they pontificated how they might be honorably religious folk rightfully stewarding the money in their hands.

Friends, isn’t this ridiculous. This is a perfect example of “straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel.” (Matthew 23:24)     These holy men are not being “holy in all their conduct.” They are not being “wholly holy.” No, they are interested in selective service. They are picking and choosing those areas of their lives which they will bring into conformity with God’s will, and they remain utterly unconcerned over other areas of compromise and sin.

But are we guilty of the same? Are we guilty of selective service? Do we pick and choose which of God’s Laws we will obey, and to what extent we will keep them, and because we are diligent in some areas we consider ourselves to be holy? For example:

  • Are we diligent to keep our loins clean but not our eyes?
  • Are we diligent to restrain our hands but not our mouths?
  • Are we concerned over our amount of drinking but not our amount of eating?
  • Are we diligent to attend worship but not so diligent to reconcile with our fellow worshiper?
  • Are we protectors of the Lord’s Day and perverters of his other days?
  • Are we wise with the tenth but ungodly with the remaining ninety percent of God’s funds?
  • Are we kind and loving to some while being harsh and abusive to others?
  • Are we holy in public and hellish in private?
  • Are we forgiving and reconcilling towards certain sinners while withholding forgiveness and reconciliation from others?

Yes friends, this list could go on and on, but let us not go on and on practicing selective service. We are to be holy in all our conduct, in all our thoughts, in all our words, in all our relationships, in all our places, at all times. As we find areas of our lives that are out of accord with God’s principles, let us eagerly, sweetly, and seriously confess, repent, enjoy grace, and pursue godliness. Let us not settle for mediocrity in our sanctification. Let us not compromise. Let us not cut corners. Let us not make deals with God. Let us forsake the selective service of our Sovereign. Instead, let us commit to be “wholly holy.”

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