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Weekly Word

Entries in Holy (3)

Tuesday
Apr162013

The Holy Spirit and Sanctification

Today we will start in Romans 15:14-16 as we look at the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of a believer.  As you read this passage you will see that Paul is concerned that the Gentile Christians live a life that is pleasing to God.  In this context he reminds them that they are “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

The word “sanctify” or “sanctification” is the process by which one is made holy.  Though the word may sound strange, it really focuses on separating someone for God’s purposes.  The holy person now belongs to God.

The Holy Spirit Makes The Believer Holy

This word is related to the word “saint.”  When we hear the word, we are tempted to think that it can only refer to a small number of people within the church who do miracles and such.  However, throughout the New Testament “saint” is used to describe

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Tuesday
Sep182012

Our Present Life

We continue our walk through the New Testament book of First Peter and will look at chapter one verses 13-15 today. 

After reminding believers of the testing trials of this life, Peter then moves to encourage them in their everyday life.  Starting in verse 13 we have three exhortations that appear to be commands.  However, only one of them is commanded, where the other two are put out as descriptions of how to do the main command.  Can you figure out which is which?  By consulting other versions you can discover that the main command has to do with our Hope.

We Must Hope To The End

Is that correct?  Is Peter really commanding them to Hope?  Is that possible?  It is just as possible as our other command to love.  We tend to think of love and hope as feelings.  Peter is not commanding them to have “hopeful” feelings.  Rather he is talking about an action that we can choose to do.  Thus, just as love is a decision, so Hope is a decision too. 

Hope always has a future thing for which it is waiting.  So the decision here is not even about deciding to feel.  Rather it is the decision to keep waiting for that promised grace that is to be revealed at the second coming of Jesus.  The object of our hope can change because of difficulties and trials in life.  We can give up and even place our hopes on other things (perhaps even things that are not godly).  That is the decision we have to make every day in the midst of tough times.  Will I keep hoping in the grace I will receive at Christ’s coming, or will I hope for something “realistic.”  Though we are daily receiving grace from God, it is still only a portion of the fuller grace that has been promised.  There is a wonderful day ahead of us where our status as children of God will be not just revealed, but we will also receive immortal bodies that are not tainted by the sin nature.  Peter commands them to not give up that hope.  The challenge is not just to fully hope in that grace as if we had a “hope-ometer” that needs to be pegged at 100% all the time.  Rather the picture is that of a finish line or a goal.  If we are going to obtain the grace then we need to keep our hope pinned on it until we reach it.

So how can we not lose hope in God’s amazing promise in the light of this world’s trials and reminders that we are not there yet?  This is where the phrases, girding up the loins of the mind, and being sober come into play.

Girding up the loins, or waist, of your mind is a strange phrase.  It is a picture of first century clothing.  The robes they wore would have a tie or belt that kept them held shut.  If you were going outside you would tie your robe shut.  Or if you were going to do some physical labor you might even need to hike up the robe and tie it off in a way that would not encumber your feet and legs.  When this is used of the mind it is clear that a mental issue is involved.  It speaks of preparation.  What mental preparations do I need to make so that I will not be tripped up and restricted in this challenge to hope to the end?  First I need to recognize that my own desires can pull me away from it.  Also, the schemes of our enemy, satan, are focused on aiding this.  Mentally I need to be aware of those things that would keep me from the grace God has for me and prepare for them.

The phrase “be sober” also points to preparation.  However, the issue is different.  In the first I need to make preparations.  In the other, I need to refrain from things that could affect my ability to hope adversely.  Think of how alcohol affects a person in the natural state.  It causes people to lose their inhibitions and self control.  It causes people to lose their awareness of things around them.  It can even eventually lead to losing consciousness and death.  Though the believer should stay away from drunkenness, Peter is speaking spiritually and mentally here.  We need to be sober in the sense that we are not “drunk” from drinking in the lusts of our flesh.  Those who live to please their flesh, will become spiritually drunk.  They will begin to lose inhibitions and eventually any control on their fleshly appetites.  This will lead to a loss of awareness of their true spiritual condition.  They will think everything is alright.  But to any sober minded person they will be clearly out of control.  Eventually a loss of spiritual consciousness can occur.  This is where a person is unable to receive any stimuli from the Lord, whether through the cautions of others, injunctions in the Scriptures, or the pressings of the Holy Spirit.  Such a person will lose sight of the hope and degenerate into only hoping for the “next fix” for their fleshly appetites.   Let’s face it.  Satan uses the love of our flesh for the desire of this world to get us spiritually drunk.  This tactic is quite effective on those who are not mentally prepared.

We Must Be Holy

The next two verses focus on how we need to be a reflection of the one we are following.  If God’s promised grace at the coming of Jesus is what we are hoping FOR, then Jesus himself is what we are IN or ON.  We can have hope for the future because of the one on whom our hopes are placed.  There is a relationship between faith and hope.  Whatever you are putting your faith in will affect what your hope is.  Yet Peter is more focused on how the enemy derails our faith and hope.  Satan uses the impure desires of our flesh for the things of this world.  Ife we are to truly follow Jesus then it will involve a focus on being holy.  So what does that mean?

The simplest understanding of holy is the idea that something has been set apart for a divine purpose.  It is not to be used for ordinary purposes even though it may be very ordinary.  It is not the inherent quality of the thing but the fact that it has been set apart that makes it holy.  If you have put your faith in Jesus then through him God has decreed that you are for His holy purposes.  In the Bible we see Belshazzar of Babylon using the holy cups and bowls of the temple for a drunken party.  This angers God and he loses his kingdom.  However, when it comes to people, we are not inanimate objects.  We can make choices to be involved in purposes that are contrary to God’s purposes.  We don’t pursue holiness as if we could attain it.  Rather we cooperate with the holiness that God has given to us in Jesus.  We can either walk in harmony with that holiness or we can fight against it.

This is why Peter gives the analogy of an obedient child.  A child doesn’t always understand why mom and dad won’t let it do whatever its little heart desires.  It has a choice.  Obedience is not a matter of becoming a son or daughter.  It is a matter of cooperating with the reality that I belong to God because I AM his child.  If we please ourselves then Satan will succeed in getting our hopes pinned on the lusts of this world and eventually robbing us of our heavenly inheritance.  Are you about your father’s business?  Or are you in the business of pleasing your flesh?

When Scripture says, “be holy for I am holy,” it is reminding us of our nature.  We were created to reflect God.  God is holy therefore our lives should reflect that holiness.   This is not out of some puritanical prudishness.  But rather out of protection against the spiritual unconsciousness that results in the life of those who pursue the lusts of the flesh.  Those are the things we pursued in our former ignorance, before we knew Jesus and God’s love for us.  But now that we know what he has done for us and is bringing us to we need to watch our lives guardedly and keep our hopes fixed on Jesus who brings the completion of God’s grace with him.  Maranatha!

Our Present Life Audio

Tuesday
Jun262012

Holier Than Thou

Today we are going to be in Isaiah 65:1-5.  This passage is the source of a phrase that many will recognize, but perhaps not know exactly where it came from.  This is the phrase, “Holier than Thou.”  We would be inclined to think that it was coined by an irreligious person who was sick of a certain kind of attitude put off by religious people.  But the truth of the matter is that it is religious people who coined the term and it was God who was the first to refer to it as a bad thing. 

As much as God is merciful, he does have a boiling point that requires him to hold mankind accountable.  God opened Isaiah’s eyes to the actions and words of Israel in the midst of God’s long and patient mercy.  Let’s look at the passage.

God’s Mercy is Given to Those Who Never Had a Part in Israel

In verse 1 you might not catch what God is saying.  It is clear from the passage that he is not happy with Israel.  In Romans 10:20, Paul makes it clearer that this passage is God talking about the coming Church.  Don’t confuse this with any institution.  But rather that group of people among all earthly institutions who truly have put their faith in Jesus as God’s Son.  God had given Israel mercy over and over for centuries, but now he contrasts them with another “nation.” 

The Church is not a nation like any nation in the world.  It does not have an earthly headquarters in Rome, or Springfield, or any other city that men have set up.  Its headquarters is the very throne of God where Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father.  It is a nation without boundaries, without a particular race, and without particular social customs.  God tells Israel that he is going to pour out his mercy in three ways to this new nation.  He will reveal himself, He will be found, and He will offer himself.  God in his mercy steps forward and manifests his glory at the same time he draws them near.  The interesting thing is that God says this nation of people weren’t looking for him.  They were lost without any idea of where to turn.  This is in contrast to Israel who had the truth of God.  No matter how much mercy he gave, though, Israel continued to rebel.  Thus the heart of God is seen as he turns and pours out his grace on those who weren’t even looking for it, those who never had a part in God’s special people Israel. 

Peter points this out in 1 Peter 2:9.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that  you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (NKJV).

Although Isaiah does not refer to it here, I should mention that elsewhere he notes that God is faithful to save a remnant of Israel.  He takes that believing part of Israel that had not spurned his mercy and makes them to be the foundation of this new nation that he is making, the Church.  Thus the Church is built upon the foundation of Jesus and his apostles, all of whom are Israelites.

Now notice that God does not save the “cream of the crop,” as Israel would have judged it.  Not many great priests and rulers of Israel were saved.  But many “unconnected to power” and “rejected of society” were saved.  God is not impressed with our pomp and greatness.  He is looking for those who have a great trust in Him.  So if you feel like you have no place with the religious and thus with God, think again.  He is not looking for those who have it all together.  We all receive God’s grace and mercy when we are undeserving of it.  In fact this is a hallmark of God’s Grace.

God’s Mercy is Given Long After it is Undeserved

In Verse 2 God points out that he had offered himself and his mercy to Israel in the face of rejection and rebellion.  The picture of open arms is an offer of intimacy.  Instead they followed a way that wasn’t good, that is, a way of their own devising.  In fact not only did their “thoughts” lead them away from God’s offer of intimacy, but it led them to do things that they knew were a provocation to him.  This insolence or arrogance makes the matter worse.  Thus verses 3-5 list some examples of their sins.  They openly embraced idols and false religions when God had clearly commanded them to not do so.  They followed occult rituals in order to obtain power and wealth, rather than turn to God.  The last thing on the list, and perhaps the worst, is their attitude.  These rebels who were openly and flagrantly rebelling against God were abusing God’s stuff to pretend like they were better or “holier” than others.  God says that this attitude was like the smoke of a fire in his nose.  Now God does not have a nose, but uses a metaphor for us to understand.  It doesn’t take long for the smoke of a fire to bring your eyes to tears and your lungs to coughing.  But God says that they were a fire that burned all day long.  This puts God’s mercy in a clearer light.  In fact when we truthfully understand the situation we will not question the righteousness of God’s judgment.  Rather we will question whether or not it is right and wise to offer grace and mercy in the face of such obstinacy.

The problem with a holier-than-thou attitude is that only God is holy by definition.  That is God is the only thing that is holy by nature.  We are holy only because God makes us holy.  We cannot make ourselves holy by certain actions other than fully trusting in God himself.  If they were truly holy they would not be pushing people out of their way in self protection.  Rather they would be laying down their life in order to save the unholy.  God rebukes those who take great pride in their “position” with him over those who do not have such.  This pride itself is unholy.  True holiness is willing to be hurt, cursed, provoked, and spit upon in order to try and awaken faith in the unholy.

In many ways the Church of Jesus Christ has come full circle.  We in many ways are like Israel of old.  We do things that are in direct disobedience to God’s Word.  We mix in beliefs and practices from false religions.  We arrogantly make others aware of our special status in God’s eyes.  Paul warns Christians in Romans chapter 9-11 that we need to be careful of our attitude.  God in his mercy will once again save the people of natural Israel, not because it deserves it, but because it is his nature to give mercy to the outcasts and the rejects of this earth.  At the same time he will cleanse his church of all that is not of faith in him and humble before him.  Let us be careful of our attitude in this day.  Let us reject the attitude of entitlement and embrace the attitude of humble gratefulness.

Holier Than Thou Audio