Holiness and God – Hebrews 12:14-17

Without Holiness, No One Will See The Lord

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

Pursue Peace

In a world where everyone is at odds with each other, it is not always easy to be at peace with people.  Although there is great evil in the world, Jesus Christ has overcome the world.  And as ambassadors for Christ, we need to live in this victory.  This is not to say that we will be able to be at peace with everyone.  This command is completely directed at us, not at the outcome.  Elsewhere, we are told:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

This does not mean that you are to be a doormat.  Make every effort to live in peace with others.  They are responsible for their own reactions.  Otherwise, we would be their perpetual slaves, forced to do their bidding in an effort to bring peace at any cost to our relationships.

You can’t please all of the people all the time.  – Miranda Richardson

We have been set free, and should no longer be slaves to people’s desires or expectations from us or for us.  We are to instead be focused on the expectations that our Lord Jesus Christ has for us.

Seek Sanctification

We are to seek the Holiness of God in how we conduct our lives.  This is not works-based salvation, but rather a fulfillment of a Christ-proclaimed directive:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?

2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

God is holy.  He cannot abide sin.  It is for this reason that Jesus died on the cross, that we might have the opportunity through the righteousness (holiness) of Christ to be in the presence of God forever.

Being a disciple is more than mere intellectual ascent to the creed of your master.  It is the moment-by-moment imitation of your master’s activities, thought processes, and character so that you can be as near a perfect imitation of your master.  If a person thinks their way is better than their master, why waste the time, money, and effort of trying to learn their ways?  Discipleship is the recognition that your master knows how to do whatever it is you desire to learn to do better than you are able to do it.  God knows our hearts, and doesn’t seek people looking for “fire insurance.”  God desires those who espouse a great conviction that He is holy; He is truth; He is perfect; He knows best how to do everything; and we don’t.

Assist Another

Cain asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The simple answer is, “YES!!!”  We are to look out for each other.  When we see someone else begin to falter, we are to render assistance to them, help them back up, and restore them once they have begun to walk right again.

We are to encourage one another in psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.  We are to greatly desire that each member of the body of Christ be built up in the Spirit, fully mature, and lacking nothing.  We are to agonize in prayer over this.  The world says, “Family First!”  The body of Christ needs to place this in its proper perspective:  God first, family second, everyone else third.  Let us begin to treat other believers in Christ in our local body (where we worship) as our family, just as if you were born and raised with them.  Then, after we have that down (how much less strife would be in the church if we did just that!), let us treat the OTHER bodies of disciples of Christ as though THEY were our family as well!  United we stand, divided we fall.  This is just as true today as the day it was pronounced.

Impale Immorality

Sexual immorality was just as prevalent two thousand years ago as it is today.  We are reminded that we are to put to death anything that impedes our walk with our Savior:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Sanctification is the process of the renewing of one’s mind in such a way that not only do we desire to be holy, we begin to walk in the holiness of God, accepting the consequences of our actions without regard to their difficulty.  God is character-driven.  We are to adopt and emulate His character in how we conduct the lives that He has given us.  Immorality of any type is to be rejected.  God is the one who decides what is moral and immoral, for our hearts (the root of our emotions, desires, and motivations) in their natural state are wicked, and unable to properly discern the truth even about themselves.

Rejoice for the Reward

Finally, we are admonished to greatly desire the reward that awaits us in heaven. Esau, for a meal, gave away his inheritance.  He desired the immediate gratification of the flesh over the (seemingly) far off reward of his inheritance.  Like Esau, we are impatient, self-gratifying, self-seeking, and unable to keep everything in its proper perspective.  We need to put these things to death in us.  We need to embrace the same mindset as Christ, who endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I not only long for, but ferociously seek the holiness of God in how I conduct my life every second of every day?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy, and You cannot abide sin in Your presence.  Thank You again for the sacrifice of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, so that I might have the opportunity to be in Your presence.  Thank you for the very life and breath You give to me now.  Help me to actively seek and desire the character of holiness that shines forth from You and repels the darkness.  Help me to better understand Your holiness, and the principles of character that You desire to be perfected in my life.  Sanctify me so that I might draw even closer to You.  Help me to live in such a way that You are pleased with my conduct, my speech, and my every thought.  Test me during the day, and even at night, so that I will be prepared for the great and glorious day when Your Son returns in glory.  Help me to be like the virgins who brought oil with them as they awaited the bridegroom, for our bridegroom is coming, and is coming quickly.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

People Pleasing and God – Galatians 1:10

By Being God-Pleasers, We Can Stop Being People-Pleasers

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Appropriate Approval

One of the greatest desires of humanity is to feel accepted by others.  We go to great lengths to be in the “right” jobs, “rub elbows” with the “right people”, say the “right things” so no one is offended, and do whatever it takes to be accepted and recognized by others.

Paul challenges our culturally induced bondage by asking a challenging question:  From whom are we trying to win our approval?  Is it man, or God?  Many people struggle with identity issues.  Many women have emaciated their bodies, trying to lose that extra pound so that they won’t be perceived as “fat”, when they are – literally – on the brink of starvation and malnutrition.  Men try to earn enough money, power, and respect to be accepted by other men and to attract a mate, especially when they are not perceived as “attractive” by the people they want to notice them.

The question on everyone’s mind is, “am I good enough?

Pleasing People

Culture tells us that we should be people-pleasers.  By conforming to the expectations of other people around us (or the people we want to be around us), we will find contentment, community, relationship, and happiness in life.  Pleasing people generally leads to one outcome – the surrender of your personal identity and purpose.  When we allow others to dictate and determine the circumstances in which we will be accepted, and doing “whatever it takes” to conform to those expectations, we are, in effect, surrendering our autonomous control over to those whom we seek to please.

Paul challenges this by saying that we need to be God-pleasers, not people-pleasers.  The order of importance with whom we should please should form the acrostic JOY:

  • Jesus
  • Others
  • You

When we follow this rule, we will have JOY in our lives!

Doubtful Doulos

Paul then suggests that if he was trying to please people, he would not be a servant of Christ.  The word servant, in the Greek, is doulos.  It means a person who voluntarily is the bond-servant of another because they love the other person so much.  When we seek to please people, we are placing them above God.  The doulos places his master’s interests above his/her own interests, as well as the interests of others.  By placing Jesus in the place of authority over our lives, and placing His interests and desires over the interests and desires of everyone else, we are able to overcome the bondage that people-pleasing introduces into our life.

Objectively Overcoming

So, you might say, I am a people-pleaser.  I have been doing it for so long, I don’t know how to do anything else!  My life is miserable, and I want to be free of it!  I read the Bible, pray, and plead with God to remove it, but I keep failing, almost every single time. What can  I do?

Spend more time in prayer with God

This is a sin that is deeply ingrained in many people.  Prayer is the opportunity to place God above other people as you seek relationship with Him and acknowledge that He is the one who is most important in your life.  Soak this concern in prayer with tears.  Mourn over your sin. Confess your need to have this broken in your life to God.  And ask God to remember you.  When God remembers a person, He acts divinely on behalf of that person.  It was once said that when God remembers you, “Batten down the hatches, grab hold of something sturdy, because here comes God in a mighty way!”

Confess your sins to other Christians

Find Godly, Spirit-filled disciples of Christ, and confess your sin to them.  Ask them to pray for you that you may be delivered out of this sin.  God wants us to be free, not in bondage!

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

When we confess our sins to one another and pray for one another, we are being accountable to one another and supportive of one another.  God desires this in community, and this makes us real to one another.  Let us put aside the fake smiles and facades that we present to each other and be real, without guile.  Let us not be judgmental, but supportive and encouraging.  It is time for the church to step up as we advertise ourselves to others in TRUTH.

Remember who you are in Christ

Many times, we forget who we are in Christ.  Rather than be drawn to people in our time of loneliness, pain, suffering, abandonment, or any other situation that leaves us feeling disconnected from others, we need to embrace God, and remember who we are in Him:

  • Jesus died on the cross for you while you were still a sinner
  • God loves you because He sent Jesus to die for your sins
  • God has given you the Holy Spirit to indwell you, empower you, comfort you, console you, admonish you, and glorify Jesus
  • Read Ephesians 1-3.  Remember who you are in Christ
  • God has promised to never leave you nor forsake you
  • God has promised to always forgive you and restore you when you repent
  • God is omnipotent.  He can fix anything, and even move Heaven and Earth to help you
  • God redeemed you because He wants to have a relationship with you!
  • God never changes.  He loves you more than your parents every could, and loves you unconditionally, as an act of His will, and does so sacrificially (both through the death and resurrection of Jesus, as well as His continued support today and throughout eternity)
  • It is God who will always be there for you
  • Feelings are not facts (even though that is what culture teaches).  They are just feelings.  With your renewed mind, force your will to take them captive and place them under the authority of the Holy Spirit.*

A Qualifying Question

Let’s as a question:  Are we people-pleasers, or God-pleasers?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it should be You and You alone that I seek to please.  Help me when I feel obligated to please people.  Give me the strength and desire to set You above all, and to place every obligation I make, and every decision under Your guidance and care.  Help me to weather the criticism of others as I seek to honor You in all things.  And if honoring You in this manner causes difficulties in my relationships, help me to endure the emotional pain that ensues.  Give me Your peace in my heart that transcends understanding, and overcome the bondage that I am in.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes: This blog has been edited for spelling errors, formatting, and clarity

*Taking every thought captive to Christ in the mind is a difficult thing to do if you are not proficient in this skill.

First, remember that God has freed you from the bondage of sin.  If there is unrepentant, unaddressed sin (apart from people-pleasing) in your life, confess it to God, turn away from it and turn towards God and His holy word (which is the final authority for these things – 2 Timothy 3:16).

Next, realize that God has healthy boundaries (for a good book on the subject, read “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend).  He cannot abide sin, because He is holy.  Sin damages our relationship with Him, as it places a wedge between us and God.  Set appropriate boundaries for others.  “No” is actually a good word!

Take a year off saying “Yes” to people.  Say “No” to anything and everyone that tries to involve you in anything that will take away from your devotion to God (call it a “fast” for your Christian friends, or a “sabbatical” for your secular friends).  Be reasonable – you probably still need to work to eat and have a roof over your head…

Spend ALL of this extra time in the word of God and in prayer.  Draw close to your Savior, and go deep with Him.  Let Him nudge you and change you and strengthen you.

Remember the J.O.Y. principle, and follow it.

Entrenched sin will take some time to overcome.  Don’t expect that God will (always) just flick the switch, and voilà, that aspect of your character is fixed (He does do that sometimes…).  Expect that as part of your training in righteousness, that he will place people in your life who will intentionally try to manipulate you by playing on what they perceive to be your desire to like them.  Anyone who does this is doing so at the behest of Satan, who uses deceit to get his way.  Good, righteous, Spirit-filled disciples of Christ will not manipulate you in this way, even when your answer is”no”, and may appear to cause them loss or difficulty in some way (disciples of Christ know that God will provide for their needs through another source).

Once you set healthy boundaries for people, don’t use this as an excuse to not do anything for Jesus.  You need a reset to get your life back in balance.  Once it comes back in balance (be patient – a week or two is not enough time for this to occur), you are in the position to say “Yes” only when it is appropriate (don’t overbook or overwork yourself, but don’t move to the other end of the spectrum and rest forever – Christ has good works that He has planned in advance for you to do.  Go do them and claim your reward from Him later!).

Now, reconsider that life, as viewed through your eyes, is like TV commercials designed to influence you to do things that you normally wouldn’t do.  We must be aware of these influences so that we can say “NO!” to them.  Satan can place thoughts in your mind.  It is up to us to recognize that those thoughts are not always Godly, even if they appear to be (for instance, if you overextend yourself in ministry, the toll that decision and resulting effects take will cause ALL of your ministry to decrease in effectiveness, even though you are doing “good things” for the cause of Christ).  We generally don’t think about our thoughts.  We just let them go, and think they are all from us.  They aren’t!

We need to set up barriers in our minds against them.  The best barriers are the words of scripture.  When we have a bad thought (stealing something, for example), we should immediately tear down that stronghold thought by countering it with “You shall not steal” if there is a desire behind the thought.  Many of these thoughts are safely discarded as rubbish.  It is the ones that invoke desire in us to harbor the thoughts and act on them that need to be dealt with more immediately and with greater fervor:

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (emphasis added)

This is just the start.  Rely upon and seek out the wisdom of God in His word and through reliance upon His Spirit to convict, exhort, and empower you as you work through the recovery from this dark pit.

Special Considerations:

Some people are in jobs where if they say “no” to anything, they’ll be fired.  Others may be single parents trying to keep it together, with no time for themselves, barely living and certainly not thriving.  There are people who are severely challenged physically or with severe health-impacting diseases.  To every person in these circumstances, I would counsel you to understand that God sees your plight and has a special place in His heart for you.  Seek Him, and trust Him.  Take your eyes off of your situation, and place them upon Almighty God, who is able to do even more abundantly than we could ever imagine.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.  And when the pressures of this life fade in the peace of God that transcends understanding, you will be in a better position to see clearly what God desires for you to do in your circumstances.

Press on Towards Christ – Philippians 3:12-14

We Have Not Yet Arrived

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Aggressively Advance

Paul had a form of tunnel vision.  It was the intentional, singular goal in his life – that he press on towards Christ.  Paul realized that the distractions of life would pull at him, and try to derail his efforts, keeping him from doing what God had determined before time began that he should accomplish:

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Each of us has a calling from God to do what God has planned in advance for us to accomplish.  We must strive with every ounce of energy in our bodies to do that which God desires for us to accomplish for, and in, His name.

Awaiting  Arrival

Many people would look at the ministry of Paul and say that Paul had arrived, that he had advanced as far as he could spiritually, was mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  But Paul reminds us here that he himself recognizes that he has not yet arrived.  Paul can only see one thing – Christ and Him crucified.  Paul is in the process of allowing God to nail everything that is not of God that is still in Paul to the cross of Christ.  Paul still has a sin nature he inherited from Adam, and that causes him distress:

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Forget the Former

Paul has a secret weapon that he uses effectively and mightily in the war on his flesh: He forgets what is behind.  When we dwell on the past, we are not able to focus on the future.  The past holds us in its grip, reminding us of our failures (guilt and shame), as well as our successes (pride and haughtiness), and traps us in a mental loop where we are unable to see clearly what we are doing or where we are going.  Paul reminds himself that he is forgiven.  You are forgiven!  All that you have ever done, are doing, and will do, is forgiven by God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The ordinance of baptism is not only sign of obedience to God and to that world that you are now identifying with Christ rather than the world, it is designed, symbolically, to represent the cleansing of your sins, shedding all of the dirt of your past.  Practically, this act is designed to remove from your conscious and subconscious, all traces of guilt and shame for what has gone before.  When we go under the water, then come back up, our conscience is completely clean.  We feel new, and the burden of what was has been removed from our shoulders:

12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ [Emphasis mine]

The blood of Christ washes our sins away.  Baptism washes the psychological effects of our sin away.  When we are baptized, we can feel that God has cleansed our conscience, and from there move forward.  If you have not been baptized because:

  • You have heard that it is legalism (it’s not – obedience to God is not legalism, it is the act of  gratitude and respect towards your Father in Heaven)
  • You have heard it is not required for salvation (it isn’t – the thief on the cross was not baptized, yet Christ promised he would be in his kingdom [also look at Joel 2:32].  Requirements are just that – absolute, inviolable precursors needed to ensure success)
  • You have heard that you don’t have to be obedient in this command

then I highly recommend that you find someone who is willing to baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit so that you can receive the blessing that comes both from obedience and the cleansing of your conscience!

Pointedly Proceed

Paul was straining towards what is ahead.  His sole focus was to keep his eyes on Christ, and continue to arrange his life in such a manner that he was passionately pursuing his own sanctification as well as the mission that God had provided to him.   Paul sought to please the Lord in everything he said, thought, and did.  He did not always succeed, but rather than live in the past, Paul strove towards the future and his goal: honoring his Lord Jesus Christ in all that he did and all that he was.

Gazing toward the Goal

The key to doing all of this is to keep our eyes focused solely upon Jesus.  There is a refrain in an old hymn that puts this in perspective:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What am I doing to press on towards the goal?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, may all praise and glory be unto the Lord God Almighty, who is worthy.  I thank You for Paul’s life as an example of how to live in a way that honors and glorifies Your name.  Thank you for showing me that perfection in this life is not possible, but it is You that looks at the hearts of men, and gives grace and mercy to all of us who fail, even though we strive with all of our hearts to obey You in everything You have said.  Grant me the strength to forgive myself, and help me to keep my eyes upon Jesus, so that I would always look forward, and leave the past behind.  Father, I know it is Satan who tries to get me to dwell in my past.  Help me to let go of the past.  And Father, I ask that you would help me to better understand how baptism cleanses my conscience.  Give me clean hands and a pure heart, unaffected by my past, that I can strive with the singular purpose of love and obedience in following Jesus.  Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Love of God – 1 Peter 1:22-25

Love One Another

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,

“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.

Preparation for Purity

Throughout the Bible, there is a recurring theme – obedience.  It takes different forms, but keeps reappearing.  When Abraham believed God, it was credited to him as righteousness.  When you believe something, you act in accordance to your belief.  If we have faith, we will be obedient.

There is an intimate relationship between faith and obedience.   James says that faith without works is dead.  The works come from obedience to the belief in faith.  It is the obedience to what faith teaches us that leads to the works that God desires for us to accomplish – the works that He has prepared for us to do since before the creation of the universe.

Peter now ties purification – sanctification – to the obedience of truth, which is the word of God.  Our faith dictates that we believe the word of God, and therefore, our obedience to it will bring about our purification.  And when we are obedient, God will make His home in us, and we in Him.

Lavish Love

There are four Greek words for love, and this one is agape.  We are to love unconditionally, volitionally, and sacrificially.  Here we see “one another” used again.  We are to love one another deeply from the heart.  When we see “one another”, we are to take it as if the other person is The Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  We can be assured that when we love one another as Christ has loved us, we will indeed be lavishing love upon each other.  Jesus never held back His love for us, and neither should be hold back our love for one another.

Surviving Seed

Peter reminds us that we are like seed, to die and grow and bear fruit.  And the fruit that we bear is imperishable.  The seed we sow will take root  and grow, and bear more seed.  For the word of God does not come back void; it always has its intended effect upon the soil of the heart.  If the soil has been prepared, it will yield back one-hundred fold.  If the soil is hard and dry, it may not yield any seed at all.  Either way, our seed is being manifested from soil that has grown deep roots that are drinking deeply from the living water of God.  And, through brokenness and yielding to the Holy Spirit, the seed being born is from Him.

Perfectly Permanent

We know that we are like a mist.  We appear for a short while, fragile yet beautiful.  Yet in a short while, the mist is no more.  But since it is the word of God that is within us, and we are being obedient to the word of God, it is the word of God that will endure.  The obedience of faith leads to the permanence of the seed, for the seed does not come from us, but from the word of the Living God, and God endures eternally.

If the seed is from us, and not from God, it will not stand the test of time, for anything that we do in the flesh, and not in obedience to the Spirit of God, will burn up like wood, hay and stubble.  Only that which was planted by the Spirit of God will endure the test of time, trial, and fire.  The only way to ensure that our work will stand the tests is to be sure that God is the one working through us, for God is eternal, and His work lasts forever.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: Am I allowing God to show His love through me in my obedience to Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  You endure forever.  You have no beginning, and no end.  All that You do lasts for eternity.  Help me to yield myself to You completely in obedience to Your word.  Guide me and guard me as I am being pulled by my own evil desires to embrace that which does not come from You.  Help me to cling tightly to You, so that in obedience to Your word, You will bear Your fruit through me.  Help me to be a useful tool for You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

God of Peace – 2 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Allow The God Of Peace To Sanctify You Completely

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Power in Peace

Paul reminds us that God is a God of peace.  Peace has several facets.  It indicates:

  • Unity and harmony in thought
  • The shedding of ill-will towards others
  • The working together of people towards a common goal

God is working towards all three of these, and desires to work them through us at a level that we cannot even begin to comprehend.  God sees the whole picture of reality, from when He spoke it into existence and throughout all eternity.  He is able to see what will be, and greatly desires us to yield to Him so that through sanctification, we will be completely at peace with both Him and others.

Sanctification after Salvation

Salvation has been arranged through the birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ.  But now comes the next part – sanctification – the process of being changed from a creature that was bent towards sin and darkness towards a life dedicated to holiness and submission to God.  God loves us for who we are, but loves us too much to allow to stay the way we are.

Paul, who wrote a good portion of the writings of the New Testament of the Bible, said that even he, who had been to Heaven and came back, was not there yet.  Paul truly had been shown how much he would suffer for the name of Jesus.  He tirelessly preached the word of God to the Gentiles, in cities and in prisons.  He understood the need to walk a life worthy of the calling which he had received.  We are to do the same – to live a life that is holy and dedicated to God who paid such a great price to purchase us – redeem us – out of the slavery of sin.

Be Blameless

We are called to be blameless in body, soul, and spirit.  We are all each of these three things:

  • We each have a physical body that can be used for good or for evil.  What we do impacts us and others.  Everything that we do has significance and importance.  We are called to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
  • We each have a soul.  This is our ability to think, make decisions, and implement the decisions in the body.  Our thought life is just as important as how we conduct our bodies in action.  Jesus warned the teachers of the law and the Pharisees that they were outwardly compliant with the law, but inwardly – in their thoughts and motivations – they were dead, filthy, corrupt, and unclean.  We are to keep our thoughts clean as well, capturing every thought to Christ.
  • And whether we realize it or not, our spirit is affected by what we do in the flesh and minds.  God, through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, has made provision for the life of our spirit, alive to Him, and dead to sin.  We must now, through sanctification, put to death those things that would compromise the holiness of our spirit in Christ.

Forever Faithful

We can be assured God the Father is faithful in preparing us.  We need to be submitted to Him, and allow the trials and tribulations and hardships that will give Him the opportunity to mold and shape us from what we were into what He desires us to be.  Jesus has said that God is faithful, and no one can be snatched out of His grasp.  We can trust in the faithfulness of Almighty God to do all that He has said that He will do, for God does not lie, and is incapable of breaking His word.

As He sanctifies us, we are at greater peace with Him, moving from positional righteousness to a life of applied righteousness.  And we are also at greater peace with men as we submit to one another live lives that are focused on honoring God rather than serving our own interests.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing God to sanctify me through His word to be at peace with others?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I come to You today with thanksgiving in my heart for who You are and what You are doing in my life.  Prepare me to be the vessel that You desire for Your purposes.  Help me to be more at peace with people, and to live a life that is at peace with You.  Strengthen me in my weakness, and sanctify my body, soul, and spirit, so that they will be blameless on the great and terrible day that Your Son, Jesus Christ, returns.  Place within my heart a greater yearning that the lost would be saved, and help me to bring the message of salvation to them.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Sanctification by God – John 15:1-4

The Gardener Prunes The Vine To Make It More Productive

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

Pruning for Profit

God the Father is pictured here by Jesus as the gardener.  He is in the role of vine-dresser, and as such, has the responsibility for the vine bearing the greatest amount of fruit.  And just like a gardener, He removes the branches that are consistently unproductive.  When a gardener does everything that he can to get a particular branch to bear fruit, and it does not, it must be culled so that it will stop taking the sap from the vine that the other more productive branches need to bear their fruit.

And when a branch of the vine IS productive, He removes the dead wood from it, pruning it so that the productive part of the branch becomes even more productive, and grows to its maximum potential, bearing as much fruit as possible, and honoring the gardener with its produce.  Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches.  We must take these things to heart, for although we cannot earn our way into Heaven, we are expected to bear fruit once we receive the nourishing sap from the vine.  Whether the branch is grafted in, or grows from the vine, the gardener expects it to bear fruit.  After all, faith without deeds is dead.

Washed White

Jesus reminds us here that He has already cleaned us up.  His blood has washed us white as snow, as white as wool.  We only need to have our feet cleaned as we walk in the dirty world.  In the same way, the Father prunes us as branches, cleaning us from the dead wood that is weighing us down, sapping our strength, and not producing the fruit of righteousness as we are intended to do as His image-bearers.  God has already joined us spiritually to the source of life – the vine.

Sap from the Source

It is the sap that provides the life and nourishment that the branches need to live.  Jesus uses this illustration because it for the agrarian society in which people lived, this would have had immediate recognition and understanding, as this is how they lived their lives.  The stories would have had significant impact, and immediately have been understood.  It is important to remember that without the life-nourishing sap from the vine, the branch is dead or will die.  If we are not joined to the source, we will not be able to bear any fruit.

Becoming Bountiful

The only way to bear much fruit is to be firmly attached to the vine, drink up the life-giving sap, and use that to grow fruit.  Any branch that cannot – or refuses to – draw life from the vine is removed.  Once removed, it will surely dry up and die.  We are, like the vine and branches, to do what we were intended to do.  We are to bear the fruit of righteousness:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

When we are bearing fruit in accordance with righteousness, we are able to be used by God to bear other fruit as well.  Whether we are spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, building God’s kingdom by building God’s people, or whatever other activity God intends for us to accomplish, we are only able to do them through a solid relationship with God, and relying on His strength and wisdom from His word, which is our sap, to nourish us into becoming the most bountiful fruit-bearing branches that we can be.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I bearing fruit in accordance with the purpose that God has intended me to bear?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have taken great pains to ensure that I am firmly attached to You, and drawing strength and nourishment from You and Your word.  Help me to bear as much fruit as possible for You.  Prune me of anything that would impede my growth and usefulness.  Help me to do that which You intended for me to do from before the foundation of the universe.  Guide me and empower me to honor and glorify Your name.  Sanctify me that I would draw close to You in holiness.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Spiritual Maturity in Christ – Hebrews 5:11-14

Crave The Milk, But Move To The Solid Food

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Move to Maturity

When the letter to the Romans was written, there was a serious issue going on with that body of believers.  Although they had been walking with the Lord Jesus Christ as His disciples for some time, they were not maturing.  While this may seem odd, we see the same thing today in the Western Church.  We have people who have been walking with God for more than a decade who still call themselves baby Christians.  They should be at a point where you should be able to call on any one of them to come up to the front of a Sunday School class and lead it, but instead, they barely know enough to keep themselves spiritually alive in Christ.

This is the equivalent of a child who is sixteen years old and is still obtaining nourishment from his mother’s teat.  Most people would find it odd that the child has not been weaned from his mother’s milk and onto solid food (it’s a bit creepy as well).  Paul saw Christians in that same position.  These people cling to the promises of God but are not challenged by the word to grow.  They memorize passages like, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  However, they have not taken the time to dig deeper and to allow the word of the Living God to penetrate their minds and challenge them to be holy as their Father in Heaven is holy.

If the congregation is doing their job right (delving deep into the word of God and applying its principles and guidance in their lives) and the pastor is doing his job right (going deep and wide in the word of God, imparting the deeper truths about spiritual growth and development and how to implement them in everyday life), they should have the equivalent experience of a Seminary degree after five to ten years of instruction.

If your pastor is still preaching the milk of the word, and you desire the solid food of the word, talk to him and ask him to bring it to the congregation.  Most likely, the pastor will decline, citing that the congregation isn’t ready for it.  And that may indeed be true. In that case, ask that a course be developed that goes deep into the word, and be faithful in attending it.

If you have ever fasted for an extended period of time, coming off the fast requires a progression of dietary changes to prepare the body for the food.  First, liquids are introduced (broth).  After a while, more solid food is introduced with the liquid (such as well-cooked vegetable soups).  Then the body is slowly given solid food (meat is added to the soup, as well as complex starches such as beans and grain-based items).  Moving directly to solid food after an extended fast will cause issues with your digestive system (it’s bad on the Good/Bad scale).  In the same way, people who don’t want to eat solid food will try to maintain their liquid diet.

Develop Discernment

As people are weaned from the milk of the word to the solid food of the word, they need to develop discernment so that they can distinguish what is good from what is evil.  Romans 12:1-2 discusses this very thing:

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When we submit ourselves to the word and the Holy Spirit, we grow in truth and righteousness, able to test and approve what is good and what is evil.  Our minds are transformed, and we begin to see life from the perspective of a holy, eternal God, who is perfectly complete and balanced in every aspect of His character.  We will then be able to discern what is good and righteous from what is evil and offensive to God.

If we stay with the milk of the word, and don’t move on to solid food, we are like the sixteen-year-old who still suckles his mother, acting like a baby, when he should be growing into adulthood.  It is the trials of this period of life that enable us to take on additional responsibility and develop the ability to think and make well-informed decisions.  We learn about how actions cause reactions and what is needed to move forward in their life.  It is a harsh awakening for people when they are not prepared for the world and thrown out into it to survive.  Coddled young adults generally tend to continue to act like children, and when given responsibility and privilege, abuse it as a child would.

The law in the United States allows sixteen-year-old young adults (or so we hope) to apply for a driver’s permit.  Let us hope that when the time comes, and we are called upon to learn how to drive the more difficult vehicles of life such as marriage (and procreation by implication), operation of a motor vehicle, firearm ownership, and the rights to smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, and vote for who will be in authority over us, that we will be mature enough to do these things responsibly.

In the same way, we should be learning and growing in truth and righteousness, learning discernment, so that we can rightly handle the word of God and mature into the people who God desires us to be.  One last thing to remember – milk is still good for us, but solid food is better.  Peter tells us to crave spiritual milk so that we can grow up in our salvation.  Milk is just the primer, the jump-start, and starting point.  Our goal is maturity in the solid food of the word.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I able to digest the solid food of the word of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us Your word to help us to know You and to guide us as we walk with Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Give me the ability to digest the solid food of the word, that my testing, I would develop discernment in righteousness, abstaining from what is evil, and growing in Your knowledge and grace.  Help me to mature, regardless of where I am currently in my spiritual maturity.  Show me how to better apply Your word to everyday living, and give my heart a great desire to be more obedient to You in all things.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Sanctification of God- Colossians 3:8-10

Be Less Like the World and More Like God

8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Shedding Sin

The Bible both generally and specifically tells us what we shouldn’t (and should) do.  Here are a few more things that we are told to remove from our lives:

  • Anger
    • In the Greek, orgEn, or angry indignation.  Have you every been indignantly angry at something or someone?  This has the appearance of pride – that you have been wronged – and the person or situation must be addressed to preserve your good name.  But Jesus was falsely accused, and did not defend Himself, but instead entrusted the issue to the One who judges justly.  We should do the same.
  • Rage
  • Malice
    • In the Greek, kakian.   Again, we are not even to entertain thoughts of retribution or desire that harm come to others.  Jesus says that we are to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those that curse us, and pray for those who do evil against us.
  • Slander
    • In the Greek, blasphEmian – we get our word “blaspheme” from it.  Our speech towards others should build up, not tear down.  Again, as with the other issues above, we should not take these situations into our own hands, but rather let God deal with them.  Sometimes God will deal with a person far more powerfully than we could ever do or even imagine.  But did not God also show us favor and woo us even when we hated Him?
  • Filthy Language
    • In the Greek, asischrologian.  When we use foul, filthy language, we do not show the purity of speech that God desires of us.  Who would want to be around someone whose speech consisted of every other word being a profanity?  While (darkly and shockingly) colorful, it both detracts from the beauty of whatever the person was trying to convey and sacrifices the power of the message for emotional shock value.  It may also indicate that the person may not have a sufficient command of their spoken language to express themselves with clarity and forethought.  Use of this type of language also shows a lack of maturity.  Imagine what the world thinks when a person uses profanity to convey the Gospel message!  Does God ever do that in the Bible when He speaks to people?

Talking Truth

Satan is the father of lies, and it is his native tongue.  We should no longer talk in his language when speaking with each other, but rather talk in the language that our Father speaks.  Jesus said:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

If Jesus is the Truth, and the Word of God, should we not also speak the truth when we speak?  How can we properly bear God’s image to others when we don’t speak as He speaks?

Changing Clothes

We are told to put on our new self.  This is a conscious action, something that we must do.  We have already been provided imputed righteousness.  It is time that we begin to speak and act in accordance with it.  When we do not, it is like a person who says “Yes” to you but nods their head back and forth in a “no” gesture.  It sends mixed signals to the intended recipient.  Let’s ensure that our words and actions are in alignment with our positional righteousness.

To ensure that this occurs, we must continually renew our minds with the Word of God.  Only by studying and applying the lessons learned in the Bible can our minds be transformed into thinking the way that God thinks.  One of the most interesting effects of reading and praying over scripture is that we become aware of connections to other scripture that we have not seen before.  This reinforces scripture into our minds, and helps us to more obediently live in accordance with the Word.  And as we do that, God will reveal deeper truths to us.  He does this both broadly and with precision.

It is very interesting to notice that as we become obedient, God shows us nuances in scripture to prune us so that we can become more obedient. Do you yearn to grow in God’s Word?  Be obedient to the truth that God has already revealed to you.  It is through obedience that God shows us that we are ready to receive a greater revelation of truth.  Remember – you will be judged based on what you did with what you understood.  This should be a sobering warning to all who claim the name of Christ.

Once our mind operates this way, our actions will follow.  As we experience victory in areas of our life that were contrary to the Word of God, we should take encouragement that God is helping us to be better emissaries for Him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I acting and speaking in a manner that properly reflects the righteousness of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You greatly desire that Your children represent You in their actions and words.  Grant me wisdom and discernment that my thoughts and actions would reflect Your holiness and righteousness in such a way that it brings glory to Your name.  Remove from me anything that would cause me to improperly represent You as I work out my salvation with reverential fear and trembling.  Help me to be reminded of Your character and nature before I do or say anything.  Bring to mind Your word that it would be a guide and example to me so that I will not stray and bring shame upon myself and Your holy name.  May my speech be seasoned with salt, and my life a light on a hill, that all who hear and see me would hear and see You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Sanctification with God – Colossians 3:5-7

Be Less Like the World and More Like God

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

Deadly Detriments

Everyone seems to know what Christians are against.  So, why do we still keep doing what say we are against?  We know that it is our sin nature.  But has the Word of the Living God pierced your heart to the point where you say with disgust and revolt, “I just CANNOT do this anymore!”?  So, what are some of the worldly attitudes that Christians are told to stop walking in?

  • Sexual Immorality
    • In the Greek, porneian.  It’s from this word that we get our word pornography.  It is unnatural (not-God-approved) sexual conduct. God has sanctioned sexual conduct within the bounds of marriage to illustrate His model of love and physical gratification through mutual submission of a man (humans born with XY chromosomes) and a woman (humans born with XX chromosomes) in a covenant relationship with each other and to Himself.
    • If we are involved in sexual conduct outside those parameters, it is time to confront ourselves and bring it to God who, through His word, will instruct us through His Holy Word by the Holy Spirit in proper conduct towards others and ourselves in this area of life.
  • Impurity
    • In the Greek, akatharsian.  We get our word catharsis from it.  In this case, it is a wrongful filling of ourselves (a- being the opposite, yielding a filling up rather then an emptying), in this case, a lack of purity.  We are to experience God’s character.  How can we do that when will fill ourselves with impurity?
  • Lust
    • In the Greek, pathos epithumian, or passionate, emotional desire.  The outcome of this is best illustrated in the story of Amnon and Tamar.  Amnon become so obsessed with sister Tamar (his desire to have her sexually) that he made himself ill.  It grew until he finally acted upon it and raped her.  Then, after he molested her, he hated her even more than he previously desired to have her.  Lust is one of the desires of the heart that is never filled, and whose outcome is often not what is advertised when contemplating and indulging the desire.
    • Once lust grows in the heart it always seeks more and more until action is inevitable.  Lust can truly consume a person.
  • Evil Desires
    • In the Greek, kakEn.  Strong’s Notes indicates that this is “worthless (intrinsically, such; whereas [this word] properly refers to effects [of worthlessness]), i.e. (subjectively) depraved, or (objectively) injurious.” Brackets and text within brackets added for clarification.
    • God builds up, but evil desires destroy not only the person that harbors and exhibits them, but those whom that person interacts.
  • Greed
    • In the Greek, pleanexion.  It means more-having, or desiring more and more.  It is not necessarily covetousness, but rather a lack of contentment with what a person already has, and the desire to increase whatever it is that is seen as insufficient.

We are told something interesting about these.  The Greek word for “which” is  hEtis, and means “which-any” or “any/all of which”.  And God, through Paul, classifies them as idolatry.

Walking in Wrath

Paul goes on to say that these are some of the reasons why the wrath of God is coming.  When we engage in these, we are denying the character and truth of God, for ALL human beings are made in the image of God, and are to be the image-bearers of God’s character in this life (and throughout eternity).

Glorious Growth

We all fall short of the glory of God.  We are told to repent.  As part of repentance, we need to introspectively examine our lives to see if we are engaging in, holding onto, in agreement with, or otherwise not completely rejecting as evil the things that God holds to be loathsome.  To be certain, cultivating these attitudes (aligning our attitudes with the attitudes of God) takes time, determination, and spending time reading, reflecting upon, and praying about God’s Holy Word.  In this way, our minds will be transformed through alignment with God’s thoughts and ways.

It is then that as living sacrifices, we will be less inclined to squirm off the altar when we face trials and difficulties in this life.  But be of good cheer!  We have a Holy High Priest who sits at the right hand of God praying for us and our success in this!

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I spending time each day (each week?) to see if I am harboring a positive, or even neutral, attitude toward the things that repulse God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You delight in Your children, and You have chosen not to leave us nor forsake us, even when we fail.  Strengthen me this day as I face new and existing challenges that stretch my faith and sometimes, even my ability to breathe from moment to moment.  Guard me, guide me, forgive me, and restore me as I navigate this world and my feet become dirty.  Wash me clean with the precious blood of Your Perfect Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And when I fall, pick me up, dust me off, wipe my tears, and carry me until I can begin to crawl again.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Sanctification by God – Matthew 7:1-2

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

When we are first saved, we are like Lazarus coming out of the tomb – we still have our grave-clothes on.  Our stinking, smelly rags that cover the fresh aroma of Christ.  We have been made alive in Christ, and yet our outer appearance is that of a dead man.  Immediately, we begin to change.  Attitudes, likes and dislikes are moving in different directions, and we may not even be aware of them until we realize that we no longer do or say certain things, and begin to desire other things.  As the “grave-clothes” are removed, we begin to look different as our changed nature becomes more apparent.

But there are some grave-clothes that just seem to stick with us for a very long time.  In the culture of this age, in the United States of America, one of these is being critically judgmental.  Oswald Chambers says in “My Utmost for His Highest” that this attitude makes it impossible to enter into communion with our Creator because of how hard it makes us and where it places us – as superior to others.  It would appear that everyone wants to be right; and as we judge others, we fail to rightly judge ourselves.

The brain is interesting.  When we develop patterns of thought, it creates real grooves in our brain that direct thought patterns.  And we need to fight against that to create new grooves in our brain (transformation through the renewing of our mind by repeated exposure to the Word of God).  The problem is, that like a scratched vinyl record (does anyone remember those?), the needle may stay in the same groove.  We need to force the needle – the thought process- of our brain into a different area so that a new groove can be made.

When there is something in our lives that is deeply ingrained, it may seem impossible for us to change it.  That is when we need to confess this to God, and ask Him to supernaturally address the issue.  God generally does this in one of two ways:

  • He supernaturally and instantaneously removes the desire from us
    • Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!  You are delivered!  Now walk in that deliverance…
  • He consistently and repeatedly puts us in situations where we can practice creating a new groove in our brain (a new pattern of thought and action) to replace the one we want expunged (He disciplines us).
    • This is never fun.  It is also why many seasoned Christians will warn younger Christians to give careful consideration to the consequences of praying for patience.
    • Be careful what you pray for – you might just get it!
    • If you ever pray for patience, you should expect that God will send the meanest, nastiest, angriest, rudest, most irritating, most ignorant, verbally violent, and socially unpalatable people into your life to help you to put on Christ (love) in the form of patience.
    • Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that we don’t need it or shouldn’t ask for it.  Once we are disciplined, it will bring a great harvest of righteousness.

So let’s ask the question:  are we critically judgmental of others?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You today for the love that You show me when You discipline me.  Please do not discipline me in Your anger.  You are able to rightly discern my innermost thoughts and motivations.  Show me the true nature of what I am doing.  Search my heart, Lord, and see if there is anything displeasing to You in it.  Purge me from it, for my desire is to live this life in righteous obedience to You and Your Word.  Give me strength to endure the trials necessary to sanctify my mind.  Remove from me those desires and attitudes that in any way interfere with my walk with You.  Guard me on all sides, and may Your righteousness show through me that others will be attracted to You.  Bring glory to Your name, and help me to be humble when You shine.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Obedience to God – John 14:15 (AMP)

“If you [really] love Me, you will keep and obey My commandments.

How do we reconcile all of these statements?  Why does it appear that there may be some works that we need to do?  The answer is that we are being sanctified.  God is in the process of renewing our minds so that we move from the world’s way of thinking to His way of thinking.  Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 (AMP):

1 Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].

We are (or should be!) progressively transformed into the likeness of Christ as our thinking changes and we act on what we believe.  The word transformed is very interesting.  In the Greek it is “metamorphousthe” (an imperative command – we are expected to do this – it is not a suggestion!) from the root word “metamorphoo”. We get our word metamorphosis from it (think butterflies. They don’t just look a little different from caterpillars; in their cocoon they literally liquefy [in our case, it is the Word of God, and trials that cause crises of faith] and emerge on the other side something completely and irreversibly different).

Transformation is not merely intellectual ascent, but rather the practical application (or implementation) of the values and ideals that we have learned into everyday living.  How does this work, do you ask?

  • Do you believe that you need to eat food in order to live?  So, do you eat food?
  • Do you believe that you need to put gasoline in your car to keep it running?  So, do you put gasoline in your car?
  • Do you believe you should put on clothes when you are in public?  Do you put on clothes when you leave your residence?
  • (Special thanks to Dr. Steve Vesolich for all four example questions)

If you have answered yes to these, it would appear that you act upon your beliefs by implementing them in practical ways in your daily life.  Now let’s ask another question:

  • Do you believe that you should pray continually?  Do you pray without ceasing?

If you answered, “Well, I guess I fall a little short (a lot short?) in that department,” then do you really believe it?  How long can you go without food before your body suffers (that is a GREAT feedback mechanism that God gave to us!)?  How many times do you need to run out of gas in your car until you fill it up BEFORE the needle gets to “E”?  When we pray, we are spiritually filling up with God.  The problem is that we don’t always “feel” the spiritual feedback mechanism that occurs when we don’t “fill up” with God until the consequences of ignoring this very important requirement of spiritual life impact our lives, often in very detrimental ways.

Jesus calls us to be obedient to all that He says.  This is for our benefit, the benefit of others, to produce righteous living in His called out ones, and finally, it brings glory to God.  Jesus became completely obedient to the Father though submission to the Holy Spirit.  How much more should we then, who need guidance every second of every day of our lives?

The works that pour forth from us are a response to the love of God.  Additionally, He has graciously planned in advance to use our gratefulness to Him in a real and practical way to save the lost and bring glory to His name as we are being transformed into His image.

So, let’s ask the question:  Are we being obedient to the portion of God’s word that we know and understand?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy, holy, holy.  You have called us out of sin and into righteousness.  Father, our sin natures are interfering in our ability to be obedient to You and Your Word.  Help me, O God, that these hindrances would be removed, and that in every aspect of the life that You have provided to me, that I would be obedient to You.  Cleanse my heart Lord God, and give me a greater desire to be obedient to You, especially where I feel any resistance in my heart.  Holy Spirit, reveal to me the root cause of any resistance.  Bring it out of me, and show it to me, that I may deal with it, for my heart longs to obey you.  Help me to overcome any fears with it, and heal my heart where needed so that I can let go of the past.  Help me to be accountable and take ownership of any part of my past that has led to this rebellion.  Father, give me strength that I may confess these sins to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that we may pray for one another and be forgiven.  You long for holiness in your people; please start with me.  This I pray as a representative of your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?