Saturday, December 01, 2012

Nitty-gritty holiness

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

TO CHEW ON: "And may the Lord ....  establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints." 1 Thessalonians 3:13

In his fatherly prayer for the Thessalonian Christians, Paul prays two main requests: that their love for each other increase, and that their hearts be holy.

Jerry Bridges in his book The Pursuit of Holiness defines "holy":

"To be holy is to be morally blameless. It is to be separated from sin, and therefore consecrated to God. The word signifies 'separate to God, and the conduct befitting those so separated'" - Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness, Kindle Location 85.

[The Greek word hagiosune that Paul uses refers to "the process, quality and condition of a holy disposition...Hagiosune consecrates us to God's service in soul and in body, finding fulfillment in moral dedication and a life committed to purity. It causes every component of our character to stand God's inspection and meet His approval" - Dick Mills, Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1686. (emphasis added)]

"Oh yes, we want to be that way," our hearts say as we sit, stand, or kneel before God. But the minute we leave the quiet place our resolve is tested, and probably before we've gone one hour we've again found ourselves sidling up to sin—playing host to selfish, mean, or fearful thoughts, uttering sharp or unkind words, pressing on with self-exalting plans...

Bridges puts his finger on three what he calls "basic problem areas":

1. "Our attitude toward sin is more self-centred than God-centered." We focus more on our victory over sin than on how much our sins grieve God. We are success-oriented not obedience-oriented. Bridges again: "God wants us to walk in obedience—not victory. Obedience is oriented toward God; victory is oriented toward self" - Bridges, KL 97.

2. "We understand 'living by faith'—Galatians 2:20—to require no effort from us." Bridges talks about hearing his pastor preach along the lines of 'we have a personal responsibility for our walk of holiness,' agreeing with the message, and then sensing the Holy Spirit say to him: "And you can put away the sinful habits that plague you if you will accept personal responsibility for them" - K.L. 107.

3. "We don't take some sins seriously. We have mentally categorized sins into that which is unacceptable and that which may be tolerated a bit" - KL 110.

Mea culpa. I am guilty on all these counts. Lord have mercy!

PRAYER: Dear God, may my focus today be on obedience. Help me to take responsibility for my actions, and to view sin, all sin, with abhorrence. Amen.

MORE: "Clear the Stage" by Jimmy Needham

"Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open
Then read the Word and put to test the things you've heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken" - Jimmy Needham

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  1. Well said, Violet. I've been digesting this for a day now since I read it. Ouch -- but we do look for victory rather than obedience. How typical of us to turn even holiness into something about us rather than about God. I really appreciate your perspective on this. Thanks!

  2. Jerry Bridges' book The Pursuit of Holiness that I quote here, is all excellent!

  3. One more book to add to the wish list :)

  4. That victory IS oriented toward self is an eye-opener for me, Violet. We praise God for each one, but it's true - we're happy for ourselves to have overcome or to be free of whatever was coming against us. A valuable insight - thank you.

  5. You got through to comments, Mary - Yaaay!

    I certainly can't take credit for the idea of victory being oriented to self, but do find the thought of living to please God encouraging and motivating. Do you?

    Of course, then life becomes not only avoiding the bad (victory over sin), but striving to do the best as in living to know the sunshine of His smile. (Not that we have to strive to get that, because He loves us even at our worst.)


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