Tag Archives: holiness

Holding On To Dross (Jeremiah 4-6)

Dross: foreign matter, dregs, or mineral waste, in particular scum formed on the surface of molten metal. Also used in regard to something worthless; rubbish, i.e: “there are bargains if you have the patience to sift through the dross.”

My concern for the Church in America grows every day. Jeremiah, while talking about the Jews of his day, said that God was pruning them to get rid of sin, performing surgery to cut out sin, and putting them in the refiners fire in order for them to eliminate sin and become pure, all with the intention of making it possible for the Jews to return to God.

Jeremiah says to God: You struck them but they felt no pain; you crushed them but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent. (5:3)

The prophet found that to be true not only in lay people, in the regular folk who might not have had the opportunity for higher education concerning God’s Law, but he found the same to be true in church leaders. They all knew better, but they chose to ignore God’s correction and His plea for their return.

Jeremiah used the example of refining fire burning away dross from metal to purify the metal, leaving something precious and valuable. Jeremiah said if the people are the ore, they are clinging to the dross while rejecting the silver. They are holding on to the worthless and ignoring the prize.

Are we Christians doing the same thing here in 2020? Are we rejecting the precious and valuable Gospel for a worthless theology so compromised it has no value? Have we clung to tolerance, and acceptance, and eliminated anything that could offend, instead of holding to the Truth of God?

It happened in Jeremiah’s day. What makes us think it can’t happen here and now? If we think we are immune, I’m afraid we’ve already grabbed hold of the dross.

There’s no fool like an… (Isaiah 42)

If you read the history of God in Old Testament Israel, you will see one miraculous event after another. You will hear God declare Himself in no uncertain terms as Creator and Savior, Holy and demanding holiness. You will see him judge – and forgive – sin over and over again.

If you had been a Jew at the time, you would have experienced God in very tangible, first-hand ways. Even other nations witnessed God in Israel, and recognized Him as something uniquely powerful and real. Yet people still worshiped idols, carved wooden figures that could not hear, speak, or move to rescue. Even faced with the evidence that God is God, they continued to reject Him.

Not just Gentiles, either. Jews rejected God, too. This is what God says about that:

Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see! Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the Lord? You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing. (42:18-20)

It is sad when a person is physically and medically unable to hear. But the deafness of a hearing person is foolishness. A seeing person who refuses to see is unimaginable, and foolish. Yet God accuses His people of choosing deafness and blindness when they were, in fact, capable of hearing and seeing what was right in front of them.

You’ve heard it said, “there is no fool like an old fool.” I think God is saying there is no deafness like the one who refuses to hear, no blindness like the one refusing to see.

God had spelled everything out, had demonstrated exactly who He was, made “his law great and glorious.” Yet instead of living with the blessings of bowing to God, they had become plunder to their enemies. Instead of living in peace, they lived with “the violence of war.” How foolish could they be?

Well, before I get too judgmental here toward the Old Testament Jews, I am reminded that God has revealed Himself in unmistakable ways here in 2020, too. For one thing, we have the benefit of holding His own Words in our hands, reading them whenever we want. We can listen to preachers and teachers who hold true to the Truth that is Jesus as found in Scripture. We have eyes to see His creation, ears to hear His still, small voice, or the thunder of His voice from the skies.

Yet some of us are still worshiping idols of our own making. We worship self, money, power, right-ness. We honor rock stars and athletes above God. We listen to politicians while we ignore what God says. We spend more time pursuing fun than we do in pursuit of God.

God would tell us today that there is no fool like a blind seeing person or a hearing person who refuses to listen.

Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in time to come? (verse 23)

Don’t Walk. Run! (Proverbs 7-9)

What is the temptation that, for you, is the hardest to resist? Greed? Lying? Gluttony? Pride? or something else? Solomon is using the picture of adultery to describe the seriousness of giving into the temptation Satan would use to entice you away from holiness.

The woman in 7:10 is loud and defiant and has no shame. She promises the young man that she has fancied up her bed with beautiful blankets and perfume. (She’s obviously not going to tempt him with the truth that her bedding has seen plenty of action and the perfume is an attempt to cover up the stench of sins committed there)

The truth is, you can dress sin up, douse it in sweet smelling rationalization or denial, but it’s still ugly, messy, dangerous SIN  that would reduce you to the level of an ox going to slaughter, a deer in a noose, a bird in a snare.

Gotcha!

Solomon tells us the woman’s house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chamber of death (7:27). Whatever pleasure she promises comes with horrible consequences she has no intention of discussing.

So, what is the temptation that’s hardest for you to resist? See it for what it is. It is not innocent, not insignificant, it’s not harmless even if you convince yourself at least it’s not on the level of murder. Behind the temptation is a lion seeking to devour you. Do you understand that? Satan is not playing.

Walk away. No! Run away! Your life depends on it.

 

Desperate (Psalms 89, 96, 100-101,105, 132)

So much praise in these psalms for our faithful, powerful, loving, deserving God! I hope you’ll read them and let them be the prayer of your heart.

Psalm 132 has me considering how desperate I am that God live in me.

I will not enter my house or go to my bed – I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob, (vv 3-5)

I wonder if  I am that focused on preparing my heart for the Presence of Almighty God. Do I provide His resting place, or do I invite Him into a cluttered, chaotic space? I wonder if God is comfortable in my heart? May it be so.

Lord, may You find Your resting place in me. Please create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit in me. Take away anything that would distract, anything that would compete, anything that would cause You discomfort. I want You to be at home in my heart, dear Lord. I won’t rest until You are.

What Am I Missing? (Joshua 16-18)

The thing that always hits me when I read these chapters is how the Jews allowed the enemy to survive, knowing God specifically said to destroy them completely. They not only allowed the enemy to survive, the enemy was allowed to co-exist with them in the towns God had given the Jews.

I am also struck when I read these chapters, and hear Joseph’s clan demand more land than what they’d been assigned. They said their numbers were too large to fit in that portion of land, so they needed more. Joshua called them out and, in effect, told them the problem wasn’t the amount of land. The problem was that Joseph’s clan was just too lazy, or too fearful to do what needed to be done. They had all the land they’d ever need – if they’d clear it.

Sure, the Canaanites were a formidable foe. But the Canaanites were no match for God’s army. Joseph’s clan just needed to quit whining and go to war.

God uses these chapters to ask me if I have allowed the enemy to co-exist in my life. Is there a sin I’ve gotten used to having around? Have I watched enough TV to be desensitized to the seriousness of sin? Do I turn my head and ignore sin in myself and/or in others close to me?

When I read these chapters God also reminds me there is land to clear. There are battles to be fought in order for me to enjoy the Promised Land of His Presence in my life; in order for me to embrace all of Him and receive everything He has in store for me. God reminds me I need to go to war.

It’s tempting to ask God for more of Himself, more blessings, more opportunity to serve Him, without even trying to defeat the enemy in our lives. People pray, “Heal our land,” when they should be praying, “Heal my heart.” People pray, “Send revival,” when our prayer should be, “Revive me.” The problem isn’t that we live in a sinful world. The problem is that we are sinful, living in this world.

When I read these chapters in the book of Joshua, I wonder what it is I am missing by not trusting God to help me take everything available to me through the blood of Jesus.  What blessings have I forfeited? What opportunities have I squandered? What joy have I missed?

Dear God, I want it all. I want everything a relationship with You can bring. I want to go to war against sin in my life. I want to clear my heart of any remnant of the enemy. Convict me. Break me. Strengthen me to win my battle over the enemy. Oh God, I don’t want to miss a thing.

Purge (Deuteronomy 20)

I’m not what you’d call a hoarder, necessarily, but I will admit that I tend to hold on to things longer than I should. I have a closet full of clothes I haven’t worn in years, some of which I can’t even fit into any more. But I like them. So there they hang.

Others I know have a difficult time letting go of anything. They live in houses so full of things there is only a path from one room to another. Magazines thirty years old, food that has long outlived its healthfulness, toys that haven’t been in the hands of a child in decades, things stacked from floor to ceiling.

Sometimes the thought of purging is terrifying. So when I read God tell Israel to purge the evil from among them by destroying entire cities full of idolaters and people doing detestable things, I can’t believe that was easy to do.

“…do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them…”

But if the Israelites wanted God’s blessings, they had to obey 100%.

Now let’s be clear. The Bible emphatically declares our enemies are no longer flesh and blood this side of the cross. (Ephesians 6:12). We are NOT commanded to kill people who reject God. But the Bible says we do have enemies we need to purge from our lives.

Our enemies are spiritual forces of evil, powers in this dark world. Our enemy is Satan. Our enemy is sin. And that’s what we are to purge, destroy, annihilate.

I don’t know what enemies look like in your life. An addiction to video games? Pornography? Alcohol? Gossip? Lying? Putting your job above serving God? Yourself?

Whatever sin you are identifying in your life right now is something God is telling you to purge. Don’t let a remnant survive. You might have to sell your TV, erase some apps from your phone, change jobs, stop drinking if God leads you to that.

But God also told the Israelites over and over that if they obeyed Him, if they went to war against their enemies He would go before them. He would fight for them. And He’ll do the same for you.

God doesn’t want us to purge the sin from our lives because He is against fun. He invented fun. God wants us to purge sin from our lives so that we can enjoy a relationship with Him, free from any bondage.

I’m going to use my closet as an example. Right now I walk into that space and have to step over boxes, shoes, a pile of clothes I am considering donating. I have to force clean blouses onto the rack because there just isn’t room for another hanger. I long to go into my closet and be free to walk from one end to the other without tripping over stuff on the floor, to pull out a pair of slacks and not have to iron them because they’ve been smashed onto the rack between a dozen pairs of slacks and are wrinkled. There is nothing fun about that.

But when (notice I said “when” not “if.” I’m thinking during this virus quarantine, I have no excuse not to clean my closet) I purge myself from the things that are holding me back, entering my closet will be so much better. Do I dare say fun?

Is it time for you to purge, to repent of sin, to get rid of the evil that is keeping you from an unhindered relationship with God? Do it!

Unequally Yoked (Genesis 4-6)

I was talking to my sister the other day about these very verses. Who were the “sons of God,” and the “daughters of men,” anyway? So today I did some digging.

There seems to be two schools of thought on this. One is that the sons of God were angels (some think demons, although not sure why anyone would think a demon would be called a son of God) who had sex with humans. The other is that the sons of God referred to the line of Adam’s son Seth, those who followed God. The daughters of men were from the line of Cain, who did not follow God.

Matthew Henry (Commentary on the Whole Bible in One Volume; 1961; Zondervan Publishing House; page 16) takes the second viewpoint without giving a thought to the angel idea. R.C. Sproul, Jr. (ligonier.org; Who Are the Sons of God and Daughters of Men in Genesis 6:1-5?) addresses both views but ends up agreeing with Henry’s interpretation. With good reason, I think.

First, Sproul points out angels are spirits without flesh and blood bodies. They can’t morph themselves into human form.

Now, there are times in the Bible where we see God sending angels looking like humans to perform some task, but never to have sex with a human. And looking like a human doesn’t make an angel human nor does it suggest their bodily functions would be human-like. The idea of an angel having sex with a woman has no foundation.

Second, Sproul reminds us these verses in chapter 6 come after the account of two groups of people alive at the time; those who followed God, and those who did not.

In chapter 4 we read about the line of Cain, who killed his brother Abel, and whose claim to fame was building a big city he named after one of his sons. His line also is recorded to have yet another murderer in its midst. This group of people seem to be more concerned with “number one” than with obeying God. In fact, there is no indication that following God was on any of their minds at the time.

Then in chapter 5 we read about the line of Seth, the son born to Adam and Eve after their son Abel was murdered. In this account we read about Enoch who walked with God, and Lamech who said that son Noah would save the people from the Lord’s curse. Seth’s line contains people who followed God.

Even though we see chapter 6 as a division point, remember the Bible wasn’t written in chapters and verses. The account of the sons of God and daughters of men immediately follow the genealogies of Cain and Seth. We see believers, sons of God through Seth, marrying daughters of men, daughters through Cain, simply because they were pretty. 

Unequally yoked with unbelievers.

That is a recipe for disaster. In fact, by chapter 6 in Genesis, sin is so rampant God is going to destroy the world.

I believe this account in God’s Word isn’t here to suggest some super-human race existed because of the sin of angels and women. I believe this account is here to remind us the consequences of sin, the seriousness of being linked to non-believers.

I think that is what God would have me hear today. We are to go into all the world, be all things to all men in order to win some. But we must never, NEVER, compromise on sin. We must never deviate from the holiness God demands of us. And we must never marry, or go into business with, or attach ourselves to non-believers in any way.

Matthew Henry says this: “The bad will sooner debauch the good than the good reform the bad.” I believe that’s the lesson here today.

 

 

December 1; References

2 Corinthians 2:5-6:18

I imagine most of us have had to supply references at one time or another. Job applications, college admission forms, rental agreements. I’m in the process of joining a gun club and need three people who will vouch for me.

Maybe you’ve agreed to be a reference for someone. On what did you base your recommendation? You probably had to say how long you’ve known the person, and in what capacity. As someone close enough to know that person, you might have had to give your opinion on his or her character.

Paul, in chapter 3 is talking about letters of recommendation, and he said the Corinthians themselves were his letter. Look at verses 2-3:

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that also convicting?

When people are considering what you have to offer them in Jesus, who is it they look to for a recommendation? What does your relationship with your spouse say about your relationship with the Savior?

How do the people at work see the Holy Spirit lived out in the way you do your job, the way you treat your co-workers? Can they say you are honest, hard working, kind, generous, loving? Or do they see you as miserable as they?

How about your neighbors? Can they recommend your witness as a believer based on who they know you to be at home?

Maybe more importantly, are there eternal souls who have been saved because of your ministry and witness to them? Are there people who can give first hand recommendations based on their own encounter with the Savior through you?

God is speaking to me today about my witness. Will people be open to hearing what I have to say, based on the testimony of others I have touched for Jesus’ sake?

The Corinthians were Paul’s letters of recommendation. God is asking me to think about mine.

November 23; Be Sanctified

I Thessalonians 2:17-5:28; II Thessalonians 1

What does it mean to live a holy life? Paul tells us it is God’s will that we be sanctified in order to please God. Then Paul tells us what that looks like:

that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. (I Thessalonians 4:3b-6a)

So is holy living, or sanctification, restricted to sexual behavior? Remember, Jesus told us that we commit adultery when we lust. It doesn’t have to involve bodily contact. Sin comes in all shapes and sizes.

Trying in our own strength to do what Paul is telling us to do only leads to failure. We can’t muster up courage, or find strength inside us to defeat the power of sin. It’s impossible. A sinner can’t sanctify a sinner, so I can’t sanctify me.

But the Holy Spirit can! When we humble ourselves and accept the gift of God’s grace, the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Jesus, when we place our faith in God, the Holy Spirit is given to us. Then we can avoid sexual immorality because the Holy Spirit gives us His strength and His desires. We can control ourselves in holy and honorable ways because the Spirit in us is holy and honorable.

Paul tells us it is the work of the Holy Spirit to grow believers, or to sanctify believers. But he also says it is possible to “put out the Spirit’s fire.” Then he tells us to “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (5:19-20)

Then Paul prays: 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. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (5:23-24)

Does that thrill your heart? Yes we have responsibility in our walk with the Lord. But the good news is that the Spirit within us gives us wisdom, and the ability to hold on to the good and avoid every kind of evil. The Spirit within us gives us exactly what we need to be sanctified.

He is faithful. And He will do it!

 

November 4; Tears

John 15:18-17:16; Mark 14:32-42; Matthew 26:36-46; Luke 22:39-46

It’s hard for me to read about the last few hours of Jesus’ life on earth. I find myself wanting to sit with Him, to hold His hands, to put a cool cloth on His fevered brow. I want to pray with Him, and wipe His tears.

But I know had I lived at that time, I would have been just like Peter, James, and John. I wouldn’t get it anymore than they did.

You know how I know that? Because even as I sit here with tears running down my face for love of that hurting Man who loved me enough to die for me, I have slept while He is grieved over sin in my life, in the lives of my loved ones, and over sin in the world.

Jesus didn’t die, then return to heaven to sit on a throne and say, “Glad that’s over. Now it’s up to them.” He is still working, still praying, still grieving over sin in our lives.

I know the Bible says one day He will wipe the tears from our eyes. But who is wiping His tears?

Oh, may I see sin like He sees it, how He faced it there in the Garden. May I live to please and not grieve Him. May I have the privilege of wiping His tears, and bringing Him only joy.