Tag Archives: holiness

Living As I Should

Psalm 119

May this psalm be my prayer. And may these verses describe my life:

Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey His laws and search for Him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in His paths.

You have charged us to keep your commandments faithfully. Oh that my actions would consistently reflect your decree! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands.

As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should! I will obey your decrees. Please don’t give up on me. (Verses 1-8, emphasis mine)

Praising the Judge

Psalm 98

For the first 9 1/2 verses the psalmist tells us to sing to the Lord, shout to the Lord, break out in praise to the Lord. Our victorious God has revealed His righteousness to every nation! He remembered His promises to love and be faithful to His people. Praise Him!

Living after the cross, we know God revealed Himself to the world when He became a human, and lived on this earth as a physical man. Jesus won the ultimate victory over death, Satan, and sin when he died on the cross and three days later came alive again. He saved the world.

Make a joyful symphony before the Lord, the King! (Vs 6b)

But here is why the psalmist tells all creation that God is worthy of our praise:

For the Lord is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice and the nations with fairness. (Vs 9)

Wait! Praise God for the coming judgment? Aren’t there psalms that tell us to praise Him for His goodness, faithfulness, grace, presence…?

Of course! He is all that and more, and deserves our praise. But these verses tell us to praise Him for the coming judgment as well.

Does standing before a judge in a court of law seem like something to be glad about? I had to stop and consider this for a while.

When I finished my course work in the School Counseling graduate program, I was required to take a comprehensive examination. It was a four or five hour test that would be the deciding factor whether or not I’d receive my graduate degree, and be qualified to be a school counselor. My future depended on my passing that test.

A few of us grad students got together periodically to study, and quiz each other on the different parts of the upcoming exam. We took practice tests, and discussed our answers.

I myself, would spend hours and hours on the Saturdays leading up to the test, pulling out every memorization technique I could think of. I actually started looking forward to the test date.

For one, I knew that I would receive my degree if I passed. That is what I had been working toward for a couple of years. Passing the test would mean no more evening classes to take after teaching school all day, no more papers to write, no more costly graduate fees.

That test marked the end of hard work, and the beginning of enjoying the benefits of the work. I was so ready to have it over.

On the morning of the test I remember standing in the shower and praying that God would help me recall what I had learned. Such a peace came over me I can only explain as from God. In fact, I felt so prepared, I almost dared the test-makers to come up with a question I couldn’t answer. (They actually did come up with one or two. 🙂 )

So I took the test that would judge my preparedness to be a school counselor. After several hours, I turned in my test, and walked away somewhat elated. I was pretty sure I had passed, and I did pass!

So why would God bring that to mind today as I considered the psalmist’s direction to praise God because He will come to earth to judge the world? Here are my thoughts:

The first is that we can know with certainty that God will judge the earth with justice and fairness. The truth is, He has been very upfront with His requirements.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. (John 3:3)

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

So the requirements the Judge will consider are whether or not we have accepted His grace and forgiveness through the blood of His Son Jesus. We all will be judged by the exact same standard. It will have nothing to do with how good or how bad we’ve been. Only whether or not we’ve received what Jesus died to give us. That’s fair.

The second thing I thought is, Jesus did the work. When my classmates and I were studying for our test, some of us put in the work before our sessions, others not so much. So when we actually took the test, we were judged on what we had put into it. As we should have been.

But if God operated on the same scale, none of us would pass the test. The standard for passing His test is:

For it is written “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)

Are you a good person? Not good enough. Do you go to church? Not good enough. Do you abstain from certain sins? Not good enough. It’s not good enough to simply read your Bible, or stay faithful to your spouse. Holy is holy, without sin. And the Bible tells us:

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

You have sinned. And that renders you unholy, falling short of God’s standard. And falling short of God’s standard results in:

The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

Now I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me want to praise God for the upcoming judgment. Who can stand before a holy God and expect to hear, ”Not guilty,” if all of us are guilty? No one!

That’s why Jesus did the work. That’s why He took on our sin and paid the death sentence we earned by telling a lie, taking something that doesn’t belong to us, thinking bad thoughts, or disobeying our parents. You see, because He paid my debt, I have no fear of standing before a Holy Judge who will judge with justice and fairness.

I did what He told me to do. I asked Jesus to forgive me, I repented of the sin that sent Him to the cross. I have been born again, not of flesh but of spirit. I wear His righteousness, His holiness, because I have none of my own.

The rest of Romans 6:23 is:

but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So yes. I can look forward to judgment day. It marks the end of all the struggles and hardships living in this world affords. It marks the beginning of an eternity, reaping the benefits of having Jesus pass the test on my behalf.

So, dear one, continue to praise God for all His benefits, His blessings, your health, your comfort, your family and friends, and on and on and on. Praise the One who deserves your praise.

And praise Him for the fact that when He judges the world, when He judges you on that day, there will be no surprises. One person won’t be judged more easily or more harshly for the same sin you’ve committed. You won’t fall short because you only did 9,999 good deeds, and someone else will get a free pass because he did 10,000 good deeds. No one will barely make it into heaven while someone else almost makes it there.

God is fair. God is just. God will judge each of us by the standard He has laid out so clearly in His Word. I look forward to judgement day. I hope you can say the same. I hope that because we both have been born again, cleansed and made holy by Jesus, we can praise the Judge together now and for eternity!

True Worship

Isaiah 1:1-19

What is worship God accepts? It’s not just ceremony or sacrifices. It’s not parades, gifts, or pious meetings. It’s not even lifted hands.

True worship can only come from clean hearts. No matter what form worship takes in your church or in your home or car, God will not even pay attention if your heart is harboring sin. Clap your hands, jump up and down, work up a sweat, or shed some tears. None of it matters unless your heart is right with our Holy God.

Isaiah begins his book talking about the rebellion of God’s people. And then he tells us what God thinks about their acts of worship. God is sick of it. He gets no pleasure from it. In fact God says He hates their worship celebrations. Their worship has become a burden God wants nothing to do with.

Then Isaiah tells us what God requires from those who want to worship Him:

Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” (16-19)

Let’s not make the mistake of thinking we can go into a worship service like we are attending a concert or ballgame. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking we ought to get something out of worship. It’s not about us.

Let us go into worship, whether in our closet or in the sanctuary of our local churches, with clean hearts, sober-minded with fear and trembling before a Holy God who demands holiness of any one who worships Him. I think God is very clear to say that before we sing the first note of any praise song, we had better have sincerely prayed:

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence; and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation; and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:11-12)

Then and only then, will your expression of worship be acceptable to God. True worship, worship He demands, comes from holy people.

Calling All Godly People

Psalm 12

I read this psalm and think, “I get it, David. We are facing the same thing in 2022.”

It’s not just our neighbors who lie. It’s governments, the media, preachers, parents, teachers… the list goes on. They say:

We will lie to our hearts content. Our lips are our own, who can stop us?”

Right now I wonder if ANYONE can stop them. Like David, I too wonder if the godly are vanishing from the earth. The godly are the only hope for this world.

I could get on my soapbox. But instead I’m going to pray that those of you reading this post will recognize the lies you are being fed every day. Whether it’s your preacher saying worshiping God should be fun and make you feel good, or someone saying tolerance is love, or truth is relative, or the government promising illegals free stuff and a good life, or anyone saying a person can choose their sex, or that abortion is not murder, or the media isn’t biased, or global warning is a result of poor stewardship of the earth…

Oh man, I just stepped up on my soap box, didn’t I? I won’t go on. Instead I’m pleading with the godly people out there:

Pay attention.

Stand up for the truth according to Scripture.

Don’t accept what the loudest voices are saying. BE the loudest voice.

Once again, I am speaking to godly people, not just “Christians.” People are being told that a Christian is someone who believes certain things about Jesus. That’s a lie.

If you haven’t confessed your sin, repented (which means to turn from sin), if you aren’t growing more holy every day by of the choices you make as a result of your relationship with God through the blood of His Son Jesus – you are not a Christian. Therefore, this post does not apply to you.

Harsh? Yes. But I for one am tired of the lies. The truth hurts. But it is the truth.

If we who KNOW the truth are out there making ourselves heard, if we are living the godly lives we are called to live, if we are leading people to the saving grace of Jesus, there may be hope for this world yet,

even though the wicked strut about, and evil is praised throughout the land.

Calling all godly people! It’s up to us.

Throwing The Baby Out With The Bathwater

2 Samuel 20

I remember a cartoon from my youth. I think it was Yosemite Sam who was being tormented by a fly. No matter how often he swatted at the fly, and no matter what he used to bat at the fly, the fly kept dive-bombing him. Then the fly landed on the wall. And Yosemite Sam quickly aimed his rifle and blew a hole in the wall.

Problem solved.

Ever hear the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater?”

Joab wanted Sheba. Sheba had turned traitor and started a rebellion against King David. Joab knew Sheba had to be stopped, and he was willing to go to any length to do just that; even going as far as destroying an entire city and the inhabitants who lived there.

A wise woman helped him see the error of his ways. The city was saved, and the guilty man paid for his own crimes.

When I was a young teacher just beginning my career, we were encouraged to discipline children gently. If a child misbehaved we were told to say something like, “Some of you are having trouble following the rules. We need a time out. Everybody put your heads down on your desk and stay quiet.”

Did you, as part of a class of children, ever have to stay in at recess because a few of your classmates hadn’t done their homework? You’d done yours. But that didn’t matter. Everybody paid the consequences for the few.

Part of the rationale was protecting the egos and feelings of the guilty, believing they’d recognize on their own they were responsible for everyone missing recess, feel bad, and change their behavior.

Yah. That didn’t work. Those ornery kids soon realized the power they had over all of us, including the teacher.

I think what the wise woman helped Joab to see was the importance of accountability. If a person does something wrong, you don’t slap their child.

I don’t think we Christians are very good at holding each other accountable for our misdeeds, our sins. Yet throughout Scripture I see evidence that is what God wants us to do.

Jesus Himself gave us the guidelines in Matthew 18:15-17.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Paul, in Galations 6:1 says it like this:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted

God tells us we are to address sin, confront it, remove it from our midst. We should never allow sin to get a foothold in our fellowships. The Church has to remain holy.

But you don’t give up on the Church. You don’t walk out just because you recognize a hypocrite in the pew in front of you. You don’t get angry and start a rebellion. You go to that person and lovingly confront the issue, like Jesus taught us.

The guilty party may need to be disciplined, but you don’t destroy a church (or a city in the case of Joab) to deal with the problem. You don’t blow a hole in the wall to kill a fly. And you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Let’s hold each other accountable. You may save a brother or sister from a world of hurt, and at the same time strengthen the body of Christ. I believe with all my heart that is what would please our Lord.

Shame On Us

Leviticus 18-19

Happy 2sDay, 2.22.22 falling on a Tuesday. Such a fun fact for a day that won’t come around again for a hundred years.

Anyway, these days I’m reading in Leviticus and, sometimes the reading is hard. I find myself wanting to just get through this book and get on. But then I realize Numbers is next and I know I’m in for more of the same. So my prayer is that God will speak to my heart on 2.22.22 and grow me into a woman who knows Him better, loves Him more, and serves Him more effectively.

We can read these chapters and say, “That was then. This is now. What applied to them doesn’t apply to us in the 21st century. After all, we live under grace.”

I wonder.

18:22. What do you think about what that verse says? People say if we want to shove that verse down people’s throat then we need to hold each other accountable for all of it. You can’t just take a verse to make a point and ignore other verses you don’t like.

Exactly.

If we say homosexuality is detestable according to Scripture, then we must also condemn marrying a step-sibling, divorcing your wife and marrying your sister-in-law, or having sex during a woman’s period. In today’s world that is all legal.

Chapter 19 covers things like disrespecting your parents, insulting a deaf person, gossip, holding grudges, getting tattoos…

So where do you draw the line?

19:22.

Holiness.

Not just decency or moral conduct. Not just goodness. H.O.L.I.N.E.S.S.

Simply obeying the letter of the law doesn’t guarantee salvation. We who live after the cross understand that salvation comes only through Jesus’ work on the cross. But obeying the letter as well as the intent of the law should be evidence of our true salvation. Jesus didn’t tell us we could murder someone so long as we didn’t hate them. He didn’t throw out the law. He showed us the spiritual aspect of following the law.

This whole thing can be confusing. There is no way any of us can follow the law. But does that mean the law isn’t there for a reason, that because it’s hard we should just ignore it? I thank God Jesus paid the consequences for my failing to follow the law. But does that give me liberty to disobey?

Common sense tells us if people obeyed these laws spelled out in Leviticus we’d be better off. Our world would not be in the state it’s in.

And, Christian, if you aren’t holding yourself to the same standard God has laid before us… holiness… then we have no one to blame for the state of our world, or the state of our families, than the person staring back at us in the mirror.

Shame on us.

Do The Wicked Really Prosper?

Job 24

It’s tempting to believe that wicked people prosper and good people struggle. Only the good die young, right? In our minds, people should get what they deserve, and we, like Job, complain and question God when we think life is unfair.

A dear lady in my church got a cancer diagnosis this week. She is a godly, sweet, hard working member of our church family, involved in Bible Studies and serving on committees. She sings in the choir and is someone who radiates God’s love. We might think she doesn’t deserve the struggle ahead. I think she’d tell us we would be wrong to think that.

She deserves much worse. And so do I. So do you.

I for one am glad we don’t get what we deserve in this lifetime. Because we all have sinned. We all have offended and rejected our Holy God who is very plain to tell us His standard for us is holiness. What is man, dear God, that you would even give us a thought? We are broken and disobedient and self-centered. We deserve your anger.

But Psalm 145:8 tells us:

God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

One day we will get what we deserve, but don’t start keeping score in this lifetime. One day I, and my friend, will face God wearing the holiness of Jesus because we have accepted what Jesus did on the cross to save us. Our sins, though they are many, are forgiven by God and He won’t remember them ever again. On that day, we will get what Jesus deserves: our presence with Him forever in paradise.

But some of you will also get what you deserve as a result of rejecting what Jesus did. Try standing before a Holy Judge and rationalizing your sin. It can’t be done. And your “goodness” won’t come close to meeting His standard of holiness. The consequences you receive will be what you deserve, and it’ll be worse than you can imagine.

While you are living this life on planet Earth, be thankful we have a compassionate God who is not wanting you or anyone to face Him on their own. He wants you to accept the forgiveness that is yours through His Son, if you’ll just turn from your sin and live for Him.

Oh, you might get a cancer diagnosis. You might face loss and hardship. Some good people struggle, and some good people don’t. Some wicked people struggle, and some wicked people don’t. But it’s not a matter of fairness.

It’s a matter of grace. It’s a matter of a God who is slow to anger, and loves you with a steadfast love.

Do the wicked prosper? Some perhaps, according to the world’s standard. But this life isn’t the end. And the prosperity they enjoy here will not go with them when they die.

Don’t compare your bank account with someone else’s, or your health against another’s. Are you God’s child through the blood of Jesus? That’s the only question that really matters. And God is faithful to forgive anyone who comes to Him in repentance.

That’s what’s fair.

(Isaiah 9-12) That’s Fair

God is fair. He is patient and loving. He calls us to Himself and blesses us when we obey.

God is demanding. He will accept nothing short of complete obedience and holiness. And just like He blesses us when we obey, He punishes us when we disobey.

That doesn’t make Him unfair. In fact, the accepted belief today is what is unfair:

“What’s right for me doesn’t have to be right for you.”
“All roads lead to God.”
“I am master of my life and you are the master of yours.”
“I come first, and what I want trumps what you want.”
“Good people should go to heaven and bad people should go to hell. (But my definition of good and bad doesn’t have to be the same as your definition of good and bad).”

God has set the bar pretty hight – holiness. Then He inspired men to define His holiness so there would be no question as to what He demands. He was fair enough to also tell us in no uncertain terms the results of our obedience, and the punishment of our disobedience. We have no excuse. We don’t have to suppose, or learn by trial and error. God put the rules in place before we were born.

I played pickle ball for the first time this week. Even before I hit a ball, my sister went over the rules, pointed out the boundaries, explained the serve, and how to keep score. Even before I hit a ball, I knew what was required to play the game.

Now, had she handed me a paddle and served a ball to me and expected me to figure out the rules on my own while we played and kept score – that wouldn’t have been fair, would it?

Or if she had made up her own rules while we played, changed them with each serve so she’d have an advantage, and expected me to make up my own rules at the same time, would that have been fair?

Believe me, if I could have I would have made the serving area much bigger on her side of the net. But that wouldn’t have been fair.

You might not like God’s rules. Too bad. You aren’t going to change them, making up your own rules won’t work. He is very clear about that.

And that’s fair.

(Psalm 93) Adorning the Temple

Our God reigns! He sits on His eternal throne and has absolute rule over His creation. There may be powers that would destroy what God has so lovingly and purposefully made, but God is greater than the enemy of us all.

We can put our confidence in our Eternal King because all He has said is true and completely reliable. What an incredible gift is His Word in print. We can know Him, hear Him, recognize His hand in our lives by spending time in the Bible.

We have reason to praise and worship God!

I have shared that our church fellowship is in the middle of a building project. For years we have met in the basement of a commercial building, but we are hopefully going to move to the north end of this island and occupy a brand new building with classrooms and our own parking lot before the end of this year. God is doing amazing things in and through this journey.

Warren Wiersbe said something in regard to verse 5 of this Psalm in his “Be Exultant” study (David C Cook Publisher, 2004, page 32) that I think could be engraved into the foundation of our new building if the cement wasn’t already dried:

“It is a holy people that makes the temple holy, and ‘the beauty of holiness’ (29:2) is the greatest adornment for any structure dedicated to the Lord.”

We, of course, want our new structure to be pleasing to our Lord. We want what happens inside those walls to matter for eternity. We pray that it will be a tool God uses to reach the lost. But the psalmist (and Wiersbe) reminds me it’s not about the building.

It’s about holy people. Not busy people. Not even worshiping people, or a people with great outreach programs.

Holy people are what makes the temple beautiful in God’s eye; people who have repented of sin and obey God from clean hearts and minds. Holy people, not just good people.

My prayer is that as we worship and praise our Eternal King, whether in the basement or sitting inside a structure smelling of cut wood and new paint, we will each of us be that holy person who adorns the building. I pray that our focus won’t be on the new church or even in the worship and programs inside, but on God alone from clean hearts: a holy people unto the Lord.

If holy people are what makes the temple beautiful in God’s eye, may it be true in the “temple” which will be Frederica Baptist Church on Saint Simons Island. Starting with me.

(Nehemiah 9-13) Spiritual Integrity

Regarding Nehemiah’s harsh treatment of foreigners and sinners, the commentator in my Apologetics Study Bible used the words, “spiritual integrity.” In order to protect the holiness of God’s people, their spiritual integrity if you will, Nehemiah expelled those who didn’t worship God in truth. He kicked them out, and not all that gently, either.

Nehemiah knew the “negative spiritual ramifications” of accepting non-believers into the family of God. I don’t think we understand those spiritual ramifications today.

Even our pastors encourage us to bring sinners into God’s house. Worship leaders use Bethel and Hillsong music, inviting false teaching into our fellowship. We try so hard to look like our unsaved neighbors we no longer stand as a beacon in a dark world.

What are the negative spiritual ramification? Too many of us, too many of our churches, have lost our spiritual integrity. And you know something that makes me sad about that? Some of you will say that’s a good thing.