Tag Archives: sanctification

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.

August 6; Malleable

Jeremiah 14:1-15:9, 18:1-9:13, 24:1-10

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be malleable clay in the hands of a potter? Those hands pushing and stretching, applying pressure both firm and gentle, shaping and re-shaping toward a finished product only his mind can see?

Sometimes, if there is an imperfection, the potter might take the clay back to a formless clump by squeezing the clay between the palms of his hands. Then, once any trace of the imperfection is gone, the process begins again. The hands begin to knead, the wheel begins to spin, the fingers begin to work, and at just the right moment, a perfect form begins to appear, carefully fashioned by the potter’s hands.

Jeremiah is speaking to dry clay, hardened by drought, that would only break into pieces when the potter tries to form something beautiful. A clump of dry clay is fairly useless on a potter’s wheel.

But the potter, by adding just enough water to that dry clump, can restore it to a pliable form. Oh, it takes some strong hands to work that water through the crusty clay, to break it down, to soften it. But a skilled potter can restore that parched piece of clay, then form it into a beautiful, useful piece of pottery, that he can be proud of.

I want to be that malleable piece of clay in the hands of The Potter, the Creator God. I don’t want there to be any signs of dryness or imperfection, so that He can make me into something beautiful and useful for His purposes.

So I will continue to spend time in God’s Word every day. I’ll continue to let those Words apply pressure, push and stretch me. Because at the end of the day, at the end of my life, I want to look into the eyes of the Potter and see His approval as He looks at the woman He has fashioned from malleable clay.

 

March 29; What’s Stopping You?

Joshua 16:1-19:31; I Chronicles 4:24-33

The Israelites had crossed the Jordan and entered the Promised Land. For some, that was enough. I find it interesting, and a bit sad, that only five of the twelve tribes got busy to take what was their’s. The other seven tribes, for whatever reason, seem to be satisfied with where they were.

Some of Joseph’s descendants complained they’d have to cut down some trees to occupy their portion, and expressed fear concerning the strength of the enemy they’d need to conquer. Joshua, in reply kind of said, “Get over yourselves.”

Some of the other tribes needed Joshua to come up with a detailed plan before they followed through.

So, considering your own spiritual Promised Land, which tribe do you most identify with? Are you one who dives in, who is always learning, and growing, and serving our great God? Is your walk with the Lord everything He wants it to be as you move ahead in faith and defeat the enemy that would prevent you from enjoying God in your life to the fullest?

Do you seem to be more like the tribes who didn’t move ahead, seemingly unsure of what to do, or content with the status quo?

Or maybe you, like Joseph’s clan see the enemy and think it’s too hard to step out in faith, to do the work required to gain the land? Does the thought of disciplining yourself to be in God’s Word every day, to live a life set apart, to resist sin, to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus just too hard?

As a child of God through the blood of Jesus, God wants you to live a vital, blessed, life with Him at the center. It doesn’t just happen. You can live on the outskirts, missing out on the benefits of an active relationship with Him. But He promises to be with you, to guide you, to be your friend and advocate. God wants to bless you with Himself.

What’s stopping you?

 

2 Kings 17-20; Cleaning House

When Hezekiah became king he did some housecleaning. He removed the idols the Jews had been worshiping, including the bronze serpent Moses had made while their ancestors were in the wilderness. Hezekiah didn’t want any trace of any false god in the land.

I never really thought about what that must have looked like to the neighboring nations. They were used to worshiping their “gods” at high places that were everywhere. Now here the Jews were demolishing their high places and limiting themselves to worship only one God, and only in one place. Ridiculous.

The Assyrian king interpreted this as vulnerability (chapter 18), and decided it gave him the means to defeat the Jewish nation. He didn’t understand the action taken by the Jews, because he was interpreting it though blind eyes.

The world is still judging God’s people through blind eyes. They see us obeying God as being judgmental, because they are judgmental. They see our stand against homosexuality as hateful because they are hateful. They see hypocrisy in us because they are hypocritical.

Christian, that’s why we have got to show them through our witness, both verbal and life-style, that they are wrong about us. If we hate homosexuals instead of loving them while hating the sin, we prove them right. If our language is as judgmental as theirs, they are right to call us judgmental. If our lifestyle doesn’t match our profession of faith, we deserve the label hypocrite.

When the Assyrian king tried to bully the Jews into surrender, they didn’t get caught up in a war of words. They didn’t return insult for insult. They kept their mouths shut. Then Hezekiah went to the Lord and allowed God to do His thing.

Non-Christians will continue to misunderstand us Christians until they become believers themselves. May we, as followers of the One True God, remove any visible signs of conformity to the world. May we worship God in Spirit and in Truth, and allow Him to do His thing in and through us. May we love people to the Savior at the same time we are standing on the Truth of Scripture.

In other words, may we do some spiritual housecleaning, and let God remove the world from us, so that the world can see Jesus through us.

Genesis 12&13 – Possess It

If God gave Abram the land, why haven’t they always lived there? Does this prove Scripture can’t be trusted? God even said He was giving Abram the land forever. Is God unable to keep His promises?

Did God fail? The failure lies right smack dab in the lap of His people. God may have given them the land, but they failed to possess it. They got side tracked. They deserted God and worshiped idols. The land was their’s forever, if they’d possess it. But they didn’t possess it.

I see a New Testament parallel here. It’s salvation, bought by Jesus’ blood, a gift we all have at our fingertips. But we need to possess it. God didn’t hold His people captive in Canaan. And He doesn’t force us to accept His grace. Just like the Jews, we have to defeat the enemy, clear the land, till the soil, repent, flee the devil, grow in grace, put on that armor of God.

Then we can live forever in the land.

September 28 – A Worthless Pledge

Nehemiah 6-10

The school where I was guidance counselor celebrated Red Ribbon Week each year. I always tried to make the emphasis fun, informative, and challenging. We’d ask students and staff to take a pledge to be drug-free. They’d sign a banner or a poster, then receive a red ribbon they would wear to show evidence of their pledge.

Student leaders were in charge of sitting at tables in the hallway and asking kids to sign the pledge and receive their ribbons. I’d often have them perform skits or share information during our morning announcements about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. We’d have contests, and try to make it cool to be drug-free.

Years later, I got a call from a young woman who had been one of my student leaders while she was in Middle School. She had recently asked Jesus into her life, and felt the need to confess some past sins to people she felt she had hurt. She told me that she had started using drugs in Middle School, that while she had been one of the more vocal advocates of a drug-free lifestyle, she had been using. She’d signed the pledge every year. She just didn’t keep her pledge and wanted to apologize for lying to me.

I read the list of names of the men who signed a pledge to obey God (Nehemiah 10) and wondered how many of them were able to keep their promises once the ink dried on the paper. Did they sign it like my young friend, not intending to keep their word, but because it seemed like the acceptable thing to do? Or did they sign it with good intentions, only later discovering they couldn’t hold to it? We know the Jewish nation failed in their attempt to obey God. Did any of those men succeed?

Sometimes I think we Christians are guilty of trying to get people to say the right words, raise a hand or kneel at an altar, or promising to change, then we walk away and assume we’ve done our part. But salvation isn’t a name on a ledger. Salvation isn’t even a promise to quit sinning. It isn’t church attendance, or praying for a meal at the restaurant.

The New Testament tells us we can recognize Believers by their fruit, their love for one another. The test isn’t church membership. It’s a life that look’s like Jesus’ life. It’s a person who thinks more highly of others than himself. It’s a heart that belongs to the Savior because that person has asked Jesus to forgive them.

I wish I had paid more attention to that young Middle School girl. Maybe I could have recognized the signs of drug abuse in her. I think because she said what I wanted to hear, I figured she was ok. She wasn’t.

Do you know a person who is young in their faith? Get to know them better. Nurture them. Hold them accountable out of love. Don’t assume because they went forward last Sunday that they will be ok. Those of us who have walked with God for a while now know that accepting Jesus is the first of many steps in this Christian life.

Walk with someone today who is learning to use their faith-legs. Your interest might be exactly what they need to help them keep the promises they’ve made to the Lord.