Tuesday, February 12, 2008

THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS
...does the Holy Spirit have a monopoly in our lives?



Holiness.  I struggle with this everyday... do you too?  It is far too easy to utter the words, "Jesus is my First Love," but oh how hard it is to actually live that out in the midst of the world we move in and out of everyday.  I am utterly convinced, that we as Christians (parents as well as children) to live this life of holiness takes nothing less than His abundant sanctifying grace to equip us for such a thing (Titus 2:12). For in and of our own strength we will fall dramatically short.


The two songs above really sum up the desperateness and desire of my heart today and I hope they will be an encouragement to you too.  "Pledge My Head to Heaven" was written by my dear late friend, Keith Green, who understood this tension in his own life very well.  In short, our daily walk in Christ is what my friend Jerry Bridges calls, "The Pursuit of Holiness"  (cp Eph. 4-6).

As I thought about what to write concerning this weighty theme, I could only think of focusing our thoughts on God alone.  Let's face it, to focus on ourselves is an exercise in futility.  Like it was with Peter so it will be with us.  When we take our eyes off of the Lord we sink into the depths of the turbulent sea below, gasping for air and struggling just to stay afloat. Left to ourselves to live the Christian life we end up drowning in our depravity, despair, and discouragement.  

There is no twelve step program to holiness beloved - no shortcuts prescribed. It is a daily crucible of grace that burns away the dross from our lives and leaves the metal more pure.  Happiness is convenient; but holiness costs.  For most of us it is the constant reality of our struggle with sin can be pictured by saying "one step up and two steps back."  One thing is for certain though (if we are painfully honest)on our best days, we are all "strangers to holiness."  Even as regenerated people, we are new creations incarcerated in unredeemed flesh (Roms. 6-7).  And there lies the battle this side of heaven for each of us: "The thing I want to do, I don't do; and the thing I don't want to do, I do.  O wretched man am I."

But praise be to God that as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:9-13), we do have hope, forgiveness, victory, and assurance in the Lord don't we.  As Charles Spurgeon one time said, "our finite sin can never exhaust His infinite grace." IOW,  He's a greater Savior than we are sinners; and it is there that we must take our refuge and rest (Roms. 5:8-10).   

So let us press on again today in the midst of our struggles, shortcomings, disappointments, and failures.  And may we, by His grace, treasure Him above all things.  To love the Lord our God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, and with all of our strength -- and in turn, to love our neighbor as ourself.

From the bumps in the narrow road...
Steve
Romans 5:2


Because He is God, He must be reckoned with. Because He is God, He must not be trifled with. Because He is God, we must love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength-and love our neighbor as ourselves. Because He is God, we ought to worship Him in spirit and truth. Because He is God, we esteem Him with an undivided heart as First Love. Because He is God, we must approach Him clothed in contrition and we tremble at His Word. Because He is God, we give Him the preeminence in all things.


Is. 6:1-5 "In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”


Because He is God, he has given us His grace instead of His wrath; His love instead of His enmity; His mercy instead of His justice; joy unspeakable in glory instead of torment in hell for perpetuity. Because He is God, I have no right to myself. Because He is God, I must walk in love, and love others, as Christ loved me and gave Himself for me. Because He is God, I must be willing to forgive as God in Christ has forgiven me. Because He is God, we love the brethren. Because He is God, I cannot harbor anger, wrath, clamor, bitterness, and malice in my heart toward another. Because He is God, I must turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and give someone my cloak if they want my coat too. Because He is God, I must be willing to suffer the loss of all things, to gain everything. Because He is God, I can rest in the surety that He is orchestrating all things for our good and His glory. Because He is God, I cannot repay evil for evil, wrong for wrong, hurt for hurt. Because He is God, we may rejoice when our hearts are breaking and our world has been shaken. Because He is God, our trials are blessings-invited guests and not strangers.


Rev. 1:12-18 Then I turned to see the voice
that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw
seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the
lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe
and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white,
like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire,
his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace,
and his voice was like the roar of many waters.
In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth
came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like
the sun shining in full strength.


When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.
But he laid his right hand on me, saying,
“Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one.
I died, and behold I am alive forevermore,
and I have the keys of Death and Hades.



Because He is God, we keep our vows to our spouse even when he or she seems unlovable, unapproachable, unteachable, or uncaring. Because He is God, we train our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Because He is God, we cannot take another to court and sue for reparations. Because He is God, we have the right to be wronged. Because He is God, we love His Word more than daily food. Because He is God, pastors should preach the Word of God instead of being clever raconteurs. Because He is God, the church must discipline sin and not wink at it. Because He is God, I cannot cherish my sin, but must daily repent of it. Because He is God, I've made a covenant with my eyes. Because He is God, I must guard my heart. Because He is God, I must not be motivated by mans applause, but by His "well done." Because He is God, we cannot become unequally yoked with an unbeliever in any spiritual ministry or enterprise. Because He is God, all our possessions are for the Master's use-they are not ours; they belong to Him. Because He is God, we must deny ourselves, daily take up our cross and follow Him.


Col. 1:15-20 He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created,
in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—
all things were created through him and for him.
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in everything he might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
making peace by the blood of his cross.



To do all to His glory, according to His divine purpose, under the authority of His Word, to seek His will more than earthly reward, to embrace the fellowship of His sufferings rather than the pleasures of this world even for a season, to live self-sacrificially in unreciprocated love and service to others-to do all this for no other reason than… because He is God!

16 comments:

mrclm said...

Steve,
What a fantastic God honoring and glorifying post! Thank you for sharing this with us. The Truths are all there, staring us in the face, comforting, compelling and convicting us. God's glory should be seared into our souls, eminating from all we do, and all to often we settle for lukewarm. Praise and honor and glory be HIS!

Big Chris
Because I said so blog
mrclm.blogspot.com

Bhedr said...

Good Stuff! Thou writeth as if some one more powerful than thee holdeth thy quill. Glory to God alone.

2Tal said...

In the "God" and "man" proper relationship, one would think we should be trying to get on God's page and not visa versa.

Thank you Steve. We need the reminder.

ephphatha said...

This would make a good song. It's full of repetition, and yet it's compelling, just like a good song should be.

~Mark said...

Hard to say anything to a post like this but...AMEN!!

Shawn L said...

Amen! May God use this to His glory!

Efrayim said...

It is interesting to note that the first commandment is:

"I Am YHVH your Elohim who brought you up from the abode of slavery."

At first it doesn't seem like a commandment at all. But a portion of this Word is repeated throughout the Torah after most of the instructions.

Such as: Lev 19:14 "'You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind; but you shall fear your Elohim. I am YHVH your Elohim."

The truths you have proclaimed are rooted in the covenants and shall remain forever.

Shalom

Detoured By Travel said...

"When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead..."

Leonard Ravenhill used to say that if John, who had laid his head on Jesus' breast and heard His divine heartbeat, that when John saw Jesus in Heaven in His glorified state...if he feel at His feet as though dead..what will we do? What will all the world do when God empties out history before everyone who ever lived from all the ages?

Where will I stand? It is a question I must remember whenever I approach His throne or make any decision.

Steve - thanks for this...and for the Keith Green cover. I was listening to it not long ago. The first time I heard it, my son was a baby. He'll be 24 in May of this year. I sang it thankfully then and meant it with all my heart...just as I did again today. Blessings on you and your ministry here.

rosemarie said...

There appears to be a theme that our God is driving home to me. Ever have a period of time where everything you read or hear centers on the same topic? Sometimes I am as sharp as a bowling ball, but I am seeing a pattern and I am paying attention. Thanks, Steve. You've been a tool in His hands.

Shawn said...

Thank you Steve. I have sent this out to all of my friends. Some great scriptures.

I recently have been reading Valley of Vision as they are helpful prayers to pray in the midst our struggles with holiness. It is truly by His Grace alone that we live in Holiness.

In Christ,
Shawn

SJ Camp said...

Thank you all for your kind words of encouragement on this theme of holiness.

I also like very much The Valley of Vision. Powerful convicting prayers of a people that really knew how to walk with the Lord.

Though none of us have arrived at this in our lives, may we cheer each other on to love and good works; and chiefly to be holy as He is holy, by the grace of our God.

Keep on,
Campi
Isaiah 40

Christinewjc said...

Dear Steve,

Great post...as always! People need to be reminded daily to pursue holiness in their lives.

Jesus both encouraged us, and admonished us to "be holy; just as my Father in heaven is holy."

I have enjoyed reading your blog ever since I discovered it during the 2007 Weblog Awards voting.

Today, I want to present you with another award:
The Thinking Blogger Award!

Congratulations, and thank you for being such a wonderful, encouraging, Scripturally sound Christian voice and apologist for the truth found in God's Word!

An admiring Christian blogger,
Christine

Debbie said...

To be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), “I press on toward the goal for the prize…” (Phil. 3:14) Though progress can seem slow and difficult, I’ve been reminded several times this week that an inch long but a mile deep beats the other way around. When we are being hammered, to be found still standing firm (Ephesians 6:13) is indicative of something deeper He is doing for our good and for His glory. I find that so encouraging.

Katherine said...

what a blessing and encouragement. thank you so much.

littlegal_66 said...

I've been greatly encouraged by your emphasis on our day-by-day journey this week:

"It is a daily crucible of grace that burns away the dross from our lives and leaves the metal more pure. Because He is God, we must deny ourselves, daily take up our cross and follow Him. Because He is God, I cannot cherish my sin, but must daily repent of it."

And of course, the previous post on "our constant need for daily repentance."

It is a never-ending, every-day proposition, (even when we sometimes grow weary in the walk) but when we consider the glory that is waiting for us.......

Spurgeon had enriching thoughts on this as well, (with a reference to Pilgrim's Progress); I wasn't sure which thread I should post this to:

"Repentance is the daily and hourly duty of a man who believes in Christ; and as we walk by faith from the wicket gate to the celestial city, so our right-hand companion all the journey through must be repentance. Why, dear friend, the Christian man, after he is saved, repents more than he ever did before, for now he repents not merely of overt deeds, but even of imaginations."

Very convicting....

Michele Rayburn said...

Hi Steve,

I'm not sure if you read my comments on "Your Weekly Dose of Gospel: The Pulpit Matters..." but you did touch on one main point that I made about what to do about sin, and that was to focus on the Lord instead of on our sin. I'll just re-cap what I said there:

----------------------------------

Galatians 5:16 says:

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh."

Colossians 3:1-11:

"Therefore if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is...not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God..."

And Isaiah says:

"You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You." (Isaiah 26:3)

I like to paraphrase it by saying that God didn't say to keep your mind stayed on sin. He said to keep your mind stayed on Him!

The biggest problem with sin in the Church is that too many of us do not know who we are, so we don't know how to be. And until we do learn who we are (in Christ), and how to be (in the Spirit), we will not be able to control what we do, because that control can only come from God's Spirit, not by "the will of man".

As we learn who we are in Christ, and how to be, and our focus is on Him, He will control our sin, by His Spirit, and in His time...

-----------------------------------

I think this all bears repeating because it seems that the Church is obsessed with sin, instead of being "obsessed with Him".

On a separate note, where you say "Because He is God...I must", try saying to yourself in place of those phrases each time: "Because I love the Lord...I will".

I think that to say "I must" could in some ways suggest a legalistic compulsion to serve the Lord. But to say "I will" reflects a changed heart that is no longer under the law, and therefore no longer under compulsion, but now serves the Lord out of love for Him.

If we are born of His Spirit and led by His Spirit, it will no longer be a matter of "must" but it will now be because of a new desire, a joyful willingness to please the Lord because we love Him.

In His Love,
Michele