Tag Archive | Holiness

Looking to Jesus

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Fixing one’s eyes on Jesus is easier said than done. Life is distracting. We have responsibilities. We have commitments. We have hopes and dreams, hobbies and interests–what does it look like to focus one’s eyes on Christ?

Meditation on God’s word is a gigantic part of it. Constant, consistent prayer is a large part of it too. But before you quit your job and join a monastery, remember that God is with us always. We don’t have to isolate ourselves from normal everyday life to focus on Him. As He said to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

God is always near. God is always present. God is always listening. God is always actively involved in every aspect of our lives. Acknowledging this fact, rejoicing in this fact, and taking advantage of our right-relationship with Him by consulting Him in prayer and filling our minds with His perfect Word–this is the walk of the Christian who is looking to Jesus, fixing his eyes on the love and grace of his Savior. And everywhere you turn in scripture, it can’t be ignored that focusing ourselves on God involves turning away from evil.

Lord, fill us with the knowledge of your love which surpasses all understanding and help us turn our eyes and hearts to you completely!

  • “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7).

  • “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:1-5).

  • “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:19-23)

The Love of God vs. the Love of the World

1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Do not love the world

After coming to Christ the Christian becomes increasingly weary of this world. He finds himself despising the flesh. He abhors the depravity he sees in himself. The lusts of the flesh agitate him. The evil he sees in and around him “torments his righteous soul” (2 Peter 2:8). I know this because all Christians have been given the Holy Spirit. If the Christian could love the world–if he could get comfortable here and never long for a better country–God’s love would not be in him at all. But it is, and so he struggles.

  • Galatians 5:17; For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
  • Romans 7:15-25; I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

The love of the Father

The Christian wrestles internally because the love of the Father is in him. He has been born of God. His flesh is altogether evil and his spirit is altogether righteous. The two cannot, and will never, coexist in peace.

He is God’s child now. He cannot love the world. It’s foreign to him. His citizenship is in heaven.

So if you are a Christian, don’t even try to love the world. It will only make the battle more intense. Stop investing in it. Seek the things which are above.

  • Colossians 3:1-4; If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
  • Philippians 3:20-21; Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

The world is passing away

This life is excruciatingly short. “You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes;” James 4:14. So instead of loving this world, love the life to come. If you have Christ, you have eternal life. Make that your joy. Make Him your love. Make your desire to do His will while you are here. Not because you fear damnation but because you joy in salvation–the eternal life He has freely given to you.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:1-9; We know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Donning the Proper Attire

1 Peter 3:3-6

“Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear– but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”

Though this text is specifically addressed to women, I don’t think it would be a stretch to apply it to all Christians. Submissiveness to authority, quietness, gentleness, humility, trust in God–all these things are befitting and proper for any Christian.

All of us know the feeling of wanting to look our best. We all know what it’s like to look in the mirror–and look again–and wonder how people perceive us. Are these clothes out-of-date? Does my hair look alright? Should I trim my nose hair or can I get by another day or two?

Our looks are important to us, and to some degree, that’s okay–we should care about our physical appearance. But much more important is the adorning of our heart. The beauty of a gentle heart, a quiet spirit–a person who is submissive, humble, and trusts the Lord–is imperishable. Outward physical beauty fades away, but inward beauty lasts eternally.

So let us ask the Lord who dwells in our hearts to continue working through us. Let us ask Him to produce the fruits of His Spirit through us so that by being properly adorned inwardly we may win souls through our outward conduct. People will see the Light of the World shining through us, His gospel clothing us, and Jesus will draw all men to Himself.

  • Titus 2:9-14; “Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
  • 1 Peter 2:11-12; “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
  • Philippians 2:12-16; “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”
  • Matthew 5:16; “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Walking by the Spirit

Galatians 5:25

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”

We live by the Spirit

It is the Holy Spirit that has given us life. When we first believed in God through Christ, we passed from death into life. The power that raised us up is the Holy Spirit.

  • John 6:63; “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
  • John 1:12-13; “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
  • Romans 8:11; “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

Let us also walk by the Spirit

The Spirit is the means by which we became alive. Let it also be the means by which we live and walk. We received the Spirit by faith, let us also walk in Him by faith.

Walking by the Spirit isn’t referring to proximity like walking near the Spirit. It means that we walk in the power of the Spirit just as we were born again by the power of the Spirit. If it is in the same way, let us remember how we were born again. Was it a result of our effort? Or, was it by simply believing?

  • Galatians 3:1; “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith–just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’?”
  • Romans 1:17; “The righteous shall live by faith.”
  • Colossians 2:6-7; “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

The Proper Mindset

Colossians 3:1-3

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Seek the things that are above

In the Greek text, to seek means specifically to worship. It can also be translated as to go about, desire, endeavor, or inquire. I’ll paraphrase further it as to be occupied with.

Chapter two ends with an exhortation to quit trying to make ourselves righteous by setting up rules, neglecting our bodies, and performing self-made religious duties in false humility. Paul says, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom…but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” They make you look spiritual but can’t really help you overcome sin.

Therefore, in the endeavor to live a holy life, instead of focusing on our body and on sin itself, seek those things which are above; specifically, seek God through Christ. Worship Him. Pray to Him. Read His word. Commune with Him. Be occupied with Him.

He is your life.

In this way your life will be purified. As you set your desires toward Him, as you devote yourself to Him, as you look to Him, He transforms you by His Spirit into His image.

  • 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Doing God’s Will Through God’s Empowering

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

This is the will of God

Usually when I consider God’s will for my life, I am more apt to think in terms of the course I should take. Where should I go? What should I do? However, the more I read the scriptures I am becoming persuaded that, though God does provide guidance and direction for our life’s path, He is much more concerned with our conduct. Instead of asking where I should go, I should be asking how should I conduct myself wherever I am.

I cannot open my bible and defend my course of life. I can not say for sure that God wants me to be working where I work or living where I live. I can, however, open my bible and tell you exactly what God’s will is for me as concerns my conduct. According to the passage before us, I know without a doubt: “this is he will of God, your sanctification.”

  • 1 Corinthians 6:18-20; “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
  • Romans 6:12-14; “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
  • 1 Peter 2:11-12; “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

Who gives his Holy Spirit to you

You’ve probably heard the adage: “When the Lord guides, He provides.” Another saying that’s similar is: “The Lord’s commandments are His enablements.” This is never so true as when said in context of our sanctification. He reveals His will to us: I want you to live a holy life. He provides the means: the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit we are both born-again and sustained through life.

  • 2 Peter 1:3; “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”
  • Philippians 2:13; “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
  • Hebrews 13:20-21; “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.”
  • Galatians 5:22-25; “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
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