Exalting God, Edifying Believers, Evangelizing the Lost

The Goal of Holiness

The goal of holiness to many Christians ends up being a subjective issue that depends upon each person’s preferences and opinions.

But if we use God’s definition, there really is nothing subjective about it.  2 Peter 1:5-8 defines the process and goal of holiness:

“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.  For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In these verses, we see a progression of growth as the characteristics of Jesus Christ are added to our lives.  It starts with simple faith and grows in maturity until we finally reach unselfish sacrificial love. Those are not human attributes; they are the attributes of God.

Peter also says that as God’s characteristics grow in us, then He will be able to use us for His purpose—we will not be “barren or unfruitful.”

Our ultimate goal is to glorify God in everything we do, and the only way that can happen is when people see God in us instead of us.  God wants people to see His character, not our own. That is the goal of holiness.

So really, becoming holy as God has called us to be holy just requires us to let God take out of us everything that is us, and let Him put in us everything that is Him.

The Purpose for Pain

Why pain and suffering exist is a question that has been asked by many throughout history. “If God truly loves us, why would He allow us to suffer?” That is a question even true believers ask, because we struggle and suffer in this world, many times through no fault of our own.

In 1 Peter 4:13, we are told,

“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

Suffering either reveals the character of Christ within us, or it reveals our own selfish heart. If we can rejoice in God’s work being accomplished in us through suffering, then we demonstrate our true faith in God. But if we complain and doubt God’s goodness, then it reveals in us a faithless heart.

C.S. Lewis alludes to this truth in his book, The Problem of Pain: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains:  it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world…. No doubt pain as God’s megaphone is a terrible instrument; it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion.  But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment.  It removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.”

What has your suffering revealed about you? Are you rejoicing in God’s work, or are you complaining in your own selfishness and unbelief?

The Light of the World

In John 9:5, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.”  Yet in Matthew 5:14, Jesus says to his followers, “Ye are the light of the world.” Is this a contradiction? Who really is the light of the world—us or Jesus?

The answer is both, and it is explained in Genesis 1.

On the fourth day of Creation week, God made the sun, moon and stars.  Genesis 1:16 tells us that God made two great lights:

the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.”

We know them as the sun and the moon. We also know that the moon doesn’t give off its own light, but only reflects the light from the sun to give us some illumination during the night time.

That is exactly what Jesus meant when He said that we were the light of the world.  We are not giving off our own light, but merely reflecting the light of Christ in our lives so that others may see His truth.

And that is exactly what 1 Corinthians 10:31 means when it says that we are to “do all to the glory of God.” 

The light that we give off as Christians is really the glory of God’s character being reflected in how we live in obedience to His Spirit.  When we love others, we are literally pointing others to the source of that love.  When we have peace in trying circumstances, we reflect the source of that peace to others. When we are longsuffering with those that revile us and persecute us, we reveal the nature of the One who suffered most at the hand of His enemies.

So giving glory to God is nothing more than letting His light be reflected in our lives.  We are merely a moon; He is the sun.

The Worth of Your Life

In Luke 17:33, Jesus said,

“Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”

Our lives really are not worth much unless we are living to fulfill God’s purpose for us. But all too often, Christians do everything they can to preserve the life of comfort and prosperity that they have built for themselves.

In Romans 12:1, Paul tells us that we are to “present our bodies a living sacrifice.” That means that we should be willing to give up whatever we want our lives to be so that God can use us in whatever way He wants.

But how many Christians really are willing to live that way?

On January 8, 1956, while attempting to make contact with the people of the Auca/Waodani Indians in Ecuador, Jim Elliott and four other missionaries were speared to death by the very people they came to minister to. Elliot’s most famous words were written in a journal six years earlier: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”

His wife embodied the same attitude—several years later, she left her life in the United States and moved to Ecuador to minister with her young daughter to the same people that had killed her husband.

Jim Elliot’s life was not a waste. God used his death to pave the way for his wife to bring the gospel to a lost tribe of Indians. Through her ministry, almost the entire tribe came to Christ.

You will never know what God can accomplish through your life until you are willing to give it up for Him.

Guilty of Idolatry?

Are you guilty of idolatry?

If you are a true follower of Christ, I hope your answer would be “no.” But just because you do not have statues to false gods in your house or pray to false gods doesn’t automatically make you free from idolatry.

An idol does not have to be a statue or image. It can be anything that usurps the priority of God in your life. In other words, anything that would cause you to neglect your regular daily interaction with God through prayer, Bible reading, obeying Him, and gathering with His people could be considered an idol.  That could include hobbies, sports, recreation, work, television, politics, housework, homework, friends, family, food, or even sleep.

Anything that we use as an excuse for not doing what we know we should be doing in building our relationship with the Lord has become an idol, no matter how important we may think it is.

In 1 Corinthians 10:14, the Apostle Paul gives a very simple, but very necessary command:

“Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.”

He is not saying that we cannot do any of the things that may become idols in our lives. But what he is saying is that we must constantly be on the lookout for things in our lives that cause us to put God in second place.  And what we must run from are the excuses that we make in order to justify our idolatry.

Admit that you have let idols into your life, run back to God in repentance, and make Him your first love again. That is the best way to avoid being guilty of idolatry.

What Does Your Holiness Look Like?

What does your version of Christianity look like?

That might seem like an odd question to be asked, but I think it is an important question that we all need to answer. Why? Because the lives of so many people who call themselves believers look so different from each other, and especially different from Jesus Christ.

Now that wouldn’t be a problem if it was just that we are different people with different gifts and abilities and interests, but because there are so many different versions of “holiness” being displayed, it IS a problem.

Just about every believer knows the command in 1 Peter 1:16–

“Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

The problem is that many do not know what God’s definition of holiness is, and many don’t really want to know, because it would mean they would have to change how they live.

What we have ended up with is a mish-mash of “Christianity on my own terms” being lived out by self-professing believers. We present to the world a completely broken picture of Christ that looks more like the world than like what God calls holiness.

What makes God holy is that He is perfect in every way, which also makes Him completely different from a sinful world.

So, as children of God, which should we look like more: God or the world?

A desire for true holiness is what distinguishes between those who love God and those who love the world.

Faithful or Fearful?

In March of this year, a Finnish lawmaker was charged with a hate crime for publishing a picture of her Bible opened to Romans 1:24-27, which condemns homosexuality as a sin.  It was just a photo, nothing else, yet that was considered a crime in Finland.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States held that same-sex couples could not be excluded from the fundamental right to marry.

Preaching the truth of Scripture is a crime in some countries and may become a crime in our country, as well. In some countries, it is a crime just to BE a Christian and they are being imprisoned and even killed.  It is possible that we will soon see American pastors and Christians going to jail just for believing and sharing what God says is true.

Yet, Revelation 2:10 tells us the same thing it did to believers when it was written:

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be triedbe thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Faith can be defined as submitting to God’s truth as the authority of our life. When God’s authority is challenged, the question is whether we will stand firm, trusting God to take care of us, or whether we will withdraw in fear.

Persecution is coming. When it does, will you be faithful or fearful?

Hypocrisy and Legalism

“Hypocrisy” and “legalism” are terms that we, unfortunately, hear all too frequently in Christian circles and churches.  Usually, these labels are tossed at those we disagree with or those who have offended us in some way, rather than being applied as warnings to ourselves.

Hypocrisy is defined as “a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess.” Legalism is harder to define but boils down to believing that doing good things will prove to God and others that I am a good person.

In Revelation 2:7, we are told by Christ that the church of Ephesus had a serious problem:

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

At first glance, it might not seem like that has anything to do with hypocrisy and legalism. But leaving our first love means that we no longer live out of a love for God.

If you claim to love God, but do not obey Him, then 1 John 4 says that you are a liar, or hypocrite. It also says that if you cannot obey Him in loving others consistently without partiality, then anything you do is nothing but legalism in trying to prove your alleged goodness to others and God, when you really have none.

The best way to avoid hypocrisy and legalism in our lives is really just to love God as we should, and then we can be sure that our love for others will come naturally as a fruit of God’s Spirit in us.

The God of Creation

Most of us know Genesis 1:1 –

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.

Although this is a simple statement that even young children can memorize and understand, there is significant truth communicated to us in this opening verse of the Bible.

It tells us, first of all, that there exists a God who is bigger than all creation.

It tells us that God existed before the beginning of creation, giving us a glimpse of his eternal nature.

It tells us of God’s awesome power since He is the one who created the entire universe.

As we look at God’s creation referenced in this verse, we see the order and complexity of the world and the universe around us and are reminded of God’s infinite wisdom.

Finally, every one of us is a member of God’s creation. Since we all belong to Him, we are not only under His authority but also under His care.

What a great verse that reminds us of our great God!  So the next time you stand outside and look around or look up into the sky, remember to give praise to the One Who shows Himself in all creation.

No Sin is Secret

Punishments for crime are supposed to serve as a deterrent to keep people from breaking the law. Yet, most criminals commit crimes anyway because they think they can get away with it without getting caught.

They believe that if they can gain the benefits of whatever crime they are committing without having to suffer any consequences, then there is no reason NOT to commit crime.

Unfortunately, many believers operate on this same premise.  As long as we think we can get away with sin without anyone finding out, then we are emboldened to sin.

The problem is that there is no such thing as a secret sin. Hebrews 4:13 says,

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

God sees everything, not just what we do, but also what we think.

The “little sins” that we think no one knows about—God knows. And He will not let us get away with sin if we are His children.

Not only will God expose our “secret sins,” but we will suffer his chastisement for them as well.

Remember, God said, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Would we live differently if we remembered that God is always watching?