HUNGRY FOR GOD

Bible Reading:  Psalm 84:1-12

Isaiah speaks of a longing for God [Isaiah 26:8-9]. The same longing was expressed by David in Psalm 84:2 when he wrote, “My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” [see also Psalm 42:1-2 & Psalm 63:1].

Jesus spoke about this same longing, when He said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled” [Matthew 5:6] and similarly in John 7:37 when He cried out, “Let any man who is thirsty come to me and drink.” Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit [John 7:38-39]. The hungry soul who longs for righteousness will be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Many years ago I was desperately aware of my need for something more of God than I had experienced. I went to several places and spoke with different people about this longing, but was always disappointed. I was searching for about four years until one day I heard a simple Baptist preacher speaking about Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Church – “That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” [Ephesians 3:19]. I shared with this man my longing and he agreed to meet me later that evening. When we met he gave me a word of prophecy and then told me to stay where I was until the Holy Spirit filled me. Hours went by. I stood up, knelt down, and lay down repeatedly, just waiting. Then God came. He came as a bright light and overwhelmed me with His presence. I was prostrate before Him and experienced something like liquid love just filling me in wave after wave. Later that day I heard the Holy Spirit say, “That was the easy part but now walk in the Spirit!” My life has never been the same since.

Questions:

Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest of preachers, said that the prayer that was most often on his lips was, “Create within me Lord a soul thirst for you.” Would you today ask God to give you a hunger and thirst for Him?

God has made it clear that we should seek Him but sometimes it is a real battle. What are some of the things that hinder you from seeking God?

LIVING IN THE NEW WAY OF THE SPIRIT

Bible Reading:  Romans 8:1-39

When a person becomes a Christian the Holy Spirit comes and makes His home in that person. That is the beginning of an amazing journey as we allow the Holy Spirit to have the control of our lives.

One of the most remarkable pictures in Scripture is Paul’s struggle with sin and trying to be holy as recorded in Romans chapter seven. In the following chapter we discover how he experienced victory over sin. What has made the difference between these two chapters? It is the Holy Spirit. Paul only mentioned the Holy Spirit once in chapter seven but in chapter eight the Holy Spirit is mentioned twenty-one times.

People who try to please God by obeying His law will constantly battle with sin and will fail. The one time Paul mentions the Holy Spirit in Romans chapter seven he writes, “…we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” [Romans 7:6]. Here is a major key to living a holy life – to live and walk in the Spirit. Then we will be more than conquerors [Romans 8:37].

What does it mean, “to serve in the new way of the Spirit?” It means to listen to and obey the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to obey God. Formerly we were “controlled” by our old sinful nature, but now we are to walk in the Spirit. Literally, the Holy Spirit now fills the believer with an internal desire to serve God.

God’s promise is that the Christian who walks in the Spirit will not gratify the desires of the flesh [Galatians 5:16]. The power of the Holy Spirit is available today to turn our eyes away from our own performance and toward Jesus, and in so doing enable us to live victorious and holy lives.

Question:

Do you struggle with sin and have done your best to overcome it but feel that you have failed. Would you today ask the Holy Spirit to come and give you the power to live the way that Jesus has called you to live?

Something to Do:

Read Romans chapter 8 and underline or note every time the Holy Spirit is mentioned. Then write down exactly what the passage says about the Holy Spirit.

HOLINESS AND THE HOLY SPIRIT

Bible Reading: Joshua 5:13-15; John 14:15-27

In the Book of Joshua we read that the Lord told Joshua to take off his sandal because the place where he was standing was holy [Joshua 5:13-15]. The ground in itself was not holy, so what was it that made it holy? It was the presence of God that made the ground holy. It is God’s presence in us that makes us holy.

When Jesus went back to heaven the Holy Spirit was sent to live in us and to fill us. It is His presence that makes us holy. The Holy Spirit is a beautiful Divine Person, God Himself, and He makes His home in the person who turns from their old life and sin and invites Jesus to be their Saviour. The Holy Spirit does exactly what Jesus does. Jesus said that He would send another Helper to be with us forever [John 14:16]. The word “another” in this verse is the Greek word “allos” which means “another of the same kind.” Translated literally Jesus said that He would send “one besides me, and in addition to me, but just like me” [Jack Hayford].

In His theological textbook James Boyce writes, “Since the word ‘allos’ occurs in this text, Jesus is saying that He will send the disciples a person just like himself, that is, one who is fully divine. Who is the first Counselor? Jesus. He had been the disciples’ strength and counsel during the years of his ministry among them. Now He is going away, and in His place He will be sending a second Counselor who is just like him. He will be another divine person living with them and [in this case] in them”

It is the Holy Spirit who works within us to change us and make us more like Jesus. He is the one who convicts us of sin, teaches us the truth and leads us in the way righteousness. He wants to fill every part of our life and makes us like Jesus.

Questions:

God’s presence within us makes us Holy. In what way do you experience God’s presence in your life?

The Greek word “parakletos” in John 14:16 refers to the Holy Spirit and is variously translated as Advocate, Comforter, Counselor and Helper He is all these things to God’s children. Will you call on Him today for whatever your need may be?

GOD’S WILL IS THAT WE BECOME LIKE JESUS

Bible Reading: Philippians 2:1-18

God’s word clearly tells us that it is His will that we be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus [see Romans 8:29]. God declares us to be holy but He is in the process of changing and refining us so that we become like Jesus [see 2 Corinthians 3:18]. The Apostle John says that when Jesus appears we shall be like Him [1 John 3:2].

There is a danger of placing the emphasis in being like Jesus in terms of the things he did and not in terms of His character. One of the pictures of the Holy Spirit is the dove. When Jesus was baptized the Holy Spirit came upon Him in the form of a dove. The wings of the dove are necessary to fly in a straight line and are perfectly symmetrical. One wing of the dove might be considered to represent the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the other to represent the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Both are necessary to live right and move forward in the Christian life. Not only does the Holy Spirit want to empower us to do the works of Jesus but also to form in us the character of Jesus.

A young boy was selling oranges from his barrow on the concourse of Grand Central Station in New York when the crowds of commuters getting off the trains knocked his barrow over. The oranges were rolling everywhere and no one seemed to care except for one kind man who stopped and began to pick up the oranges and place them back in the barrow. Through his tears the young boy asked, “Hey Mister, are you Jesus?”

Over the next few days we will take a look at how this transformation into the image and beauty of Jesus takes place in the life of a Christian.

A Question:

Holiness is becoming more and more like Jesus. Ask yourself the question,

“When people meet with me do they meet with someone who is increasingly like Jesus?”

Something to Pray:

Jim Elliott, the missionary martyr to Ecuador wrote in his journal, “I want to be like a signpost at a crossroads. When people meet with me they have to

make a decision.” Pray that when people who are at the crossroads of life that your life would point them in the right direction.

THE BEAUTY OF HOLINESS

Bible Reading:  Psalm 96:1-13     

In the midst of this beautiful Psalm extolling the greatness and righteousness of God our King we find a lovely phrase, “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” [verse 9 NKJV]. The same phrase is found in Psalm 29:2 and in 2 Chronicles 20:21.

In one sense these verses point particularly to the beauty of God’s holiness, but also indicate the character of holiness in general. Holiness is beautiful.

Tragically, holiness has been painted by some people as a set of negative commands to obey or a life that is devoid of fun.

Holiness is neither ugly, boring nor negative. Jesus Christ was one of the most exciting people to be with.

Many years ago I used to ride a small 75cc motorbike and used it to travel all over the country. One day everything changed – I passed my driving test and bought a car. From that day the motorbike did not come out of the shed where it was kept it until the day I sold it. Something better had come! That is how it is with holiness. We now no longer try to obey the law to make us holy because something better has come – the Holy Spirit, who lives within God’s children.

A little chorus sums up the beauty of holiness:

“Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,

 All His wonderful passion and purity;

 Oh, Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine,

 Until the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.”

That is holiness – the Holy Spirit working in our hearts to make us more like Jesus!

Question:

Have you been wounded by people who have spoken about holiness as only a negative set of rules to keep. Perhaps their lives did not match their words and you were put off from being the person God created you to be. Will you forgive those people and ask God to make you into the beautiful, holy person that God created you to be?

CLEANSE MY HEART LORD

Bible Reading: Psalm 139:1-24

I was a young Methodist Home Missions evangelist and just twenty years old. Together with two other missioners we went to a town in South Yorkshire for a ten-day mission. On the night that it was my turn to preach the church was packed.

I remember that evening so well. It would be a night when my life would be deeply challenged and changed. I remember preaching on the story of the prodigal son. At the end of the message I gave an invitation for those who wanted to come to Christ. Dozens of people responded and I felt so proud that God had used me.

After the meeting I walked through the congregation, hearing some people talking and saying, “Isn’t he a good preacher,” and “Hasn’t he got a bright future!” It was all so heady and exciting, and especially for a young man who longed to be loved, accepted and used by God.

As I shook hands with the congregation as they left that evening I was approached by Mavis. She gripped my hand tightly and looked straight into my eyes. For a moment I felt apprehension and then shock as she said, “You didn’t glorify God tonight, did you? Good night!”

My pride was punctured as I went back to my lodgings that night. It was almost dawn as I crawled into bed. In His presence that night God showed me several things that were wrong in my life. There was a wrong relationship that had to be dealt with, money paid back to its rightful owner and other deep unresolved issues in my heart that had to be brought to the cross.

That was the beginning of a journey that included many such encounters, perhaps not as dramatic as that night in Yorkshire, but nevertheless God dealing with issues in my heart.

He declares us holy in Jesus but now we are on a journey of holiness, where God is changing us so that we become more and more like His son, Jesus.

Something to do:

Would you sincerely pray the prayer that David prayed, “Search me O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” [Psalm 139:23-24]? As you pray this prayer and wait quietly in God’s presence let Him to show you anything that displeases Him and then seek His forgiveness.

BE WHAT GOD SAYS YOU ARE

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:17-5:2

It is clear from Scripture that when a person is born again the old has gone and the new has come. Paul clearly states this in 2 Corinthians 5:17. However, for many of us there is a seeming contradiction and tension here. If we are a new creation then why do the old habits still seem to grip us and are hard to get rid of?

For many years I struggled with the concept of all things being made new, until a godly woman called me one day and asked if I had read the note in the margin of my King James version of the Bible. The verse reads, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” My friend pointed out that in the margin the words “he is” in the text have the alternative rendering of “let him be.” The meaning then is that we are a new creation but should be what we are.

Paul writing to the Christians in Ephesus tells them to put off the things that are wrong and displease God and instead live a life of love as imitators of God. Writing to the Christians in Corinth Paul speaks of the old yeast of malice and wickedness, and then says, “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast – as you really are” [1 Corinthians 5:6-8]. In other words, get rid of what does not honour and glorify the Lord and be what you are in Him – holy!

At conversion God declares us holy, but now there is a lifetime process of growing in holiness. Over the next few days we will look at what this growth in holy living looks like.

Questions:

Have you struggled with the tension of God saying you are holy but knowing that there are things in your life that are not right? How have you handled this?

Would you today give thanks to God for what He says you are? Now would you ask Him to help you work that out in your daily life?

SANCTIFIED THROUGH AND THROUGH

Bible Reading:  1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 especially verse 23

The word translated in English as sanctified means literally ‘to be set apart’. Every part of our being is to be set apart for the Lord. Our spirit, soul and body are to be kept blameless. Blameless means ‘cannot be found guilty or accused’.

It is helpful to understand the difference between spirit and soul. The soul consists of the mind (intellect), will and emotions. The spirit is that part of us that was made to communicate with God and includes the conscience and intuition. Each part of our being is to be holy, set apart, and God’s purpose is that we become increasingly conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus.

I have never seen such a clear difference between the spirit and the soul as I saw in a godly man in South Wales. Cyril had been a missionary in Indonesia and Thailand. He loved Jesus with all his heart, but as he grew old his body and mind began to wear out. Dementia crept in and his mind no longer functioned in the way that it had in the past. The last time we visited Cyril he barely recognized us. I suggested that we sing one of his favourite hymns, beginning with the words, “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene.” His mind may not have been functioning properly but as we sang Cyril sang with all his heart. Then we prayed together and Cyril prayed with such power and earnestness. His mind had gone but his spirit was so alive and bursting with love for Jesus.

Watchman Nee said that when our soul rules over our spirit that we become carnal and not spiritual, but when our spirit, made alive by the Holy Spirit rules over our soul, we become spiritual. The will of God is that each part of our being should be holy, set apart for God, spirit, soul and body.

Questions:

At new birth our spirit is made alive and becomes one spirit with Jesus. How can we develop our spirit man so that it becomes holy?

God desires that our spirit, soul (mind, will and emotions) be totally separated from sin and to Him. What does that mean to you?

THE MEANING OF NEW BIRTH

Bible Reading:  John 1:10-13; John 3:1-21

Yesterday we made it clear that new birth is a key factor in Holiness, but we need to clearly define the meaning of new birth.

Nicodemus, a religious leader, came to Jesus by night. Jesus challenged him and said that unless a person is born again they can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God. Nicodemus did not understand and asked Jesus how a person could be born a second time. Jesus replied by saying that “Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to spirit [John 3:5].

Outside of Christ the human spirit is dead towards God because of sin. The spirit is that part of man that was made to communicate with God. When we turn from sin and invite Jesus into our life our spirit is made alive and we can communicate with God. Paul says that we become one spirit with Jesus [1 Corinthians 6:17]. The Holy Spirit makes His dwelling place in our spirit and desires that every part of our life be surrendered to Him.

We become the dwelling place of God and our body becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit. It is important that we understand that the One who has come to live inside of us through new birth is God Himself. The Holy One makes His home in our life through new birth. This is why being born again of the Holy Spirit is fundamental to holiness.

Questions:

New birth brings us into a relationship with God. We can then hear His voice and communicate with Him. The big question today is have you been born again?

Are you developing your spirit so that you can increasingly hear God’s voice and enjoy His holy presence?

HOLINESS AND NEW BIRTH

Bible Reading:  1 John 3:1-10

The first key to holiness is new birth. Holiness is not a series of negative commandments that must be obeyed but is something that happens when a person is born again. John makes it clear, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning because they have been born of God” [1 John 3:9].

It is generally understood that not to continue to sin means not to habitually and deliberately sin. It does not mean that we are sinless. If that were the case, then John would not have said to Christians in the same letter that if we do sin, then we can be forgiven and made clean [1 John 1:9] or that if we do sin Jesus stands before the Father as our advocate who pleads for us [1 John 2:1-2].

If we have been born of God then we will not habitually and deliberately choose to sin! The question then arises, what does it mean to be “born of God”?

Recently I asked a senior pastor of a large church what is the meaning of being born again. He replied that all of the person becomes new. Shocked, I asked him if the body becomes new and the answer was obviously no. Then I asked if the mind becomes new, to which he replied that it has to be renewed on a daily basis. I asked, “If the body and mind do not become new then which part of the person is born again?” He was unsure of how to answer. Many Christians seem unsure about what exactly new birth is, and yet it is a key to being holy and Jesus said that without new birth it is impossible to enter the kingdom of heaven [John 3:3,5]

Questions:

Tomorrow we will look more closely at the meaning of new birth. What at this moment is your understanding of new birth?

Why is it impossible to be holy without being born again?