OUR BLESSED HOPE

Bible Reading: Philippians 3:1-21

It has been a great joy for me to share this series on purity and holiness with you and today we come to a conclusion. What a journey God has brought us on so far. Firstly, when we turned from our sin and received Jesus we were born again of the Holy Spirit and the Holy One made His home in us. He gave us righteousness as a gift and He declared us to be holy in His sight. We became saints, who sometimes sin. We began a journey of holiness, to be filled with God’s love and to live a life of beauty. It has been a battle as we have struggled with the world, the flesh and devil. We have gone through discipline and refining fire and pruning, often painful, but the work of a loving God who has been changing us little by little so that we become like His Son, Jesus. This is the journey of a lifetime.

One day we shall Him face to face, and tell the story saved by grace. When we see Him we shall be like Him. No more sorrow, no more sin, no more tears, no more pain. It will be worth it all when we see Him.

Writing whilst under house arrest in Rome the apostle Paul reveals the passion in his heart that continued to burn like a fire. He says, that he has not yet attained to the goal or reached perfection but that he is pressing toward the day when he will finally be all that Jesus Christ saved him for and wants him to be. He leaves the past behind and strains forward towards the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, was calling him up to heaven. We join him and the saints who have gone before us on this journey of purity and holiness.

In the next weeks we will consider our eternal hope and the glory that awaits us as we begin a new series entitled, “From here to eternity.”

A Question:

There have been many issues raised as we have looked at the meaning of holiness. What has the Lord over these past weeks been specifically saying to you?

Something to Do:

Why not begin to journal? Begin to write each day what God says to you and what He teaches you. It may seem insignificant in the beginning, but one day you will read back in amazement and see how God has been leading you. All it needs is a notebook, a pencil and a few minutes each day.

HANG IN THERE – DON’T GIVE UP

Bible Reading: Psalm 37:1-7, 23-27

 

Have you ever felt tempted to give up! A few days ago, after a wonderful day with the Lord, my guard was down and I walked into a volatile and unexpected situation, where I was publically rebuked and shouted at. The person who did this had neither thought of others nearby who heard the onslaught or my feelings. Perhaps they got out of bed the wrong side!! Perhaps they themselves were hurting because undoubtedly hurt people hurt people! The whole incident left me with an attitude of wanting to give up on these people! Why should I put myself out for them when they attack me like this. In my heart I even began to blame the whole organization and not just the individual.

It would have been so much better if I had not retaliated and risen in anger to the situation. Was it self-defense? Was my pride hurt? Was my response a fleshly and not spiritual response? I think that answer to each of those questions was clearly yes.

It took me a good while to get back my spiritual equilibrium. To apologize and ask forgiveness for my reaction was not difficult but getting over the sense of inner guilt and frustration was far tougher. Why does this sometimes happen, even after seeking to follow Jesus fully for more than fifty years is the deeper question I needed to answer.

Is this experience something that you are familiar with? It took a couple of days to get over, but once again, as I confessed my sin, the blood of Jesus washed me clean and His peace returned. It is a quite a while since I had experienced something like this, but I suddenly realized that this is so relevant to our devotional series on holiness. This is life- we do fall! The Psalmist said that we may stumble….but the Lord upholds us with His hand” [Psalm 37:27]

Don’t give up when you fall and don’t become depressed when you fail. Get up again, get back to the cross and let the blood of Jesus wash you clean. Remember David’s prayer: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me….Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” [Psalm 51:10,12].

 

 

Questions:

If God has spoken personally to you through this devotional, what was it He was saying to you? Is there some action you should take in response to this?

There are times when all of us become angry. Some people immediately forgive but don’t deal with the deeper inner issues. Some people allow the anger to fester leading to resentment and bitterness. How do you deal with anger?

SAY NO TO THE ENEMY

Bible Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20

The devil [meaning “diabolical”] known as satan [“the accuser”], once one of the highest angelic beings, was cast out of heaven because of pride and rebellion and became the enemy of God and of all that God created.

Jesus called this enemy a thief whose purpose is to steal and kill and destroy [John 10:10]. This enemy rules over his kingdom and has a hierarchy of evil forces under him [Ephesians 10:12]. His kingdom is ruled by control and fear.

Satan was tempted Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden and caused them to fall. Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness to surrender to him, but Jesus said “No” and spoke God’s Word to defeat him.

He still attacks today. Sometimes it is very overt and sometimes very subtle. Here are some of the words used in the New Testament to describe how he treats people:

He ENTICES [Matthew 4:1-11]; DECEIVES [1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Cor. 4:4]; ENSLAVES [Rom. 8:15 – literally “a spirit that makes you a slave”]; TORMENTS [Matt. 18:34-35; 1 John 4:18]; OPPRESSES [Acts 10:38 – “katadunasteo” = to exercise dominion against; to oppress; to over-burden]; BINDS [Luke 13:16 – “deo” = to tie up; confine; fasten = with cords that bind]; HINDERS [1 Thess. 2:18]; BUFFETS [2 Cor. 12:7] – to buffet = to hit with blow after blow; to punch; to slap; VEXES “pascho” [Grk] = to mob, hassle, molest [Matt. 15:22; 17:15; Luke 6:18; Acts 5:16]; TROUBLES [1 Samuel 16:14]. The Hebrew word means “to make fearful, afraid, terrify. It speaks of agitation of mind perplexity, uneasiness [see 1 Chron. 10:13-14]. The NASV translates this as “terrorise.”

Compared with our God this enemy is infinitesimally small but he has power to steal, kill and destroy. As he came to Jesus so he will try to tempt and cause you to fall into his trap.

Paul told the Ephesians to stand against this enemy. James exhorts to resist him and he will flee from us [James 4:7]. “The most important thing that we need to know about Satan is that Jesus defeated him on the cross” [Luther]. We stand in Christ’s victory, but must say “No” when the enemy attacks and tempts us. ‘No’ is a freedom word! I was impressed this week as I found that Jesus used the word ‘No’ on sixteen separate occasions.

A Prayer:

Thank you Lord Jesus, that you defeated Satan on the cross and that I can enjoy your victory over him. Help me today, however difficult it may be, to say “No” to the evil one’s suggestions and temptations. Thank you for Your Name, Your blood and Your Word by which I overcome the evil one today. Amen.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FLESH

Bible Reading: Romans 6:1-23; Galatians 5:19-21

The flesh is the world within us. The Greek word translated “flesh” is the word “sarx.” Its basic meaning is the self-life, where self not Jesus is on the throne of our life. It is the life where “I” am number one and where my will, my way and my desires come first.

Self cannot be domesticated. Salvation does not improve self! Christ did not come to improve self but to replace it. Self has no place in God’s economy. Self cannot be disciplined. However much we try to educate self, expose it to good moral teaching, or change it, self remains wild and deceitful. It is desperately wicked.

Self cannot be dedicated. How prone we are to try and do that. The accumulated result of the effort to dedicate self is a system that operates on selfish motivation and selfish rewards. We have in our churches acres and acres of dedicated self [which is not dedication at all]. Self will do anything before it will die. It will pray, work and tithe. It will teach a Sunday School class and become a deacon. It will even preach! It will steep itself in religious tradition to cushion itself against God. As long as self and Christ remain in the same heart there will be a war.

The works of the flesh are clearly stated in Galatians 5:19-21 and are such a contrast to the fruit of the Spirit. We must recognize that we have been [past tense] crucified with Christ [Galatians 2:20], and that when we became His children we died. Listen to Paul’s instructions in Romans chapter 6: Consider yourself dead to sin [v11]; Choose not sin [v19]; Choose to obey God [v18]. We choose to allow the Holy Spirit to rule over our minds and our bodies. As we walk in the Spirit, obeying His dictates and leading so we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh [see Galatians 5:16]. Holiness is living a life of victory over the flesh!

Question:

You may have said that you understand that our old sinful nature was crucified with Christ and that you have sought to follow the steps above to follow the Holy Spirit but there is a sin that continues to keep you in bondage and prayer does not seem to work. Are you prepared if necessary to seek help to set you free from what may have become a stronghold of the flesh and might even be demonic in nature?

Something to do:

Take time today to praise God and to thank Him for the victory that He has made possible over the sins of the flesh. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you afresh

 

AN UNDIVIDED MIND

Bible Reading: Matthew 6:19-34; 1 Peter 5:6-11

“Casting all your care upon Him, because He cares for you” [1 Peter 5:7]

Having considered the renewal of the mind as a key to victory over the world, we turn now to the problem of a divided mind. Various times in Scripture we are warned of the danger of a divided mind. James says that a man who doubts is like the waves of the sea that are tossed to and fro and is double-minded. It is because he is double-minded that he is unstable in all his ways [James 1:7-8]. The result of being double minded is instability and unanswered prayers. Later in his epistle James indicates that double-mindedness is sin and that the double-minded man should purify his heart [James 4:8]. So it is also an issue of holiness.

Peter also speaks about double-mindedness but the translators of the Bible called it care. The word translated “care” in 1 Peter 5:7 comes from two Greek words. The first word is ‘merimna’ from the root word ‘meiro’ which means ‘to divide.’ The second Greek word is ‘noos’ which is translates as ‘the mind’. Now hear 1 Peter 5:7 from this different perspective, “Casting all that divides your mind on Him, because He cares for you.”

There are times especially in illness that I have struggled between trusting God and looking at my circumstances. Have you struggled in the same way? Isn’t it amazing how we get distracted, anxious, and worried when things go wrong or not the way we expect them to work out. It is an issue of double-mindedness and evidence of lack of trust in the Father who loves us and who makes no mistakes. That is why double-mindedness is sin – because it is a lack of faith, and clearly, that which is not from faith is sin [Romans 14:23].

I have discovered that when I specifically repent of this double-mindedness, and repeat God’s promise in 1 Peter 5:7 back to Him, that trust and peace return.

“Faith came singing into my room, And other guests took flight,

Fear and anxiety, doubt and gloom, Sped out into the night;

I wondered that such peace could be, but faith said simply,

“Don’t you see?” Those other guests can’t live with me.”

A Question:

Is there an area in your life where you have been double-minded? It has hindered faith, caused instability, and made prayer ineffective. Would you bring that now to Jesus, ask for His forgiveness and cleansing and give the burden to Him?

OVERCOMING THE WORLD

Bible Reading: 1 John 2:7-29; Romans 12:1-2

Some people have misunderstood the world and see it purely as things and places to avoid. It is in actual fact a spiritual realm that is totally opposed to God. In his epistle John says that if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. He goes further and says that nothing in the world comes from the Father [1 John 2:15-17].

One of the titles given to Satan is the prince of this world. Speaking about His death on the cross, Jesus says, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out” [John 12:31].

This world system has no room for the God of the Bible. It has its own system of beliefs and cultures, known as worldviews, and these vary among the different peoples of the world. In J. B. Philips translation we read, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould” [Romans 12:2].

The Biblical way to overcome the world and its way of thinking is to have a renewed mind. Romans 12:1 is very clear, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….”

On our bookstalls there are whole sections of self-help books. These may have some value, but they miss out the dimension of the Spirit who renews the mind. Surely the spiritual renewal of the mind is more than simply self-help, and the danger is that we depend upon what the world says rather than the Holy Spirit.

Most Christians recognize that their thinking should be different, but many seem at a loss as to how to accomplish it. Bringing our lives into line with God’s Word will bring about this renewal of our minds and transformation in our lives. If we think on the same things that the world thinks on, we are going to get the same results. If we keep our minds stayed upon God through the study of His Word and fellowship with Him, then we’ll have perfect peace [see Isaiah 26:3]. Only when we renew our minds can we enjoy the good, perfect and acceptable will of God. Then we will think with the mind of Christ and overcome the world.

Question:

It is so easy to slip into thinking in the way that the world thinks, and especially when we are bombarded with issues in the media. Instead of passively going along with the status quo will you instead seek what God says about these issues in His Word?

What steps are you taking to fulfil this injunction of Paul to have a renewed mind?

THE THREE ENEMIES OF HOLINESS

Bible Reading: James 4:1-17; 1 John 2:15-17

An important key to purity and holy living is learning to say “No!” to the enemies of purity. The enemies of the Christian are not flesh and blood, but spiritual. The Bible uses three words to describe these enemies. They are the world, the flesh and the devil. All three attack in different ways and interact together.

The world is not just wrong places to go or wrong things to do – it is a spirit. It is an invisible yet surrounding atmosphere in which we live, and which erodes faith, dissipates hope and corrupts love!

The flesh is the world within us, that demands our rights, wants to rule where God should be enthroned. It is the self-life that demands gratification and says that its way, not God’s way, is the best. However, as someone has declared, “Self-gratification never brings true satisfaction.”

The devil is the ruler of a world system opposed to God. His was an anointed archangel in heaven but his downfall was pride – he wanted to take the place of God! He rules over his evil system through fear and control.

These three enemies are different but function together. The Bible teaches us how to handle each of them and we will look at how to handle each of these enemies over the next few days. We are to be transformed be the renewing of our mind so that we are not conformed to the world. We are to put to death with help of the Holy Spirit the works of the flesh and we are to resist the devil and he will flee from us. For each of these enemies Jesus has the answer and has won the victory for us on the cross.

Questions:

Where has your greatest battle been as a Christian? How have you been doing in winning that battle?

Why is the world at enmity with God [see James 4:4]?

What are the three elements of the world that we face according to 1 John 2:16?

GOD LOVES US ENOUGH TO HURT US

Bible Reading:  Hebrews 12:3-11; Genesis 32:22-32

 

God as refiner purifies us and as the gardener prunes us, but there is still another picture of God who works in our lives to make us more holy. It is the picture of a father who chastens and disciplines his children.

God is a good Father. He corrects us, and sometimes has to punish us [Hebrews 12:6 NLT]. God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means that we will share in His holiness.

As a father I realize how important discipline was for my children. It was not easy because I knew it was hurting them and it was painful for me to administer discipline, but without it they would have grown up without boundaries and understanding of right and wrong. No discipline is easy – it is painful. God, as our loving Father, disciplines us so that there will be a harvest of right living for us who have been trained by Him.

Jacob had an experience of God but somehow not much had changed in his life. He was still a selfish man who deceived and cheated others. God waited for nearly twenty-five years to deal with Jacob. We read the account of God dealing with him in Genesis 32:22-32.

On the morning of that day Jacob met with angels. God was preparing him. In the afternoon he had news that his brother Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men. Jacob was afraid because he had cheated his brother. He decided to try and protect his family and possessions by sending them over to the other side of the river.

Then God came and met Jacob. It was in a place where Jacob was alone. All the props that he had leaned were gone. It was a place of brokenness as he wrestled all night with God, and finally the Lord touched Jacob’s thigh and put it out of its socket. No more running now, and weakness in place of strength! It was a place of desperation as Jacob is now clinging and crying out, “I will not let you go unless you bless me!” Finally, it was a place of honesty. “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he replied. Jacob means cheat. God loved Jacob enough to hurt him and discipline, but a new Jacob had emerged. A new name – Israel! A new vision – he had seen God face to face and He could never be the same!!

 

 

Questions:

Some people think of God is a big softy, but He is a loving Father, who disciplines us to make us holy! How do you think God disciplines us today as His children?

What principles can you see in the way in which the Lord dealt with Jacob and corrected him?

 

THE KNIFE

Bible Reading:  John 15:1-8

Christ is the refiner who is purifying His children. Another picture of His work of making us holy is Christ pruning of the branches of a tree, so that the tree produces more fruit. Each of God’s children is a branch that has been engrafted into Jesus who is the vine and His desire for us is that we bear much spiritual fruit.

There are areas in all our lives where we are not bearing the beautiful fruit of the Spirit in the way that God intends. These areas are not necessarily bad things that we do but are a hindrance to fruit bearing. Sometimes the good is the enemy of the best! Notice in the passage for today that there is fruit [v2], more fruit [v2] and much fruit [v8].

Jesus is the one who prunes but we allow Him the right to do so by yielding to His pruning knife. He wants to cut away from our lives anything that does not glorify Him.

This pruning process is evident in nature. I saw a gardener pruning a rose bush so harshly that I questioned whether it was the right thing to do. He cut the bush right down to almost ground level. All the greenery was gone and only a stem protruded above the ground. He told me that in order for this rose bush to have the most beautiful and abundant flowers it needed to be pruned, and the following year there were so many beautiful flowers.

We are already clean through God’s Word [v3]. Righteousness is ours but the knife is still necessary. Every part of my life must come under His scrutiny. Lord, make me willing to let go of anything that is a hindrance to the fruit you want in my life – that beautiful fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Questions:

Is it your desire to bear more fruit for Jesus? If so allow Him the right to search every part of your life and take away whatever is a hindrance,  however good it might be, so that you are increasingly fruitful.   

Dr. A.W.Tozer said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man until He has hurt him deeply.” What do you think about this statement?

THE REFINER’S FIRE

Bible Reading:  Malachi 3:2-3

God sees us as already holy and fully accepted in Jesus, but desires to make our lives increasingly like His Son Jesus. To be holy is obviously more than God declaring us holy. It is a journey. If we were already perfect we would not need to put off what is the old nature and continually put on the new nature [see Ephesians 4:22-24]. There would be no need to grow in grace

[2 Peter 3:16] and John would not have to write, “if any man sin” [1 John 2:1].

In order to purify us God allows us to go through trials that refine us. In Malachi we see a picture of the Lord as a refiner. The refiner heats the fire until the dross in the precious metal rises to the surface and then he scoops off that dross and impurity from the metal. It is said that he does this until the precious metal is so pure that he can see his face perfectly seen in the metal.

Christ comes as the purifier and refiner of His people. His goal is that we should be increasingly pure until one day we are totally conformed to the image of Jesus. Whilst going through this earthly journey this is an on-going process, but one day we shall be like Him [see 1 John 3:3].

The trials that we go through to refine us are not easy and it almost seems as though they get tougher the longer we walk with the Lord. Remember that the ultimate test for Abraham was the call to give his own son as an offering to the Lord. He was one hundred and twenty years old when that test came!!

Questions:

God’s Word says that trials are important because our character is changed for the better when we go through trials [see Romans 5:3-5]. What particular trial have you been going through recently and what has God been teaching you in the trial?

The testing of our faith produces patience and leads us to spiritual maturity [James 1:2-4]. Our attitude to this testing should be joy because of what it produces in us. Will you now begin to be joyful and thank God for the refining that He is taking you through?