“You shall be holy as I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:16
Does serving an infinitely holy God intimidate you? If not, it should. This quote of God by Peter should cause a great pause, it should initiate an examination of your heart. Don’t skip over it. This is not an isolated verse, it is also found in Leviticus 11:44 and 45, 19:2, 20:7 and there are other verses very similar such as Matthew 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
As Christians we cherish the “shall” in the verse from 1 Peter 1:16 above (praise God for helping verbs). There is coming a day when we will be fully holy. That will be the day we get to be with our Savior and before our God, complete (wow, do we look forward to that day!). But, while we are here on earth and in the process of holification (yep, made that up) what are we to do? We read in the Bible that we (true Christians) are progressively being conformed to the image of Jesus “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18), but, what does that look like today, this very day that you are reading these words? Good question! Here is the answer: it is displayed in the very next thing you do.
We often like to step way back and take a broad panoramic view of our lives and hope it displays progressive holiness. This is a very good thing to do and your life will image that promise from God if you are truly his. But, what about the close-up view of today, even this hour, or the next minute? How do you take the enormous task of becoming more like Jesus and display that in your mundane, ordinary life right now? It starts with the very next thing you do.
Are you about to speak to your husband? Speak words of respect and love. Are you talking with co-workers? Refuse to gossip and find opportunities to turn the conversation toward the gospel. Are you wiping snotty noses? Do so in love and because Jesus also humbled himself and served others. Are you deciding what to do for the evening? Make a choice that accords with Scripture and pleases God. Do holiness now.
We can easily get caught up in “putting off” holiness for another day and just trust that God will get us there eventually. We like to think of ourselves as “long-term projects”, maybe saving holiness for our golden years. This is a rotten way to think and says very little for our zeal for the Lord and his desire for us to “grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). Instead we need to “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14). We need to work at our holiness with discipline and be, “bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Cor. 7:1). Fear God and shape up. We are his kids and we need to act like it.
Understand, it is okay to feel overwhelmed when you read verses calling for your holiness. Imitating our perfect Savior is a huge task! Actually a God-sized task, only accomplished by God himself. That is exactly why Jesus sent his Spirit, the Helper, to reside in you. It is the Spirit that produces the fruit of holiness that honors God. We really can do nothing apart from him (John 15:5). The Holy Spirit will help you be more like Jesus, from the next thing to the golden years.
Take comfort in knowing that when God says, “You shall be holy as I am holy, “it is not just a command but also a promise. You will someday experience the fullness of the rewards of being washed clean with the blood of Jesus. Our holification will be completed (it’s a good word). We will truly be holy like our Father is. It will be a great day!
Until that time, Ladies, intentionally work on your holiness. Continually do the next thing like Jesus would.
I love garbage day. I also like recycle day. Those days are Thursdays and Fridays for me each week. I really like Thursdays and Fridays. After the fire at our business we got excited on Tuesdays, the day they emptied out our big dumpster so we could refill it again for the following Tuesday.
One of my favorite activities (nearly a hobby) is taking donations to thrift stores. I love dropping off boxes full of clothing, toys, books and décor that I just don’t need. I really feel a weight off of my shoulders. I feel lighter and less tied to this world.
Some of you (though not all) can relate completely. You get me.
This superficial and short-lived enjoyment we experience of decluttering our homes needs to be applied in a much more profound way to our spiritual life. We need to clean house and take out the trash. Let’s look at this in two ways today: physical and spiritual (or tangible and intangible).
First, the physical (tangible). Get the junk out of your home that does not honor God. Clothes, movies, music, games, books, pictures, photographs, letters, artwork, magazines, certain medications, certain foods and drinks, posters, décor, idols. Anything that you would want to hide, turn off, or change out of if Jesus either walked into your house, hitched a ride in your car or stopped for a visit at work. Trash it all or even burn it. Do not donate your sin or shame to someone else.
Take a tour of your home with a trash bag in hand and go to work. You may be sadly surprised at how quickly you fill it and grab another. Some things may be hard to part with, but do it anyway. We don’t want to find ourselves trading God’s blessings for worthless dust. “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.” Jonah 2:8.
Secondly, the spiritual (intangible). The same applies; get the junk out of your mind and heart. If the Spirit of Christ has mercifully come to dwell within you, don’t make him room with fear, lust, anger and bitterness. “Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Cor. 3:16. Jesus died so that you could be emptied of trash like this and could be filled with his gifts of faith and grace; overflowing with fruits like love, peace and kindness.
Just like with your home, take a spiritual inventory of your heart. What is there that needs to be brought out and burned? Unforgiveness? Hatred of others or yourself? Envy? Anxiety? Kill it all with the power of the Sword. “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:24. Don’t stop there, do not stay empty and vulnerable (see Matt. 12:43-45). Fill the space with ammunition for when new rubbage tries to take up residence. Filling up on God’s Word so that when new hurts want to hang out and fester, you can turn them away for lack of space. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
I pray that you will hold your own trash day very soon and will ask for God’s help and his strength to accomplish it. Rid yourself of what is toxic and causing gross stagnation in you. It is time to be renewed and refreshed by the cleansing waters flowing freely from the throne of God.
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” 2 Cor. 7:1
Ladies, do your spring cleaning for real this year. Make a difference in your heart and home. It’s time to take out the trash.
This is a great responsibility, Mom, and yes… it is on your shoulders. Your husband’s as well (or the child’s father), but today I am talking to YOU.
Last week I wrote on loving your children by teaching them who love. That must be first and foremost, teach your children about God’s love for them and his salvation offered through his son Jesus Christ. Today and next week, I am writing on the significant task God has assigned to you as a parent of keeping your child’s heart “unstained from the world.” See James 1:27.
Solomon was a man blessed by God with great wisdom; his wisdom was far superior to that of any before him or any after him. In Proverbs Chapter 4, he is entreating his sons to listen and be attentive as he shares his counsel with them for their benefit. His desire is for them to gain wisdom and to “walk the path of the righteous” (v. 18).
Toward the end of the chapter in verse 23, he sums up his guidance in one sentence, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV)
Much of what we are instructed to do as Christians can be boiled down to guarding our heart or keeping our hearts pure for the honoring of God. The heart is the core of who someone is, the area from which flows feelings, decisions, and attachments. It puts on display who we really are; our actions flow forth from our heart.
The ESV translates the Hebrew this way “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” We are to protect our hearts with all vigilance, a strong word indeed.
What does this have to do with raising Children? Everything! Have you ever thought about why God assigned these children to YOU? He has given them to you as a heritage, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalms 127:3) He has ordained that YOU be the one responsible for caring for them; teaching them about him, and guarding their hearts while they are young. This is on your shoulders until they are old enough to guard their own hearts.
This is big stuff and a huge responsibility! I don’t say this to overwhelm you, but to make you understand the seriousness of what God has called you to for these fleeting years.
How do you guard your child’s heart? Proverbs 4 goes on in verses 24 -27: Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. (ESV)
These are good directions on how to keep your heart pure and how to train your child to do the same. Put simply: speak carefully and honestly, do not deceive; your eyes need to be forward on Christ (whom you live for); you need to wisely choose your path and where your feet go; staying persistent in your pursuit of Christlikeness; and finally, stay away from evil.
When relating this to how you guard the heart of your children think of it this way. You are the gatekeeper of their heart. You are the one to decide who or what is granted access to the heart of your child. What their heart is filled with is largely up to you. You don’t want to allow anything in that may cause harm to them or their potential relationship with Christ. This sounds simple…. it isn’t.
It is a raging war and you are in the middle of it. Placed there by God himself. How well are you doing at fighting for the purity of your child’s heart? How have you prepared yourself to know what is good and what is evil?
Continue to read next week as we address some very practical ways in which we need to be guarding the hearts of our children.
When I was young my family delivered newspapers for our little one street town of Homestead, Iowa. Each morning bright and early (or dark and early) we would get up, pack the papers into big heavy bags and head out on our bikes to do our route. I have to admit my older brother and sister did this much more than I did, but I did my share and still have many memories of it. It was one of those “character building” experiences that are required when growing up.
One summer morning my Dad was helping me get the last few papers delivered; we were both on our bikes. There had been a hard rain the night before and you could still smell it in the air. Drowned worms were all over the road and I would swerve to miss them.
I remember riding by the town feed store and seeing up ahead a huge toad in the middle of the road. Once I spotted him I couldn’t take my eyes off of that ugly thing; I felt like he was staring at me and I was staring at him. Wasn’t he going to move? My bike felt unstoppable as it traveled my exact line of sight, exactly where I didn’t want it to go…“SPLAT!” I rode right over the middle of that bloated toad. I can still hear the sound of it exploding into a squishy and disgusting mess all over the street and my bike too.
I then did what every young girl would have done after that, jumped off my bike and ran to my Dad screaming and sobbing. Dad did what every caring father would have done after that, held me in his arms and laughed his head off. Telling me between huge chuckles that the toad had been dead already and that I had the entire road to travel on, why didn’t I just go around it?
My Dad still laughs at this story to this day, over 20 years later. You just ask him and you’ll see.
As gross as it may be, it provides a great illustration for how we often handle the problems we face in life.
That bloated toad = anything bad, difficult or ugly in your life. Once we have our sights set on it, we have trouble seeing or thinking about anything else. Often we think we can handle it fine on our own, only calling on God if we need to (that would be considered a drastic measure reserved only for emergencies). Yet, this never seems to work out right. We seem to keep running smack dab back into that toad every time, making a horrible mess of things.
Here is the problem: when we focus on the problem we begin to orbit around it and allow it to have a gravitational pull on us. We use the desire to avoid the sin as the reason to alter our behaviors. We try to do this using our own strength.
Is your struggle with lust? You then try to keep all of those temptations at arm’s length as you circle around it. Eventually you fail and are in a mess again. Marriage issues? Focus on the problems, try harder and it will work out. Ha! Right. Using these strategies makes as much sense as being on a diet and staring at chocolate cake all day.
The fix: we MUST refocus our sights - take our eyes off the problem and place them squarely on the solution; off the toad and onto Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:18 says it like this, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV) We need to keep our eyes set on Jesus, the only possible solution to heart problems (which all of these are). He is the only one who can fix our heart issues, we certainly can’t, no matter how hard we work at it or how many therapists we see.
God allows these toads in your life for good reason; he wants your attention for sanctification. Some of us are slow learners and deal with many toads in life. All the while Jesus is saying, “Hello? Look at me! You need me to get you through this. Quit giving attention to your sin and turn around and let me save you from it.”
I ran into that toad because I was looking right at it. If I had looked past it to where I wanted to go, I would have missed it altogether. Where do you want to go? If you are a “follower of Jesus” then you need to keep your eyes on the one you say you are following!
Let me tell you, all issues, anxieties and obstacles look mighty puny next to a huge God.
No wonder Jesus remarks many times in scripture about how little faith we have!
We can’t be aware of the might and power of our God when we have our eyes set on earthly toads. Time to start looking up. Call on God in prayer and get into his Word.
Our heart often travels where our eyes lead it. Your sight matters. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,” Matthew 6:22. I enCOURAGE you to get your sight checked today.
Sold. I knew as soon as I read the label on that pair of jeans hanging on the rack, they would be the ones I would buy. The lure of a better appearance just by slipping them on was overwhelmingly appealing. The marketing department knew exactly what they were doing. Had they been honest, the label may have read, “Get some exercise and eat less, Tubby, then you can really be 10 pounds thinner and won’t have to fake it anymore!” Not a good way to make sales.
If we were to take a good, hard look at our lives my guess is that we could identify other areas where we also tend to “fake it”. For some it could be your financial status, you spend money you don’t always have and act as though you are very secure when maybe you are truly living paycheck to paycheck. For others it could be your home life. You act as though you have it all together when in reality you often feel like things are a mess and you can barely keep up.
These are important issues, but there is one area in which faking it can mean the difference between life and death...that is your spiritual life. I am sad to say, but I think MANY people are faking the wellbeing of their spiritual life. They may attend church (at least on the “important” Sundays), say the right things, and even carry around a Bible, but this is all for appearances. They may look and act the part very well, but inside they are dead. They don’t truly know Jesus. Could this be you?
Do you feel you are just going through the motions, do you ever stop and think, “What the heck am I doing this for?” Do you say you believe but then wonder what that even really means? Do you find yourself thinking people should keep their beliefs to themselves? Do you act differently depending where you are and who you are with?
If any of the above describes you, time to do a serious heart evaluation. Don’t take any of this lightly and don’t waste time. Matthew 10:28 - And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. God is just and he will deal with those who are only pretending to serve him, the consequences are real.
How do you know if you are authentically following Christ? Here are a few ways: Check the fruit in your life. Matthew 7:16 - You will recognize them by their fruits. Your life should be producing godly fruit for the glory of God (see Galatians 5:22-23). Seek counsel; ask a trusted minister to help you evaluate your condition. Finally, ask yourself if you really know who Jesus is; are you able to articulate it? Better yet, do all three of these things.
What you DON’T want to do is compare yourself to others around you. There are too many fakers out there. If everyone who claimed to be a Christian was a Christian, the Bible would be a lie. Matthew 7:14 - For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. The Bible is not a lie, it is solid truth. Make sure you are on the narrow path and not following others along easy street to destruction.
We can fool many around us, even those closest to us, but you will never fool God. God sees your heart and he knows what is inside of you. Let this cut you deep; you have to get this right. No more playing around or blindly following traditions taught by men. No amount of good deeds will get you into Heaven, only accepting the free gift of Jesus Christ. John 14:6 -I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Know for certain.
An authentic relationship with your Savior may not make you look ten pounds thinner, but the evidence of his grace in your life and on your face will be glorious and beautiful, more attractive to others than any pair of jeans. Go ahead and fake your hair color, nail length and skin tone if you must, but let your relationship with Jesus Christ be the real deal.
Ladies, as I grow older (and wiser, I hope) I realize how much we have in common with each other. Oh, we like to think our lives are vastly different than that of those around us. But let’s face it, I bet each of us did at least a few of the following already today: groaned when the alarm went off, flinched when you looked in the mirror, rolled your eyes when you saw your husband’s dirty socks on the floor next to the hamper, washed dishes and laundry, reminded the kids to brush their teeth, told your kids to wipe the toothpaste off the sink and walls, made a to do list and a shopping list, thought of a dozen areas of your house and life that need better organization, told your fighting children to knock it off, wished you had listened to your husband and stopped at two children, okay you get the point. I think you can agree we have a lot in common.
One other item every single one of us has in common is sin, we all struggle with it. It may take on different shapes in each of our lives, but it is still there. It could be in the form of envy, lust, gluttony, dishonesty, idolatry or any other type. Often it is not visible for others to see; sin loves the darkness and hates the light. We keep it hidden due to shame and a sense of self-righteousness. We don’t want others to know about it; we don’t want to be judged by anyone! We would rather keep on letting others think that everything is great and that our lives are sparkly clean, or at least as clean as our friends’ lives are. The Bible puts it this way:
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:19-21
I used to be very touchy when asked about sin in my life for all the reasons above. However today, if you sat down with me and asked me about my sins, I can readily admit to the ugliness that is in my life. I can promise you it wouldn’t be pretty, especially if I confessed all the thoughts that run through my head in 24 hours. You may have to finally ask me to stop talking. Why is this? When you get to know Christ more deeply and recognize how holy he is, the sin in your life becomes much more apparent. You begin to see the darkness much easier and you hate it.
Those I worry about are the ones who have a hard time recognizing sin in their lives and often rationalize it as being a “normal” part of the American life. My primary concern is that their view of God as Lord is less than it should be and that their value of his holiness is diminished. If I sat down with you today and asked you about your sin, what would you have to say to me? Would you confess it and ask for prayer or try to make excuses as to why you do what you do? Do you hate your sin or is it something you are fairly comfortable with? Can you recognize it easily? These are serious questions each of us should be asking ourselves.
God hates sin and God is 100% without sin. We can only be in his presence if we are also without sin, completely without a single blemish. This means only those who are perfectly righteous can go to Heaven and live there for eternity with God, everyone else is sent to Hell. Whoa, wait a minute…I said above that all of us have sin in our lives so is there no hope?
“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25) God has given us a way through the one who lived on Earth and was (and is) completely perfect and without sin; Jesus Christ. He took our sin upon himself and bore the wrath of his Father as he died on that cross for those who will receive the gift of life he offers. For those who accept Christ, our sin was killed on that cross over 2,000 years ago…all of it. Perfectly righteous and holy Jesus stands in our place when we are before God and allows us to enter into his glorious home of Heaven. What a gift it is and how anyone can reject it is beyond me.
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have the redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14
We need to hate sin as much as God does. We need to bring it out of darkness and expose it to light so it can die. Don’t go easy on yourself and explain it away or try to justify it. There won’t be others around you to make you look better on judgment day, only you before God. Unless you accept Jesus as the savior of your soul and make him Lord over your life. If you do, he will be right there, saying, “I died for this one and took away all her sins, she belongs with me.”