Showing posts with label Holiness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holiness. Show all posts

Saturday, April 22, 2023

To The Chosen People


 1 Peter 1:1-2 (NLT)
This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.

I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

May God give you more and more grace and peace.

The Apostle Peter's letter to Christians who were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Following Jesus meant that they lived as foreigners even though they were at home in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.

This is our reality as well. Most of us were born right here in the United States, yet, as followers of Jesus we find ourselves as aliens and foreigners in our own country. I think this is one reason why the message of 1 Peter is relevant to us today as it was to the believers of that time.

In this opening passage, Peter addressed three crucial points: the identity of his readers, their divine calling, and the grace and peace available to them.

First, Peter identified his readers as "God's chosen people." This description reminds us that as Christians, we have been called out of darkness of the world and into the light of God’s kingdom. We are not ordinary people, but rather we are holy, set apart for God's purposes. This identity gives us a purpose and a community. We may live as foreigners in a world that does not understand or accept us, but we belong to a community, the Church, that is made up of God’s people. In this community we are able to live out our purpose and discover the love we need.

Second, Peter emphasized that God chose his readers long ago and that his Spirit has made them holy. From the start of creation, God’s plan has always to have a people who would be faithful to Him. Our salvation is not a result of our own efforts or merit but is entirely due to God's grace and mercy. In fact, according to Peter, the entire Trinity, is involved in our salvation. The Father created the plan, the Spirit transforms us and makes us holy, and Jesus secured our forgiveness on the cross. This truth should humble us and fill us with gratitude for God's great love and amazing grace.

Finally, Peter ended his greeting by praying that God would give his readers grace and peace. Grace, which was a standard greeting in Greek letters, is the unmerited favor of God that enables us to live a life pleasing to him. Peace, which was the standard Jewish greeting, is the well-being a person experiences by being in a right relationship with God. Both of these blessings are available to us through Jesus Christ, and Peter encouraged his readers to expect them as gifts from God as they followed Jesus.

Peter's letter to the chosen people reminds us of our identity as God’s holy people, our divine calling through God's grace, and the abundant blessings of grace and peace available to us through Jesus Christ. As we navigate the challenges of life in a sin corrupted world, may we hold on to these truths and find strength and comfort in Jesus.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Let’s Talk About Sex

 

Many years ago I listened to a class taught by Mark Moore. During the final class session he gave the students some things to think about and one of the things he said was this: "Sex is sacred, but not essential, and our lives say the opposite.”


In our discussions about the role sex should play in our lives, I think this short quote provides us with three crucial insights that should guide our thinking.


The first insight is: “Sex is sacred…” 


Sex is to have a place of honor in our lives. The author of Hebrews wrote; “Marriage is to be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4; CSB). 


God designed sex to bring a man and a woman into an intimate relationship that cannot be expressed in any other way. It is not dirty or shameful nor is it common and ordinary. Sexual intimacy has a very special place in binding a husband and wife together. 


When we are unwilling to hold sex as something that is sacred then it loses its significance. It becomes a “fun” activity for consenting adults to participate in, but its ultimate purpose of God’s gift to married couples is diminished. As followers of Jesus we are to be good stewards of all of God’s gifts, and that means we must hold sex as sacred and leave it within the bounds of marriage where it belongs.


This includes the way we talk about sex. C. S. Lewis wrote; 

“The reason why I must is that you and I…have been fed all day long on solid lies about sex. We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not” (Mere Christianity; pg. 91-92)

Too often, the way we have talked about sex, both in the world and in the church, has led us to make sex common, and thus not sacred. I am not advocating ignoring sex, because, like every other area of our lives, we need discipleship and healing when it comes to sex. Rather I am advocating, that in order to hold sex in high regard it cannot be the foundation of our stories, jokes, and our lives.


That brings us to the second part: “but not essential…” 


Here comes a shocking statement: Sex is not necessary for a good life! 


This truth is contrary to what we have been taught and to what we believe. Sex is not essential to our happiness! You can have a joyful life, a fulfilled life, and still be a virgin. Jesus was at least 33 years old when He was crucified and He never had sex. 


For Jesus to command you to keep sex within the bounds of marriage means that He is not asking you to do anything that He has not already done. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:1 writes; Now in response to the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” (CSB). Sexual intimacy is not essential part of our discipleship or the calling that God has placed on our lives.


There is no sexual act that will give us the type of life that we long to have. The abundant life that Jesus gives is not found in a life of sexual freedom, but living a life that seeks to love God and love people. The truly fulfilled life is a life that has enjoyed all the good gifts of life: time spent with friends, the love of a family, the knowledge of a job well done, and enjoying the great outdoors. Sex is not required for living a good and fulfilling life.


The final part: “and our lives say the opposite.” 


I don’t need to remind us how sex has gone wrong in the world. That reality is seen all around us, and we are faced with it each and everyday. It should be no surprise that we find the world living contrary to God’s standard when it comes to sex. 


The way of the world has always been to twist God’s good gifts in order to lead people away from God. When Mark Moore says “our lives,” he is not making a judgment on people already living apart from God’s will. Rather, he is pointing out how Christians are not any different than the world when it comes to sex. 


The reality is sexual purity isn't very fashionable idea. I am continually amazed by the number of Christian people I know who are living with someone or are comfortable with talking about their  sexual encounters. 


When it comes to sex, Christians have been discipled by the world and not by the Bible.


The movies and television shows many Christians watch carry a message that is different to God's will about sex, and we don't give these messages a second thought. Keeping sex as sacred is more than just keeping sex between married people, it is about honoring the place sex is to have in our lives. Sex will not remain sacred when it becomes a common element in our entertainment.


The apostle Paul wrote: 

But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. Obscene and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks. (Ephesians 5:3-4; CSB). 


Whether or not we hold sex to be sacred is not only seen in our actions, but also in our speech. Too often we are trying to tell the world to honor sex while we are treating it with disrespect when it comes to our entertainment and our jokes.


In Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis wrote: 

“Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, ‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.’ Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong” (Mere Christianity; p. 90).


One of the reasons the early Church grew the way it did was because of the way Christians lived. They lived differently than everyone else. Chastity was one of those Christian virtues that set the early followers of Jesus apart from the rest of Roman society.


In a world gone wrong when it comes to sex, our way forward as disciples of Jesus is to adopt this same practice. Chastity must once again become a primary virtue for God’s people. The foundation of this crucial virtue is remembering that sex is sacred, but it is not necessary for us to live the abundant life God has for His people.


Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Fight Against Sin


William Wilberforce was a British politician and Christian abolitionist who dedicated his life to the eradication of the slave trade in the British Empire. He believed that slavery was a sin and that it was the duty of Christians to fight against it. In his book, Real Christianity, Wilberforce wrote, “"In the same way, God has called us to be the sworn enemies of sin. We are to wage war against it and strive to give it no opportunity in our lives." (p. 65)

In the same way that Wilberforce fought against the sin of slavery, he believed that Christians should wage war against all sin. He understood that sin was a destructive force that had the power to harm individuals, families, church families, local communities, and entire societies.

 

Wilberforce believed that Christians had a responsibility to fight against sin and strive to give it no opportunity in their lives. When we deal with our own individual sin it lessens the impact that sin has on those around us.


The Bible also teaches that sin is a powerful force that can lead to death and destruction. Romans 6:23 (CSB) says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 


Sin separates us from God and leads us down a path of destruction.


Followers of King Jesus are called to be sworn enemies of sin, because we know the destructive nature sin has in our lives. 


To be an enemy of sin means that we should not tolerate sin in our lives and that help others to overcome the sin in their lives. We are to strive to live a life that demonstrates God’s character and avoid the paths of temptation that lead us to sin. 


We live in a sin corrupted world which is constantly trying to pull us away from following Jesus. This means being an enemy of sin, even when we know it is evil, will not be easy. Temptation will still come our way and sin will still be present in our lives. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can make progress in overcoming sin and live a life that honors Jesus’ sacrifice and reflects the image of God into the world.


Waging war against sin also means that we should be actively involved in fighting against the sin in our world. This includes standing up against injustice, as we fighting against poverty and oppression, and working to bring hope and healing to those who are hurting. We should use our resources, talents, and influence to make a positive impact in the world and to fight against the forces of sin and evil. 


Remember, we can’t win this fight on our own, so we join forces with others working in these areas, offering our prayers and money to extend our love into areas we wouldn’t otherwise be able to go.


This quote from William Wilberforce reminds us that as Christians, we are called to be sworn enemies of sin. It is crucial that we wage war against it and strive to give it no opportunity in our lives. 


For us to do that we need to live a life that bears God’s image of love and holiness by loving our neighbor, working to make a positive impact in the world, and doing what we can to fight against the injustice that is in the world. 


My prayer is that we will be inspired by Wilberforce's example and live a life that is dedicated to fighting against sin and promoting righteousness.

Friday, March 31, 2023

The Path to Freedom


The Bible teaches that true freedom is found in Christ.


In John 8:36 (CSB), Jesus declared, “So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.”


The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:1 (CSB), “For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

This freedom is not just the absence of external constraints but the liberation of the heart from the bondage of sin.

John Eldredge in The Utter Relief of Holiness wrote: 
"Have you ever put those two things together—freedom of heart and the passionate pursuit of God’s commands? The two go hand in hand. Genuine holiness restores human beings; restored beings possess genuine holiness."
This quote beautifully summarizes the relationship between holiness and freedom.

The freedom we have in Christ does not mean that we can live however we please. As Eldredge noted, freedom of heart and the pursuit of God's commands go hand in hand.

The psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:45 (CSB), "I will walk freely in an open place because I study your precepts."

In other words, the psalmist found freedom in obedience to God's commands.

The pursuit of holiness is not legalistic or burdensome. It is a pathway to freedom and to the healing of our wounded hearts.

In Romans 6:22 (CSB), Paul wrote, "But now, since you have been set free from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification — and the outcome is eternal life!"

Sanctification, or the process of becoming holy, is the result of our freedom in Christ.

This restoration of our being through holiness is not just for our own benefit. It also allows us to better love and serve others. In Galatians 5:13 (CSB), Paul wrote, "For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love."

True freedom is found in Christ, and this freedom leads to holiness.

Pursuing holiness is not legalistic or burdensome but is a pathway to the life God created us to live. As we are restored to this life through holiness, we are better able to love and serve others.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to pursue holiness with passion and freedom of heart, knowing that it is the pathway to full and abundant life.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Live as an Exile



A follower of Jesus Christ is a person in exile. 

I know that it doesn't feel that way. 

We were born in this world. 
We are comfortable with the culture that we live in. 
This world is familiar. 
It feels like home. 

We may sing songs about this world not being our home or talk about how God has mansions waiting for us in heaven, but the reality is that we like it here.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

God created a good world, and that means there are many things that are part of this world that are enjoyable. We should find joy in this life.

Yet, one of the themes that runs through the Bible is that God's people are to be a holy people, a set apart people. Over and over again God's people choose to be another "Canaanite people" rather than God's covenant people.
 
We have this tension of living in a world that God intended for us to enjoy while seeking to live differently from the world around us.

To do this properly we need a shift in our thinking.

Traditionally we ask the question: "How close to the line can I go?"

More often than not we are interested in how we can push God's boundaries so we can live comfortably in the world.

We need to make a shift to turn away from the world and move in the direction of Jesus.

You and I are created in the image of God. This means we are to demonstrate His character in this world. We do that best when we follow the example of Jesus. 

Jesus lived as foreigner in this world:
I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. (John 17:14, NLT)
In his prayer to the Father, Jesus confessed that the world hated him and his followers because they did not belong to it. Jesus' teachings and his way of life were foreign to the the way of the world.

Foreigners stands out because they are different.  

They speak a different language. 
They dress differently.
They celebrate different holidays.
They have different values.  

Christians are to live like foreigners in a strange land.  Our goal isn't to learn the language and the customs of this world, but to adopt the customs of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

The apostle Peter wrote:
Dear friends, I warn you as "temporary residents and foreigners" to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (1 Peter 2:11-12; NLT)
How does the apostle Peter want us to live?  As "temporary residents" and "foreigners"! We are displaced.  We are not at home!

I want you to catch this: when we live like the world we are not part of God's Kingdom!  

God isn’t interested in people who will merely confess Him and believe in Him.  The Bible teaches us that everyone will bow a knee confess Jesus as Lord. What God wants is a people who will live by faith, people who will bow before Him now.  

People who will be motivated by a different set of desires.  
People who live by a different set of standards.  
People who love people no one else will love.  
People who will not abandon the customs of their home country, but will teach those customs to others.  
By living differently we proclaim to the world that there is a better way to live!

In his book The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus wrote:
From the moment we become citizens of the kingdom of God, we become aliens and strangers in a world that chooses to live absent of God.  From the first step taken to follow Jesus, we are out of step with the rest of the world.  Once your life is in sync with the story of God, you become out of sync with any story that attempts to ignore or eliminate God.  You are a stranger to them, an alien among them, a nomadic wanderer who, while refusing to be rooted in this life, seems to somehow enjoy this life most. (p. 93)

Are you walking out of step with the world?  

My great concern for American Christians is that we are not.  

I know that many of us have a different moral standard than the world, but our hopes and dreams are the same dreams the world around us has.  Our dreams and desires center around success, money, happiness, and love.  The list could go on, but the point is that while we are morally different from the world we are not spiritually different from them.  

That my friends was one of the problems Jesus had with the Pharisees.  They looked good on the outside, but on the inside they were filled with dead men’s bones.  White washed tombs.  

We need to quit fooling ourselves that to be different from the world is just about having a different moral standard.  Being different from the world is primarily about our desires, dreams, attitudes, and thoughts. It is about the direction of our lives and what we are willing to sacrifice to accomplish.

A temporary resident doesn’t put down roots in the land he is living.  Instead he hopes and dreams for his home and thinks of the day when he will finally join his family there.  

How can we think about settling for the things of this world when God is offering us so much more?
How can we think about being like the citizens of the world when God is calling us to be citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven?  

Since this world is not our home let us live like citizens of Heaven.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Reflecting on a Scandal


I originally posted this to my Facebook page, but thought it was worthy posting here:

This past week the board of directors of RZIM posted this letter concerning the double life of Ravi Zacharias. You can find the letter here Open Letter from the International Board of Directors of RZIM on the Investigation of Ravi Zacharias.

Ravi Zacharias had a ministry that influenced many people. The news that has been confirmed recently of his moral failure is disheartening, especially if he and his arguments helped strengthen your faith. 

In the light of this  I want to remind us of a few truths. First, truth is not dependent on the life of the messenger. When Ravi spoke truth about God, about the condition of the world, and about Jesus all that continues to be true. His grievous sin does not invalidate the truth he taught.

Second, the way that we live totally impacts the message that we have. Unfortunately, the revelation of Ravi’s double life is going to undo all his years of public life. This is why Jesus taught his disciples to be salt and light. Both of those metaphors deal with living in such a way that we are able to influence the world around us. Our lives provide evidence that our message is true. When we don’t live up to the message it will cause people to doubt our message.

Third, we have a choice to make when it comes to sin. It is probably true, as the letter indicates, that more accountably would have prevented some of this from happening, but accountability is overrated when it comes to transforming our lives. Accountability might help us manage the sin, but it falls short of creating holiness in our lives. When we have sin we need to confess it and seek ways to get rid of it. The Holy Spirit is able to transform our lives, but we need to give Him room to work.

The greatest tragedy here is not the moral failure of Ravi but the women he abused and their reputations that were ruined in order protect Ravi’s reputation. This is what should truly break our hearts.

Prophetic Revelation and the Gospel

  1 Peter 1:10-12 (CSB) Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who prophesied about the grace that would come to you, searched and careful...