Tag Archives: holiness

Lifestyle and Hope

And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.
Titus 2:12-13, NLT*

Paul has been coaching Titus in how best to teach and shepherd the Christians in his care – for their personal growth, but also so that people around them will see God’s goodness. Their – and our – lives as Christians are to be positive reflections of God’s character and grace.

Because salvation is meant for everyone (verse 11), Christian conduct should show that Jesus is the way to salvation, freedom, and abundant life. In this context, it’s clear that Paul doesn’t call this world evil in the sense of judging and condemning the people still living without God. Paul wants his hearers to be beacons to attract those who still need rescue.

He wants us to live as lights for good, not with negative attitudes toward the not-yet-saved, but neither with lifestyles that suggest “godless living and sinful pleasures” are okay. Paul’s letters are filled with practical instruction on the sorts of attitudes and behaviours to embrace and to avoid, and he sums it up in today’s verses.

He’s calling us to holy living, and not with any kind of sour faces or legalism. No, looking forward in anticipation of Jesus’ return.

God our Saviour and our righteousness, forgive us for blending in with the world’s ungodly behaviour patterns. Show us where we need to change, and give us the courage to do so. You’ve promised to give us wisdom and to be our righteousness. Help us to receive and rely on Your provision. Draw us into a lifestyle of devotion to You and of hope in Your Son’s return. Thank You for being our light.

Today’s song is “Let it Be Known,” by Lincoln Brewster.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Wholesome Thinking

This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory.
2 Peter 3:1, NLT*

This is a key part of why we need to read (and take in) the Bible, prayerfully and on a daily basis.

We’re living in just as much a culture of ungodliness as the early church. The difference is, in North America people think they’ve “been there, heard that” and have no need of our truth. In Peter’s day, it was new information, and some were eager to receive it.

With all that the entertainment industry offers us as “normal” and “realistic,” we can forget as Christians that it’s not supposed to be normal for us. Maybe the fiction can give us empathy for the ones caught in the real-life futility, but we’re to offer them Christ’s way out – not to join them or to decide what they’re into is okay.

“Wholesome” doesn’t have to be “boring.” Look back over Peter’s letters. He’s been calling us to a vibrant life of obedience, holiness, joy, love and trust. And more. That’s a challenge, and it’ll take more than we can give on our own. We’ll need the Lord’s help.

Peter also calls us to “remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles. (2 Peter 3:2, NLT*)” Don’t forget God’s word and His ways. Don’t accept the lie that because times have changed, so has God’s definition of right and wrong.

There will be a day of judgement, and God is waiting (2 Peter 3:9) out of mercy, because He wants more of us to turn to Him.

We need to be vigilant, to guard our thoughts and behaviours. Love the people around us without being absorbed by popular culture. Show there’s a more satisfying way, and that everyone is welcome to try it. Renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2). Live obedient to Him who saved us, so that others can see the difference He makes and can find Him too.

Holy, righteous and merciful God, You’ve shown us the way that’s best for us. Forgive us for allowing sin to so easily entangle us. Clean us again, and renew our commitment to You. Through Your Holy Spirit within us, enable and motivate us to live clean lives that are pleasing to You. Help us love those around us who don’t know You, without falling into their ways of living. Instead, shine through us to draw them to Yourself.

A good prayer is Chris Tomlin‘s song, “Give Us Clean Hands.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Remembering Our Purpose

I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
1 Corinthians 1:2, NLT*

Do we sometimes forget our purpose as Christ-followers?

God called us “to be His own holy people,” and He made us holy through Jesus. He gave us “everything we need for living a godly life” (1 Peter 1:3, NLT*). Paul said, “you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:7, NLT*).

Too often it seems our focus and energies become tangled up in our own interests and goals, or in the behind-the-scenes struggles to keep our churches running smoothly.

These and other short-term issues fill our sight until we forget it’s all about God.

He called us to live for His glory. Not in flashy holiness, larger than life but surface-only. True holiness, depending on Him, following His lead. Trusting Him, so that others can see the difference He makes in our lives.

Our holy and so-merciful God, thank You for saving us from darkness and spiritual death. Remind us of our calling, and of who You are. Overwhelm us with a glimpse of Your presence. Give us perspective, and the joy of belonging to You, and help us to live for Your glory.

Today’s song is one of worship and surrender: “The Potter’s Hand,” by Darlene Zschech.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Hypocrisy vs. Holiness

Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their hypocrisy. The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.
Luke 12:1a-2, NLT*

This is Jesus’ warning to His disciples. He’s just been to dinner at a Pharisee’s house and confronted the religious leaders about their hypocrisy (Luke 11:37-54). Perhaps some of the disciples were there too.

Jesus often called out the Pharisees for their showy ways and love of public admiration, and for the burdens they laid on the people performance-wise. One thing He said at the dinner was this:

What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. (Luke 11:42, NLT*)

Now He’s warning His disciples about the Pharisees’ contagious example. The point I’m taking for myself and this generation of the church, which has its own stain of hypocrisy, is this: Do the outward acts, the tithing and good deeds (The Book of James has a lot to say about that) but “do not neglect the more important things.”

What’s more important than doing? Being. (click to tweet that)

Being right with God. Close to Him, my spirit lined up with His, listening to Him and obeying. Worshipping. Living confidently in His care.

If inward purity is important – and it is – and if we’re cultivating “the more important thing” of a close relationship with God, it’s bound to show in our character and in our actions.

Not that we’ll be perfect. When we slip up, it may look like hypocrisy, but it won’t be. It’ll be a humbling opportunity to be open with the people around us about our – and everyone’s – need to rely fully on God’s grace, forgiveness and strength. We can’t allow fear of failure to keep us from shining for God, but we must be careful to shine to please an audience of One. Not for the people around us.

God our Father, You call us to grow in the image of Your Son, whose righteousness grew from His relationship with You. The outward life is easier for us to measure, but You see our hearts. Call us deeper in faith, love and obedience, purify and renovate us within, so that what comes out of us will be pleasing to You.

May God help us to pray this song back to Him and to really mean it: “Refiner’s Fire,” sung here by Hillsong.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Signpost Life

I myself am God, your God: Keep my statutes and live by my laws. Keep my Sabbaths as holy rest days, signposts between me and you, signaling that I am God, your God.
Ezekiel 20:19-20, MSG*

As Christians, we live under grace. It’s not about trying to earn our salvation or to appease God so He won’t zap us.

But God is a holy God, and our behaviour matters to Him. We can please Him, or we can offend Him. With all He’s done to save us, isn’t the best response a life that honours and obeys Him? A life lived in loving trust?

That’s the kind of life that keeps us close to God instead of putting up spiritual barriers. And in a culture that has little use for God’s statutes, laws or Sabbaths, it’s a life that shows others that our God is different. He is good. He’s worth following.

Holy God, we could never earn Your approval, but Jesus does, and as believers we stand clothed in Him. Thank You. Please free us from any lingering doubt of Your acceptance, and give us hearts that long to please Your heart—in our words and in our actions. May others catch glimpses of Your character in our lives.

Here’s a song from Sidewalk Prophets challenging us to “Live Like That“.

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


God Isn’t Finished With Us Yet

Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you,
nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.
Isaiah 59:1, NLT*

Last week I posted about the need to draw apart for quiet moments with God. As sometimes happens, God was speaking to my friend Ginny Jaques about the same thing: see her post, Meeting God Under the Fig Tree.

Where my need was to sit with God and be still with Him, remembering our relationship and His power, Ginny needed a “fireside chat” with Him to pour out her concerns for our culture, our world, and where it looks like it’s heading. (Do take time to read her post from the link above. It will encourage you.)

I carry the same concerns, about our God-ignoring culture and about the way even Christians don’t seem awake to the importance of living God’s way. We don’t dare go back to legalism, but often we as God’s people don’t look much different in our attitudes and behaviours than the people who don’t know Him. As if God’s call to holy living was only a suggestion, or His definitions have changed over time.

We need to live by God’s standards while being genuine and approachable. For some of us, that means remembering that Jesus is rightfully Lord of our lives and has a claim on our behaviour. For others, it means risking transparency so our non-Christian friends can see we’re different. For all of us, it means guarding our relationship with God and growing deeper in relationship with Him.

I love how creative God is in communicating. He used Ginny’s post to stir my thoughts about this and to bring me to a prayer of repentance for myself and for much of the North American church. Then He reminded me of today’s verse. It’s not over, and it’s not hopeless. In the long history of God and humans, this has happened many times. God can bring us back to where we need to be. He’s done it before, and His strength has not weakened over time.

God’s arm is still strong to save, and what is our proof? Our hope-anchor? Once He realigned my perspective through the verse, He brought me a song, “Thank You for the Cross.” It doesn’t end with us and our efforts. This is God’s work, and our weakness isn’t enough to eclipse His strength.

Mighty and holy God, it’s a good thing You know our weaknesses—and an even better thing that You are mighty to save and loving, to forgive. Speak to each one of us. Reveal anything that needs to change. We are very much works in progress, and we need Your help. Restore, revive, renew us and make us useful to Your Kingdom. Though we fail, let none be lost because of it. Have mercy on the hurting, and draw them to Yourself. Thank You for Your plan as revealed through the Cross, and for what You will do.

Here’s Kathryn Scott with “Thank You for the Cross.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Spiritual Check-up

But women will be saved through childbearing, assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty.
1 Timothy 2:15, NLT* (emphasis mine)

I hesitated to use this verse, so let’s get the obstacle out of the way first. The “childbearing” part has been misused and has caused great pain to single or infertile women. Footnotes for this verse in the NLT say it can also mean “will be saved by accepting their role as mothers, or will be saved by the birth of the Child.” Me, I like the latter one.

That’s not what I wanted to share today, but I didn’t want to lose anyone because of it.

“Saved … assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness and modesty.”

That’s what I want to talk about.

Not that the way women (and men) live will earn our salvation, but that this is what the working out of our salvation will look like.

Remember the way it’s said “I am saved, I am being saved, I will be saved”? How it’s all reflecting a different aspect of the same process?

Spiritual check-up time:

  • Faith: how often do I forget faith and live by sight, in anxiety and stress?
  • Love: how much of God’s love grows in me for those outside my family and friendships?
  • Holiness: is it the “rules” type, or the inner glow of the Holy Spirit?
  • Modesty: not just do I dress in non-provocative clothing, but do I draw attention to myself instead of to God?

These are attributes that resonate with me, that I’d like to develop as I find my identity as a child of God. They describe the women of faith in my life, the ones I want to “be like when I grow up.”

God our Saviour and our Shepherd, thank You for the grace to grow in our salvation. Thank You for those in the faith who have been our examples and our role models, and for Jesus Christ who demonstrated a life fully pleasing to You. Please help us to live in faith, love, holiness and modesty – to live in You.

Here’s a song I loved from years ago: “Growing Up to be a Child” by Sheila Walsh. May God grow this trusting heart in us.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.



Intentional Holiness

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1 Corinthians 9:25, NIV*

I’m challenged by how seriously the Apostle Paul takes spiritual growth and development, compared with how casually it’s often treated these days. Even when we know it’s important and we try our best, it’s easy to wish ourselves more spiritually mature and then forget to actually practise the spiritual disciplines that will help us grow.

A quick search of BibleGateway.com turned up six variations on the command to “be holy because God is holy.”  We know it’s not so we can earn His love, nor for legalistic purposes. It’s spiritual training, where outward acts deepen inner devotion.

Part of the call to holiness is so barriers won’t grow between us and God after Jesus took them all down. The repeated act of recognizing and confessing our sins of commission or omission keeps the barriers broken down and sensitizes our spirits to God’s way.

I wonder if the main reason, though, is so our devotion to God will show others how incredibly worthy we know Him to be: worthy of our obedience, worship and love. After all, if we don’t seem very captivated by Him, what will attract them to consider Him?

Living and Holy God, You’ve saved us and called us to be a people set apart for Yourself, and You’ve promised to grow us into Your Son’s image. Help us take this seriously, with the right motivation, and teach us to live holy lives that worship You. Thank You for the privilege of being restored to relationship with You.

Let Kathryn Scott’s “Search Me, Know Me” be our prayer today.

*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

So the Lord May Bless You

I’ve been reading in Deuteronomy (yes, on purpose!) about Moses’ long speech to the Israelites before they’re to finally enter the Promised Land. He reminds them what God has done in the past and what kind of behaviour God expects in the future.

What strikes me is the intent behind the litany of dos and don’ts: it’s not about following the rules, it’s about the Israelites’ lifestyle being a sign to the people around them. They’re to show how God designed humans to function, and how well He looks after those who trust Him.

Although the Old Testament proclaims Israel as God’s chosen people, it gives clear instruction to welcome the stranger and the alien and to allow them to learn about God.

The Pharisees got it wrong with their legalism. From the beginning, God asked for wholehearted love and obedience rather than rigidity. Peter had a handle on this when he wrote that we’re to live prepared to give an answer for the hope within us – we’re to live so that people can see we’re different.

What does it mean for us today?

  • legalism is not the way
  • personal holiness: not “I don’t do that” in a judgmental way, but “I do this because I love God”
  • taking seriously what He says
  • personal times alone with Him, again out of love and perceived need rather than performance or “earning points”
  • care for the person who doesn’t see his/her need, because God does see the need

We need to live mindfully according to His ways, secure in the knowledge that He is powerful, good, and able to care for us. Deuteronomy 23:20b is one of many illustrations of Moses’ theme: live God’s way so that we don’t block the blessings God wants to give – for our sakes and for the sakes of those who see us.

I’m really struck by how much God wants to give, and I wonder how much we miss by our own choices and actions.

Personal Holiness

You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.
Leviticus 20:26, NIV*

God chose the people of Israel as a living example or sign to the rest of the world of what relationship with Him would look like. They didn’t do very well over the long haul because they weren’t very faithful.

I’m not sure our churches today are doing much better, and Christians have the Holy Spirit within us instead of depending on hearing Him speak through the occasional prophet.

We’re meant as a sign, and we forget that. We get so caught up in our needs and desires that we miss the bigger picture.

Personal holiness is important. Legalism and rigidity aren’t appropriate (certainly not attractive displays of the joy of belonging to the Lord) but we need to live in obedient trust in God. We need to “learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Matthew 11:28, MSG**)

We need to be good. Not because we must, but because in Jesus Christ—and only in Him—we can. And living in confident trust in Him even in the hard times shows others the truth about God. It can show us too.

Holy and perfect God, thank You for the privilege of belonging to You, and for the grace that washes us clean. We could never earn the right to be Your children, but You give it freely. Help us to be holy, by Your grace, as You are holy.

Here are The Imperials with “Not To Us, O Lord.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

**The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson