Listening to God on behalf of another

“Listening to God on behalf of another may be one of the greatest gifts we can offer each other in the body of Christ.”- John Eldredge

In the Fall section of Walking with God, John Eldredge states a really, really helpful place to begin prayer involves asking God what to pray.  Too many times, John adds, we just jump in and start praying.  However, making prayer speeches to God has little effect.  If we do this for a while, John notes, we’ll get the impression that:

  • prayer doesn’t really work
  • God isn’t in it

But, the author stresses, prayer works and God’s in it- when we pray effectively.  When we pray according to God’s will, He promise to hear us (1 John 5:14-15).  And God answers our prayers.

Sometimes, though, we react in a way that’s way out of proportion to a given situation.  As a result, our overreaction makes it difficult to hear the voice of God.  Yet, it’s an important sign that other factors play into the situation.  Those factors include:

  1. God’s possibly using the situation to surface deeper issues we need to process
  2. Satan’s up to something
  3. Both

Therefore, when helping another human being, we must treat the cause rather than the symptoms.  Most importantly, as you keep an eye out for what’s going on in a hurting person’s heart, use your radar to alert you of Enemy activity.  Satan wants to prevent help from coming.

In conclusion, John cautions, when you intervene on behalf of another, be on guard not to make the same agreements as the person you’re helping.  For you will (emphasis John’s) be tempted to make those same agreements.

As a result, we return to holiness.  Mr. Eldredge provides the reason to pursue holiness.  He writes:

“This gives us a new reason to pursue holiness — we might not always be able to rouse ourselves to fight the battle on our own behalf, but we may find deeper resolve when it comes to loving others.  Don’t give way, don’t surrender.  You are needed.”

Today’s question: When have you had the chance to be listening to God on behalf of others?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Called up to the real thing”

Our desire to have a nice little life

“The collision of our desire to live a nice little life and our need to remain in Jesus can bring about a sanctification of our will, where all things truly are subjected to Christ.”- John Eldredge

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.”- John 15:4

Today in the Fall section of Walking with God, John Eldredge notes that we often overlook Jesus’ seemingly simple command to remain in Him.  Thus, if Jesus must tell us we need to remain in Him, He knows it’s quite possible not to remain in Him.  In fact, our common life consists of a life lived separate from God.

As a result, we tend to want two mutually opposed things, to:

  • live a nice little life
  • play an important role in God’s kingdom

In other words, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, heads in one direction.  However, we head in another, but not to some easily recognizable, flagrant sin.  We simply wander off, looking for the pasture we think best.  It doesn’t even cross our minds to ask God about it.

John stresses we must remember that, as Christians, we don’t get to live a normal life.  To remain in Jesus, John states, we must accept that fact in all the details of our lives.

However, John stresses, we don’t ask because we don’t want to know what God thinks.  For if we know what God thinks, then we face the decision whether to follow His counsel or not.  Thus, the issue becomes obedience.

Therefore, we return to holiness.  to ask = an act of holiness.  We ask because we seek to follow the Good Shepherd and live by faith in Him.  Our “nice little life” thing really gets in the way.

In conclusion, John emphasizes, holiness doesn’t equate with abandoning our desires- a resigned posture of the soul that asks God to “tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”  Rather, in holiness the heart is present and engaged with God.  As we bring our desires to Him, we submit our wills to His.  We genuinely trust that what He says is best.

Today’s question: To what degree do you desire a nice little life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Our day-to-day grind; nothing close to Eden”

The grace you have received

“The grace you have received is greater than the grace you are being asked to give.”- Kyle Idleman

Then the master called the servant in.  ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ “- Matthew 18:32-33

As Kyle Idleman concludes Chapter 4 of Grace Is Greater, he wonders if we, like Peter (Matthew 18:21) want to question Jesus about forgiveness.  For example, at what point does the hurt done to me exceed the grace you want me to give?  When does grace run out?

The answer?  Never.  Grace is greater.  Perhaps we accept this fact on an intellectual level, although the equation doesn’t seem to work.  Yet, even though forgiveness doesn’t feel possible, we must agree to try.

Jesus, Pastor Idleman stresses, made it clear that if you receive God’s grace you can’t then refuse to give it to others.  Yes, Kyle knows, it’s not a simple or fair process.  Simply show the willingness  to take the first step.  And although you’d at least like an explanation, you feel it’s not fair to let the offense go.  As Kyle explains, “it’s not fair, it’s grace (emphasis Kyle’s).”

Next, Kyle describes the effects of conditional grace:

“When you make grace dependent on the actions of the person who hurt you, you need to find a different word because it’s not grace.  With grace, the person doesn’t fix the consequences of their sin, you take the consequences of their sin.  That’s not fair.  That’s not right.  But it is exactly what Jesus did for you.”

In conclusion, Kyle states the more you understand the holiness of God- as well as understanding yourself- the more you realize this truth.  You realize “the grace you have received is greater than the grace you are being asked to give.”

Today’s question: As you reflect on the grace Christ’s extended to you,  how does that change your equation?  Please share.

Coming Monday:  the new Short Meditation, “God made you to flourish”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Choking our resolve to forgive”

Holiness: The Heart God Purifies

Holiness: The Heart God Purifies (Moody Publishers, 2004)

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth published Holiness: The Heart God Purifies in 2004.  The author rightly states that holiness and sin both matter to God.  As a result, the message of repentance and holiness needs to transform the way we think and live.  Thus, Nancy’s goal in writing this book focuses on issuing an earnest appeal to God’s people to pursue holiness.  We should consider sin, rather than holiness, burdensome.  Also, the word holy comes from a root that means “to cut, to separate.”  If follows, then, that we’re set apart by God and for God.  This calling is a priceless privilege.

Therefore, true holiness- cultivated in the context of a relationship with God- starts on the inside and reflects God’s purpose for your life.  In addition, you must be intentional about pursuing holiness.  For sin needs to be eradicated and put to death- not tamed or controlled.  Furthermore, sin disappoints, dominates, and destroys.  Also, ignoring or cherishing sin in your heart keeps you from intimacy with God.  This transformation, powered through the indwelling Holy Spirit, develops on the inside and works its way out.

To assist us in the process of putting on holiness, God provides avenues of His grace.  These avenues of grace include the Word of God, confession, the Lord’s Supper, and the body of Christ.  As we put on the heart of Christ, we minister to others as we call the world to accommodate to Christ- rather than accommodate to the world.  In fact, Nancy stresses, the power of a church’s testimony is directly proportional to its holiness.  Therefore, the church cannot become a safe place to sin- overlooking “respectable” forms of sin.

In conclusion, the author exhorts us to look forward to the day when we face our Beloved Bridegroom with joy- radiant and unashamed.  Nancy urges us to cast off sin, through God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit:

“Nothing, nothing, nothing could be more important.  Nothing could bring Him greater glory in our world, and nothing could bring you greater joy — both now and throughout eternity.”

Day in, day out accountability

“No believer can afford to be without consistent, day in, day out accountability to other believers.”- Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss concludes Chapter 6 of Holiness as she discusses the final four means God uses to draw us to Him.

3.  Communion.  Nancy stresses that Holy Communion provides “a regular opportunity and powerful incentive for self-examination.”  Thorough self-examination eliminates any barriers between you and the Lord.  It also removes barriers with other believers in your faith community.  Hence, you’re free to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

4.  The body of Christ.  The author stresses the need for every believer to foster a faithful fellowship with a Christ-centered local church.  God graciously gives us a body of believers called to look out for one another.  In addition, Christians stand together against foes threatening our holiness.

However, each of us bears personal accountability for our holiness.  Yet, God never intended that we battle sin alone.  Because of our weakness, we need the body of Christ.

5.  Church discipline.  In a nutshell, Nancy DeMoss states: “Whenever a believer refuses to deal with his sin privately, his sin becomes a public matter that requires the involvement and intervention of others in the body.”

Church discipline, she adds, provides a sanctifying effect in your own life.  It also produces that effect in the lives of fallen believers and serves to enhance the purity of the whole body of Christ.

6.  Suffering.  The pathway to holiness always includes suffering- no exceptions, no shortcuts.  St. Peter writes:

“Since, therefore, Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”- 1 Peter 4:1

Today’s question: How do faithful Christian friends hold you to day in, day out accountability?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Conspicuous holiness”

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ

“Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”- Romans 13:14 (ESV)

As Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth concludes Chapter 5 of Holiness, she notes that we need to guard against legalism.  Hence, we must guard against making absolutes out of personal standards not specified in Scripture.  In addition, we cannot assume others sin if they decline to adopt our standards.

Yet, Nancy wonders why we’re prone to defend choices that lead us to the break of sin.  At the same time, we show reluctance to make radical choices to protest our hearts and minds from sin.

Therefore, the author advises, determine, by God’s grace, to stay clear of situations where there’s a moral temptation to sin.  Such a “guardrail” provides blessing and protection rather than creating a burden.

As a result, we live in the light of the good news we’re no longer enslaved to sin.  Our response?  Use that freedom to say yes to righteousness.  When holiness matters, you’ll do whatever it takes to guard your heart and protect yourself- as well as others- from sinning against God.

Although mortification seems like a difficult chore, clinging to sin creates a true burden.  The author explains:

“At times we enjoy our sin too much to let it go.  We think we’ll be miserable if we give it up.  But the truth is  that those fleshy desires and deeds to which we cling will keep us from enjoying the life for which we were created. . . .  Not until we mortify- put to death- our sinful flesh can we experience the freedom, forgiveness, and fullness for which our hearts long.”

Today’s question: How do you “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” following your vocation loss?  Please share.

New addition to Crown Jewels: “Seeing small”

Tomorrow’s blog: “The old leaves of sin”

A pathway to sancification

“I think deep down we’d like to find a pathway to sanctification that is instant and effortless- no long process, no hard battle.”- Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

“Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.”- 2 Timothy 2:22

In Chapter 5 (“The Pathway to Holiness: Put Off”) of Holiness, Nancy DeMoss states no instant and effortless pathway to sanctification exists.  Rather, she adds, “the pathway of holiness requires intensity and intentionality.”  Put another way, through the Holy Spirit’s power, we must constantly and consciously aim to be holy.

Hence, Scripture describes a two-fold process of sanctification.  That process involves “putting off” and “putting on.”   The two sides of holiness often appear in the same passage.  For example, James 1:21 reads:

“Put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

Also, mortification (a synonym for “putting off”) derives from a Latin word meaning “to kill” or “to put to death.” Spiritually, the term indicates a struggle or battle with sin.  We need to take determined, decisive action.  Therefore, we must take an ax to the roots of sin in our life.

As a result, holiness and sin cannot thrive at the same time.  One or the other must die.

Yes, to mortify indeed involves ridding oneself of inherently sinful things.  Yet, it points to a broader application.  We must be willing to eliminate influences fueling unholy thoughts and behavior.  For they lead us into sin- even influences not necessarily evil in and of themselves.

That means we need to cut off every possible means to sin.

Today’s question: What Scriptures guide you on a pathway to sanctification?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ”

Holiness with a face

“Jesus is holiness with a face.”- Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

“But we know that when [Christ] appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”- 1 John 3:2

In Chapter 4 (“The Face of Holiness”) of Holiness, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth notes that holiness becomes a burden when we strive and struggle to achieve it on our own.  However, in a book called Christ is All, the author makes the following points:

  • Christ received = holiness begun
  • the Lord Jesus cherished = holiness advancing
  • Christ counted upon as never absent = holiness complete

Therefore, as nineteenth-century missionary John McCarthy explained, abiding and rest make a radical difference:

“Abiding, not striving nor struggling; looking off unto Him; trusting in the love of an almighty Saviour; . . . this is not new, and yet ’tis new to me.”

Apart from the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we cannot produce this transformation on our own.  Furthermore, like working on a jigsaw puzzle, we need constant reminders of how the finished product of our life should look.

God’s given us a picture of how we’ll look when He’s completed His sanctifying, transforming work within us.  That picture?  Jesus.  As Nancy states, “Jesus is holiness with a face.”

In conclusion, the author observes, a pursuit of holiness that’s not Christ-centered leads to bondage rather than liberty.  In addition, pseudo-holiness is unattractive to the world and unacceptable to God.  Oswald Chamber reminds us:

“The one marvelous secret of a holy life lies not in imitating Jesus, but in letting the perfections of Jesus manifest themselves in my mortal flesh.”

Today’s question: How do you see Jesus as holiness with a face?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A pathway to sanctification”

The serene beauty of a holy life

“The serene beauty of a holy life is the most powerful influence in the world next to the power of God.”- Blaise Pascal

In Chapter 2 (“The Motivation for Holiness”) of Holiness, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth admits she thinks about how hard it is to consistently maintain holiness.  After all, it seems so much easier to go with the flow of our human, fleshy desires.

Therefore, Nancy explores seven powerful biblical principals for holy living.  Today, she discusses the first two reasons God calls us to be holy.

1.  Because God is holy.  The author stresses that God intended our lives to portray His image.  As a result, when people look at Christians, they see what God is like.

The good news?  God’s holiness empowers us to be holy.  In addition, God sets the standard for our holiness.  He’s the sole source!

Yes, holiness signifies an awesome responsibility- but an astounding privilege.  Cleansed from our sins and filled with the Holy Spirit, God calls us to “reflect the splendor of His holiness in this dark world.”

2.  Because holiness is God’s stated goal for every believer.  Nancy states that when God saved you, His ultimate goal for you focused on eternity.  The apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 1:4 that God “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”

Furthermore, holiness defines God’s supreme purpose for your life.  It’s not secondary to any personal goals.  The author summarizes:

“When I consider my created purpose and my ultimate destiny . . . I am inspired to be intentional about pursuing holiness.”

In conclusion, holiness describes our individual calling as well as our collective calling as the body of Christ.

Today’s question: How have you experienced the serene beauty of a holy life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “You watch over me”

The biblical concept of holiness

“The biblical concept of holiness carries with it a sense of belonging to God.”- Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

As Nancy continues Chapter 1 of Holiness, she notes that Scripture presents two related, but distinct, facts regarding the beauty of holiness.

1.  Set apart.  The author states the word holy comes from a root meaning “to cut, to separate.”  In addition, throughout Scripture God set apart certain things, places, and people for Himself.  In addition, He consecrated them for His use.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites not only were set apart by God- they also were set apart for God.  Moving on to the New Testament, God set apart a new body comprising both Jews and Gentiles.  Specifically, the Greek term ekklesia means “a called-out assembly.”

Like Nancy, we’ve all objected to family practices and limitations.  We complain, “But everybody else . . . !”  Yet, as Nancy’s parents reminded her, you don’t belong to ‘everybody else,’ you belong to god.

Rather than a punishment, “set apart” is a call to:

  • belong, to be cherished, and to enter into an intimate love relationship with  God Himself
  • fit into the grand, eternal plan of our redeeming God for this universe
  • experience the exquisite joys and purposes for which God created us
  • freedom from all that destroys our true happiness

2.  Morally clean.  This second facet of holiness means purity, cleanliness, and freedom from sin.  In other words, to reflect the moral character of a holy God.  Thus, for those who belong to a holy God, holiness is not an option.

As the author exhorts, Jesus and the New Testament authors call us to a life of absolute purity.  Also, Nancy adds, “grace gives us the desire and power to be holy.”

Today’s question: How do you witness the biblical concept of holiness in your life?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, “You watch over me”

Tomorrow’s blog: My daily conduct”