Crucifying the Flesh

www.bible.com/72/gal.5.24.hcsb

I love how Paul here understands this crucifixion to be past tense. I wish that that was true for me as well.

There is something here we ought to pay attention to. For if we have become Christian, believers is the sacred Savior who cleanses is from our sins, then that means something for our behavior, doesn’t it? We are saved just as we are, without any work on our part, for Jesus note the cross for us. He gave His own perfect life as the perfect sacrifice for sin, for there is no forgiveness without the shedding if blood. Jesus became dead for us so that we could live.

Now many today see this is a great thing. It is. That means you did not need to bring any sacrifices to the altar, nor qualify for this salvation beforehand. All your sins are wiped away, your heart is cleansed, and you are pure before the Lord. Now what?

Sadly this same multitude turn right back to the filth that made them miserable in the first place. Though they experience s temporary joy in their salvation, like washed hogs they return to the mire or like dogs to vomit.

That’s because this part of their salvation wasn’t complete. There are consequences of purity, just like there are for sin. And honestly I believe most Christians struggle with this part daily. It’s hard to be holy. I think that’s why he uses the image of crucifixion to show how difficult it is. We take up our cross daily. We die to ourselves daily. We get better at it. That’s called maturity, so that one day we can look back upon our cross and see our old crucified flesh there, withered and dead. It’s not a pretty sight, because that is the sin and death and keeps us from heaven.

Make today a day you set aside the desires of the flesh for the desires of the spirit. Let the Spirit has His full work in you. God bless you and have a great weekend.

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Drawing to God

bible.com/72/jas.4.8.hcsb

“Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord, to thy precious bleeding side.”

So the words of that precious hymn roll through my mind this morning after reading this passage. I noticed as I looked down to the shareable pics that Youversion presented me with, that all of them dropped the last half of the verse. I suppose it is more comfortable to see God as one of invitation only without preparation on our part.

It leads some to believe that God accepts you just as you are. That you don’t really need to change, but just believe and arrive in God’s presence as a dignitary of some kind, and it is you gracing God with your dignified presence.

I know this is unpopular to say, but we are sinners. He is perfect and righteous, blameless and holy. Something we don’t talk about much in Christian circles any more is holiness. It seems that modern Christians are all about grace and love and peace, but ignore God’s demands on personal holiness. “Be holy as I am holy.” This is what the whole verse more striking. Certainly we want to draw near to God, but rarely do we hear there is a dress code to visit the Almighty. This isn’t about wearing a tie to church, but about appearing before Him wearing be garments of righteousness provided by Jesus Christ. Jesus tells a parable about a man thrown out of a wedding banquet because he is not wearing the wedding garment. He is thrown out because he was not prepared for the occasion.

Now, I don’t think we need to employ the holiness police at the church door. That’s not what this is about. This is about preparing the heart when we intend to enter the Lord’s presence, either by public worship or private prayer. Hands are cleansed with water. Hearts are cleansed by the blood of Christ. There is an “holy attire” when entering the Lord’s presence and we need to prepare for it.

For today and everyday, cleanse your hands and purify your heart. You are in the Lord’s presence.

God bless you today!

Happy New You

bible.com/72/2co.5.17.hcsb

Turning over the calendar often inspires us to think in new directions, commit ourselves to new projects and so on. But try as we might, decisions and habits we made in the old year still haunt us into the new.

It is not unlike our new life in Christ. When we make that decision to take on the mantle of faith and commit ourselves to the Lord Jesus, the “old man” of sin and doubt gives way to the “new man” and we commit to going to church and reading our bible and prayer. But like the old year, the old man has a way of haunting us with past sins and pleasures that derail us from our new life in Christ.

As Pail writes in Romans 7, “wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?” Thankfully, God did not leave us alone, for we have gained a new ability in this new life, and He is more than an ability, but the presence of God in the Holy Spirit. Your might have forgotten that the promise is to you as a child of God that when you are baptized, your heart is made pure by the blood of Jesus, so that the Holy Spirit may move in in power and take up residence in our heart. God makes His home with us in that moment. So that while we continue to dwell in this flesh, we have been given more than our own will to deal with temptation. We have the holiness of the Living God.

As you prepare to go into the New Year Christian, remember that God has made you new. You are no longer beholden to past temptations. You don’t have to sin, because God has freed you from sin. Instead, God calls you to holiness, and that is far more liberating. Happy New You!

God bless you all and have a Happy New Year!

0010 – Source Code 2 – Are You Beautiful?

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It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And many understand the wisdom of that sentiment. We tend to see beauty in those similar to ourselves, and only begin to see beauty in those unlike ourselves when we mature. Yet beauty is a quality we recognize without realizing it. We are engineered to recognize beauty (often as symmetry of design) as perfection. We often pair the word “flawless” with beauty, as a way to describe it. If something is faultless or flawless, we more likely recognize it as beautiful. We also recognize order as beauty. A house free from clutter with well-trimmed landscape would be considered beautiful. Well-brushed hair and manicured nails are beautiful.

Even small children do not have to be taught beauty, for they automatically recognize it. Our eyes recognize symmetry, perfection, and order without having to be taught what they are. This is part of our source code, for God is the ultimate Perfection, Order, and Designer of all things. Truly beautiful subjects remind us of awe and wonder. Yet God refuses to let others take credit for His work.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exo 20:4-6)

If it is built within us to recognize beauty, then we are also designed to react to beauty. We react with awe and wonder. And we react with adoration. When we look at the night sky, we are amazed at its vastness, in awe of the power it took to create it, and we just gaze at it, adoring such mighty handiwork. When we see a spectacular piece of art, we are in awe of the skill of the artist and adore the artwork. It is a short step from awe and adoration to worship.

God not only recognizes our propensity to be in awe and adore beauty, but warns us off of worship when our adoration calls away from Himself to someone or something else.

Aspiring to beauty sometimes comes at great personal cost, and can lead to anorexia, bulimia, and even suicide. We have our own personal ideal. I recall in the Matrix some years ago when Neo first enters the computer world (after having escaped it), Morpheus tells him that what he sees of himself is his “residual self-image”. It is how he sees himself. I know exactly what he is talking about, because the guy I see in the mirror every morning isn’t the guy I see myself as (and that’s probably a mental issue right there). But each of us has a “residual self-image” or an ideal self-image that we feel is the way we ought to look. This sometimes leads to making ourselves the idol, an unrealistic obsession with the way we look and how we feel, which is definitely a mental illness called narcissism.  And yet even this “illness” can be rectified with a proper understanding of who we are before God.

Anyone can make an idol of anything, including themselves. It is an idol when it takes our focus off of God. Idols of our own making make few demands of us. Our favorite musicians or movie stars, atheletes or even preachers may only ask for time, some cash, or a donation. That’s far easier that re-ordering your life after the perfection of a perfect God.

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mat 5:48) or “since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”” (1Pe 1:16)

God makes demands on us. He is not content to let us wallow in our imperfection. He calls us to Himself, through His son Christ Jesus. Jesus is the one who renews us and washes us to be pure and holy.

that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:26-27)

Christ wants to make us beautiful in His sight, not just to make us beautiful, but to cleanse us from sin:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1Jn 1:9)

God is just as interested in our beauty as we are, to restore us to the beauty we had before the Fall in the garden, when we had a perfect relationship with Him. God love us so much that he molds us, like clay, into vessels worthy of His use. He molds us, refines us, perfects us through trial and sometimes through suffering, until we are beautiful vessels, so shiny He can see His face in us.

We may recognize beauty in others and in things, but God sees our beauty when He sees Himself in us.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1Pe 3:3-4)

This is why no image, no graven image can ever be formed before God. All of them are meagre and stupid before the holiness and beauty of the Almighty God. No idol, no Greek statue, no modern Olympian, no self-made man can even hope to be compared with the awesomeness that is God.

Are you beautiful to God?

A Christian Necessity for Holiness

There is a decided air of un-holiness today. It is cooler to be “irreverent” and even sacrilegious. I heard recently of a Lady Gaga music video in which she played a nun, a fairly sacred occupation, only, her nun habit was decidedly unholy, made completely out of latex. That’s the same material used for condoms. Of course, Madonna did much the same thing in her video “Like a Prayer” when she play-acted a romantic relationship with an angel about twenty years ago, so nothing is new. That was “cool”. That was “hip”. Because of their permissive attitude toward child molesters in the pastorate, the once “holy” Catholic Church has come under fire. It seems that every other preacher, on TV or at the pulpit at home, is under a cloud of suspicion, damaging the reputation of all them. I could give countless examples, but all to prove that the permissive, unholy attitude is pervasive. No question holiness itself is under fire, painted with the broad brush of hypocrisy, because so many Christians have been bad at it. Just as the following verse from 1 Timothy predicted.

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2Ti 3:2-5, emphasis mine)

If there is a time for holiness it is now. The world needs to know that there is a difference between the world and the church. Though we are to be relevant and engaging with the world, we need to be identified separate from them. Even though we speak the language, we need to be from another culture. We are to be “in the world, but not of it.”

There is only One God and we are to be holy before Him. We are to separate ourselves from the world to be holy before God. Holiness isn’t cheap, but it is free. It’s like being given a Mercedes-Benz. It is free to you, but you know the giver paid a terrific price for it. Holiness is our response to that great gift. By the gift of grace we are saved, and this not because of what we have done, but because of the love of the One who saves us. Holiness is our response to God for His grace. Some people call it works. Others call it gratitude. But the Bible calls it holiness.

How do we do this? First let us establish that we must do this. We have a holy calling as his people, a mandate to be holy. This isn’t an optional command, or a command to obey when it is convenient, or un-contentious, like Sunday morning. This is a call to holiness 24/7, so that in every thought, and in every act, we are a holy people. Jesus was able to accomplish this. Can we do it too? We must. And God’s grace be upon us where and when we fail.

But if we are holy, won’t that make it more difficult to minister to the world? I mean, if we come off as “holier-than-thou” wouldn’t people stop listening to us and to the message we preach? In a way, that’s like saying that the plate has to be a little dirty in order for the food on it to be appetizing. People aren’t attracted to food served on dirty plates. They won’t be attracted to the gospel served by “dirty” people. Would you listen to a lesson on sexual purity from a preacher who had been caught in adultery? Or fiscal responsibility from a thief? Or how to eat healthy from someone morbidly obese? The messenger colors the message, no matter how pure the message may be. People need to see Christians for whom the message has impacted and changed before they will listen to it.

What has the message changed in your life? How has it made your life different? That’s the difference holiness makes. But Christians get busy, and busy-ness makes for lazy holiness. We end up saving holiness for Sunday and when the preacher is looking. Is that the holiness the Bible calls for?

 

A HOLY PEOPLE

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

(1Pe 1:14-16)

A HOLY BODY

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

(Rom 12:1)

A HOLY CALLING

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, (2Ti 1:8-9)