Impurity Kills the Soul

2 Cor 7_1.jpg
So then, dear friends, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
When Christianity was still new, an idea emerged among some that our bodies and our souls are distinct and separate. The new idea was not actually new, but integrated into Christian thought, and basically taught that whatever you do with your body doesn’t matter. Your body is evil and will eventually die. What really matters is what you believe, and how you culture your soul with God’s word (and how well you learn a host of secret passphrases to advance through the levels of spirit beings, kind of like a Mario game for the afterlife. This system was called Gnosticism and became prevalent in the early church as the early apostles were sliding off into eternity.
You would think such would not be the case, as the Scriptures clearly teach, as here, that moral impurity affects your eternity. Can you tell the difference between an impurity that defiles your flesh and an impurity that defiles your spirit? I would argue that they overlap. For an impurity of the spirit, such a wrong belief, will lead to wrong action. For example, if you believe that your spirit is good and cannot be affected by what you do with your body, like fornication or drugs, then you will practice those things without fear of eternal consequences. But when you practice fornication on a regular basis, you feel more and more unworthy to enter God’s presence, and your spirit suffers, just as the body does. Wrong beliefs can make wrong actions. Let me give you another example.
You have heard it said that God will not give you more than you can handle. It is a loose translation of 1 Cor 10:13, where the Scripture says that God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to endure, but will always provide a way of escape from the temptation. Those are actually two different things. Temptation is the thought of doing a certain thing that you know is sin. God says He will not allow such thoughts to overwhelm, or give you more of such than you are able to bear. In addition, God will also offer a way out of these thoughts, which could be a Scripture, or a diversion, or something else that will allow you to resist temptation.
What people often apply this to are situations which have already happened, not thoughts about what you might do. People apply this to crises, or events that have overcome them. They cling to this false promise that they will be able to bear this, because God thinks they are strong enough, otherwise they wouldn’t have to endure it. What happens is that they second-guess God, believing that God either has too much faith in them, or God doesn’t know them, and they buckle under the pressure. Because they cling to a false promise (and thus a false god), they have no resource for hard times. What we might rather do is claim another of God’s promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” No matter what life throws at us, God will never leave our side. We know that even in hard times, God is always present, and we know that in His strength, we can bear all things for, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” That verse is often also misapplied, but I will leave it for now.
If you believe that God will not give you more than you can handle, then when He does give you more than you can handle (without Him), then you will lose your faith in Him and fall away. False belief will lead to faithless action. A spirit defiled will lead to flesh defiled. Such a person will walk away, go their own path, and fall into destruction if they are not corrected. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who have left the church for this very reason.
Rather, we believe that both actions of our flesh and of our spirit have consequences for eternity. We cannot isolate one from the other. We must be Christian in our faith and in our behavior. We cannot take one or the other in isolation. So if you think you can go to Church on Sunday and act like a pagan on Monday, then you don’t understand what this Christianity thing is all about. Time to go back to the Word.
Well, I hope this helps you on your journey. God bless and never stray far from His leading hand.
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Character

www.bible.com/1713/col.3.12.csb

What does a Christian look like? Certainly, a Christian can look like anyone, right? Because anyone can be a Christian. But let me put forth another idea. You can better tell a Christian by their actions than their appearance. I would say people judge you more based on what you do than how you look. So that ”how can you tell if a person is a Christian?” is based on how they act, not how to dress.

Note the verse above. Three things that come from God are being chosen, holiness, and being dearly loved. Because of those three things, things which we have no power to do ourselves, we acquire and practice the following character traits. These traits help define our character, and we do not achieve them all at once. It takes time and practice to go develop compassion. It takes effort to develop kindness and gentleness. We have to work to suppress pride to humility. Patience, well, you learn through experience. All of these things are within our power to do. But we also have the power of the Holy Spirit to help us be more Christlike. A good person might have one or more of these qualities, but all of them? No. A Christian needs the peaceful contented presence of the Holy Spirit to be able to hold all of these at the same time, to practice to a greater or lesser degree each in turn.

How can you tell a Christian? It’s not by the words they say or how they dress. Watch what they do. Watch what you do. Are you a Christian?

Narrow Gate

www.bible.com/1713/mat.7.13-14.csb

Warning here for those who think they’ve got it all together. If you are surrounded by lots of people who agree with you, you may be on the wrong road. If anything, Christianity is counter-cultural. Putting on the Lord Jesus means making few friends in this world. If you truly walked and talked as Jesus did, would you still have a job? Even if a preacher confronted people in the pews with the authentic but challenging love of Jesus, would American Christians tolerate him for long? Would Jesus tolerate the hypocrisy and the Pharisees living in your church, or would they tolerate Him?

Jesus calls us to a narrow gate, one that few find. It is a path of purity and holiness, one in which grace covers all, but much is expected. We cannot expect to land at the doorstep of the pearly gates with sin on our hands. We cannot ignore the call we’ve received to live as we wish, saying “I’m covered by the blood!” Holiness and purity are two words American Christians y’all about but rarely achieve, thinking we can mix a little worldly pleasure and entertainment in with our piety. Over he centuries, many have abandoned the world and went to live in the desert or the wilderness to escape the pleasures of the world for the sake of holiness. If we are to find the narrow gate, we must first turn off the wide path of the world.

I don’t know this means for you. But for me, it has caused me to reevaluate what I consider entertainment. Much of the soft core porn and glamorizing of sin I see flaunted anymore ought to sicken me. To see people abuse themselves who are children of God should turn my stomach. The fact that it doesn’t tells me I’ve gone down that path too far and need to turn back.

It may mean something else for you. I hope you find it. The narrow gate actually isn’t that hard to find when your eyes adjust to the light. I want to encourage your path to holiness and purity. God bless you today in the journey.

Monday Cure

www.bible.com/1713/jer.17.14.csb

As much as we hate Monday’s, this is one of those that’s not so bad. Today is Labor Day and it is a federal holiday, so anything that can be closed is closed. Which means I am on-call today instead of actually going in. Such is the life of a Chaplain.

Ironic then we have this text today. For all of Jeremiah’s pleas for salvation and safety, God’s response to Him seems odd. God tells him to go to the Kings’s gate and tell the people not to work on the Sabbath day by bringing in loads through the gate. Here, let me show you.

“This is what the LORD says: Watch yourselves; do not pick up a load and bring it in through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day.”  (Jer 17:21)

Now it seems ironic to me, since this is Labor Day, that God’s warning to Jeremiah and to Judah is about labor. They wanted to work so much (and make some extra money) that they wanted to work on a day God has set apart for rest. Later on, God appeals to this desire by saying He wOuld make them a great and powerful nation if they would just honor Him on this one day is the week, and not work on the Sabbath.

Labor Day is not a Sabbath, but it can be and often is a day if rest from our usual labor. Maybe we could go the extra step today, instead of celebrating ourselves, to actually use it to honor God. For Christians, every day is the Lord’s Day, for in Him we live and move and have our being. Everywhere we go is the church, because we are the church.

So if you are off today, make some time to rest in the Lord, have some prayer, do a devotion or two, but make today holy, for He has made you holy.

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.

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!