Sunday, November 27, 2016

Holiness...Is it even possible?

Welcome to those of you joining me from our holiness study - I was grateful to hear from some of you and thankful to see God at work! I invite you to join us for the 2nd half of our study and would encourage you to share your thoughts, insights and/or questions in the comment section - we can learn much from one another. (You can find part one HERE.) This is a topic I've been learning about and even taught on, but none of that matters if it's not a part of my daily life. I've been praying and asking God to fill me with His Spirit so I can fulfill His call to be holy. This helps immensely, but it's not 100% effective because I'm a sinful human. Friend, a few days ago I was reminded how frustrating this reality can be...

It was past our kids' bedtime when we'd returned home from a wonderful Thanksgiving Eve worship service. The night time routine was about complete when I learned child A had tricked child B and then went on to lie about it. THANKFULLY, my heart was in the right place and I was sensitive to the Spirit's leading as I confronted child A. Since I've been soaking in the topic of holiness and continually ask God for opportunities to teach my children, I asked a question before convicting the one I knew was guilty. I simply said, "Do you know what holiness is?"

I don't recall all of the details but we did discuss God's holiness and the fact that He is without sin. Child A agreed with this, but fell apart when I said, "And He calls us to be the same." Instantly tears fell from her eyes and these words came out of her mouth, "I'll never be who you want me to be." My heart softened as well and I assured her I'd felt the same. I tried to assure her God's (and me) not looking for self-achieved perfection, but instead longs for us to join Him in this daily sanctifying work. Is it easy? No. Is it possible? Yes, but only with His help.

We went on to have a long talk that included more tears, some hugs, a confession, forgiveness and prayer. It truly was a teachable moment...for child A and for me. Friend, part of the high calling of holiness is conviction of sin because our sin separates us from God and keeps us from holiness which means being set apart for Him. I hope this is a topic we continue to understand more and live out better on the Beran family farm and I pray the same is true for you! The place to start is prayer, so let's do that now...

Dear Heavenly Father, 
People say the high calling of holiness for a reason...this is no easy task. I fall short everyday, but yet that doesn't change what you ask me to do or who you ask me to be. Your Word says I'm to be holy as you are holy. Help me understand this more and live it better. May I surrender and give up trying to do this on my own, but instead may I allow you to fill me with your Spirit so that you can work in and through me. Father as I start this study, I ask you to prepare my heart - tender it so I'm willing to receive what You have to say. Your Word is living and active...penetrate my heart and reveal any and all evil in my heart and mind. Equip me to see, confess and repent from my sin. Lord, you are faithful and just and will cleanse me from all iniquity and purify me from unrighteousness, thank you. I praise you in advance for the mighty work You will do. In Jesus' precious and powerful name...Amen

As I studied holiness and started to understand it better, I realized this high calling was even more challenging than I initially thought. I found myself crying out to God, “How do I do this?” Shortly after praying that prayer my daily Bible reading time took me to Romans 6 and in verse 19 I read, “I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.”

Immediately, I underlined those last four words and started a new study as I worked to find the difference between righteousness and holiness. Do you know the difference?

This is a topic definitely worthy of more time, but for now I’ll keep it simple – righteousness is our right standing before God, which happens when we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Holiness is a process of becoming more like God which should happen continually as our relationship with our heavenly Father grows. Like Paul says, righteousness leads to holiness, so when I helped my daughter memorize 2 Timothy 3:16-17 God gave me some insight. Here we read – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Scripture is useful for training in righteousness, which means God’s Word helps you and me become holy. Striving for holiness is a good work we must be equipped for!! So let’s turn our attention to 1 Peter 1:13-16 and dig a bit deeper.

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
 After an initial reading, what do these verses mean to you?

An important thing to do when studying Scripture is to understand the context so here’s a quick overview – Peter wrote this book to persecuted Christians during the time of Nero. He was attempting to encourage believers and remind them trials would come while stimulating them to respond rightly to God’s gift of salvation. Today, he can do the same thing for you and me, so let’s pull this passage apart and see what we are able to learn.

Let’s begin with a closer look at verse 13. What are some keys words? What role does our mind play in our pursuit of holiness?

As I read this verse a phrase jumped out at me…“set your hope”, and I found myself wondering what this meant, so I did a bit more researching. After doing so I discovered this is an important command that has much to do with our desire for heavenly things over earthly ones. (Matthew 6:19-21) What have you set your hope on? Worldly treasures or success, selfish gain or achievement or God’s grace and His glory?

Friend, we can’t be holy until we die to self. We’ve studied surrender and it’s a constant step on the road to holiness. May we continually ask God to help us set our hope on Him!

 Now let’s move to verse 14 where Peter says, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” Are you an obedient child? Why or why not?

I want to look at this a minute from a Mother’s perspective…five young people call me “Mom” and I’m so grateful when they obey. I’ll admit part of that joy is selfish because their obedience makes my job easier, but part of it is also pure. As their mom I love them and want what’s best for them; as all parents know that comes from obedience. God knows this better than anyone and friend, as our loving Father He longs for us to obey, but is willing to forgive us when we don’t.

We realize Peter is addressing us as obedient children, but what is he telling us to do?

When did we have these evil desires?

Let’s look at a few verses to try and understand this a bit more. Read them and make note how they connect to verse 14. What insight do they offer?
2 Corinthians 5:17
Romans 8:5
Romans 12:1-2
Ephesians 2:3-10
Ephesians 4:17-24

Before we move on, I want to encourage you to take some time to reflect as you think about these questions – What sins did you struggle with 5 years ago? Are there certain sins you’re prone to during certain seasons or with specific people? What sins do you succumb to when you are angry, tired or alone?

Spend some time in prayer and ask God to help you live as a new creation. Pray you won’t return to old ways, but will instead be filled by the Holy Spirit so God can work in and through you for His glory and your good.  

Moving on to verse 15, we find more instructions for those who call themselves Christians. What are your initial thoughts after reading these words? “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do…”

Let’s break this verse into two parts; first what it says about God. Here Peter tells us God is holy. Friend, this is a constant characteristic of God. It doesn’t change…He can’t be holier today than He was yesterday. He will never not be holy.

Now let’s look at what it says about us…first it states we are called. Friend, not everyone has this high calling of holiness, but as believers it’s the expectation God has for us. We often think about our callings in regards to jobs or ministries, but calling typically has more to do with our daily lives than our life-long careers. Our calling is connected to our thoughts, actions and words. Next let’s focus on a powerful two letter word – be. God is holy and we are called to be holy…there is a difference. Like I mentioned earlier, this is a constant state for God, but it’s something we have to do. I can be holier today than I was yesterday and so can you. I can be holy at church or as I lead Bible study and be unholy as I react to my disobedient child. When it comes to holiness, God doesn’t have a choice, but we do.  We must choose to be holy. Finally, again the last four words are vital. What do they say?
We are called to be holy in all things and at all times. Like my daughter commented, does this seem impossible?

Let me assure you of this, on our own it is impossible! But let’s take a look at a few scriptures that will help us know how to fulfill this calling. Make note of the insight they offer…

Galatians 5:16
Romans 6:12-23, 12:9-21
1 Thes. 4:3-8
2 Corinthians 7:1
Proverbs 1:10
Ephesians 5:1

We are called to be holy, which means we are set apart for God and from sin. We are to be different in all our conduct and in every role. Friend, this is not easy and we will not do it perfectly, but the One who calls us will be faithful to equip us.

Finally, let’s look at verse 16 – “ for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.” This is a short verse with a powerful important truth. Peter is not the only one who makes this claim about God, our heavenly Father. Read the following passages, what does each one say about God and what instruction does it offer for us?

Leviticus 11:44-45
Leviticus 19:2-4
Leviticus 20:6-8

Friend, I’d encourage you to memorize these verses from 1 Peter 1:13-16 and pray you continue growing in your understanding of holiness. I understand this is a difficult topic, but over the last 2 months I've learned studying it is so important and powerful. Before doing this, I knew what sin was and I understood I was a sinner, but digging into God's Word has given me a better idea of not just the damaging impact of sin on my life, but more so the pain it creates in God's heart. God despises sin; He can have nothing to do with it. Think for a moment about the last sin you committed...does that break your heart? I truly believe we need to constantly ask God for help in seeing sin the way He does. And I'm not just talking about sin in the world, we must first be concerned with the sin in our heart. The more we study and are aware of sin the more likely we are to see it how God does...this is a hard thing, but a good thing.

I type that paragraph and am reminded of the story I shared to open this post...initially, my child's heart was hard towards sin she'd committed. Since, we're all human, we often respond in a similar way. As her mom, my heart broke to see this and God's does the same when we sin. He sees our potential and knows the power He provides; He longs for us to be holy, but this won't happen until we call sin, sin and decide not to enter in. Like I told my daughter, we can make that decision and still fall short, but when we do we must recognize our sin and go to God. One quote I read was "When we mess up, we must give up." It's easy for one sin to lead to another, so let's be aware of that and not let them snowball - be it with our thoughts, words or actions. Friend, God will be faithful to help us be who He calls us to be, but will we be faithful to pursue this high calling of holiness?

With that I’ll leave you with a few more passages if you want to dig deeper, a prayer and a song that helps me meditate on holiness. Thank you for joining me in this study…I pray God has met you in His Word and has continued the transformation work of making you more like Him!

More verses on Holiness
Psalm 119:9-12, 1 John 3:1-10, Hebrews 12:10, Colossians 3:1-11, Titus 2:11-12

Dear Heavenly Father,
God you are holy and that will never change. I’m thankful you will always be the same and have created me with potential for change. I pray you would continue transforming me into your image. Help me see sin rightly like you do. May I take it seriously and I ask you to convict me of the sins I commit. May it break my heart like it does yours. Lord, you’ve reminded me that I’m sanctified by your Truth, so I ask you to increase my hunger for your Word. Father, forgive me for the sins I’ve committed and thank you for the righteousness you’ve made possible for me. Lord, make me holy like you are holy. In Jesus’ Name I pray…Amen

Listen to the words as Addison Road sings "What do I know of Holy?" 

1 comment:

  1. What a rich lesson, Jill. Filled with lots and lots of truth to understand and apply. I love your comparison of righteousness and holiness, " righteousness is our right standing before God, which happens when we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Holiness is a process of becoming more like God which should happen continually as our relationship with our heavenly Father grows." Holiness is a process!! Four important words to remember. It is WHO God is and it's what we should seek to be.

    I commend you for taking on this challenging topic. I know it has taken much time and study. Thank you!!!