Tag Archives: holiness

Isaiah 20-23; Polar Opposites

Scripture constantly reminds us that God’s ways are polar opposite of what the world thinks and does. There are so many examples in these chapters in Isaiah of this truth.

It seemed logical to the king to join forces with his neighbors against their mutual enemy. But those neighbors were idolators, unbelievers. The unequal yoking between God’s people and the ungodly neighbors resulted in more problems for Israel than just an invading army.

Shebna is an example of material wealth, political power, and pride that was lauded by the world. He had everything… except God. And his life of “self” ended badly for him. His riches and power, even those people who idolized him, could not stop God’s judgment on him.

Look at what Isaiah had to say about Tyre’s wealth, the intellect of its people, the glory of that city among nations. The city here is reduced to rubble because of their sin.

But Tyre gets a second chance. And so do we.

We’ve all sinned. None of us measure up to God’s standard. I love what Matthew Henry says:

“We must first give up ourselves to be the holiness to the Lord before what we do, or have, or get, can be so.” (p 859; Commentary in One Volume; Zondervan; 1961) (emphasis mine)

In other words, who we are before our Holy God is the catalyst for what we do, not the other way around. We must first give up our “selves,” recognize sin and accept the Savior Jesus as our own. Not a popular concept according to the world.

We can only become the holiness of God if we are wearing Jesus’ holiness, through the blood He shed on the cross. No amount of good works, sacrificial giving, compassion for the poor, even church-going can render us holy.

That’s not how the world looks at it. We hear them say (even from the pulpit of a royal wedding) that all we need is love. All we need is activism on behalf of the needy. All we need is ourselves, our determination to love one another. But is that God’s way?

Please don’t forget that Jesus went to the cross because of love. Jesus’ love dealt with your sin, not your love. The world would have us concentrate on love, and ignore sin because, of course we shouldn’t judge, right?

Dear one, your love is meaningless without the cross. Your love is a filthy rag in God’s sight unless you have first confessed your sin and accepted God’s grace.

Like I said, God’s ways are polar opposite of the ways of the world.

 

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Nehemiah 1-3; It Starts At Home

The conditions of Jerusalem grieved Nehemiah. His reactions to the news of that great city, reduced to rubble, was to fast and pray. His sorrow was a “sadness of the heart,” as observed by King Artaxerxes.

Nehemiah left the comforts of living in the palace of the Persian king, and went to Jerusalem to see what could be done to rectify the situation there. There are so many spiritual truths tucked into this precious book: How to go about beginning a project, how to handle opposition, what a healthy church looks like. This book is rich.

Here’s what came to mind this morning as I thought about these three chapters: So often I hear people lament the condition of the world, the corruption in our government, the immorality, the blatant sin, the disrespect for God in our society. I hear people grieved at the condition of the Church, bemoaning the fact the Church is losing its influence. I believe some are as grieved about the state of things today, as Nehemiah was at the state of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah went to Jerusalem, rallied the people to action, and the job got done. And here’s how:

People took care of the conditions in their own back yards.

Yes, the wall was rubble all around Jerusalem, an overwhelming task for any individual. But each person picked up a shovel and cleaned up the part of the wall closest to them.

Yes, the world is in sad repair. Yes, the task of cleaning it up seems too monumental. But I believe God would have us understand if we want our world repaired, it has to start at home.

You aren’t responsible for the world’s condition. But you are responsible for the condition of your home, which occupies a portion in the world.

Parents, do you hold your children to a Biblical standard of behavior? Kids, do you read the Bible and long to be right before God? Are you obedient? Adults, do you participate in drunkenness, pornography, vulgar language? Are you a watered-down version of what God demands?

Let’s not just shake our heads at the depraved condition of our world. We can change this world, one back yard at a time.

Joshua 3-5; 1,000 Yards Away

The Jews reached the Jordan River, but Canaan was on the other side. Plus, the river was at flood stage so that took wading across out of the mix. They could see the Promised Land. But there was a watery barrier between them and the blessing.

Then Joshua told them God’s plan: Have the Levites pick up the ark, and step into the Jordan. That in itself was an act of faith. And their obedience always speaks to me every time I read this Scripture. But something else jumped out at me today.

We know the Ark of The Covenant wasn’t just a fancy trunk containing valuable Jewish memorabilia. It was the place God sat on earth. It not only represented His Presence. It was His Presence. And no one could touch the ark and live.

The Levites took the ark into the river, the river stopped flowing, the Levites walked on dry ground and stood in the middle of the Jordan. The people were told to follow the ark, and they did.

Now here’s what I’ve been overlooking all these years: Joshua told the Israelites to stay 1,000 yards away from the ark. That’s ten football fields, over a half mile.

We’ve all seen the pictures in our Bibles, or on the walls of our Sunday School rooms. A wall of water looming over them on one side, dry ground on the other, priests standing there holding the ark, and Jews scurrying along to get to the other side. That’s not how it happened.

The ark stood there, all alone with only the Levites holding on to the poles. The wall of water was more than a half mile away, and the dry ground reached all the way to the sea.

The commentaries I read this morning pointed out some interesting thoughts about this. One, it tells us God stands alone. He doesn’t need our protection. Two, everyone could see it, and be assured by its presence. If they had crowded around it, only those closest to the ark would be able to see it. Standing back gave everyone the same opportunity to look and be encouraged. Three, no one would be in danger of accidentally bumping into it, which would have meant death to that person. And four, it demonstrates that a Holy God is untouchable.

So I sit here today and wonder what any of that has to do with us in 2017. The ark was meant to be followed. The Presence of the ark parted the waters when the Levites obeyed. But no one could get within a half mile of God. Is that the lesson today? Are we to take this to mean God is far off, working in our lives, but untouchable?

Yes.

God is so holy that no one ought to ever think about approaching Him closer than from 1,000 yards away. He is that holy.

But Jesus!

Makes me love Him all the more. When I take a look at God’s holiness as shown in Old Testament Scripture, I am humbled to know I have access to Him every moment of every day, up close and personal, because Jesus lets me wear His holiness! I deserve to be made to stand back from God. Way back from God.

But Jesus bids me, “Come.” Wow.

God has not changed. He is as holy as we see Him here in Joshua’s book.

But Jesus!

Holy God, I pray that we will never overlook the fact that You are Holy, Holy, Holy. I don’t think we really grasp that reality very well here in 2017. Thank You for sending Jesus to purchase holiness for me, so that I can come to You boldly, without fear of the death I deserve. It’s true that Jesus is the only access to the Father. I pray that everyone reading this blog post will receive Him and allow Him to be that bridge between us and You. You are holy. We are not. But because Jesus died on the cross, we don’t have stand 1,000 yards away from You. We can crawl up into Your lap, whisper in Your ear, and know You welcome us with open arms. I love You.

Exodus 8 – Bad To The Bone

I’ve heard it said that humans are born good, that our true nature is good because we are created in God’s image. Bad parenting or some other outside influence results in people turning bad. So when I read in Exodus this morning that God said the inclination of our hearts is evil from childhood, I started digging.

If people are naturally good but are influenced by their environments, why did Adam and Eve sin in the Garden where the environment was perfect and they walked with God? They had every opportunity to remain sinless. If indeed their natural instincts were good, we’d probably all still be living in Eden.

The Bible tells us we are created in the image of God, who is good. Does that mean we are created good? Or does the image of God indicate we were created with the ability to think and reason, with souls that will live eternally? Keep digging.

The psalmist, in 51:5 says he was “sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” That doesn’t sound like he was born naturally good. Psalm 58:3 speaks of wickedness from birth, waywardness from the womb. Paul says in Ephesians says all of us… were by nature objects of wrath.

Let’s think what life would really be like if we weren’t born with a sin nature. Can you picture it? Would it look like 2017? It seems to me if people were born good, the odds would have it that at least a few people would actually grow up sinless. Yet the Bible tells us all have sinned.

If you’ve ever been around infants, I doubt you’ve ever met one who isn’t totally selfish. Their only concerned is about their comfort, their wants. I doubt you can name one child who learned the meaning of the word “No” the first time it was taught them.

There are people and false religions that tell us we are gods, or equal to god, or are good in and of ourselves, that we can tap into that goodness and rise above the evil in the world by our own positivity. And that, my friend, is a belief that will lead you straight to hell. That’s a belief that Satan would love you to adopt for yourself.

Now my thinking may be faulty. But Scripture is not. And viewing humanity from Scripture’s point of view is eternally important.

Scripture tells us all have sinned. (Romans 3:23) There is no one righteous… not even one.  (Romans 3:10) I’ve only scratched the surface of the verses that talk about our natural bent toward sin. We are sinners by nature. Our hearts are wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), our natural man doesn’t accept the things of God (I Corinthians 2:14).

So, my friend. You cannot be good enough to be holy. And holiness is what God demands of us. (Leviticus 20:26; I Peter 1:16) Nothing in you can equal God, or meet His standards. That sin nature in you prevents it. (Romans 7:18)

Enter Jesus. Even before Adam and Eve sinned, then bore children with a sinful nature, God had a plan. He wasn’t about to leave His creation to die without Him. So He voluntarily took on our sin nature, our individual sins, and paid the price Himself so we wouldn’t have to. (Romans 4:25)

It’s eternally important for you to recognize your position before a holy God. You might be a great friend, an honest person, a nice guy. But you still need to humble yourself and accept what Jesus did for you on the cross. Let His holiness be accredited to your account.

Don’t get caught up with trying to convince yourself you are good enough. You just aren’t. And you haven’t been from day one. You need Jesus. I need Him. And we need to let Him deal with our sin nature through His own precious blood.

 

 

October 19 – Defiled

Matthew 15; Mark 7

The Pharisees were upset because Jesus’ disciples weren’t washing their hands before they ate. Jews had been taught for centuries that eating before carefully washing, defiled them. Now here were the people closest to Jesus breaking that tradition.

I like Jesus’ response: Neglecting the commandments of God, you hold to the tradition of men. (Mark 7:8)

Jesus went on to explain that the thing which defiles a person is what comes out of a sinful heart, not by what someone eats. What defiles a person is a heart fed on evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. (vv 21-22)

Too often we get hung up on the outward appearance. A person who wants to appear religious can go to church, may even give generously to charity, pray in public, or be quick to say, “Praise Jesus.” But that same person might be ingesting raunchy TV shows, ungodly websites and music lyrics, laughing at dirty jokes. Their conversation reveals their heart’s condition when they use the language, tell the jokes, and think nothing of it. They look like a traditional Christian. But are they truly living according to God’s commandments?

Jesus isn’t against tradition. But He does speak against holding on to tradition for tradition’s sake, and ignoring the Truth of Scripture plus nothing. Does a person raise his hands during the song service? Ok. Does someone pierce their ears, or nose? Ok. Does your church use the organ instead of a praise band? Ok. Do you prefer the NIV over the King James version of the Bible? Ok.

I think Jesus is asking us to look past the external and check our hearts condition before our Holy God. When you look inside yourself, do you see the holiness God demands of you?

Or are you defiled by what is there?

Dear God, Sometimes we waste so much time on the non-essentials. I think Satan loves when we debate music styles. Or debate the length of a woman’s hair. Or how often we should celebrate Communion or whether our denomination is identified in our church’s name. Satan must love it when we begin to sound like Pharisees. Lord, I pray that Your people will be more concerned about our hearts’ condition than about anything else. It’s what You said was more important to You. It’s what ought to be more important to us.

 

May 28 – I Love the Lord

Psalms 111-118

Sometimes I read a psalm and am surprised at how it reflects my own thoughts as though I had written it myself. These psalms I read today have me praising God.

Psalm 112 says we who fear the Lord are blessed. We who love to obey Him are blessed. To the world, that seems backwards. Fear God? What’s to fear in our heavenly Santa Claus who wags his tail like a puppy when we call him, and wants only to please us? Obey Him? Doesn’t God want me to be happy and strong and follow my heart? It’s my life. What’s right for me doesn’t have to be right for you. Right?

I am reminded that what the world has to offer in its definition of happiness is shallow and an imitation of that which God gives through His Son. This Holy God and Judge is to be feared. He demands perfect obedience.

Yet this Holy God wants to and will bless us with heavenly blessings when we obey Him, by accepting His Son as our Savior. It’s a blessing and joy the world can’t understand or manufacture.

I am blessed by God Himself. Let it be known that I love the Lord!

May 13 – Accepting Forgiveness

2 Samuel 11&12, I Chronicles 20

King David had sex with another man’s wife. Then, when he found out he had gotten her pregnant, and that her husband had been away fighting David’s own war, he had the man killed. Then he married the woman.

By all accounts, this woman’s husband had been an honorable man. He certainly didn’t deserve the treatment he had received by his king.

When David was confronted with his sin, he repented. And God forgave him.

You might be tempted to think that David didn’t deserve to be forgiven. He was king. He took advantage of this woman and murdered her husband. Didn’t he deserve to rot in hell?

The answer is yes.

But so do we. Your sins, my sins, are as loathsome to God as David’s sins. I may not have murdered anyone, but that doesn’t make me less a sinner than David. I have fallen short of God’s holiness, and holiness is what he demands.

Enter grace.

When Jesus died on the cross, his blood bought our forgiveness. All of it. We are forgiven for stealing that paper clip, or for robbing that bank. We are forgiven for lying to our moms about eating that cookie before dinner, or for having an affair with our co-worker.

Do we deserve to be forgiven? Not in and of ourselves. But no sin is too small or too great to be covered by the precious blood of Jesus.

David repented and accepted God’s forgiveness. He didn’t try to justify his actions or convince himself he deserved to be happy. He recognized sin as sin, and asked God to forgive him. And God was faithful to forgive.

You are forgiven. David still had to make sacrifices, shed more blood, to fulfill the requirements for forgiveness. We don’t. Jesus died once and for all. His blood fulfilled all the requirements perfectly. All we have to do is accept it.

No excuses. No rationalizations. No denial. No thinking your sins are too great or too many for God to forgive. You might think you deserve to rot in hell. And you do.

But you don’t have to. Oh, God will condemn you to eternity without Him, to hell, if you refuse to accept His forgiveness. He doesn’t want to. He died so He wouldn’t have to. But He won’t force you to accept what is already yours.

If you have never asked God to forgive you, to allow Jesus’ blood to cover your sins, then do it now. What’s stopping you? You are forgiven.

Accept it.