Tuesday, September 28, 2010


We cannot talk to God strongly when we have not lived for God strongly. The closet cannot be made holy to God when the life has not been holy to God.

Our praying, to be strong, must be buttressed by holy living. The life of faith perfects the prayer of faith.

~ E.M. Bounds

For the past two or so months, my thoughts have continually turned to set-apart, holy living and how it is kept and maintained in all the day-to-day, practical, nitty-gritty details. Just to emphasize: my use of set-apart and holy are radically opposite from the works-based mentality that modern Christianity often assigns to those words (nor am I determining to jump head-first into a Messianic-Hebraic lifestyle and lay on my shoulders all the customs and traditions of the Jews). I speak of a life that is built around Christ, constantly pursuing Him with holy fear, trembling, and sweet delight! A life that is showcased in Scripure and all throughout historic Christianity. A life that is completely purified and dead to self that it will not seek after those innocent fleshly indulgences for comfort, rest, or energy.
The hebrew word for holy is qodesh which means apartness, holiness, sacredness, separateness, set-apartness, consecrated. I love the word qodesh, mainly because I grew up listening to the well-known Messianic praise-song, Kodesh (which I highly encourage all to listen to). But the full weight of qodesh in relation to my Lord has only become a greater reality to me since last year at this same time. I've had a great amount of struggle transitioning from a life of self-importance to Christ-importance (being at Ellerslie: School of Honor this summer really equipped me with that which I had been missing by turning me to cultivate a deeper, prayer life, thanks be to God!). Perhaps one of my greatest wrestlings has been with "holy" decisions made out of my own will and strength. As the Lord began to show me the beauty of a set-apart life and a pure heart, I was deeply convicted and immediately felt compelled to completely change my lifestyle (what I listen to, what I watch, what I spend the majority of my time on, where I choose to veg-out or escape to when I'm stressed/tired, etc.). To be honest, it's not like I was into a bunch of blatantly terrible, bad things. But oftentimes, even the good, innocent things in our lives aren't doing anything to build us in Truth or turn us to Christ. If we are all honest ourselves, we would admit that those innocent, "neutral" things are often a huge hindrance in our spiritual lives because of the amount of time, thought, or energy we place into them. Not to mention, they do not feed or purify our souls. And so it was in this area that I've greatly strugged and desperately sought to give up all at once. However, at times I couldn't give them up, despite my self-resolve, or I'd find myself terribly confused and questioning myself on many areas. I also fought arrogance and pride on these decisions by anticipating how those closest to me would react or say. In fact, I felt really sour towards them because I knew they'd question and not understand. I found myself living by man's opinion and, thus, it led me to hold back on making certain decisions for fear of their opinions.
I needed His will to replace my will in this decision-making or else it would have been merely the result of legalism. The Lord does call us to a full surrender of our lives (even those innocent and good parts of our lives) but He doesn't ask us to surrender without Him first enabling us (heart, soul, strength, mind) and purifying us so that we're not in an attitude of arrogance, still looking towards man's approval, or doing these things because we will it out of our own desire for holiness. I needed His desires and love for purity and holiness to become mine. When we have His will and desires working through us, we're able to pursue a set-apart life with purity of heart and joy - no pride, no fear, no arrogance, no confusion! This is what Jesus spoke of:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. ~ Matt 13:44

The man gave up his things in joy. And, no doubt, we can assume that this man was not defensive or turned to self-pity when those around him did not understand and questioned him. The joy of the Lord was his strength!

These are some verses that have spoken to me in times of meditation on holiness:

God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. ~ 1 Thess 4:7-8

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 2:21

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. ~ 1 Cor 6:19-20

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. ~ 2 Cor. 7:1
- The Hebrew word for spirit in this verse is pneuma, which is defined from Blue Letter Bible as: the spirit, i.e. the vital principal by which the body is animated
the rational spirit, the power by which the human being feels, thinks, decides
the disposition or influence which fills and governs the soul of any one
the efficient source of any power, affection, emotion, desire, etc.

Therefore, it's not just about living lives pure of physical defilement but also pure of everything that can taint or influence our spirit - our feelings, thoughts, decisions, etc.
These verses from 1 Cor. 4 made me think heavily on the fact that the Lord has entrusted us with something great and precious and we're not to squander His high gifts:
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. ~ 1 Cor 4:1-2

May we be brought to a place where we can honestly say by the Spirit of our Lord that dwells within us:

There was a day when I died; died to self, my opinions, preferences, tastes and will;
died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren or friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God. ~ George Mueller

And lastly, an entry-post by Steve Gallager:
“O God, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly; my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)
This world is a dry and weary land. Nothing will deaden a person’s spiritual appetite like the spirit of this world. Even believers with the best of intentions find that their passion for God wanes in the spiritually polluted atmosphere around us. And the more immersed we become in it, the more dry and weary become our souls. Every minute we spend watching television, listening to secular radio, surfing the Net, playing video games, reading newspapers & magazines, strolling through the mall—and a thousand other activities which beckon us—the more barren we become spiritually.

The deception of it all is in the innocuous nature of these different pastimes. While many TV shows could have a quick and powerful effect on me spiritually, watching a segment of Headline News is not going to drive me away from God. Reading the Sports page—in itself—is not going to make me spiritually dull. The problem is how much accumulated time people spend in these different pursuits. By the end of any given day, it is not abnormal for a believer to have spent two or three hours filling his mind, in one fashion or another, with the voice of the spirit of this world.

Most believers understand from past experience that the more time they spend in worldly activities, the more difficult it will be to break into the presence of God during their devotions the following morning. They will have to fight through that fog Jesus called “dissipation:” the spiritual hangover that comes from being drunk with the things of this world. It is simply a fact that the world deadens spiritual sensitivity.

One would think that spending time in the world would create a great thirst for the rivers of life, but actually it has the very opposite effect. The things of this world give a person a false sense of fulfillment. It’s like filling up on soda pop when the body needs pure water. The more cola a believer drinks, the less thirst he will feel for the real thing. I made this same point in an article I once wrote regarding the place of pleasure in the life of the believer:

Making pleasure the most important aspect of one’s life could be compared to a teenager who thinks he can live on candy bars and soda pop. True, he won’t drop dead within a few days of such an unhealthy diet, but his quality of life will be seriously impaired. The constant intake of sugar will gradually rot his teeth, deplete his overall energy level, and could even lead to something serious such as diabetes. Worse than that, by substituting healthy food with sweets, his body will not receive the nutrition that is required to ward off sickness and to sustain life. Undoubtedly, over a long period of time the results of such a lifestyle would be a sickly life and an untimely death.

May we have a constant joyful, sacred regard and delight for the Spirit of the Living God which dwells within us.

And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. ~ Exodus 3:5


Nolan said...

I can't even begin to list the things you pointed out that I have been struggling with lately. I just get so tired of being stubborn all the time. It's like I know exactly what it is to be the Lord's, but my heart doesn't always maintain that knowing Him, even though I truly want it to. Not so much that I don't want to let the Lord live His life through me, but that the more I try the more self and worldy things rises to the surface, and the illusion that simply trusting Him is difficult, even though I know it is not the trusting it's the letting go. I don't believe in two natures, and I know what's truth is truth, but I sometimes let myself fall deeper and deeper in to the "innocent" worldly things as you said. The reality of the joys and new creature life of abidance sometimes fade away from mind enough to deceive. I go back and read things that I wrote in my journal and say "I wrote that, and I know that's true!" but did it not sink in? Truly it's all a life that only the Lord can teach me with Christ's life in me. If He brought me to repentance from my state of death, He can surely teach me that I am His own with His presence in me!

I think that's really cool the ways in which God spoke to you at Ellerslie are now a reality in your daily life in the city, and I pray that He continues to guide you as you rely on Him in this understanding of who you are in Christ.

It is also a terrible web to be caught in the opinion of others, and so often putting up an image that looks good, something we learn growing up, and may that be replaced by our relationship with God through his Son!