Practicing Holiness

Sunday, June 18, 2017, 3:54 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “God Be with You till We Meet Again.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Philippians 4 (Select vv. NASB).

Don’t Be Anxious (vv. 4-7)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

To rejoice means to be “glad for grace” or “to experience God’s grace (favor), be conscious (glad) for His grace” (source: biblehub.com). And, his grace to us is his favor, kindness, and goodness towards us in providing for us the way of salvation (deliverance) from bondage to sin, and for giving us new lives in Christ Jesus, free to now walk in his righteousness and holiness. And, if we are truly glad for his grace, I believe it would mean that we would walk in that grace and not live to gratify the desires of our sinful flesh.

A gentle spirit is forbearing, longsuffering, forgiving, and patient. It patiently endures lasting offense or hardship (M-W). It is also fair, equitable, and reasonable, and it follows the spirit of the law over the letter of the law. The spirit of the law is the true purpose or intent of the law (rule), i.e. what is really at stake (source: biblehub.com). For example, the letter of the law says to not commit adultery, but the spirit of the law says not to even lust after another in our minds and hearts. The letter of the law can be routine, ritual, ceremonial or habitual, and tends to be external only with no real change of heart, mind and attitude. So, if we are to let our gentle spirit be known to all people, it must engage our hearts, it must transform our minds and our actions, and it must be forbearing, forgiving, fair and reasonable.

We are not to be anxious (worried, fearful) about anything. If something is upsetting or disturbing us, we are to take the matter to God in prayer, seek his counsel, pray for wisdom, and rest in his love and in his sovereignty over our lives. And, we are to follow his leading, do what he says, and trust him with the results. Worry never changes anything, except to make matters worse. It is the opposite of faith. When we trust the Lord with our circumstances, and we lean on him in times of need, for him to supply all we need, then his peace will guard our hearts and minds against worry.

Practice These Things (vv. 8-9)

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

I think that one of Satan’s fiercest ploys against us is to get our minds distracted from God, and thinking about (dwelling on) what has no eternal value, what is against God and his Word, what is fleshly, and what is worrisome. He also wants us thinking thoughts that are evil, wicked, sensual, hypocritical, hateful, revengeful, bitter and unforgiving, etc. So, we have to rein in our minds by managing, first off, what we willfully allow into our minds. For instance, in 2008 my husband and I took all our movies we had purchased over the years and we compared the content in them to this passage in Philippians 4, no matter how innocent they may have seemed on the surface. And, we were surprised that the vast majority of them did not stand against this test, and thus we trashed them.

But, this isn’t just about the things we choose to watch, read, listen to, etc. This is also about Satan’s tactics against us in introducing thoughts into our minds to try to get us distracted, off track, worried, troubled over minor things, and to get us to be worldly in our thinking, i.e. focused on what has no eternal value, or on what is clearly sinful. So, we need to pray, and we need to guard our hearts and minds against these things by putting them off and by putting on the spiritual armor God has given us to fight off these evil attacks against us (See: Eph. 6:10-20). And, then we need to put on, in our minds, hearts and attitudes, what is pure, right, honest, honorable and worthy of praise. We need to train our minds to be godly – all in the power, wisdom and strength of God’s Spirit now living within us. Amen!

And, not only do we need to change the way we think and believe, and the attitudes of our hearts, but we need to change how we behave, i.e. we need to submit to our Lord, obey his Word, humble ourselves before him, and do what we know is right. Again, this is all in the power, strength and wisdom of the Lord that we are able to do this. Instead of making a practice of doing what is sinful, we need to practice what the Word of God teaches us we must do. And, practice involves repetition, training, habit, obedience, and regularly and consistently living what we believe and what we know is right. And, we have to be intentional about this, and work at it, by the Spirit of God, or we may easily slip back into some of our former ways.

Be Content (vv. 10-13)

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

God has all of us where we are for a reason, if we are walking in his ways and in his truth. He is completely sovereign over all our circumstances. None of what we are going through has escaped his notice or his concern. So, we need to pray and ask him to show us what he wants to teach us through our trials and difficulties, and then allow him to mature us through them. He is teaching me much through this lesson today. I needed this.

Being content in our circumstances, though, does not mean to be lazy, complacent or unconcerned over things which God would want us to learn, change, and put into practice in our lives, or remove from our lives. We should never be content with living sinful lifestyles or in spiritual mediocrity, in other words. That is not what this means! What this is speaking about is being content with having little materially or with having much. But, it can branch out into other areas, too, yet never to the point of being ok with living however we want, giving into sinful pleasure, and indulging in all kinds of lustful passions and desires, and then claiming God’s grace covers it all.

Being content in our circumstances also does not mean complacency or showing unconcern over those who are lost in their sins, or over professing Christians who are living not much different from the world. Gentleness, as well, does not necessarily equate silence and noninvolvement when we see injustices or abuse or when we see Christians practicing sin. We need to remember this: “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:19-20). And, to cover a multitude of sins does not mean to excuse them away or to ignore sinful practices. It means to forgive the sins once committed but now repented of (turned from), and to not punish the offender, but to show him (or her) God’s grace.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. I can, with the strength of the Lord, live righteously, walk in holiness, speak boldly, when needed, yet be gentle, too, and I can live with little or with much, by his grace.

God Be with You till We Meet Again
Jeremiah E. Rankin, William G. Tomer

God be with you till we meet again;
by his counsels guide, uphold you,
with his sheep securely fold you;
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
neath his wings securely hide you,
daily manna still provide you;
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
when life’s perils thick confound you,
put his arms unfailing round you;
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
keep love’s banner floating o’er you,
smite death’s threatening wave before you;
God be with you till we meet again.

Till we meet, till we meet,
till we meet at Jesus’ feet;
till we meet, till we meet,
God be with you till we meet again.

Selfless

Saturday, May 13, 2017, 8:08 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” I read Hebrews 13:1-6 (ESV).

Think of Others (vv. 1-3)

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

What are some ways in which we can show brotherly love to others? If we see someone in need, we can reach out to help him or her with the needs. Part of this may involve ascertaining what the real needs are first, so we know how best to meet the needs. We can pay attention when people talk with us, remembering their names, and remembering specific things about them, to show that we care about them. We can do special things for people to let them know we appreciate them, especially during times when it is not expected (no special occasion). And, we can have neighbors over for a meal, or lend a helping hand, or take someone to the store, etc.

We should not be ingrown to where we only show hospitality to friends, co-workers, other Christians, neighbors and family members. But, we should open our hearts and homes to those we don’t know, too. We should show the love of Jesus to whomever he places in our lives or across our paths, and in whatever manner in which he chooses for us to show them his love and his grace. We should always exercise godly wisdom in whatever we do, but we should not be afraid to minister to strangers. And, included in this may be visiting inmates in prisons and sharing with them the love and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In addition, we should be concerned for all people who are being mistreated, abused, and taken advantage of. If there is any way we can minister to them, we should, as the Lord leads, and we should pray for the downtrodden, too. As well, we should remember the saints of God (believers in Jesus) throughout the world who are suffering persecution, hardship, and abuse in various forms because of their stand on the Word of Truth, because of their love and service to Jesus Christ, and because they share the gospel so that others might be saved. Many are being hunted down like they are animals, and bombs are being dropped on them, or they are being forced out of their homes into camps where they are ill-treated, so we should pray for their strengthening and courage.

Love Does No Harm (v. 4)

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

What does it look like to hold marriage in honor? It means to show your marriage and your spouse absolute respect, value, and high regard, especially in public, or in front of others, as well as privately, and to treat the marriage relationship with decency, morality, uprightness, and dignity. As well, it entails keeping (holding to) the marriage vows with all integrity, truthfulness and faithfulness. Nothing destroys a marriage more than unfaithfulness and lies (deception, cover-ups, or justifications).

And, this is not just about not having sexual relations with another individual, but it also includes not looking at another lustfully, especially in front of your spouse, not thinking lustful thoughts about others, not flirting with another, and not viewing pornography, or magazines, movies, or TV shows with partially clad people of interest, or with sexual situations or sexual humor. It also involves no sexting, and no intimate conversations with another to whom you are not married, i.e. no private texting or chatting without your spouse’s knowledge, and with someone of the opposite sex or same sex attraction. I would include in this also not watching romantic movies or reading romantic novels where you find yourself longing for such a relationship with someone other than your spouse, and which makes you dissatisfied with your own marriage.

You don’t have to have physical sexual relations with another in order for your marriage bed to be defiled. It is defiled whenever you dishonor your marriage and your spouse by all or by most all of what I just mentioned. And, it continues to be defiled as long as you lie to your spouse and/or withhold from your spouse what is his or her right to know, i.e. if you are cheating on him or her either physically, emotionally or mentally. And, I have to include masturbation in this list, too, because that is a selfish act which involves choosing self-gratification over the marriage bed.

Yet, if our spouse does commit adultery against us in any one of these ways, we need to be willing to forgive, and to lovingly encourage faithfulness, and to work toward the healing of the relationship, as much as it is within our power to do so. We need to pray for our spouse and always hold out hope for better days to come.

Be Contented (vv. 5-6)

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

You know, this fits with adultery, too, because when someone turns to lust, pornography, masturbation, sexting or romantic or sexual affairs, etc., in place of faithfulness to marriage and spouse, it is because the person is not content with his or her spouse, and so is looking to have their needs met outside the marriage, and outside the marriage bed. So, similar counsel needs to be given here, too, in that we should learn to be content with the one to whom we are married, and we should pursue that relationship rather than looking elsewhere for satisfaction and pleasure.

Yet, with regard to the love of money, this actually entails much more than just money, but it has to do with extreme greed for money or for material things, never satisfied with what we have, but always wanting more and more. In America I know this is a huge problem because we are an affluent nation with so much stuff, food, entertainment, possessions, hobbies, etc., but the more people buy the more they think they need until we have houses and closets full of stuff no one really needs, i.e. we have houses, garages, attics and closets full of excess.

So, the counsel here is to be content with what we have, and to not seek after or worship, idolize, lust for, prefer, or long for what we don’t have, or what is not ours to have, or what we can’t really afford, or what would just be filling our barns with excess while others go without the basic necessities of life.

We should trust the Lord to meet all our needs, and we need to be generous in giving to others as they have need, too. Instead of being selfish, we need to be those who make a practice of being selfless. And, we need to not fear that our needs will not be met if we don’t take matters into our own hands. God knows what we need, and he will supply, not what we want, necessarily, or what we might decide that we need, but he will take care of us, so we should never be afraid. He will work all things out for good for those who love him, so we rest in him.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.