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.

Acceptable to God

Friday, May 19, 2017, 10:56 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 19 (quoting vv. 7-14 ESV).

God’s Words (vv. 7-11)

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Our Bible (Genesis to Revelation) is the Word of God to us. It was penned by men of God, as God breathed his words into their hearts and minds. All of it is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). But, not all of it literally applies to followers of Jesus Christ. So, we have to read scripture in context and see how God might use it to teach and to train us in righteousness, always making sure it agrees with the teaching under the New Covenant relationship between God and his people.

God’s Word is perfect, without error in its original form. Over the years since these books were first penned, it has been copied over and over again, and it has been translated into multiple languages and in various versions, too. So, the translations we have in our possessions may not be 100% accurate to the original texts, but our God is all powerful, and as believers in Jesus we have the Holy Spirit living within us who will guide us into all truth, and who will make his Word known to our hearts. Yet, we must also be diligent in our study of scripture to make certain we are correctly handling it, too. So, we should always read scriptures in context, and see if what we are reading agrees with other similar texts, if we are able, and to make certain, as much as is within our ability to do so, that we are hearing and following the truth.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we should also be students of his Word, for this is how God primarily speaks to us. This is where we learn truth from what is false, and righteousness, holiness, godliness, and the will of God for our lives. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). This is our bread, our sustenance for our spiritual lives. Through God’s Word he encourages, strengthens, counsels, urges, warns, instructs, guides and directs us in the way we should go, as well as he answers our prayers.

We, as Christ’s followers, should love the Words of God, and they should be more precious to us than gold, or than anything this world has to offer us. When we read and study God’s Word, and we pray, and we worship him, this is where we have our intimate times of fellowship with our Lord. Our lives should not be complete without our times with our Lord each day in personal worship. Through these times we grow to maturity, and we learn what it means to follow HIM in obedience, and we understand his will for our lives. It is here that we hear his voice speaking to us ever so gently, and his voice should be what we long to hear, too. His words should bring much joy to our hearts. And, in keeping them, there is certainly great reward!

No Dominion! (vv. 12-13)

Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

When we get to know God’s Word, and our Lord’s voice, and we recognize when the Holy Spirit is speaking to our hearts, it greatly improves our discernment in knowing right from wrong. Yet, when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, God puts his laws in our minds, and he writes them on our hearts (Heb. 8:10). So, even from the beginning of our walks of faith we should know when we are doing wrong. Yet, it is possible, because of other influences in our lives, and wrong teaching and training, to become desensitized to some things which are wrong, which we may not see as wrong, because they are not blatantly as offensive as some more obvious sins. But, when the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts, and he shows us the error of our ways, we must respond in obedience.

There are some sins, too, which we may have formed as habits, and they may be so automatic that we do them without much forethought. These need to be eradicated from our lives, and they need to be confessed as sin, and not excused away as just habit. God will help us to put off these sins and to put on his truth and righteousness in their place, if we are willing (See: Eph. 4-5). Jesus died for our sins, not just to deliver us from the punishment of sin, but to deliver us from bondage (addiction) to sin. He has given and he will give us the way of escape, but we have to take the way out he provides, and not ignore his promptings.

Other sins are regarded as willful sins, i.e. knowingly and arrogantly making a choice of the will to do what we know is wrong. This may include plotting out the sins in advance, lying about what we are doing before we even do it, in order to deceive others, and then covering up our sin with lies after the fact. Sinful habits can also fit into this category, especially if we keep repeating the same sins over and over again, knowing that we are doing this, and yet we do nothing or little to try to overcome or to correct the sinful behaviors, or we give up easily, which is why they then get ingrained in our lives and become so automatic. One of the main reasons these sins hang on is that we are not willing to go the distance with them to truly remove them from our lives, but we continue to play with fire.

So, if we don’t want to be ruled by them, we need to obey the teachings of scripture and do what it teaches us we must do to shake off these sins which so easily entangle, so we can run the race marked out for us by the Lord. We also have to get rid of what leads us into sin and what hinders our walks of faith. If the internet is your downfall, for instance, cut it out of your life if you can’t manage it under the power of the Spirit within you. If yard sales are your downfall, stop going to them, and avoid streets where you know they frequently have them. Learn to say “NO” to what you know is going to lead you into sin, resist Satan, run away from what even tempts you to sin, and draw near to God in obedience to him and to his Word.

My Words (v. 14)

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

I think one of the most besetting of sins are those involving the mouth. We speak before we even think sometimes, and that is not good. We need to guard our tongues, but we also need to have our hearts cleansed first, because it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks. So, if we want to have purity in what we say, and not falter in our speaking, we need to have our hearts and minds in the right place.

We must forgive others, and not hold grievances in our hearts against anyone. We must be careful not to judge others unjustly, hypocritically or with human judgment. We must avoid gossip like it is the plague and keep from complaining about things over which we have no control, and just because we want to gripe. There is a time to confront wrong, though, and to speak out against what is evil, but it should be for good purposes, to warn others, to call for repentance, and to encourage faithful obedience.

I pray this prayer with the psalmist that the words of my mouth, and the meditation (what I focus on) of my heart would be pleasing in HIS sight. If it is not, I pray the Lord would reveal this to me, that I might confess it to him, and that I would respond to him in obedience in having the change of heart and mind he would have for me that would result in the right words coming out of my mouth, for I want to honor him in all ways, including with my lips, i.e. with the words that I speak.

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.

A Roadway of Holiness

Saturday, March 25, 2017, 10:32 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Seek the Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 35 (NASB).

From Darkness to Light (vv. 1-2)

The wilderness and the desert will be glad,
And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus
It will blossom profusely
And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
The majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the glory of the Lord,
The majesty of our God.

Do you ever get heavy of heart over this sin-sick world? I do! I especially get burdened for my nation, the USA, and for the church here in America. I grieve and mourn over the spiritual condition of the church, overall, though not necessarily representative of all gatherings of the church in America.

Our nation is an affluent nation. Even some of the poorest of people here have cable TV in their houses, and not only do many of the adults in the household have smart phones, but many of the children do, too. People living on welfare or living in government subsidized housing often seem to be better off than those working for minimum wage. I think the vast majority of Americans have cell phones and cable TV. At least, it seems that way. And, many of them plan their lives around their TV shows, too. And, it seems most people have private (unrestricted) internet connection, too.

Now, I am not against these things, except for in the hands of young children who are being unsupervised by adults, or in the hands of those who are not mature enough or self-disciplined enough to choose good from bad. Yet, I can see where TV, movies, the internet, and private internet access via tablets (I Pads) and smart phones have been a great source of deception, mind control, and of spiritual decline of the church here in America. These devices have sucked in so many Christians and have captivated them to the point to where they take over their lives, and God has often been pushed into a corner and barely noticed. Yet, this is just a small picture of the spiritual wilderness that exists here in America.

Still, the Lord has been encouraging me that he has a plan of action in mind which will deliver his people out of this spiritual wilderness, and which will bring them into a time of great joy and of blossoming spiritually.

Take Courage (vv. 3-4)

Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
Say to those with anxious heart,
“Take courage, fear not.
Behold, your God will come with vengeance;
The recompense of God will come,
But He will save you.”

Sometimes, when I see all the evil going on all around me, and all the Christians (or professing Christians) living not much different at all from the people of the world, I get disheartened. When I see so much of the church embracing the world of sin in order to connect with the world, and seemingly so few truly seeking after God with all their hearts, it saddens me greatly. When I know that the Word of Truth is going out to the people, and that many are hearing the truth, though many are not, yet they seem to let the truth just go in one ear and out the other, so that they can continue on the same course they have been on, it tears at my heart, and I cry. And, when Christians see Christian fellowship as merely a church social where they eat and play games with each other, I groan inwardly to have true fellowship.

I am torn in my emotions because I want to see the church awakened to all the lies they have been buying into, and I want to see them walking in truth and purity, and serving the Lord with great zeal. But, from what I read in scripture, it does not appear that this is going to happen unless we, as the church in this nation, are put through some enormous time of suffering and great trials. It isn’t as though I long for this time, though, but what I hunger for is to see the church in America revived, and God’s people set on fire for him, and the Word of Truth going out from the revived church to the people in their communities, and people flocking to Jesus Christ (See: Isaiah 2). And, so I need to be reminded to “take courage,” and to trust the Lord, and to believe him to change people’s hearts, all in his perfect timing.

New Birth (vv. 5-7)

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
Then the lame will leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.
For waters will break forth in the wilderness
And streams in the Arabah.
The scorched land will become a pool
And the thirsty ground springs of water;
In the haunt of jackals, its resting place,
Grass becomes reeds and rushes.

The Bible teaches us that God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness, and that for those of us who have been trained by it, it will yield a harvest of righteousness in our lives. But, this isn’t light stuff here. He uses the terms “scourges” and “reproves,” and he says that the discipline is painful and not pleasant, but it is for our good. Sometimes when things are going too well for us in this life we can lose sight of eternity and we can end up focusing our time and attention on the things of this world rather than on the things that matter for eternity. We end up spending our time on what is going to pass away and on what has no eternal value whatsoever. And, so God has to discipline us in order to refocus our attention on what really matters, and so he can purify us and make us holy unto him.

So, there are times when we need this wake-up call in order to have our blinded eyes (or deceived minds) opened to the truth, so that we do follow the truth and we don’t follow after lies. And, when the church is awakened spiritually, they will be that light of the world and the salt of the earth. They will be sharing the gospel, so that the people of this sinful world will have their spiritually blinded eyes opened, too. Thus, they will be born again of the Spirit of God and be given new lives in Christ Jesus to be lived to him and to his righteousness. Where they were once in a spiritual wilderness (desert), now they have springs of living water flowing from within them. They have the Holy Spirit living within them empowering, encouraging, comforting, teaching, strengthening and guiding them into all truth. Amen!

Highway of Holiness (vv. 8-10)

A highway will be there, a roadway,
And it will be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean will not travel on it,
But it will be for him who walks that way,
And fools will not wander on it.
No lion will be there,
Nor will any vicious beast go up on it;
These will not be found there.
But the redeemed will walk there,
And the ransomed of the Lord will return
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
With everlasting joy upon their heads.
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away.

By God’s grace, through God-given faith, we can be saved from our sins and have eternal life with God. This God-given faith, though, is not like human faith. It is divinely convinced (persuaded) as to God’s will for our lives, and so it submits to Jesus Christ, and it chooses to walk in obedience to our Lord and to forsake the old (former) way of living to sin and self. When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives with this kind of faith, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like him in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25).

The lives we live, we no longer live according to our sinful flesh, but according to the Spirit of God who now lives within us, and who empowers us to live such godly lives. We walk by faith and not by sight. We live to please God in all that we do, or we should. Yet, if we continue living in sin, we don’t know God. If we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), yet we claim to have fellowship with God, we are liars. If we hold on to our old lives of living for sin and self, and if we walk (conduct our lives) according to the flesh, we will die in our sins. But, if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity.

So, if you want to be on this Highway of Holiness, which leads to eternal life with God, then you need to believe in Jesus Christ with God-given faith which yields to Jesus as our Lord, and which submits to his will for our lives, and which cooperates with his work of grace in our lives. While it is true that we do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation, and that our salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, that gift means we die with Christ to sin so that we are “born again” of the Spirit of God to live lives no longer for ourselves, but for the one who gave his life up for us. In other words, Jesus didn’t die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died, not just to forgive us our sins, but to free us from slavery (addiction) to sin.

Seek the Lord / An Original Work / July 20, 2012

Based off Isaiah 55

“Come to Me all you who thirst; come to waters.
Listen to Me, and eat what’s good today,
And your soul will delight in richest of fare.
Give ear to Me, and you will live.
I have made an eternal covenant with you.
Wash in the blood of the Lamb.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him.
Let the wicked forsake his way, in truth.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will receive mercy.
Freely, God pardons him.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord, our God.

“My word that goes out of My mouth is truthful.
It will not return to Me unfulfilled.
My word will accomplish all that I desire,
And achieve the goal I intend.
You will go in joy, and be led forth in peace.
The mountains will burst into song… before you,
And all of the trees clap their hands.”

When We Suffer

Wednesday, February 22, 2017, 9:44 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “He Keeps Me Singing.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Peter 4:12-19 (NASB).

The Fiery Ordeal (vv. 12-14)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

So many people today are presenting the Christian life as all fun and games, and as though it is all about us and our pleasure and enjoyment, instead of it being about us living to God for his honor, glory and praise. Thus, when trials do come their way, they are not prepared for them, and will often see their trials as an annoyance and as an interruption to their lives rather than them seeing their trials as God’s way of refining us, purifying us, maturing us and making us holy, and conforming us to the image of Christ. Trials are hard, no matter what, don’t get me wrong, but if we have the right perspective as to why they come our way, then we will know to reach out to God in our trials, to lean on his grace to help us in our time of need, and to listen to him to hear what we are supposed to learn through our difficulties.

There are different reasons why we go through such difficulties, though. If we are in Christ Jesus by faith in him, our trials are God’s divine discipline in our lives either to mature us and prune us so we will be more fruitful, or they will be there to correct and rebuke us when we are going astray, in order that we might be led back to God. Either way, the purpose is to make us holy and to conform us into the image of Christ.

Trials also come in many different forms. One of the ways in which we are called to suffer as Christians is to suffer persecution for the name of Jesus and for the sake of his gospel. When we stand for what is righteous and against what is evil, we are not going to win the “most popular” contest among the people of this world, and not even among many who also profess to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. In fact, the closer we walk with our Lord, and the more we shun evil, worldliness, and obsession with self-pleasure, the more we will be isolated from those around us, because we won’t “fit in,” and many people won’t want to be around us.

I am not speaking here, though, of joining a monastery and completely removing ourselves from the world, but when we walk in holiness, which means to be separate (unlike, different) from the world, because we are becoming like Jesus, we are going to stand out like a sore thumb among many groups of people, including among worldly Christians. And, we will be reviled, mocked, falsely accused, abused, mistreated and called “crazy,” or considered “abnormal.” Those people in our lives who are concerned about us may even try to pressure or persuade us into “rejoining the human race” by encouraging us to be more like the world and less like one who truly lives in this world as a stranger (alien). But, we are supposed to live as though this is not our permanent home, as though we are just travelers here for a time. Yet, we just don’t get to see this lifestyle emulated to us very much.

At any rate, we are encouraged here to rejoice in our sufferings, and that is a tall order. Yet, it works! Our natural inclination is to be sad, to hurt emotionally, as well as physically, and to lament our suffering. There is no shame in tears, though. I cry many of them myself. But, in the power of the Spirit of God within us we need to rise above our suffering, and we need to count it all joy to suffer for the name of Christ, and we need to put on love, mercy, compassion, kindness, and perseverance, and not let our suffering get the best of us. Satan likes it when we suffer, because his hope is that we will retreat, and that we will give up, and that we will stop serving our Lord, but we must NEVER give up! We need to just keep singing, and keep praising our Lord, and keep following him wherever he leads us, and keep on sharing Christ and his gospel of salvation in order that many will be saved.

Misdirected Suffering (vv. 15-16)

Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.

Not everyone suffers for doing good, though. Not even every Christian suffers for righteousness’ sake. As stated earlier, God disciplines us sometimes because we are wandering far from him, and in order to bring us back to him. He allows us to go through suffering when we are sinning against him so that we will look to him, so we will forsake our sins, and so we will walk in his righteousness and holiness. We need these trials, at times, in order to bring us to our senses for when we get dull of hearing and we begin to go our own stubborn way again. God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (See: Heb. 12:1-11).

Judging God’s Household (vv. 17-19)

For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

Judgment, in this context, is “the execution of judgment as displayed in the infliction of punishment” (biblehub.com). These words were spoken to Christians: “But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world” (1 Co. 11:31-32). The purpose of God’s judgment (divine discipline and correction) on his church, his house, the body of Christ, once again, is not to condemn us but to lovingly correct us, prune us, train us, and mature us in Christ, and to make us holy.

As far as what is meant by “It is with difficulty that the righteous is saved,” what comes to mind is the passage of scripture where it says: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” (Matt. 7:13). What this means, I believe, is that salvation from sin involves much more than just an intellectual or emotional acknowledgment as to what Jesus did for us. It is also not a one-time experience in our lives, then we live our lives, and then we go to heaven when we die. Coming to faith in Jesus Christ involves dying with Christ to sin and being resurrected with Christ to newness of life. It also involves walking in the Spirit and no longer according to our sinful flesh. For, if we walk (conduct our lives) according to our sinful flesh, we will die in our sins. Yet, if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Jn. 1:6).

So, we should not despise suffering or God’s judgment (divine discipline) on our lives, because suffering is for our good, and, if trained by it, it produces in us much spiritual fruit for God’s eternal kingdom. It humbles us, purifies us, grows us up in Christ, refines us, and it teaches us reliance upon God and not on ourselves. So, although painful when it comes, we need to see God’s hand in it in using it to conform us into the image of Christ.

He Keeps Me Singing / Luther B. Bridgers

There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low:
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,
In all of life’s ebb and flow.

All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain;
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumbering chords again.

Though sometimes he leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See his footprints all the way.

Feasting on the riches of his grace,
Resting neath his sheltering wing,
Always looking on his smiling face,
That is why I shout and sing.

Soon he’s coming back to welcome me
Far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown;
I shall reign with him on high.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.