We’re moving on through “The Pursuit of Holiness,” in chapter twelve this week. (I may post week 10, which covers chapters thirteen & fourteen this week as well.) Chapter twelve is called, “Holiness in Spirit.” Week 8 was on “Holiness in Body,” and the next chapter will deal with “Holiness and Our Wills.” (If you’ve missed any or want to go back and read, here are links to each week: Intro, Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8.)
“Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify
ourselves from everything that contaminates
body and spirit, perfecting holiness
out of reverence for God.”
2 Corinthians 7:1
This chapter begins by mentioning the famous “Sermon on the Mount,” found in Matthew chapters 5-7. Our pastor just did a sermon series on this a couple months ago, called, “Everybody Knows That.” It’s because in the sermon on the mount, Jesus points out sins of the body, in which most everybody knows not to do, (we know it’s sin). For example, murder – it’s a sin – it’s one of the ten commandments not to do – and even unbelievers, in most cases, know it’s wrong. However, Jesus then points out a sin of the spirit to contrast with the sin of the body, which most everybody has committed, yet even believers might not realize is sin, or at least might not equate it as a sin on the same level. The spiritual contrast to murder is to hate. Jesus says that if we’ve hated someone, it’s the same as murdering them.
Yup, so if we’ve ever felt hatred toward someone, even if for a short time, it’s as if we’ve committed murder. Now, that doesn’t mean that since hating is just like murdering anyway, let’s just go do it. It’s to wake us up to realize that the inward attitudes and thoughts of our spirits/hearts are just as important as what we actually go and do on the outside. Following Jesus is more than actions. It’s an awareness of the heart, too.
I was raised in the church and taught that all sins are equal. There’s not a sliding scale with murder on one end and a “little white lie” on the other end and everything else is somewhere in between, with God measuring our level of “badness.” Sin is sin. Period. Just as we need to be diligent not to do the outward sins, we need to cultivate a diligence toward not committing inward sins.
God knows our hearts, our thoughts, our intentions, and words we haven’t yet spoken.
“O Lord, you have searched me [thoroughly] and have known me.
You know my downsitting and my uprising; You understand my thought afar off.
You sift and search out my path and my lying down,
and You are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word in my tongue [still unuttered], but,
behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.”
Psalm 139:1-4 (AMP)
“But the Lord said to Samuel,
Look not on his appearance or at the height of his stature,
for I have rejected him.
For the Lord sees not as man sees;
for man looks on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7 (AMP)
We need to learn how to bring every thought captive – catch your thoughts like a butterfly in a net. (There’s danger in letting our thoughts flitter by unchecked.) Examine them. Check the thought itself and check the intent/motivation or where it came from. Check your heart attitude. If these things aren’t right, we need to cast the thought away. Give it to God in prayer. Ask Him to take it away and to help you get your thoughts, attitudes, intentions and motives pure before Him. Make a habit of filling the space where that thought was with prayer, worship, and Scripture instead.
“For as he thinks within himself, so he is…”
Proverbs 23:7 (NASB)
Colossians 2:23 warns us against the trap of acting and looking like we’re Christians and holy, but inwardly, we’re in shambles, basking in sin. The Pharasees come to my mind – doing all the proper outward actions to the point of being legalistic, yet being filled with a false sense of spiritual pride and condemnation for others. Many of them were hypocrites. And it’s what Joyce Meyer would call a “phony” Christian – they look like they are, but inside, they’re not living right.
“For the rest, brethren, whatever is true,
whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely and lovable,
whatever is kind and winsome and gracious,
if there is any virtue and excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
think on and weigh and take account of these things
[fix your minds on them].”
Philippians 4:8 (AMP)
My “One Word” for 2015 is “separate.” This whole process of pursuing holiness, traveling the road of sanctification, and being more aware and intentional of my inward life and what I allow inside is all part of this idea of separate. Please know that I know that no one is perfect (except Jesus), and never will be perfect in this life. I’m not perfect and don’t except to be until heaven. I’m not going off the deep end and going Amish or becoming a hermit. Nor is my goal to be spiritually prideful in a “holier than thou” attitude.
I simply desire to follow Jesus – to live like He did – and obey God’s command to be holy because He is holy. Following Jesus’ example actually means getting out among the world to associate with and love unbelievers. Yet at the same time, spending time in prayer and the Word with Him and pursuing holiness in my own life. (We see Jesus going out among crowds of people in the day an then retreating alone in the evening to commune with God. That’s where He got His power, strength, focus and stamina.)
Jerry Bridges (the author of the book) says, “As Christians we are no longer to be conformed to the pattern of this world but we are to be renewed in our minds (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:23; 1 Peter 1:14). Holiness begins in our minds and works out to our actions. This being true, what we allow to enter our minds is critically important… Too many Christians, instead of resisting, are more and more giving ground to the world’s constant pressure.”
In today’s world, we can be influenced and distracted by TV, movies, books, magazines, music and unhealthy conversations. We need to be careful what our eyes see, our ears hear, our mouths say, where our feet go, and what our hands do. And we need to be conscientious about not being a source of temptation or a stumbling block to others. It’s a high calling.
In our spirits, we can be growing many different kinds of weeds: hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, envy, pride, bitterness, unforgiveness, a gossiping spirit, a spirit of retaliation, and a critical spirit. Some of us may have a lot of weeding to do. Jerry says,
“We cloak these defiling thoughts under the guise of justice and righteous indignation. But we need to pray daily for humility and honesty to see these sinful attitudes for what they really are, and then for grace and discipline to root them out of our minds and replace them with thoughts pleasing to God.”
For your journal:
1. Write a statement about the importance of holiness in our thoughts from each of the following verses: 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 139:1-4; 2 Corinthians 7:1.
2. Write what the Bible’s standards are in what we see and hear, (because what we see and hear affects how we think), in these verses: Matthew 5:27-28; Ephesians 5:3-4; 1 Timothy 2:9-10.
3. Describe the unholy thinking referred to in each of the following passages:
1 Samuel 18:6-12
Psalm 73:12-14, 21
4. What applications can you make?