Category Archives: awe

The Pursuit of Holiness Book Club Week 11

HolinessBookClub

This has been an extremely busy final week of school for the girls and me. On Monday, Kaitlyn’s kindergarten class walked to a diner for free ice cream cones and I joined them. On Tuesday, Alexis & Jasmine’s classes participated in the annual 3rd, 4th, & 5th grade kickball tournament. On Wednesday was the annual school “Field Day” and picnic. I was at the school all day, running the “ring toss” game. (It’s set up in stations with a carnival theme including games, activities, and snacks.) I have a free day today, thus the blogging! Tomorrow, the kindergarten classes are walking across the street to a pond/dam to have a picnic lunch, and I’ll be going along for that.

After this post, we’ll have one final post on “The Pursuit of Holiness” book club. Then I’ll be writing two book reviews (these are affiliate links): “Miracle on Voodoo Mountain: A Young Woman’s Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of Haiti,” by Megan Bordeaux and “How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird,” by Amy Lively.

Here’s the list of links to past posts from the book club in case you need to catch up: Intro, Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, and Week 10.


Today, I’m on chapter fifteen, called Holiness and Faith. This was a defining chapter of the book for me when I read it the first time, two years ago. On the last page of the chapter, I had written: Faith + Obedience = Holiness. In all simplicity, that is what it boils down to. This time around, I wrote more of a flowchart: Salvation => Holiness => Faith, with two arrows off faith: 1. Obedience and 2. Trusting God’s Promises.

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would
later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even
though he did not know where he was going.”
Hebrews 11:8

This chapter looks a Hebrews 11, specifically the stories of Abraham and Noah, as examples of great heroes of faith. Both Abraham and Noah were called to do things by God that seemed unreasonable, absurd, or even stupid in the eyes of anyone watching. Many times, the same thing happens to us.

God calls us to something, oftentimes contrary to human reason and the world’s view. Did you know that when God called Noah to build the ark, the earth had never before seen a drop of rain? Yeah. So not only did everyone think he was utterly nuts, talking nonsense about water drops falling from the sky, but no one even knew what a flood was. Our callings might not make us appear to be insane like that, but following God’s precepts makes us pursue morals, values, and goals that are opposite to the majority of other people in the world. So it’s by faith that we obey and it’s by faith that we trust God to uphold and fulfill the blessings He’s promised if we obey.

We need to have conviction about the necessity of obeying God’s will, as well as confidence in the promises of God. Without these elements, we won’t do the hard part of carrying out obedience.

I want to quote a few sentences from the book, because Jerry says it perfectly:

“No one can pursue holiness who is not prepared to obey God in every area of his life. It calls us to obey God even when that obedience is costly, when it requires deliberate sacrifice and even exposure to danger.

Obedience to the revealed will of God is often just as much a step of faith as claiming a promise from God.

…since obedience is the pathway to holiness – a holy life being essentially an obedient life – we may say that no one will become holy apart from a life of faith.

Faith is not only necessary to salvation, it is also necessary to live a life pleasing to God. Faith enables us to claim the promises of God – but it also enables us to obey the commands of God. Faith enables us to obey when obedience is costly or seems unreasonable to the natural mind.

How often do we fail to obey God’s clearly revealed will because we do not exercise faith?

And because we do not have a firm conviction that “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14), we do not seriously pursue holiness as a priority in our lives.

Faith and holiness are inextricably linked. Obeying the commands of God usually involves believing the promises of God. One definition of faith might be “Obeying the revealed will of God and trusting Him for the results.”

“Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). If we would pursue holiness we must have faith to obey the will of God revealed in the Scripture and faith to believe that the promises of God will then be ours.”

Here’s a New Testament example that Jerry uses. Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” There’s a command and a promise. If we don’t believe in, have faith in, or trust in God’s promise, then it’s difficult to pursue obeying the command. The things of life end up taking top priority, instead of seeking God first.


For your journal:

1. Explain the relationship you see between faith and obedience in Hebrews 3:17-19 and 4:2, 6.

2. Read through Hebrews 11, noting the instances of obedience by faith. List five things which some of the persons mentioned in this chapter believed. Which is the most meaningful for you, and why?

3. List five ways in which the persons mentioned in Hebrews 11 obeyed God. Which is the most challenging example for you, and why?

The Pursuit of Holiness Book Club Week 10

HolinessBookClub

Hi Friends,

There are only two more posts to go and this book club will be done. Then I have two book reviews to do. I am aiming to get these posts all done by June 8th – my kids’ last day of school. I’m considering a blog hiatus for the summer, or at least not committing to a regular schedule. (If you’ve been following the book club, you’ll know that I’ve ended up not posting on the same schedule I intended. For that, I apologize.)

If you have missed any posts, you can read them at these links: Intro, Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, and Week 9.

“For it is God Who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
Philippians 2:13

This week, we’re looking at chapters 13 & 14 of the book, “The Pursuit of Holiness,” by Jerry Bridges. This is about holiness and our wills and habits. We need to determine in our wills that we’ll form habits of holiness. Jerry points out that each time we give into temptation and sin, it becomes easier and easier to keep giving in and sinning. But the converse is also true – whenever we choose holiness and habits of discipline, it becomes easier and easier to choose that. Soon, (either way it goes), those repetitive choices will form habits.

We need to understand our wills – why they choose to sin or obey, and learn how to bring our wills into line with obedience to the will of God.

Jerry says,

“It is the will that ultimately makes each individual choice of whether we will sin or obey. It is the will that chooses to yield to temptation or to say no. Our wills, then, ultimately determine our moral destiny, whether we will be holy or unholy inour character and conduct.”

Our hearts = our faculties of the soul => the mind, the emotions, the conscience, and the will. God gave us these things. But with the fall of man in the garden, these faculties started working in conflict with one another and with God. Our wills have become stubborn and rebellious – being selfish, self-centered and self-serving. Our emotions wreck havoc, taking over and drawing our minds and wills away from obedience. Our minds are clouded, our desires are tainted and our wills are perverted, thanks to sin.

Our wills are what ultimately determine our choices and those choices are made based upon the forces acting upon us. Our wills can be influenced by the enemy, the world, our own sinful nature, our conscience, suggestions of other people, or the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Whatever way these forces come to our wills, they must pass through our reason (minds) or emotions.

So again, we see that we must guard (diligently) what enters our minds and what influences our emotions.

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word.”
Psalm 119:9

It is vital to stay plugged into a habit of reading the Bible. The Word reaches us mainly via our reason so it influences our minds. The Lord, the Word gives wisdom and understanding. Proverbs 2:1-5 points out that He gives wisdom and understanding to those who:

  • receive His sayings
  • inwardly treasure His commandments
  • make their ear alert to wisdom and heart ready for understanding
  • seek understanding as if it were hidden treasure

The Word give us protection by its influence on our minds and wills. It gives spiritual information and practical application for daily living.

While most often God influences our wills through our minds, Satan usually attacks our wills through our desires and emotions. This is why we need to guard our emotions and check our desires through the lens of Scripture. We need to be aware of our desires and emotions and work proactively on the offense by setting our hearts and desires on God and His will – things above – spiritual values – and delight in God.

Our faculties should work by way of reason first, then our wills, then our emotions. However, oftentimes, they work in the reverse order. Therefore, we come back to the need for a structured plan – discipline. That’s why we need to stay in the Word – to get the head knowledge, but as we grow closer to God and experience His love and presence, it moves from the head to the heart. Our emotions, wills and desires will be for God and will keep us motivated to holiness.

I love Philippians 2:12-13 and this is how Jerry wraps up chapter 13:

“In the final analysis it is God who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose. But we are expressly told by Paul to work at this ourselves (Philippians 2:12). Our responsibility regarding our wills is to guard our minds and emotions, being aware of what influences our minds and stimulates our desires. As we do our part, we will see the Spirit of God do His part in making us more holy.”

“Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery
to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now
offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.”
Romans 6:19

John Owen said,

“Repeated acts of the consent of the will unto sin may beget a disposition and inclineableness of the will unto a proneness and readiness to consent unto sin upon easy solicitation.”

We need to understand how our habits influence our wills.

Habit = “prevailing disposition or character of a person’s thoughts and feelings.” They are in our minds and probably the most forceful influence on our wills. I have heard in the world of neurology that there are actual neuron pathways that are developed when we do something or think something – and the more we do or think that thing, the stronger that pathway becomes and the more our brains use that pathway. That’s the process of a habit taking hold in our brains. But when we stop using that pathway (doing or thinking that thing), the pathway begins to fade and over time, will disappear if not used. That’s when a habit is broken.

The easiest and best way to break a bad habit is to not only stop the bad thing, but to also then replace it with a good habit. We can’t just clear out all the junk and leave ourselves bare. Emptiness and idleness can be a doorway for the enemy to move in. So break those undesired habits and replace them with good habits of obedience.

We put off the old self and put on the new. Just remember that it’s futile to attempt this in our own power. We need the power of the Holy Spirit – working in cooperation with and dependence on Him.

Jerry gives us four principles we can follow to train ourselves in godliness:

  1. Frequent repetition – focus on saying no to sins that we are most vulnerable to. Then God leads us to other areas. Along with saying no to those sins, develop thinking thoughts that are pure, true, and good, and habits of prayer and reading Scripture. (This lets the bad habit pathways fade away and reinforces the new good pathways.)
  2. Never let an exception occur – don’t fall for a “just this once” temptation.
  3. Diligence in all areas is required to ensure success in one area – if we indulge a habit that we think “isn’t too bad,” it weakens our wills in all other areas.
  4. Don’t be discouraged by failure – we’re only failures if we give up and stop trying. If we keep working, regardless of how often we fail, we can see progress.

Jerry closes chapter 14 with this paragraph:

“It is vain to guard our minds and emotions against that which comes from without if we do not at the same time deal with habits of sin which are within. The battle for holiness must be fought on two fronts – without and within. Only then will we see progress toward holiness.”

For your journal:

1. How do the following verses describe our responsibility concerning our reason, emotions, and will? Romans 6:19, Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:1-2, James 4:7-8

2. Carefully read Proverbs 2:1-12. If we desire to guard our minds from evil, what must we do?

3. Review the four principles for acquiring or breaking a habit. Select a habit you want to acquire or break, and write a plan and how the four principles can help you.

The Pursuit of Holiness Book Club Week 9

HolinessBookClub

Hey Friends!

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: IntroWeek 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
Matthew 18:21-35
Luke 15:22-32
Luke 18:9-14

4. What applications can you make?

The Pursuit of Holiness Book Club Week 8

HolinessBookClub

Getting back on track, Friends…we’re at week 8 of “The Pursuit of Holiness” book club. We’re looking at “Holiness in Body,” in chapter eleven.

This chapter is somewhat hard to write about because, as Joyce Meyer has said that her listeners will say of her, “Now you’ve gone to meddling!” But this is truth and we’re discussing God’s standards. Here’s the thing: we need to exercise control over our physical bodies and appetites. Not only is it necessary for living a godly life, but our bodies are actual dwelling places, temples if you will, of the Holy Spirit. As such, we need to take care of ourselves. What’s more, we are to glorify God with our bodies.

Jerry says,

“Our physical bodies and natural appetites were created by God and are not sinful in themselves. Nevertheless, if left uncontrolled, we will find our bodies becoming ‘instruments of wickedness’ rather than ‘instruments of righteousness’ (Romans 6:13). We will be pursuing the ‘cravings of sinful man’ (1 John 2:16) instead of holiness.”

Furthermore, how can we expect to serve God and love our neighbors if we don’t take care of ourselves? If we make poor choices that effect our health, our minds, or our well-being, and we one day can’t get out of bed or can’t think straight, (I’m talking about aside from the normal wear and tear on our bodies from aging), how can we help others, make a difference, and be a positive impact?

Last week, I had another experience where I woke up in the early morning hours with words from the Bible echoing through my heart and mind. They had nothing to do with the dream I was having. This is the second time this has happened to me, and I know it’s God speaking to me, giving me a Word. He said, “Don’t let the little foxes spoil the vine.” I found the verse in Song of Solomon 2:15, “Take for us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards [of our love], for our vineyards are in blossom.”

Apparently, foxes or jackals would hide in the leaves of the vines and eat the grapes. I don’t know if they did any damage to the vines themselves, but they certainly spoiled some of the fruit for the harvest. What does this mean for us? I immediately knew in my heart what it meant and the specific way God was speaking to me. However, I still read the verse in several Bible versions in context, and searched online commentaries and articles to see what others said. The “little foxes” are things that we can choose or allow in our lives that may seem like small “no big deal” things, but if left unchecked, can grow and hinder our connection with God. (Remember the metaphor that God is the Vine and we are the branches in John 15). And as a result of our connection being hindered, we can grow further from God and our fruits (the fruits of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patients, etc. that come from the Holy Spirit in us), can be decreased and spoil. (In a growing relationship with Jesus, our main concern should be to make sure nothing is coming between us and God such as unconfessed sin or those little things He might convict about.)

What are some of those little things we can let slip into our lives, sometimes even unconsciously? Apathy, laziness, procrastination, gluttony, overindulgence, pampering ourselves too much, greed, materialism, impurity, lust, and evil desires. They can even include not doing things God’s told us personally to do. (See, this is where someone could be considered meddling.) These are personal affairs and usually battles within ourselves. They are things that bring our bodies pleasure and can become addictive. They can take our focus off of God, become idols, and we can become slaves to satisfying ourselves. They can interfere with our health and well-being, and every time we give in to our flesh, it becomes harder to resist temptation the next time.

Michel Quoist says,

“If your body makes all the decisions and gives all the orders, and if you obey, the physical can effectively destroy every other dimension of your personality. Your emotional life will be blunted and your spiritual life will be stifled and ultimately will become anemic.”

Susannah Wesley wrote,

“Whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind – that thing is sin to you.”

Jerry writes,

“There must be an attitude of diligent obedience in every area if we are to succeed in mortifying any one expression of sin… We tend to do not what we should do, but what we want to do, as we follow the cravings of our sinful nature… We have to learn to say no to the body instead of continually giving in to its momentary desires… We have to take control of our bodies and make them our servants instead of our masters. The place to start controlling the cravings of our physical appetites is to reduce our exposure to temptation. Do not plan ahead or make provision for ways to indulge your bodily appetites… God expects us to assume our responsibilities for keeping the sinful desires of the body under control.”

“The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”
Proverbs 27:12

Don’t let the little foxes spoil the vine. (Here’s a great article I found: Fight the Little Foxes that Spoil the Vine.)


For your journal:

1. Here are three verses that give practical ways to resist temptation. What areas of your life can these verses help you?
Proverbs 27:12; Romans 13:14; 2 Timothy 2:22

2. Read these verses and write a statement about the importance of holiness in body:
Romans 6:12-13; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Cor. 9:27

The Pursuit of Holiness Book Club Week 7

 

HolinessBookClub

Hi Friends,

Welcome to week seven of “The Pursuit of Holiness” book club. I missed posting for a few weeks due to the Easter holiday and sickness in my house. If you would like to go back and read the prior posts in this book club series, click these links: Intro, Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6.

This week, we’re looking at chapter ten, “The Place of Personal Discipline.”

“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales;
rather, train yourself to be godly.”
1 Timothy 4:7

Last time, we looked at putting sin to death. Two elements that are needed for that are convictions and commitment. We need to recognize the convictions that the Holy Spirit gives us. Then by His strength, we need commitment to follow through and act according to His convictions.

This time, we begin by recognizing that we are all imperfect humans, and that even with convictions and commitment, the goal of holiness can still go unachieved. In the first three months of a new year, do you look around and see the shrapnel of all the broken resolutions people made and failed to keep? Years ago, as a young adult with plans and goals, I used to attempt making resolutions each January. No matter what it was, I was never able to keep focused and stick with it. It would inevitably fall to the wayside. I learned to stop making resolutions because the calendar told me to, and just do things when I’m inspired and motivated, no matter when it is.

We also live in a society of “instant gratification.” We need high-speed internet, microwave ovens, and 60-second heat up rollers. (I bought new rollers a few weeks ago, boldly advertising on the box how quickly they are ready to use!) I suppose we have trouble keeping our resolutions because our goal just isn’t achieved fast enough. We grow bored or tired of the work and then are more susceptible to being distracted by something else that comes our way that can offer some level of satisfaction.

Jay Adams said, “You may have sought and tried to obtain instant godliness. There is no such thing…We want somebody to give us three easy steps to godliness, and we’ll take them next Friday and be godly. The trouble is, godliness doesn’t come that way.” No, my friends, we can’t just take a pill, do a few exercises, nor have a formula to be godly.

The answer is in Christian discipline. There’s that bad word, discipline, that our inner longing for a life of ease cringes from. For me, someone who has never been able to commit to journaling or an exercise regimen for more than a couple weeks, or hasn’t been able to follow a Bible reading plan for more than a couple months at a time, discipline is a big, scary word. In the “religious” arena, discipline seems to take on notes of negativity and harshness, perhaps even legalistic.

The dictionary defines discipline as training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. In the Bible, Paul speaks of discipline as structured training, in the same sense as an athlete who is training for a big race or the Olympics.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete,
but [only] one receives the prize?
So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours.
Now every athlete who goes into training
conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things.
They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither,
but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither.
Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim).
I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary.
But [like a boxer] I buffet my body
[handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships]
and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel
and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit
[not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit].”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 AMP

Just as an athlete in training has a plan, so we ought to have a spiritual training plan. To be clear, the purpose of this plan is not to check things off a religious to-do list every day so that we can either feel better about ourselves or in an effort to make God happy with us. That’s missing the point. It’s so we can build our relationship with Jesus and run our races (lives) well.

There’s no better place to begin implementing our plans than with the reading of the Word. We need to set aside regular time to read the Bible. And a regular time to meditate (think) on what we read and how we can apply it to our lives. Plan a time that works in your schedule. There are different methods for being in God’s Word: by hearing, reading, studying, memorizing and meditating.

Jay Adams said, “It is by willing, prayerful and persistent obedience to the requirements of the Scriptures that godly patterns are developed and become a part of us.” There is no other way to break our sinful habits. Here’s what our interaction with the Holy Spirit looks like as we get into the Word:

The Spirit wrote the Scripture —> We learn the Scripture —> The Spirit brings to our mind what we learn —> We apply what He brings to mind.

Jerry gives three questions to ask ourselves as we read and meditate on Scripture each day:

  1. What does this passage teach concerning God’s will for a holy life?
  2. How does my life measure up to that Scripture; specifically where and how do I fall short? (Be specific; don’t generalize.)
  3. What definite steps of action do I need to take to obey?

Jerry iterates how important it is to make specific application to specific life situations. Coming up with an action plan might make us uncomfortable because it requires change. But to get to holiness, change is required.

He says, “We deceive our souls when we grow in knowledge of the truth without specifically responding to it. (James 1:22 – “But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth].) This may lead to spiritual pride. (1 Corinthians 8:1 – “…Yet mere knowledge causes people to be puffed up (to bear themselves loftily and be proud)…)”

I admit that I’ve been there before. Being raised in church, I knew all the stories and heard the truths of Scripture over and over on Sunday mornings. I would read the Bible here and there, but for many years, not on a regular basis. When I did, I glossed over things, didn’t meditate on it or try to make life applications. There were some sins that I didn’t even realize were there. I was deceived by knowledge without a growing, active relationship with Jesus. I fear, especially in our fast-paced, overcommitted culture, this is where lots and lots of Christians are stuck – and many don’t even know it.

This discipline of studying Scripture and making life application is a lifelong process. The Word is referred to as “the Living Word,” which means that you can constantly pull truths from it. You can read a passage one day, and depending where you’re at in life, it will say one thing to you. You can go back a year later and read it again, being at a different place in life, and it can speak something else to you. (It’s the work of the Holy Spirit.)

So tying this back in with the beginning of the post, being in an instant gratification culture, we need perseverance for our lifelong journey of discipline. Not only is it lifelong, but we will likely stumble and fall many times along the way. It’s easy to get discouraged, but with the Holy Spirit working in us, giving us strength and perseverance, we can continue. Jerry also points out that as we grow in the knowledge of God’s holiness and in the practice of holiness, the gap between the two will grow wider apart. That might make us feel like we aren’t accomplishing as much as we should be, again discouraged. But it is the Holy Spirit’s way of drawing us to more and more holiness.


For your journal:

1. Look up the following verses and write what they teach about Christian discipline:
1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 1 Timothy 4:7-8; 2 Timothy 3:16

2. Why is perseverance needed in Christian discipline? How can these verses help us persevere?
Proverbs 24:16; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Hebrews 12:3

3. Write a plan of action – how you can get daily doses of the Word into your schedule. For example, Sundays might be going to church to hear a sermon. Maybe you can catch a sermon on Christian radio one day a week. Maybe you can use a Bible app to get a verse of the day to meditate on. Maybe you can read a quick devotional or perhaps you have time for a more in-depth study. Or you can tape index cards with verses on them in places where you look often: the bathroom mirror, the refrigerator, the coffee maker, or in your car. Get a plan that works for you.