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Buy the heart, get the new life for free! July 6, 2008

Posted by Kevin in Heart, Holiness, New Life, Overhaul, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:22-23.
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“For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly”

Mark 7:21-22

Jesus understands why we are so messed up without Him. It is a heart problem. Just look at the problems Jesus connected to the heart. Heart problems are the symptom of a need for heart holiness. God wants to deal with our actions (sins) and our attitudes (sinful nature). This is the reason Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He sent the Holy Spirit to perform the kind of heart surger that only the Divine Physician can perform.

Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. We normally evaluate people against a human standard. We grade intelligence, appearance, and success as better or worse than another person. In verse 16, Paul suggested that being in a relationship with Jesus Christ changes the criteria by which we evaluate people. The new criteria is Jesus Christ.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

We get it way wrong when we say that we invited Jesus Christ into our lives. This suggests that He took up residence in the area that we assigned Him. That sounds like we are some cosmic innkeeper or run a boarding house. We think we can just let him move in to the empty room to the left at the top of the stairs.

That isn’t real salvation! We don’t invite Jesus into our lives; He invites us into His life. When we understand this little difference, we are ready to experience a radical change of heart and life.

When we enter into this kind of relationship with God where He is not just a resident, but the owner, we must leave behind the things that are contrary to His nature. Verse 18 says that “now all things are of God.”

Romans 3:23 reminds us that this sin problem is universal and plagues us all. That may seem like bad news, but it sets the stage for a remarkable truth. There is also Romans 6:22 and 23. Most of us know verse 23, but we may not be as famiar with verse 22 and it’s context.

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:22-23

The good news is that God can empower us to live a life that is worthy of the calling in our lives. God, through the Holy Spirit, can live that life through us, if we allow Him to inhabit every area of our life. Rather than claim Christ as a resident of our compartmentalized life, let’s turn over the entirety of our lives to Him. Only when we totally surrender to God will we be prepared to experience life the way God wants it to be — holy, full, abundant, rewarding.

And here is the good news. The heart transplant includes a complete “life overhaul” at no extra charge. Jesus Christ took our sin on Himself so that we can stand before God without fear of eternity in hell. But salvation is more than “fire insurance” as is taught by many churches; it is the only way to experience the life of holiness.

Are you living life with a new heart? Are you living a life of holiness? If so, you can testify about God’s power to change a person‘s life. If not, you have yet to accept Jesus‘s invitation to live out His plan and purpose for our lives. You are not yet “in Christ.” But you can be!

This is not some goofy game show where you try to guess the answer and hope you are not wrong. If you are right you get a new washer and drier. And if you are wrong, no big deal. You just don‘t get the new washer and drier. This has eternal implications. It also will impact how you live out this life right now.

Test drive a new heart. And try out that new life that comes along with it!


Wash, rinse, repeat . . . June 15, 2008

Posted by Kevin in Golden Calf, Holiness, Repeat, Rinse, Shampoo, Wash.

I have been think a lot about a statement made in a Bible study that I attend on Wednesday mornings. The leader made the following statement: “I am sure that everyone of us around this table have unconfessed sin in their lives.” And most guys nodded in agreement. Now, I don’t think that he really meant that the way it sounded. (or maybe he did) And I am not going to debate the definition of “Sin”. But, nevertheless, that statement got me to thinking. And that is a good thing.

Our study passage today in Sunday School was Exodus 32:1-35. It is especially familiar to those of us who have been on this journey through the first few books of the Old Testament. (Hopefully we will get through these books in the Old Testament in less time than the Israelites wandered in the desert. But I digress.)

This passage contains a few brief words that make me laugh every time I read them. Aaron tries to explain to Moses how the golden calf came to be.

Aaron says, “Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

Give me a break! Come on Aaron. That calf didn’t create itself. You made it for them.

The Israelites wanted a god they could see and touch. We do to. So they melted their valuables and fashioned a golden calf. The calf wasn’t just a convenient image to worship; it was reminiscent of the cow and the bull that were a part of Egyptian worship rituals. The bull was also part of the Baal worship of the Canaanite culture. (this culture would continue to haunt the Israelites for hundreds of years). The Israelites watered down their faith by including pagan elements from pagan practices. And the consequences of this act would follow them for years and generations to come.

They allowed elements of their old lifestyles, previous experiences and bad habits to continue to shape and define who they were. They still were not grasping what it was to be the children of a Holy God.

Why did the Israelites make such a tragic mistake? In a word, fear. They were afraid. Now let’s be clear on something here. Being afraid is not an offense to God. But how we respond in our fear can be a big problem. When the Israelites were afraid they reverted back to the familiar past. Even though they were slaves in Egypt, life back in Egypt was predictable. And like the Israelites, when we are scared, we often seek out the familiar and stable . . . even if that stability is negative.

The end of this part of the story of the golden calf is more tragic than its beginning. The people were permanently affected by their decisions to turn their backs on God. According to verse 35, the people were plagued because of what they did. [Remember last week? — Connecting the dots?]

The Israelites probably had a series of “if only” moments. If only they had remained faithful to God. If only they had resisted the urge to worship the golden calf. If only they had waited patiently for the Lord. If only they were willing to break the cycle of disobedience to God and live a life of holiness.
As we discussed last week, the bad news is that we often have to live with the consequences of our sins. The good news is that God is the God of forgiveness and restoration. We can be in a right relationship with God even after we have let Him down. We can be restored, we can move forward. We can leave the mistakes of the past behind us, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can walk in Holiness and not repeat them over and over.

We can break the cycle of sin, repent, sin, repent, sin, repent . . .

Read the back of your shampoo bottle. It says, wash, rinse and repeat. No one in their right mind expects us to live in the shower and continually wash, rinse and repeat. I think it is reasonable at some point to get out of the shower. Dry off. Get dressed and go to work!
We are not supposed to live in the shower. And I guess that is where the shampoo analogy breaks down a little bit. But the analogy does work when it comes to Holiness. God calls us to live a life of holiness. Like the Israelites, we, who are Christians, are His children. And He has given us His Son to die for our sins so that we might be forgiven. And he has given us His Holy Spirit to guide us and empower us to live that life of holiness that He calls us to.

Bitter Water April 28, 2008

Posted by Kevin in Bitter, Calvary, Egypt, Exodus 15, Holiness, Water, Wood.

I just can’t seem to get that passage from Exodus 15 out of my mind. Perhaps God still has a lesson for me and I haven’t learned it yet.

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”
Exodus 15:25-26 NIV

Now, I am not all that smart. And I had to dig a little into the commentaries to gain some insight as to why this passage was speaking to my heart. And here is what I found. The evidence and speculative conclusions may point to a tree with some chemical properties that enabled the wood or its sap to render the bitter water sweet.

Maybe it did, or maybe it didn’t. Maybe, as one lady in my Bible Study says, “It was God’s will.” Maybe it was just another plain old garden variety miracle like the one at the Red Sea a few chapters earlier. The point is that the water became sweet to drink.

Now, here is the part that I failed to fully grasp earlier. The newly sweetened water had a medicinal effect as well as a refreshing effect. In fact, it had a “cleansing” effect. One of the commentaries noted that there is research to indicate that the water acted as a laxative and purged the Children of Israel of some internal gastrointestinal parasites that caused weakness and was marked by dysentery.

So, here is the point.

Are you ready for this?

Not only did God want to get His children out of Egypt. He wanted to get Egypt (or at least its ill effects) out of his children!

OK, that’s may be a little gross and out of place on a blog about holiness. But maybe not once you let the thought sink in. At Marah, God provided just the right medicine to prepare His children both physically and spiritually for the long hot march to Sinai.

So what does that mean to me?

I think it means that when I have tasted the bitter waters of sin, shame and suffering I can have them sweetened by the wood of Calvary’s cross. And that wood can bring refreshing, cleansing and healing to a sin sick soul. It can cleanse the outside. And it can cleanse the inside from the stain of sin. So that, just like the Children of Israel were cleansed of the internal parasites, God can cleanse me from the sinful nature that causes me fall into sin.

And that dear friend, is holiness.

What happens when we pray? February 21, 2008

Posted by Kevin in Clinging - The Experience of Prayer, Emilie Griffin, Holiness, Holy Spirit, Sanctification, Wesleyan.
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I am involved in a “Bible Study” on Thursday nights. We are using the book, Disciplines for the Inner Life by Bob Benson, Sr. and Michael W. Benson. I am not sure that I understand all that the Benson’s were trying to do when they wrote the book. But that’s OK. The book includes tons of “meditations” or passages from various Christian writers and thinkers.

In this week’s readings, I found the meditation by Emilie Griffin, Clinging — The Experience of Prayer to be the most thought provoking in a Spiritual sense. She says, “What happens to people who pray is that their inward life gradually takes over from their outward life.”

That sounds very much like a Wesleyan understanding of Holiness and Sanctification. Isn’t that the way we as folks who proclaim Holiness understand Sanctification to be? Isn’t it the Holy Spirit indwelling us and causing us to live outwardly in a way that reflects that we are inwardly being progressively made pure?

All I know is that I am thankful to God for His Holy Spirit who came to indwell and guide me day by day. I am thankful for the process that began so many years ago.

What do you think?

When we pray February 2, 2008

Posted by Kevin in Holiness, Holy Spirit, Pray, Prayer.
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What happens when we pray?

Emilie Griffin says the following in her book, Clinging – The Experience of Prayer.

“What happens to people who pray is that their inward life gradually takes over from their outward life.”

I think this is one of the keys to understanding the life of holiness. So often we feel the need to struggle and strain to produce holiness from the depths of our being. Like it was there all along. We just needed to squeeze it out. But that is not the way it is. Rather, as we pray and seek holiness, the Holy Spirit begins to change us slowly from the inside out. And the end result is that we are not squeezing holiness out of ourselves so much as allowing it to flow from our heart that has been changed by God.

How does this fit with your understanding of Holiness and Entire Sanctification?

It reminds me that I must maintain a residence in my heart fit for the Holy Spirit to dwell. Only then will I be able to live a holy life. Only then will people see Jesus in me.

Pentecost — Presence, Power and Purity May 27, 2007

Posted by Kevin in Holiness, Pentecost, Power, Presence, Purity.

There are many days that are celebrated because of their spiritual significance. Christmas – Good Friday – Easter and, in the evangelical holiness movement, Pentecost is of significance.

Consider the following:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 2:1-4 NIV

There are a lot of things that speak to me out of this passage. I have hinted at some of them in the title of this post.

The presence of the Holy Spirit was undeniable. The Holy Spirit came in the form of a wind from Heaven and settled on those gathered in the form of little flames of fire.

The Holy Spirit was manifested in the power and ability of those Apostles to communicate to the many gathered in Jerusalem in their own native language. And to do so without the prior training or learning of that language. But there is an even more impressive display of the Holy Spirit’s power. That power enabled Peter to rise above the denials and disappointing way that he had acted just a few short weeks ago on the night that Jesus was betrayed. Peter was empowered and emboldened to great things through the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

So what does this mean to me?

The presence and power of the Holy Spirit make it possible for our hearts to be purified. The Bible offers several passages that apply here.

Again, consider Peter the Apostle when he defended his visit to Cornelius’s house in Acts 15 7-9 in the NIV.

After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.

Titus 2:11-15 offers us great hope and assurance that the Holy Spirit will purify our hearts in preparation for Jesus Christ’s return.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self‑controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

James 4:8 is a little more direct and commands us to purify our hearts.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double‑minded.

God would not command us to do something that His Holy Spirit will not empower us to be successful at. And that is good news! In fact, God himself wants offer the Holy Spirit to us. Jesus, in Matthew 7 and Luke 11 used parables in His teaching and He tries to describe the love of our Heavenly Father.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[fn6] a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Holiness is what I want. And holiness is what my heavenly father wants for me. Hey, that would make great lyrics!

Holiness, holiness is what I long for
Holiness is what I need
Holiness, holiness is what You
want from me

Holiness, holiness is what I long for
Holiness is what I need
Holiness, holiness is what You
want from me

So, take my heart and form it
Take my mind and transform it
Take my will and conform it
To Yours, to Yours, oh, Lord

Faithfulness, faithfulness is what I long for
Faithfulness is what I need
Faithfulness, faithfulness is what
You want from me

Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for
Brokenness is what I need
Brokenness, brokenness is what
You want from me

Thank you Scott Underwood for writing that worship chorus that expresses my desire and God’s desire for me.

What is your favorite Holiness passage? March 8, 2007

Posted by Kevin in Favorite Verse, Holiness.

Mine is probably I Peter 1:13-16

Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in [the time of] your ignorance: but like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy.

For me, being holy is the opposite of being “common” or “worldly.” God is holy in that He is utterly and completely different and distinct from His creation. We must also be different, distinct, and separate from the worldly attitudes and actions that are so prevalent in today’s society and that characterize the unbelievers.

I also like the KJV for a passage in chapter 2 and verse 9, in that it conveys an idea of being separate:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9, KJV).

I have some more favorite passages on this subject (as you might imagine.) But this will do for now.

So, what is yours? And why is it your favorite?