Monthly Archives: April 2021

No snooze button!

It might surprise you to know that I am not a very disciplined person. Well, it does not come very naturally to me. I need to work hard on it each day. Be it in small or big things, training ourselves to change and commit to these changes take time, but we must do it. The bad habits we have can be small and seem insignificant when we look at them, but we must work on even the smallest changes that need to be made. For example, I very often set the alarm 15 minutes earlier with the intention of jumping out of bed with enough time to do my daily Bible reading and start all the little chores that need to be done before the kids are out of bed and we are off to school and work. What happens almost always is I push the snooze button, role over and sleep. Eventually when I get up time is short, I am frustrated with myself, but can’t control it and then end up getting the kids worked up and frustrated too. My pushing that snooze button, instead of getting up straight away, causes a cascade of “little sins” throughout those moments and makes me feel really bad all morning. Bad for shouting at the kids, for being angry with the traffic, but most of all for not even having had time to read my Bible. I am working on it. I need to change and with God’s help I will. I have a note saying NO SNOOZE BUTTON to remind myself when I turn my light off. Maybe I would be better off buying an old style alarm clock. I need to say no to this very bad habit that causes me to sin.

In our pursuit of holiness we must be rooted in the grace of God. Grace teaches us to say no to ungodly behaviour and worldly passions. In my studies and research in the past few months I realised I never really understood what the term ungodly means in a broader sense. I have always thought of ungodliness being the same as wickedness. I was always quick to think of Sodom and Gomorra, or maybe someone like Adolf Hitler, or the terrorist who flew the planes into the twin towers in New York in 2001. We might think of people who kidnap and traffic human beings all over the world, violent husbands that attack their wives and children, parents that neglect and murder their own children or children who murder their own parents so they can be “free” to do what they want. These things are wrong and evil and it would be right to think of them as ungodly. For a better understanding of how God views ungodliness see Romans 1:18-32.

In a broader sense the word ungodly means disregarding God, ignoring him and not taking him into account in our lives. You can imagine my shock when I realised that I have been so ungodly, so many times, that I would be ashamed to admit. The many times when I jump to conclusions, make decisions without praying, considering scriptures… The times I sit around with colleagues who are mocking God and I say nothing. It is the opposite of what we are commanded to do in Matthew 22: 37-39

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (emphasis mine)

The process of learning, of pursuing, of striving to attain holiness is not always easy because it means we need to examine our hearts, look deep inside, find those bad habits we have, those sins we cultivate and say no to them.

We must also learn to say no to worldly passions. What does that mean exactly? It means to have a love for things of this life such as possessions, money, prestige, power that grows inside and takes over our desires, attitudes and thoughts. It becomes what we consider the most important thing and it consumes us. Passion for things of this world start small in our lives, it might be a jealous thought about the house our neighbour has or the car they drive, the school they send their kids to and so on. It might be sparkled by a promotion at work and the desire for a bigger team of people to manage, more power, a corner office. Very often I find myself thinking I am immune to these kinds of thoughts, after all I am a follower of Jesus, I read my Bible, I pray, I go to church, I help other people and therefore, I couldn’t possibly, ever be someone who will love this world and the things of this world that much.

We must remember that we are now citizens of God’s kingdom. We are supposed to live as foreigners here. We are supposed to be thinking of our home in heaven where we will be for eternity with God. This is what we are encouraged to do in 1 Peter 2:11-12

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

God has given us his grace, his undeserved favour and this grace means that we are forgiven through Jesus. When He died, he paid the full price to satisfy God’s wrath and God accepted his payment and now we have His righteousness. (See Romans 3:19-26). Grace also reminds us that there is no more condemnation and sin has no dominion over us (See Romans 8:1). Because of God’s grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us we can be disciplined/trained to say no to sin. We can stop pushing the snooze button, so to speak. We can examine our hearts, confess our sins and start the training each day knowing we are secure in Christ and his grace and his love will sustain us.

Have a blessed week.

Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

Training for a race!

Have you ever tried to run a marathon? I haven’t. In fact, I haven’t tried to run any distance since I was a small child and used to be chased by geese at the park. I know quite a few people that enjoy running and have decided to run a marathon. I know that they are having to discipline themselves and adopt a regime of training that is quite strict. They have to change their diet, have all the right equipment and most of all they have to run, every day, no matter the weather conditions. I admire people with that kind of commitment. I guess, that is why I enjoy watching the Olympic games.

It fascinates me to listen to athlete’s stories of their dedication and focus. For some of us, mere mortals, it might seem a little over the top to spend all that time training just to get a medal around your neck. But I have to admit, as a Christian I have a lot to learn from the dedication, focus, commitment of an athlete and the discipline they have.

In our pursuit of holiness we must train ourselves, rooted in God’s grace to rid ourselves of all the bad habits, the sins we cultivate in our hearts in order that God be glorified in us. We must keep our focus on Jesus, after all, to be holy is to be like Jesus. As the runner keeps focused on crossing that finish line, so, we must focus on the giver and perfecter or our faith.

Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (emphasis mine).

The preparation for a marathon is hard and long, and when you ask friends about it they will tell you of the many times they thought about giving up, but they didn’t. Either because they were running to remember a loved one, raise money for a good cause or just for personal satisfaction. They needed to do it. They had a goal.

God set the goal for each Christian: “Be holy, because I am holy”. That is what we need to remind ourselves each day. We are in a much better place than athletes though because God’s grace is being poured on us each day through Christ for our salvation and for our sanctification. The same grace that saves us is the one that disciplines us and helps us to pursue holiness. This is what Paul tells us in Philippians 1:6

 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

We have God’s grace and through his grace we also have the Holy Spirit working in us. In my next few posts I will be talking about this amazing grace and how it disciplines/trains us in this journey, pursuing holiness.

Have a blessed week.

Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash

Whose image?

Do you have an image that comes to your mind when you hear the words “holy” or “holiness”? I grew up in Brazil as a catholic. I wasn’t a very good one, but I was made to attend mass every week because the Nuns in my school would make us. The pictures around the school were all of “holy” people. They all had the same expression: sad eyes, pale faces (looking quite unhealthy), looking helpless and some had a halo above their heads. Those images pop into my mind when I hear these words, this is not very helpful to me.

Perhaps you don’t have an image but you might think of people pointing fingers at other people telling them they are getting it all wrong. The “holier than thou” kind of people. Sentences like “You are not good enough” or “You are worse than I thought” or “I am glad I am not like you” might be what you think of. To a certain extent we think of “holiness” as something we should be scared of and never able to attain.

We might think of people like Mother Theresa, the Apostle Paul, some of the Puritans, great preachers like Charles Spurgeon and most recently John Piper, Timothy Keller when we are challenged to be holy. Maybe we think of a dear friend in church, we see how they live and we wish we could be like them.

The big question is what does holiness look like? How would I know for sure I am leading a life of holiness or not? Why is it important to be holy? Pursuing holiness should be the priority of every Christian because it is God’s will for our lives. This pursuit is not simply a rule keeping exercise, a checklist we have and tick as we go along. It is important to note though that Jesus said:

“If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15)

Obeying God’s commands is very important to every Christian (we will see that below) but not as a mechanical tick on a list. We must all be very careful to search our hearts and our motives. So if we stay away from drugs, sexual impurity, alcohol we might think we are good at this business of being “separated”, “set apart”, but we have not been humble, kind, shown compassion or helped anyone in the last day or so. Keeping rules for the sake of keeping rules is not pursuing holiness. Remember the Pharisees? They were excellent in keeping “rules” but their hearts were far from God.

Pursuing holiness is not being “spiritual” as the world understands it. People will say they are spiritual because they are open to “mysteries” and show an interest in prayer, healing and finding inner peace. Sitting under a tree with your legs crossed and eyes shut, listening to the birds singing is not going to make you holy. Believing all sorts of stories and fables are not going to make us more inclined to study God’s word. Buying books about self-help is not the answer either. What we learn from the Scriptures is that we are spiritual because we are being transformed by the Holy Spirit to be more like Christ each day.

Another thing holiness is not is being “true to oneself”. This is a very celebrated idea in our world today. Society will say that a truly good person is the one who is true to him/herself. Some believe that there isn’t a right or wrong way to do things. It will all be ok as long as you are true to yourself. This view causes all sorts of troubles. What if the way you see things is racist, violent, dishonest? If you are going to be true to yourself, many people along the way will be hurt and that will definitely not lead you to be holy, set apart, more like Jesus.

Pursuing holiness is not being friends with the world. By world I don’t mean the people around us but all who oppose the will of God. It is anything that makes sin look normal and righteousness look very out of place. The Bible tells us in 1 John 2:15:

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” (emphasis mine)

We must remember that pursuing holiness comes with a cost. When we decide to apply Romans 12:1-2:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

We are swimming against the current all the time when it comes to the world’s view and expectation. If we save ourselves for marriage or decide to stay at home with our family instead of drinking ourselves silly on a Friday night, or if we decide to declare to the Inland Revenue all the things we own and earn in the year and pay the correct taxes, it is most likely people will distance themselves from us and think we are weird. The pattern of the world is not the path to holiness. This is what James tells us:

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4) (emphasis mine)

Pursuing holiness is having God’s image made new in us. We know that God created Adam and Eve in his image and when they disobeyed God that image was distorted/broken. Imagine rubbing mud with bits of sand on a mirror, when you wash the mirror you can still see yourself but there are places where the image is distorted because of the scratches the sand left on the mirror. That is how God’s image is in us at the moment because of sin. We are still image bearers and we strive to be holy because we want God’s image in us to be renewed each day. This process takes time and we must continue to trust God and His grace as we walk by faith being transformed with the help of the Holy Spirit in us. See what 2 Corinthians 3:18 says:

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (emphasis mine)

The process of holiness looks at our character because we are to imitate God’s character. It goes much deeper than what we say and do. We need to get acquainted with our great God and His character more. He is holy, holy, holy and here are some of the virtues that should mark the lives of those who follow God and want to live for Him and for His glory alone: loving, patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not arrogant, not selfish, not rude, not irritable, not resentful, no joy in wrongdoing, rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. This list is not exhaustive. See 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. We get to know God and his character by studying his word deeply.

Obedience to God’s commands is another way pursuing holiness looks like for a Christian. We must remember that the Israelites were rescued from Egypt and then they were given the law to obey. They were not redeemed by observing/keeping the law, but they were redeemed so they might obey the law. In 1 John 2:3-6 we read:

“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (emphasis mine)

God gives us his commands as a means of grace so we might grow in godliness and show that we love Him.

Finally and most important of all holiness is to be Christ like. The goal of our salvation is that we should be conformed to the image of God’s Son. Jesus is our perfect example of holiness and obedience. He is the image of the invisible God “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15) and the exact imprint of God’s nature: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 1:3)

To use the mirror illustration again, hopefully, as we become more like Jesus those scratches disappear and all that will be left is a true reflection of the perfect image of our Saviour in us. Remember we have all we need in the Bible. We need to be excited about getting to Know more about who Jesus is and we must, with God’s help, follow His example. God’s grace is being poured on us lavishly. Let us be encouraged as we open our Bibles and learn to live in a way that is pleasing to Him. May His Holy Spirit strengthen us each day for His glory alone.

God bless.