Saturday, 7 April 2018

Love Bids Us Welcome. ~Rabqa

All Scripture is from NLT unless otherwise stated.

I ask you is holiness good for us? To answer this I go on what author & speaker Dallas Willard once reflected on how holiness has become unpopular in as much of contemporary culture. If someone said, “you walk through that door; you are going to become a holy person, how many of you would take that door?” If I had a holiness pill...would you take it?” At the heart of these questions, Willard realised that there is a deeper one: “Is holiness good for us?

Willard speculates that holiness has fallen out of favour into disfavour because much of what is called holiness in the past~slavishly (hard master) following a set of rules & ostracising people didn’t conform or wasn’t good for people; frightening them by emphasising a demand from God could get people to obey externally, but it was not truly transforming their lives. Instead, it was causing some to become hardened & self-righteous, good at following rules but bad at loving others. For
many others, it caused shame, despair & mistrust in God.

So today we see for many the idea of holiness just isn’t appealing. We may assume if we are holy, we are also ‘holier than thou’, that is to say too ‘pure’ to get along with imperfect people. Deep down, we may believe that while being holy is a nice idea for heaven, it is less practical for those of us who are here on earth.

But you know giving up on holiness has not made us happier. People are still longing for their lives to be transformed, & shame, guilt & fear are still eating away at peoples souls. If holiness is at the heart of who God is & who we believers in Jesus are called to be. Leviticus 20:26 You must be holy because I, the LORD, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own.
This verse teaches us that God speaks words to make us feel bad about ourselves. True godly conviction is a positive thing that moves us into a new level of holiness. On the other hand the devil’s condemnation presses us down under a heavy burden so that we cannot even hear from God. If you sense God speaking to you about something in your behaviour, how do you know it is God’s will? You will know because He will not shame you or put you down, but He will motivate you & empower you to change. I could not make progress until I learnt to discern the difference between conviction & condemnation, & I do not believe you can either. Remember that conviction makes you aware of the problem & then lifts you up out of it. Condemnation makes you feel guilty, presses you down & keeps you in the problem. & in 1 Peter 1:16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy. So we see that the Old Testament confirms what the New Testament is saying.
It would seem that God’s holiness is what the world needs but not just for the future but also for now.

You are probably wondering what is holiness, & what does it mean for God’s people to be holy? Scripture portrays holiness as the essential quality of God. Hosea 11:9 AMP) I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not bring back Ephraim to nothing or again destroy him. For I am God and not man, the Holy One in the midst of you, and I will not come in wrath or enter into the city.
This verse furnishes one of the keys to understanding the book of Hosea. A man like Hosea can reflect some of the aspects of God's nature & love, but he is limited in this capacity. But God hasn’t any limits to His patience & love.

God’s holiness that is His transcendent beauty, power & burning love is consistently overwhelms those who witness it, overcome by the gap between the glory of the creator & small sinful human beings Isaiah 6:5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”
We learn in Isaiah 6:1-9 that before God can use us, He needs to cleanse us, Isaiah realised that he had a sinful, unclean mouth that needed to be dealt with. I believe that because Isaiah’s heart cried for a change, God sent help.

The coming forward of the seraphim with coal is recorded in verse 6 as an instantaneous happening, but answers may not always come quickly to us. We all would prefer miraculous deliverance, but most of the time the Lord puts us through a cleansing process.

Notice that God forgave Isaiah’s sin & then issued a call: “Who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) Isaiah responded, “Here am I; send me (Verse 9) Isaiah’s heart wanted to serve the Lord, & God knew that. God will always look for someone who has a perfect heart toward Him, not necessarily someone who has a perfect performance before Him. When the Lord has the heart He can always change the behaviour.

This truth should encourage those of us who want to be used by God, but who often feel that we just have too many flaws. God uses “cracked pot,” as the saying goes. We come to Him as we are, & He moulds us & makes us into vessels fit for His use. (2 Timothy 2:21).

God’s holiness is good for us, now not only us but all of creation. Because it is God’s holiness that drives Him to restore His Word working in all things to purify & heal the earth to be once more filled with His glory Habakkuk 2:14 for as the waters fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an awareness of the glory of the LORD.

God’s action in bringing down the wicked in verse 13 demonstrates His sovereignty in all the earth.

Plan your life by God’s wisdom. Be a success in Him. The worldly theory of success that centres on personal power & the amassing of financial riches is a highly deceptive trap. The wise person defines success in the light of God’s plan for His life. Living in a manner that honourers His promise, brings success.

In the Old Testament, His restoring work began with Israel who displayed His holiness to & in holy spaces such as the temple, places set apart for His presence. But primarily God called Israel to be holy that is to be set apart by Him to display the beauty of His presence to the world Leviticus 19:2 Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.

“You shall be holy” means the people must imitate God in holiness but practicing numerous duties that reflect Him. This chapter emphasises numerous commandments given to the people regarding religious life, good neighbourliness, respect for the old & alien & trading.

No matter how often they failed, God promised forgiveness & restoration, explaining that because He’s the “Holy One living in you” (Hosea 11:9), He would never destroy His people.

In the climax of God’s redemption story, Jesus came to earth; bring God’s holiness to stay. Through His victory on the cross, He reconciled all of creation to God Colossians 1:20, & His Holy Spirit is transforming creation into wholeness once more Romans 8:21-25.

In Colossians 1:20 we see that mankind was separated from God because of sin & had no
acceptable offering to satisfy the demands of God’s holy nature. God sent Christ to provide an acceptable sacrifice for sin, establishing a bond with those who received Him, thereby making peace. It was specifically the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross that satisfied of God’s holiness, established a peace bond or covenant with those who received Him, & provided the means for all creation to be reconciled to God Lev 17:11 declares that sin cannot be forgiven without the shedding of blood, because sin takes life. Life is required to repay sin’s debts. Jesus Christ gave divine life in blood to satisfy all of mankind’s sin debts & to restore covenant between God & man.

So we do not need to go back to fear& legalism to celebrate a life of holiness. Our holiness is not something we achieve; it is a reality won by Christ’s redeeming love. As believers in Jesus, we share His holiness; we are already right with God as we see in 1 Peter 2:9 which say which say: But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests,[a] a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light

We need to thank God & say something like this: Lord I thank you for choosing me & making me one of your own special people & for calling me out of darkness into your marvellous light.
Because of this we are able to experience a growing healing & wholeness in Him. As someone once said “God’s holiness is not the fragile kind that would be tainted with broken, bent damaged people.” Rather God came here to be with us. To save us. To make a new kind of life possible for us.

We are simply invited to live into the truth, that Christ’s Spirit living in us. We are creations as we see in 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

As new creations, we do not have to allow the old things that happened to us affect our new life in Christ. We are a new creature with a new life in Christ. We can have our mind renewed according to the Word of God. Good things will happen.

Rejoice it is a new day. As seventeenth century poet George Herbert’s poem “Love” puts it, God’s holy love gently bids us welcome-to feast with the One who’s making all things new.
We are God’s very own possession, filled with His holy presence, set apart to point the world to the goodness of God...[who] called [us] out of the darkness into His wonderful light (1Peter 2:9).

1 Corinthians 3:17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

When we accept Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us (John 14:17). God chooses to move into our spirit that is into the centre core of our lives~where He can be closer to us than any other living thing. When God’s Holy Spirit moves into our human spirit, our spirit is prepared as a dwelling place for God& is made holy because God is there.

Every religion has its place of worship that means places that are considered sacred . In the old Testament, we read of three festivals for worshipping God at the temple in Jerusalem each year (Deuteronomy 16:16).

With that in mind, Jesus was once drawn into a discussion with a Samaritan woman on the necessity of worshipping in a designated place (John 4:20-24). She said, “Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim” (John 4: 20).

Jesus redirected her & us from a place of worship to the person & paradigm of worship. Christianity as religion is about people seeking to worship a deity, requiring a sacred place of worship. Christianity as relationship, however, is God seeking people who worship Him as Father. But the time is coming & indeed it is here now when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit & in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way (John 4: 23)

Worshipping in spirit & in truth means we approach God truthfully & wholeheartedly on the
basis of His Word & through His Son (John 14:6); 1 John 5:20). A sacred physical site is no longer an imperative. While God loves all His creation & is present within it, the focus is not the sacredness of a place of worship but the holiness of His worshippers. As Paul declared, Believers in Jesus are “the temple of the living God” (Corinthians 6:16) & God’s temple is holy (1 Corinthians 3:17).

Worship for believers is more than a few hours spent in a sacred place. The Holy Spirit now dwells within us. True Worship is living a godly life in God’s presence (1 Peter 5:9).

I could not let this message go without a favourite passage of mime Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.

2 Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external,
superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

What Paul is telling us in verse 1 is that we are to dedicate everything about ourselves to God, now that is not just our possessions, money, time, energy & efforts, but also our bodies, heads, hands tongues & even our minds & attitudes.

We are to dedicate everything about ourselves as a “living sacrifice,” holy, devoted, consecrated & pleasing to God. This is our reasonable, (rational intelligent) service & spiritual worship.

Often we get the impression that to totally serve & worship God means to involve our bodies & spirits, but there is more. Here Paul is saying that we are to serve & worship Him with our minds & also our emotions. Invite God to think & speak through you. Let Him touch people through you, you can even serve Him with your face by smiling & showing yourself to be friendly to others. Allow God to use all of you. The more of yourself & your life that you release to Him, the more you will be fulfilled & experience His peace & joy.

Verse 2 informs us that God has a plan for us. His will toward us is good & acceptable & perfect, but we must completely renew our minds before we will ever experience the good things God has planned. We renew our minds & get new attitudes & new ideals by studding His Word. The Word of God is truth (John 17:17).

Ephesians 4:17-19 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
In this passage of Scripture we learn unbelievers can be so callous & hard that they are past feeling. But the same verse says they live by their feelings in unbridled sensuality & carnality. As I meditate on what appears to be a paradox, they saw that such people are past doing what they should be doing with their feelings.

God gives people feelings for a specific purpose & use in their walk with Him. But sadly people have alienated themselves from God & are hardened to the place where they are beyond using their feelings for the right purpose. Satan moves them into an area where they live a riotous life. Doing whatever they please.

What is the world’s philosophy today? “If it feels good do it!” You & I are not to live that way, but to make the truth of God’s Word our standard & to obey it by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In Ephesians 4:23 we read that we are to be “constantly renewed” in the spirits of our minds, having a fresh mental & spiritual attitude. Attitude begins in the mind. Our minds are renewed by the Word of God. Reading the Word daily renews our minds & changes our attitudes.
Renew your mind in the Word today!

Philippians 3:3 A M P. For we [Christians] are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit and by the Spirit of God and exult and glory and pride ourselves in Jesus Christ, and put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances—

We see from this verse that we are not to put confidence in the flesh that is ours or anybody else’s. I hear you ask, “Where does God want our confidence to be placed?” The answer is in Him alone.

God despises independence. He wants us be totally reliant on Him. He wants us to as dependent upon Him as a branch is on a vine; the branch withers quickly if it is detached from the vine (John 55:5). He wants us to lean on Him for everything in our lives & be confident in His love & provision.

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