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I Peter 1-2: Don’t Make Excuses for Sinful Behavior in Tough Times

Christian Living, Growth, holiness, I Peter, overcoming sin, sin

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Galatians 3-4: 4 Paths-Which One Are You On?

Christian Living, Faith, Galatians, holiness, salvation

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Hebrews 13-James 1: The Word is Able to Save Me

forgiveness, grace, Healing, holiness, James, morality, Obedience, Overcoming Satan, overcoming sin, Powerlessness, relying on God, salvation, Word of God

Today’s reading is Hebrews 13:1-25; James 1:1-27.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:19-21).

I have a tendency to equate “save” with “forgive.” While being forgiven is part of being saved, the two are not completely synonymous. Being saved means being made whole, being healed, being fixed. That is what I want. I don’t simply want to be forgiven. I want to be made well. I want the sickness of my sins removed. I want the control of sin removed. I want my defects discarded. I want to be fixed. I want to be saved.

Sadly, I have learned I do not have that power. I cannot save myself. No amount of my good works will do it. No amount of my decision making will do it. I’ve tried that path but I have already let myself become sin’s slave. What am I to do? James says the word of God is able to save me.

Today, if I want to be saved, I need to be in God’s word. I need to be quick to hear it. That is, not only letting its words enter my ears but also allowing them to impact my life. I need to be slow to speak, that is, slow to say the way I think things should be and slow to speak against what I hear. I need to be slow to anger. I may not like everything God’s word says. If I give myself to anger against it, I will not attain the righteousness of God.

I don’t read the word today because God has given me homework. I read it because the word is able to save me and I want saving.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

PS. What struck you in today’s reading?

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Hebrews 9-10: Let Christ’s Sacrifice Purify Your Conscience

Christian Living, Comfort, Growth, Healing, Hebrews, holiness, morality, Obedience, Overcoming Satan, overcoming sin, temptation, Victory in Jesus

Today’s reading is Hebrews 9:1-10:39.

“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).

I see that I have a problem. Even though I’m in Christ and have received forgiveness, I allow my conscience to be plagued by my past sins instead of purified from them. I know there must be a balance here. If I completely forget that I’ve sinned, I will forget my need for Jesus. However, when I allow my past sins to plague me, I generally get sucked back into them because of the guilt and shame they carry.

The Hebrew writer demonstrates that Jesus’ death cleanses and purifies my conscience. The part of me that considers right and wrong and chooses to act is set aright by Jesus. As it is purified, I’m set free from the bondage of dead works in order to serve the living God. That is exactly what I want.

If I am going to serve the living God today, my conscience must be purified by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. If Jesus is going to purify my conscience, I need to quit dragging those dead works back into my conscience. Instead, I need to let them stay in the past, purified by Jesus and His death so that today I can serve the living God. Dwelling on those past mistakes doesn’t help me. It hurts me. Jesus has dealt with them. I need to let it go at that.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

PS. What struck you in today’s reading?

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I Peter 1-2: The Price of My Sins is too Great to Continue

Christian Living, grace, Growth, holiness, I Peter, Jesus, Obedience, Overcoming Satan, overcoming sin, repentance, salvation, sin

Today’s reading is 1 Peter 1:1-2:25.

“…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Too often I’ve thought that grace was God’s ability to overlook my sins. But that is not true. God has not overlooked my sins. He hasn’t winked at a single one. Rather, He has stared at them in all His glory and all my horror. He could not help but see them glaring from my heart.  He does not dismiss them; He deals with them. He does not wink at them; He washes them away. He does not pass over them; He pays for them. What is the purchase price for my sins? Not gold. Not silver. Not all the money in the world. The purchase price was Jesus’ blood.

No longer can I dismiss my sins with a wink and a nod toward God’s grace. “Oh well, we’re all human, that’s what God’s grace is for.” God’s grace is not some ethereal force out there wandering around looking for sins to cover up from God’s eyes. God’s grace is the blood of Jesus Christ. Every sin I commit costs Jesus’ life. Every lie, every idle gossip, every look of lust, every cheat on a test, every rebellious notion is only paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ.

How can I turn a blind eye to my sins when God did not? How can I wink at my wrongs when the cost is so great? How can I dismiss my defects when Jesus’ death is the purchase price for them? Today, I’m going to throw myself into Jesus’ hands to grow in Him by His grace so I am not asking the price to be paid again.

Yes, when I fail, I know the price has been paid and I’m eternally grateful. But I will not devalue that price by assuming Jesus paid it so I could sin as much as I wanted.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

PS. What struck you in today’s reading?

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Mark 7-8: I’ll Lose My Life if I Keep Trying to Save It

Christian Living, Crucified with Christ, Death, eternal life, Faith, grace, Growth, holiness, Jesus, Mark, Obedience, Overcoming Satan, overcoming sin, perseverance, Powerlessness, righteousness, Sacrifice, salvation, Surrender, Victory in Jesus

Today’s reading is Mark 7:1-8:38.

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35).

The depth of scripture is astounding. The layers in one verse amazing.

Those who preserve their physical lives by stepping off of God’s path will lose their eternal lives. Those who so surrender to God even to the point of physical death will be granted eternal life.

Those who want to hang on to their lives by hanging on to their goals, wants, desires, plans, possessions at the expense of God’s goals, wants, desires, plans, possession will lose the life that matters. Those who give up their own ends for God’s will gain an abundant life they cannot imagine.

But today I recognized a third layer. Those who believe they can save themselves by their own strength, power, will, self-discipline, strict adherence, will lose their lives. Only those who understand they cannot save themselves and therefore give control of their life to Jesus (cf. Galatians 2:20) will gain eternal life. As long as I think I will save me by doing God’s will good enough, I will never make it. Once I concede I won’t do God’s will good enough and just give myself to Jesus, then God will grant me the grace, by faith, to overcome and be victorious.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

PS. What struck you in today’s reading?

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Ephesians 1-2: I Am God’s Workmanship

Christian Living, Crucified with Christ, Ephesians, Faith, Glorifying God, God, grace, Growth, Healing, holiness, humility, loving God, Overcoming Satan, overcoming sin, relying on God, repentance, Sacrifice, Surrender, trusting God, Walking with God

Today’s reading is Ephesians 1:1-2:22.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

What a thought! I am not my workmanship. I am God’s workmanship. Obviously, I’m making choices in my daily life. This doesn’t mean I’m nothing more than a puppet with God literally pulling the strings. But it does mean I’m not alone. It means I don’t have to direct the way for me to be all that God wants me to be, all that I want me to be.

God has created me in Christ Jesus to walk in His good works. But is His workmanship merely a moment in time switcheroo? Does Paul simply mean when I was baptized into Christ, God did some work but now He is sitting back hoping the switch took? I don’t think so. This verse means God is still working in me. He is providing me with progressive victory over sin and progressive victory in righteousness.

This doesn’t mean I sit on my backside and wait for God to pull the strings. But it does mean I can take comfort today that God is working in me. I am His workmanship and He is the Master Craftsman. He may not always work on my timetable, but He is working.

I think today, I’ll just surrender to God’s way. I’m pretty sure it works. And I’m pretty sure it will work on me.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

PS. What struck you in today’s reading?

PPS. For those who haven’t seen it elsewhere, here is a great video from the Skit Guys about God working on us. Even if you have seen it, you may want to watch it again. Enjoy.

God’s Chisel by the Skit Guys

Here is the link for my e-mail subscribers: http://giveattentiontoreading.com/?p=1620

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Galatians 1-2: I Must Quit Living

Baptism, Christian Living, Crucified with Christ, Faith, Galatians, Growth, holiness, humility, Jesus, Obedience, relying on God, righteousness, Sacrifice, Surrender

Today’s reading is Galatians 1:1-2:21.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

I think I get it now. I’ve not allowed this verse to have its full impact in my life. I was baptized, crucified with Christ (cf Romans 6:1-6). Since then I’ve been telling Christ, “Watch this, see how I can live my life for You.” I was certainly sincere in this. I have wanted to serve Christ. I’ve been doing my best. But wasn’t that the problem that led me to Christ in the first place? My best only put me right back into sin (cf Romans 7:14-24). Why would it do any different now?

Paul doesn’t say to tell Jesus, “I’ll do my best to live for You.” Rather, Jesus is saying, “Quit trying to live. I’ll live my best for you.” I need to quit trying to live my life and simply start letting Jesus live through me. What does He want? Do that. Of course, that is going to take faith. Jesus won’t treat me like a puppet. It’s my choice to let Him live through me by my faith. But I have to make a conscious decision to quit trying to live my life, even if I’m trying to live it for Him. Instead, I need to let Him live my life through me. I need to surrender myself to Him, His will, His goals, His life.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

PS. What struck you in today’s reading?

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Galatians 5-6: Boast in Christ

Christian Living, Crucified with Christ, Faith, Galatians, grace, holiness, righteousness, salvation

strength by Victoria Morse VICTORIAMORSE.NETToday’s reading is Galatians 5:1-6:18.

Paul said, “For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:13-14).

I think I’ve often viewed this passage as talking about how hypocritical all the Jews must have been. They wanted the Christians to be circumcised, but they didn’t actually want to keep the law themselves. I’m not sure that is the case. I think there were plenty of sincere Jews who wanted the Christians to be circumcised. I think plenty of them tried to keep the law. The issue was not that they didn’t care about the law. The issue was that everyone sins and falls short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). All those who claimed they could be justified by the law had simply proven over and over again that they would fall short of the law no matter how much they attempted to follow it. That is why those who try to be justified by the law only end up under a curse (Galatians 3:10). Really, anyone who tries to boast in keeping the law is eventually going to have to get around to admitting, “But I messed up here, and here, and here…” Of course, that is why those who boast in the law eventually get to the point of boasting that they are better at law keeping than someone else. Can anyone say “Pharisee and Publican?” 

Instead of boasting in law-keeping, Paul would boast in Christ and not simply in Christ but in the cross of Christ. All those sins Paul had committed while striving to keep the law were taken out of the way by the cross. That was where his righteousness came. It wasn’t his own, it was a gift from God through the death of Jesus Christ because of Paul’s faith.

Here is my fear for me. In what do I boast? Do I boast in how often I “go to church”? Do I boast in how much money I give in the contribution? Do I boast in how many sins I haven’t committed? Do I boast in how many acts of righteousness I have done? Do I boast in how well I hold to the pattern of sound words? Or do I boast in the cross of Christ? Sadly, some hear this and think I’m saying how I live doesn’t matter. That is not the case at all. If I live by faith (Galatians 2:20), I’ll live by the pattern of sound words. I’ll assemble with the saints, contribute to the work of the church, strive to overcome sin, strive to live by righteousness, etc. The question is in what do I boast? Do I look at all the great things I do under the New Covenant and boast in that? Or do I look at the cross of Christ and boast in that?

The fact is, whether old law or new, if I’m going to boast in my law-keeping, I’m only going to be able to admit that I’m a sinner and really have nothing in which to boast. I need to put my faith in Christ. When I put it in me, I fail. 

So, today, I’ll boast in Christ and not me or my law-keeping. Certainly, I’ll strive to obey Christ, but I won’t stand before Christ and try to act like He should forgive me because look at how awesome I am. That just won’t work.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

P.S. What struck you in today’s reading?

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John 11-12: Seek God’s Approval Alone

Christian Living, Glorifying God, holiness, John, loving God

Today’s reading is John 11:1-12:50.

Once again, Jesus hits me right in the heart. I’m reminded of the statement I’ve heard: “It’s none of my business what others think of me.”

Here’s how John said it: “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:42-43).

We look back on these folks with disdain. Yet, do we not sometimes do the same? Perhaps we believe in Jesus but we don’t tell a lost friend because we fear they will reject us. Or perhaps we’ve studied something in the Word that our brethren don’t generally believe and we won’t share it because we are afraid they’ll kick us out of the church or write us up in a paper. The problem with this, of course, is if we are wrong, we don’t get the correction we need until it is usually too late. On the other hand, if we are right, we aren’t actually helping anybody.

But back to the mantra I shared at the beginning. I think many Christians will balk at it. But think, why does it really matter what folks think of you? This statement is not intended to say don’t worry how you live. It doesn’t say it is none of your business what God thinks of you. It’s none of my business what others think of me.

Here’s the point. If I’m doing wrong, I can put on the mask and get you to think that I’m wonderful. I may receive all kinds of glory from you. That won’t change that I’m not going to receive glory from God. However, if I’m doing what is right, you may despise me. I may never receive glory from you. You may be judging me in your heart as an awful person. However, that won’t change that I’m right with God and will receive glory from Him. So, in the end, it really doesn’t matter what you think of me. What matters is what God thinks of me. Why then should I let worry about your like or dislike of me cause me to get into an unhealthy obsession about our relationship or about impressing you? Instead, I should simply strive to please God in our relationship and let your thoughts of me be between you and God.

Does this mean I don’t have to be nice to you or considerate? Of course not. But why am I nice and considerate? Is it because I want to impress you so you’ll like me? No. It is because God has said I should be compassionate, tender-hearted, kind, and forgiving (Ephesians 4:32). This is the right thing to do, not to get you to like me but to please God. If I focus on pleasing God, I’ll live toward you as I ought. If, however, I focus on pleasing you, I will probably not live toward God as I ought.

For some of us, this is a real struggle. It’s not that we don’t care about God, it’s just that somewhere along the way we picked up an unhealthy habit of needing approval. Thus, we filter all our decisions through what will this decision make so and so think of me. I’m not exactly sure how to overcome this unhealthy obsession with what others think of us. But I think it begins with remembering no matter what anyone else thinks of us, God loves us. As we read earlier in John’s gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” When we are seeking man’s approval, we are looking for true love in all the wrong places. Rest in God’s love. Only then can you really love others and accept what love they are willing to offer or survive despite the love they withhold.

Remember today, it’s none of your business what everyone else thinks of you.

***Question: How do you focus on pleasing God instead of man?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

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