Tag Archive: devotional


All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 2 Number 7

August 29, 2013

Dressing Appropriately

From Pastor Bordwine

 

But you did not learn Christ in this way . . .

(Ephesians 4:20)

As we know, the apostle Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament epistles. He was the premier theologian for the early Church. Paul explains some of the most complex and essential doctrines of the faith. At the same time, Paul used a number of concepts to help believers understand not just the doctrine, but the application of the doctrine.

One of the apostle’s most helpful explanations of how doctrine should affect the day-to-day life of the believer comes in connection with his teaching on the process of change that takes place in the life of the sinner who embraces the gospel and is, consequently, born-again by the Holy Spirit. In the context of the verse quoted above, Paul is urging his readers to give careful consideration to the character of their lives now that they have become part of the Body of Christ.

Paul describes the previous character of those now being addressed as Christ’s people. They walked, he writes, “in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that [was] in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” (v. 18) In this spiritual state, Paul reminds them that they were callous and were given over to sensuality leading to “the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” (v. 19)

At this point, Paul writes: “But you did not learn Christ in this way . . .” He is emphasizing a critical fact, which is the inevitable spiritual change that takes place in the heart of a redeemed sinner. Those former traits had to give way to the Christ-like characteristics being developed in them by the Holy Spirit. They were being taught about truth, Paul goes on to say, as they participated in the new relationship they now had with Jesus, “just as truth is in Jesus.” (v. 21)

The apostle provides an extremely helpful image of this transition from life apart from Christ to life in and for Christ when he writes:

. . . 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Clothing is one of the most fundamental elements in our lives. The act of taking off one garment and putting on another is as common to our daily routines as anything else we do. We know that all clothing has a purpose and all clothing contributes to the image we project. Paul uses this universally familiar action to illustrate the crucial spiritual truth he is conveying.

The spiritual transition in which a born-again sinner gradually curtails former expressions of a fallen nature while increasingly manifesting the new characteristics of a regenerated nature is likened to the changing of garments. The wicked tendencies and displays of “the old self” are “laid aside” while the Christ-like inclinations and demonstrations of “the new self” are “put on.”

Paul continues and exhorts his readers regarding the “clothing” they should be putting on. Instead of falsehood, they should be “wearing” truth; instead of anger, self-control; instead of dishonesty, productivity; instead of destructive words, edifying speech; etc. (cf. vv. 25-32) A saving relationship with Christ will always give evidence of itself in our “appearance.”

The ongoing and inevitable change in character that Paul has been explaining is known as sanctification. Once we are born-again, the Holy Spirit begins remaking us in the image of the Savior. As we live out our days, we become more and more like Him in our desires and actions. Our spiritual “clothing” testifies to the reality of this continuing recreation.

Admittedly, I used the title of this devotional as a play on words, which is what Paul does as he helps believers understand the concept of sanctification. As one who has been regenerated, make sure that you are dressing appropriately.

 

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All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 33

September 20, 2012

Holy Fatigue

From Pastor Bordwine

 

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:9)

Some aspects of our experience in this world involve life-long obligations. These commitments are specific and have well-defined goals. I’m going to use marriage to illustrate a couple of points.

To function properly and profitably, a marriage requires diligence and a measure of self-sacrifice. During the course of a marriage, there are times when the husband or wife experiences fatigue in regard to the duties of that relationship. A stable marriage, one that honors God, therefore, requires each party to persevere in doing what God, who ordained this institution, commands.

If the husband, for example, allows the challenges of his marriage to deter him from giving all that he should, then that relationship will suffer and deteriorate. He must always be on guard against mental and emotional exhaustion. The husband must keep in mind both the teaching of God concerning this relationship and the ultimate goal, which is to fill the role assigned to him with distinction. These same things, of course, could be said regarding the wife’s involvement.

My point is simple. Any relationship that involves life-long dedication is going to present many challenges and, to put it plainly, will wear us out from time to time. That is when our focus on the ultimate goal can be most helpful. With that goal in mind, we will find it easier to fight against complacency and frustration. We’ll also be motivated to take steps that prevent fatigue.

When we are born again, we enter into another life-long relationship, one that is the most important relationship we will ever know. We become children of God and that calling comes with specific directions and a well-defined goal. It is a calling that puts us in direct contention with the world in which we live, however. Moreover, we find that our own flesh is set against the accomplishment of the work that the Spirit is doing in us.

In summary, we are commanded to live contrary to our natures. Our goal is to become a reflection of Christ. But along the way, we must endure opposition. And this opposition is not the kind that comes only once in a while; this opposition is constant. Although it varies from day to day, obstructions to our pursuit of holiness are never completely absent. It should not be difficult for us to understand, therefore, that it is possible to grow weary in our attempts to please God.

It is not a case where we tire of loving God or tire of being loved by Him. It is a case of being involved in an unending battle that inevitably drains us of spiritual strength. In that state, we are in danger of taking our focus off the path of righteousness. We may find ourselves almost overwhelmed because we live in a world that actively seeks to prevent us from living as God commands. This hostility never disappears.

These facts are behind Paul’s exhortation quoted above: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” Paul understood the struggles of the Christian life as well as any man could. He knew that God’s people have been given instructions and are expected to conform to God’s will in all things. Paul also knew, of course, that this assignment is not fulfilled with ease.

Notice that Paul defines our calling as “doing good.” We are in the process of doing good as our days come and go. As Christians, our very existence is characterized by that which God approves, that which Paul labels as “good.” We live for God’s glory. We live to prove the reality of the gospel. We live to show the sure victory of Christ over the adversary and all of his assets.

And notice also that the apostle teaches that, if we are faithful in living according to our calling, which is another way of saying we are “doing good,” we will realize a blessed end to our struggles. Perseverance through this fallen world is no small accomplishment. And when we do find ourselves growing weary, when the challenges leave us exhausted, and when the schemes of the wicked astonish us, there is an effective way to respond so that we are not overcome. We respond by reminding ourselves of this counsel from the apostle Paul.

The Christian life is not just the passage of years, it is the one opportunity we have to honor God and our Savior by resisting temptation, building up that which has fallen, encouraging those who have lost their way, speaking well of Christ, and giving ourselves to God as humble servants through which He accomplishes His holy will. It is true that the Christian life is filled with impediments, but it is in the overcoming of those hindrances that the grace of God shines through us.

The world comes against us, but we continue our journey. The world seeks to deplete our strength and undermine our determination. Nevertheless, even though we sometimes feel as if we have reached the end of our endurance, we do not give up. We may slow down, but we never stop. We may stumble under the burden, but we never fall. We may tire, but we never quit. This is holy fatigue and I think there is a particular beauty in it.

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 31

September 6, 2012

Restoration

From Pastor Bordwine

 

 

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature;

the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

(2 Cor. 5:17)

Among the most popular television shows these days are those having to do with the restoration of old, worn-out products to a “like new” status. The process can be quite tedious, although most of the gritty details are left out of the final video presentation. Typically, the audience sees the “before” picture that shows how dilapidated the item is and how improbable it seems that it could ever be returned to an attractive and functioning condition. After letting us observe a few of the steps involved, such as finding rare parts and straightening bent metal, the show focuses on the finished product, which is always a surprising and pleasing contrast to the original.

The theme of restoration permeates Scripture. It is one of the primary aspects of the gospel, in fact. That which is ruined and offensive is rescued, recreated, and restored to a place of dignity. I’m referring, of course, to us—fallen men and women who were ruined and had no good or honorable purpose to serve except to be the objects of God’s righteous indignation. Although we came from the hand of God pure and capable of bringing glory to Him, disobedience rendered us useless; we became unable and even unwilling to honor our Creator and dedicated ourselves instead to self-promotion and self-preservation.

God would have been completely just had He left us in our state of sin and misery. In spite of His clear warning, our first parents ignored the commandment of their Maker and acted according to their own wisdom. The result was catastrophic. But then a love that we can barely comprehend was manifested toward us in the form of a Savior who was God in the flesh. The penalty of our sin fell upon Jesus, our Substitute. The Holy Spirit gave us new life and began to build us all over again, from the inside out, so to speak.

Any restoration requires at least two critical elements: knowledge of how the finished product should look and the skill to achieve that end result. When it comes to the human soul, only God, our omnipotent Designer, has both knowledge and skill. Salvation, therefore, is a restoration project in which a fallen, deformed, and corrupted creature is returned to a state of honor. This is the most amazing restoration of all and this is how the Bible describes what happens to the sinner who is called out of darkness into the light of redemption.

In the case of a sinner, the primary issue in need of attention is his history of transgressions. This is what stands between the creature and the Creator and this is why the wrath of God hangs over the head of the fallen individual. Therefore, God’s restoration of us includes a provision for taking away our guilt. As just mentioned, that provision is Jesus Christ. By dying in our place, He enabled our full restoration by the Holy Spirit.

As Paul indicates in the verse quoted above, what we were is replaced with what we are becoming. We are “new creatures,” he writes. Throughout our lives, we are engaged in the restoration project. Gradually, the Holy Spirit returns us to a state of purity and dedication to our original purpose, which is the glorification of God. Some days, you may feel as if the work on you has ceased or has been unproductive, but rest assured that, once begun, your restoration will be completed. This is the inevitable conclusion to the sacrifice of our wonderful Savior.

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 30

August 30, 2012

Remembering God’s Blessings

From Pastor Bordwine

I shall remember the deeds of the LORD;

surely I will remember Your wonders of old.

(Psalm 77:11)

One of the most frequently given commands in Scripture is “remember.” Repeatedly the people of God are exhorted to remember His covenant and to remember His deliverance of them from captivity and danger. These episodes were important for several reasons. Such acts of God demonstrated His love for His people and His control of all circumstances. Moreover, the works of God became a means of instruction for coming generations.

Various ordinances and structures were ordered by God to commemorate significant acts that He accomplished for His people. Consider, for example, the Passover meal (Ex. 12:24-27) and the creation of a stone monument under the leadership of Joshua (Josh. 4:6-9). Whenever the Passover was observed, it would remind the present generation of that last night in Egypt when God struck down the firstborn of every dwelling except for those that been marked with the blood of a lamb.

And when future generations asked about the meaning of Joshua’s memorial, which stood in the middle of the Jordan River, they would hear the story of how God stopped the flow of the water so that the people could enter the Promised Land.

We may think that the benefits of commemorating God’s blessings are no longer ours to enjoy because we have no such dramatic expressions of His power in the recent history of God’s people. This conclusion would be mistaken. We receive the blessings of God frequently. To illustrate this truth, let me recall a few of the acts of God in my life.

In that little more than a month, October 15th to be specific, I will take time to remember that on this date in 1975 I was born again. This happened at a critical period in my life, a period during which I felt confused, frustrated, and hopeless. Thirty-seven years ago, God delivered me from my captivity in sin by awaking my heart to the truth of the gospel. The character and course of my life were forever changed and it is a privilege for me to offer special prayers of thanksgiving to God on this date each year. Remembering this event renews my humble appreciation for the kindness and amazing grace of God.

In 1980, the LORD gave me a wife who, next to my regeneration, has been the most significant and humbling blessing from God that I have experienced. Although I was totally undeserving, God provided a companion of extraordinary Christian character and unshakable dedication to the Savior’s glory. I can also point to the gifts of two sons, one in 1985 and the other in 1991. Beyond these most significant works of God in my life are the answers to prayer during troubled circumstances and the guidance God has provided at critical points in my journey.

I must conclude that I have many blessings of God to commemorate. I remember them and I tell other people about them, which is my obligation and privilege as one of God’s redeemed. I imagine that you also have events in your life that resulted from God’s loving intervention by some means. What comes to mind right at this moment? Perhaps you’re thinking of your own born-again experience or your marriage partner or your Christian upbringing or your employment or your recovery from sickness—this list could go on and on. My point is that we all have received blessings from God, some highly significant and others less so, but all are evidences of God’s lovingkindness and wisdom.

 

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 28

August 15, 2012

When Expectations Are Not Realized

From Pastor Bordwine

 

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

(James 4:13-15)

How often do you have this experience? You make a plan and anticipate all the contingencies. You assume that you’ve foreseen all the necessary elements that might affect your plan in one way or another. But then the day comes to follow your plan and something completely unseen and unexpected happens that requires you to alter or even abandon your original intention. Although you thought you had all the bases covered, so to speak, you soon learn that your carefully crafted strategy is vulnerable to something that never occurred to you.

I recently began a new job in which I transport patients from one location to another. After a week of training, during which I rode with another experienced driver, I was assigned my first series of pickups during which I would be by myself. The night before, I spent a lot of time going over the stops I would be making. I familiarized myself with the roads and addresses, the clients’ names, etc. I felt that I was completely prepared to handle the transports by myself.

A big problem occurred, however, at my first pickup. I could not find the passenger! I spent 30 minutes driving around and knocking on doors trying to locate her. I had very little leeway between pickups, so this delay cut into the span of time I had to find the next client. All of a sudden, it looked like my whole night was going to be one late pickup and apology after another. This would not make my new boss happy. I began to panic. It was my first night, my first patient, and I couldn’t find her! I had been so confident just an hour before this happened. I knew exactly where I needed to go and exactly when I needed to arrive. I was not anticipating any difficulty whatsoever. One glitch rendered my plan irrelevant and my anxiety was growing.

When we think of committing our plans to the Lord, we usually have in mind the “big” issues of life—moving to a new location, getting ready for marriage, facing surgery, or something that is not common and may, in fact, be a once in a lifetime experience. It is right to do our best and then submit the matter to God and ask for His blessings and grace. I want you to notice, however, the passage quoted above from the book of James. His emphasis is not on the kind of concerns I just listed. Instead, James speaks about how we approach the very next day.

James imagines someone speaking confidently about what they are going to do “today or tomorrow.” This person has made a plan and assumes it will succeed just as expected (“make a profit”). But then James points out that such conduct is really presumptive because “you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.” How true! No one can say with certainty what they will do tomorrow. We can have a plan and assume that we’ve discerned all possible obstacles, but until the plan is complete, we don’t really know whether we will accomplish what we desire.

After all, James adds, we are “just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” This description of our existence puts into perspective the fact that we cannot control our experiences. That is because we are not all-knowing or all-powerful. We do not master circumstances, we are subject to them. God alone controls what we experience because He is sovereign and, therefore, controls all circumstances perfectly. Only God knows what tomorrow will bring for us. Only He knows if our plan is compatible with what He has ordained.

That is why James exhorts us to take into account our limitations when making plans: “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’” As I already mentioned, James is focusing on everyday life. Each day should begin with the realization that our intentions, regardless of how well organized, are subject to the will of God. Once this perspective becomes part of our normal approach to goals and accomplishments, those frequent interruptions will be seen as God’s wise correction and provision according to what He judges to be most beneficial. This instruction from James is essential to our peace of mind in those unsettling moments. Rather than presume or boast, let us recognize the truth of the matter. And in this recognition understand that our heavenly Father really does ordained only that which is for our good and His glory.

By the way, my dilemma described above quickly concluded when I learned that my passenger had decided to take an earlier ride home. I was in the right place at the right time, but she was already gone. I was supposed to have been notified, but wasn’t. In the end, all my anxiety was for nothing. I was on time for the rest of the shift and I was reminded of the truth I just explained above. I needed to have that reminder and it is one I’ll probably have to have a few more times before I leave this world. At least for the immediate future, however, I will remember the lesson from James and, I expect, gain a measure of peace the next time I face a similar situation.

 

 

Praying without Ceasing

From Pastor Bordwine

 The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.

(Proverbs 15:29)

Yesterday I had an opportunity to speak briefly with an older lady who goes by the name “Angel.” She said that her friends gave her this nickname because of her dedication to helping people in need. For example, Angel volunteers at one facility that is dedicated to providing shelter for the homeless, food for the hungry, and rehabilitation for drug abusers. She also hands out food whenever she can. Sometimes, as Angel told me, she has little more than a piece of fruit or some bread to give away, but she believes that even a small amount can provide some temporary relief.

 Angel has two grown children. Carlos, her son, is a faithful Christian, according to his mother. He is active in his church and she spoke of him with joy. Her daughter, however, is another story. Angel frankly admitted that her daughter is entangled in a number of sinful snares and shows no evidence of faith. As we talked, I asked her if she was continuing to pray for her daughter. Angel responded: “Oh yes. Every day. That’s all I have left.”

I understood what Angel meant. She had exhausted all other means of trying to free her daughter from the bonds of darkness. Eventually, she realized that she had no other option except prayer. It was clear to me that Angel did not view prayer as a “last resort,” as so many believers seem to do. But she did understand that since every other attempt had failed, she was absolutely dependent upon the intervention of God to save her daughter; and so, with a unique burden that only a mother can bear, she prays without ceasing.

In the verse quoted above from Proverbs 15, we have one of many direct statements concerning the response of God to the prayers of His people. As this writer says, the Lord hears the prayer of the righteous. This promise does not depend upon the eloquence, length, or theological depth of our prayers. We do not have to convince God to hear us, nor do we have to create some kind of event to get His attention. We pray and God hears us. As His children, we speak to our heavenly Father and He listens.

As I said, Angel does not view prayer as an act of desperation. She views prayer as a continual aspect of her love for her daughter and her desire to see her daughter come to know Christ. But some believers do treat the gift of prayer as if it were a “final option.” What I mean is that, unless there is some crisis in their lives, such people do very little praying. When severe adversity appears, however, they quickly recognize the inevitable need for God’s help. And that is when their prayers become frequent and fervent.

The many declarations of God’s willingness to receive our prayers indicate that our petitions do not have to be formed in the context of calamity. Our normal routine should be characterized by prayer throughout each day. Obviously, I am not referring only to the kind of praying where we attempt to close off all distractions. I am referring to simple communion with God in our thoughts and words. This can happen at almost any time—while driving, working in the office or around the house, shopping, or resting. This approach to prayer is what I think the apostle Paul had in mind when he said “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess. 5:17)

Why shouldn’t we pray frequently? Why shouldn’t we count God’s promise to hear us as an encouragement to trust Him and a tremendous source of comfort? Is there any legitimate reason why you should not be characterized as a person of prayer? If God tells us that He will receive our prayers, it means that He expects us to pray—and not just during extreme turmoil, as I noted already, but frequently in times of stress and times of peace.

If you are facing a severe challenge at the moment, then you should be praying frequently for God’s intervention; and, like my friend Angel, you should not stop praying as long as the situation remains unresolved. If things are relatively peaceful in your life at this time, then you should still be praying regularly for God’s intervention in the multitude of “routine” issues we encounter daily as we seek to live for His glory. If God is going to listen, then I am certainly going to pray and I’m going to pray without ceasing.

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 21

June 28, 2012

Clothed with Gladness

From Pastor Bordwine

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;

You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness . . .

(Psalm 30:11)

As you read through the book of Psalms, you will notice several recurring themes. One of the most prevalent is “gladness.” This term (or similar words), for example, is often found in the context of meditation on the character of God. Various passages describe the reaction of a man when he dwells upon the attributes and works of God. That reaction is joy. In addition, an expression of humble thankfulness frequently accompanies the delight experienced by the worshiper.

A second context in which the element of gladness regularly appears is that of personal trials. These passages are tremendously encouraging because they illustrate how fear is turned to confidence and despair is turned to hope. This happens as the individual contemplates his place before God and the implications of that status for his present distress.

The verse above, Psalm 30:11, is a good example. The psalmist confesses that he was in mourning due to his circumstances, but God had so ministered to him that the atmosphere of despair was replaced with an atmosphere of festive celebration. The explanation for this change in perception is provided in the second half of the verse. The writer figuratively describes himself as wearing the garments of lamentation. But God, he testifies, “loosed my sackcloth . . .” The LORD provided the strength to escape the despair that had overwhelmed this man. The grip of fear and sorrow that held him was broken by God. In the place of despair, he adds, God “girded me with gladness.”

The word translated “girded” (azar) means “to bind, to clothe, to equip.” The writer tells us that God replaced his garments of sorrow with garments of gladness. Another way to express this thought is to say that the writer was armed with gladness, so to speak, and now could successfully confront his difficulties. The text makes it clear that the turnaround in perspectives was accomplished by God alone. He was able to touch the heart of the man in anguish and alter its disposition.

This is a uniquely Christian experience. Our heavenly Father, who has saved us and given us eternal life in Jesus Christ, is able and willing to provide the most essential kind of help when we find ourselves overwhelmed by troubling circumstances. We may remain in such a situation, but our perspective is dramatically transformed. Instead of trying to endure under the heavy weight of grief or fear, we are equipped to persevere with true gladness knowing that God has regard for us and will not forsake us during our time of challenge.

The next time you find yourself becoming unsettled due to an undesirable change in your circumstances, call upon God and ask Him to clothe you with gladness. Ask Him to arm you, as it were, with a joyful disposition even as you encounter the demanding elements of your ordeal.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

(Phil. 4:4)

Notice that Paul commands us to rejoice in all things and at all times. He does not say that we should be joyful as long as we are content and free from worry or as long as we are not facing challenges to our faith. As a matter fact, the apostle doesn’t even mention circumstances; he simply orders us to rejoice in the Lord always. It is as though he is telling us that we don’t have another option. You are a Christian, so you are filled with joy. You are in Christ, so your days are flooded with joy.

The word translated “rejoice” (chairo) refers to more than just the emotion of gladness. It refers to a quality of life. The term is sometimes translated as “thrive.” In such cases, the writer is saying that believers flourish with joy. Being joyful is not something we have to become, it is of the essence of what it means to be a Christian. This notion is perfectly understandable if you take the time to meditate on what it means to be born again and dwell on what God has given us now and prepared for us later as children in His household.

We may, indeed, face harsh conditions in this life or we may encounter significant opposition in our efforts to live according to the Word of God or we may have to overcome various obstacles that block the path on which God has placed us, but none of this destroys our joy. And none of these things can diminish our delight. We have been born-again as jubilant creatures.

Our contentment and sense of security do not depend on a life free of hardship. Our confidence and hopeful expectations for this life and the life to come do not require a pain-free existence or a journey on smooth and straight pathways. Because our identity and destiny are bound up in our Savior, we can remain confident of our safety regardless of what the adversary throws at us. And we can remain hopeful, believing that all of those tremendous promises that have been made to us as God’s people are as dependable as God Himself no matter what challenges we have to face.

And here is why: We are not defined by circumstances; we are defined by position. And our position is that of children of God who have been delivered from death and given eternal fellowship with God in His Son, who is our glorious Savior. We are saved and we are going to heaven even if all the inhabitants of darkness should turn against us. Christians are no longer subject to the tyranny of the devil or the wicked behavior of people. We can make our way through this world without fear or doubt because we have been seized and we are being held by a power greater than any power that might be found here on earth or even throughout the entire universe.

The difficulty you are facing and the worry you have in your heart today must be analyzed in reference to what we have as believers. We must not consider our trials apart from the truth of our standing before God in Christ. From that wonderful perspective, we can eagerly receive and respond to the apostle’s exhortation: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

(2 Corinthians 7:1)

In a recent sermon, I used the verse above as my primary text to encourage the congregation regarding our obligation to seek after holiness in order to honor the Lord. In the context of this verse, Paul speaks frankly to the Corinthians, telling them that they were no longer what they used to be, morally speaking. He also quotes a promise made by God that He would dwell in them and walk among them as their God and they would be His people. For this relationship to prosper, the recently born-again Corinthians had to rid themselves of the influence of the sinful nature and give increasing expression to the new life they had received in Christ Jesus.

I imagine that this must have been an overwhelming challenge to those who lived in the culture of the first century. Corinth was a major center for commerce. All of the negative influences that could be found throughout the Empire would be present in this city. Idolatry, for example, was universal; self-gratification was the primary concern of most people. The environment encouraged rebellion against the Law of God. In time, however, the gospel was preached and the Corinthians were regenerated by the Holy Spirit. They are told that they are called to be the opposite of what they had been all their lives.

Regardless of when in history the people of God exist, this command from the apostle is always paramount. The gospel changes us by giving us a new disposition, one that is oriented toward Christ and holiness. This orientation must be nurtured and guarded and I would suggest that there are three essential and highly effective elements involved in “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

First, we must fill our hearts with the truth of God given to us in the Bible. Bible reading, Bible study, listening to Biblical sermons, and reading Biblical literature are a few of the ways in which we can saturate our minds with the principles of righteousness. With the help of the Holy Spirit, these principles soon began to produce fruit. Another way in which to establish holiness in our hearts is through interaction with other Christians. These relationships produce an atmosphere conducive to spiritual growth and the development of wisdom.

Second, we must battle against every influence of our previous nature. This requires us to avoid certain habits, perhaps, or particular places where we know temptation awaits. Relationships that will not contribute to our growth in Christ must be abandoned. Again, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will develop discernment as we become more sensitive to the contrast between the holy Word of God and the many potential transgressions that we encounter every day.

Third, we must pray. We must seek God’s help so that we can walk peacefully under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must ask God to identify those areas in our lives that are weak and need to be strengthened. We must call upon Him to reveal those subtle sinful tendencies that we might overlook.

What are you reading these days? Do you find gladness in a sermon that is true to the Word? How often do you pick up your Bible simply to read for a while? Are you being built up by Christian friends? Do you fortify yourself through prayer each day? Much grace is needed to live honorably before God in this fallen environment. It will never be easy, but it will always be our calling. Be assured that the mercy of God is abundant towards those who desire to honor Him through thankful and joyful obedience.

My anxious heart is open

Before You, O Lord, today.

Let your blessed Holy Spirit come

And have His perfect way.

 

Turn my eyes from things not pure,

My mind from things so vain.

Instead let my troubled soul be filled

With joy and praise for Your holy name.

 

Remove from me the dross of sin.

Lead me through Your refining flames.

Hold fast to me, O Father above,

Assuring me You are forever the same.

 

I am weary and my strength runs low,

My sight once clear grows faint.

But I trust You Lord as You reveal Your will

To guide and sanctify this restless saint.

 

When night is gone and the morning breaks new,

The cloudless blue sky will appear.

And I will know without fear or doubt

That You, my God, were always near.

 

Then by Your free and eternal love,

My heart will have known Your boundless grace.

With all wounds healed and hope renewed,

I will eagerly return to my earthly race.