Fahrenheit 1763.4714

The process of refining brings out the beauty of the metal that is hidden by the impurities.

Fahrenheit 1763.4714.

Hmmm. Lets see, what does this mean. It isn’t the title of a new documentary about alleged government cover-ups. It isn’t a song about some nonsensical subject. It isn’t about a new dish to eat or place to go. Fahrenheit 1763.474 isn’t about any of those things. It IS about sanctification. It IS about how we get progressively more like Christ. And, by the way, it IS the melting point of silver. What??! What does the melting point of silver have to do with the progressive sanctification of believers? And what does this have to do with the previous article about trials? Confused yet? Good. Let me explain.

The human condition is an interesting one. On one hand we see ourselves as independent,

self-sufficient individuals. On the other hand we seek the approval of others.

This paradox is one of the most vexing confronting those who study human behavior.

As Christians we seek approval. Sometimes this means we will compromise how we behave or believe. Sometimes we change ourselves in order to get the approval of others. Still other times we will do things we have great reservations about in order to be approved by others. In fact, there is probably no limit to which we will go in order to be accepted and approved of by others.

We also fear the converse: we fear being rejected or disapproved. This is best seen in our relationship with God. Most often Christians mistake trying to curry favor with God for serving God.We desperately seek His approval and try like crazy not to be rejected or disapproved by Him. This is a monumental mistake that leads people to do many weird and sometimes wicked things. We treat God like a mere human with whom we may curry favor with empty words, powerless actions, and vain flattery. We insult God and His holiness and power. We spit in His face by substituting our weak and vain actions for His wonderful and matchless grace.

If we belong to God –  if we have accepted Christ’s sacrifice as the only work that can save us from the flames of hell – we must never fear we will be rejected or disapproved by God.

How do I know this? Well, the answer is quite simple: the Bible tells me so!

In James 1, the word that is translated “testing” is the word dokimion. It comes from the word dokimazo. So, you may wonder, what does that have to do with the title of this article. Well my inquisitive friend, I have an answer for you! The term dokimazo was used in the Septuagint and other literature for the refining process of silver and gold. The idea was to heat up the silver (or gold) so it 1) melts and 2) releases the impurities that were part of the metal.

This process had two consequences. These consequences have a direct bearing on our progressive sanctification AND the use of the term dokimazo in sections referring to our trials. The first consequence of the refining process of either silver or gold is that as the impurities trapped in the metal are released due to the heat the metal is experiencing, that metal becomes more pure. That goes to reason doesn’t it? The fewer impurities, the purer the metal. Which brings me to the second consequence of the refining process. When a metal becomes purer, it reflects its true nature and beauty better. Have you ever seen pure gold? Or pure silver? Pretty impressive, right? The process of refining brings out the beauty of the metal that is hidden by the impurities.

The process is rather straightforward. Lets look at silver. You would take a bunch of it throw it in a pot of some kind and start a fire under the pot. The fire would be fanned and its heat output would rise until the silver melted. Silver melts at 1763.474 degrees Fahrenheit. Ahh, the title makes sense now! Once the silver melted, some of the impurities that were trapped in it would bubble to the top. These impurities are commonly referred to as the “dross”. Then the heat is increased and more impurities come out. This is repeated until the metal releases no more impurities.

How does this relate to our sanctification? Quite simply this IS the process we undergo in order to be more like Christ.

God places heat under us.

He heats us up until the initial impurities bubble up. He removes those impurities. Instead of leaving us there, He turns the heat up again. More impurities come out. He does this again and again until there are no more impurities bubbling to the surface. When does that happen? Why go through all this if we are still surrounded by sinful mankind? Well, not to be cruel, I will post that article next Monday. Until then, think about how you are viewing the trials you are experiencing. Some will say that severe trials are an indication that God is judging you and is a sign of your rebellion against Him. But I don’t think so. God refines those that are His. Those of us who belong to Him can expect to have progressively more heat applied to our lives so that more impurities come out.

After all, isn’t the aim of this life – and God’s call on us – to resemble Christ more and ourselves less.

But It’s a Dry Heat!

No one enjoys being the heat of a trial, whether that heat is a dry heat or not. I get uncomfortable when the heat is on. I get tired when the heat is on. I sometimes lose energy when the heat is on. I get focused on Christ far less than I should when the heat is on.

In the 1980’s I was stationed aboard MCAS El Toro in Southern California. I remember “volunteering” for a special duty at the annual air show. I say “volunteering” in quotation marks because the Marine Corps has a neat way of getting folks to volunteer: they simply say “You have volunteered” and, voila! they have volunteers.

Anyway I was part of traffic control/guard duty for the air show. Guard duty isn’t much fun but at least I got overtime…just kidding! So I was guarding a rope (actually I was standing guard near a sensitive area) in the heat of the day. I was sweating like crazy and was quite uncomfortable in my uniform. By the end of the day I was tired, my knees ached, I was sun burned and I stunk to high heaven. But I stood at my post. I heard a civilian remark about my plight as he walked by. The comments went something like this:

Civilian #1: Man, it looks like that dude (me) is about to die!

Civilian #2: Yeah…should we offer him something to drink? That might help

Civilian #1: I don’t think he is supposed to drink when he is on duty.

Civilian #2: If he isn’t supposed to drink…

Civilian #1: But it is so hot out (it was over 100 at my post). Where is his OC? (I think he meant C-O)…

Civilian #2: But it is a dry heat!

All I could think of was “An oven on broil is a dry heat too!” No wonder I didn’t like civilians so much on that particular weekend. Man it was hot. I’m sweating now just remembering how hot it was.  Even though I felt like I was on the face of the sun, I stood my ground and didn’t leave. I stood in the heat and took it. It wasn’t easy or enjoyable but I did have a mission that I felt honor-bound to fulfill. “After all” I thought, “I’m a Marine. I can take this.”

Do we have the same attitude when we stand in the heat of a trial God has brought to us? Are we willing to sweat, aches, and stink to high heaven? Or, do we want to escape into the nearest air conditioned hut? What should be our attitude when we find ourselves in the midst of a trial?

When we seek out teaching about trials, we needn’t go anywhere else than James 1:2-4:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.   And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The first think we notice is what our attitude should be: consider it all “joy”. But what is “joy”? And why should we have it when undergoing a trial. Well, first joy is not an emotion and it is not to be confused with happiness. being joyful does not mean that we have a smile pasted across our faces. NO, joy is a result of knowing there is purpose in everything. Finding joy is as simple as knowing there is a purpose behind whatever you and I are experiencing. So now the question becomes, What is the purpose of trials? We’ll get there but first lets look at some other things in this passage.

In v. 2 we see that trails are a sure thing…Notice the use of “when you encounter”. It isn’t “if you encounter…’ If you are a Christian who is being sanctified by God, then you will face difficulties in this life. Having difficulties is not a sign of God’s judgement. No, facing difficulties as a Christian is a sign of God’s blessing.

In vv. 3 – 4 we see the purpose: the trial produces endurance (or perseverance) which leads us to the ultimate purpose of the trial which is to be complete, lacking in nothing. We see one of the key terms in progressive sanctification used here. That term is the one translated “endurance”. here. In NT Greek, that word is hupomone. It is a compound word made from the words hupo, which means “under”, and meno which means “to remain”. So the word means “to remain under”. Here in James the reference is to remain under the pressure and heat of a trial.

No one enjoys being the heat of a trial, whether that heat is a dry heat or not. I get uncomfortable when the heat is on. I get tired when the heat is on. I sometimes lose energy when the heat is on. I get focused on Christ far less than I should when the heat is on.

How about you?

Focusing on Christ  isn’t an easy thing to do but it is a simple thing to do. Oftentimes the simplest things are the hardest things.

So here we see that the aim of the trial is that we get everything we need to be complete. You see, that is the goal of progressive sanctification. Now, with all due respect to Wesley, this completeness won’t happen until we are in glory. For now, we need that perseverance to develop so we can joyfully stand in the heat of the trial without wanting to get into the nearest air-conditioned Quonset hut.

So how are you doing? My first pastor, Dr. Braun, once said that a Christian is “either going into a trial, in a trial or coming out of a trial.” Trials are a way of life for us, we might as well approach them joyfully since we know that the goal of the trial is not to break us but to make us more complete.

 

Ready to be Committed?

“Pray as if everything depends on God, then work as if everything depends on you.”

                                                                                                                                        –Martin Luther

We should never ask God to use us then make ourselves unavailable. That is what Nehemiah did here in chapter 1. This attitude should permeate us in our sanctification.

Do you see the progression in Nehemiah’s prayer? His concern about the problem led him to brokenness. While he was weeping and fasting, he expressed his conviction about God’s character. As he focused on the greatness and awesomeness of His holy God, he was quickly reminded of his own wickedness and therefore cried out in confession. After owning his role in the nation’s depravity, he prayed boldly and with confidence in God’s promises. This then leads him to a commitment to get involved. We see this in verse 11:

“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the

prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant

success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man. I was cupbearer

to the king.”

 

While Nehemiah was praying, his burden for Jerusalem became greater and his vision of what needed to be done became clearer. He didn’t pray for God to send someone else – he simply said, “Here am I, send me!” He knew that he would have to approach the king and request a 3-year leave of absence and so asked God for “success,” in his request to the king.  He wanted to see God break out on his behalf when he goes in front of the king to make his request. Proverbs 21:1 states “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse where He pleases.” Nehemiah was committed to get involved and not just sit on the sidelines and lament the condition of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah was a different type of guy. We should be like him. He saw a problem with Jerusalem, was burdened by it, asked God to bless him with a plan, and then acted on the plan. How often do we follow these steps in our prayer time. Far too often we treat prayer as a one-way device: we summon God to listen to us but we fail to listen to Him. We lay our requests at His feet and then walk away. Instead of waiting and listening, we just move on as if God is constrained to do as we please.

No, God is not at our call, we are at His.

And this is how we should approach our responsibility in our progressive sanctification. As we saw in the last article, God has promised to fully sanctify every person He calls to salvation. We can count on His promise to do that. But we do have a responsibility to participate in our sanctification. God’s plan for each of us may vary greatly. The trials we face may be different – well, they WILL be different. Their difference may be in the nature, depth, intensity, or length of the trial. But there will be differences. All trials make us more like Christ and we need to embrace them fully…wait, I’m getting ahead of myself!

In our prayer life, as we fully participate in our sanctification, we must be willing to commit to God’s plan for our sanctification, rely on His promises, be very honest with God, understand our problem and ask God to bless us with a plan rather than for Him to bless our plan.

Where are you in this prayer process right now? Are you concerned about your problems? Do you have a conviction about God’s holy character? Are you ready to confess your sins? Do you have confidence in God’s promises? Are you ready to make a commitment to get involved in God’s kingdom work?

The walls of our lives have been toppled by our sin nature, deafness to God’s voice, selfishness, and arrogance. We are confronted with only two choices now:

  • learn to live in the rubble of our lives
  • or  to be bold enough to admit our sins, ask God for His plan for our sanctification, and then commit to be involved in that plan.

 

Which way are you going to proceed?

 

 

 

God Keeps His Promises

 If God said it in His Word, you can believe it and rely on it.

 

While Nehemiah spends time in broken confession in vs 6-7, he doesn’t wallow in a prolonged introspective examination of his failures and those of his brothers and sisters. He owns what he did wrong and then he quickly expresses confidence in God’s promises in verses 8-10:

“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my name.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and mighty hand.”

 

In this part of his prayer, Nehemiah recalls the words of Moses about the danger of Israel’s apostasy and the promise of divine mercy. His words are a skillful mosaic of great Old Testament warnings and promises, with quotes coming from Leviticus, Deuteronomy, 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles and Psalm 130. What was the promise Nehemiah was getting at? It was twofold. First, if Israel disobeyed, they would be sent to a foreign land. That had been fulfilled. The second part was that when the captivity was over God would send them back to Jerusalem. They were still waiting for that to be fulfilled. Nehemiah prayed, “Lord, the first part is true. We’ve disobeyed and we’re in captivity. But Lord, you’ve made a promise to bring us back home and protect us there – and that has not happened yet.”

Nehemiah is saying that since God kept His promise to scatter Israel because of he apostasy, he has confidence that Israel will be regathered because God promised to do that when Israel repented. So Nehemiah is expressing utmost confidence not only in God’s promises but also in God’s character. If Nehemiah doubted God’s character he would not have prayed the way he did.

But what about us? How does this relate to our sanctification? 

 

God promises in Romans 8 to glorify each and every person He calls:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

There is great comfort in knowing that the God who makes that promise to me is the One who will keep that promise to me. I have my part in  my sanctification but I can be sure that it will happen based on what God said through Paul in Romans 8. “How can you be so sure Mr. Bald Theologian?” you may ask. In Romans 8:28-30, all those things God talks about – HE “called..justified…glorified” are in the aorist tense in Greek. The aorist is the simple past tense. So if I’m not yet glorified (and who among us is!), then why did Paul use a aorist tense here? Well, it is a grammatical thing with Greek. When one wants to guarantee that a future event is going to happen, one uses the simple past tense. This use is called a “proleptic aorist” or “futuristic use of the aorist”.

Since our glorification is yet future and Paul (under inspiration) uses a past tense to describe it, we can be sure that we will be glorified one day. He who started a work in you will make sure it comes to completion.

 

Someone has calculated that there are over 7,000 promises in the Bible. The better we know the Word of God, the better we’ll be able to pray with confidence in God’s promises. 1 John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Are you as confident of God’s promises as Nehemiah was?

If God said it in His Word, you can believe it and rely on it. Nehemiah knew God would keep His covenant of love with his people. He also knew that, even though God did not need his help, he was ready to make a commitment to get involved.

Getting Real with God in Prayer

 We must be intense, honest, and urgent concerning our sin before our Holy God if we are serious about our sanctification.

Having been in the Marine Corps, I know about acronyms and abbreviations! There’s NavPers, Navair, HaveElex. There is also AWOP, AWM, MiniComp. We see acronyms all around us too. They’re in church life – WBC, MABC, NASB, KJV and so on. There are still more when we consider theological subjects. Ever here of TULIP? Theologically that does not refer to a flower! The point is that acronyms and abbreviations abound. But what does IHU mean? And how does that impact or even relate to my prayer life? Lets return to Nehemiah and see if we can discover the answer to these questions.

After becoming concerned about the problem, and expressing his conviction about God’s character, Nehemiah is now moved to admit his sin and the sins of his people in verses 6-7:

 

“Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees, and laws you gave your servant Moses.”

 

It’s one thing to be concerned about a problem. To have a firm conviction about God’s character is important in one’s prayer life. It’s another thing to actually confess. Many of us never get this far. We might feel bad about our sins or be concerned about how things are going. Our theology may even be correct. We know things are bad and that God is good but we hesitate at this next step.   Nehemiah boldly asks God to hear his prayer, which literally means, “to hear intelligently with great attention.” I see at least three key ingredients in his confession of sin.

 

Nehemiah was

Intense

Overwhelmed by concern about sin and in awe of God’s character, Nehemiah gave himself to prolonged petition and intercession. He prayed day and night, spending every moment of time in God’s presence. This is very similar to Psalm 88:1 where we read, “O Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you.”

 

Honest

Nehemiah made no attempt to excuse the Israelites for their sin and actually owned his part in their culpability. He surveyed the grim record of Israel’s past and present failure, and he knew that he was not exempt from blame. Notice that he prays, “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself…we have acted very wickedly…we have not obeyed…” This is remarkable to me. It would have been easy for Nehemiah to look back and blame his ancestors but instead he looked within and blamed himself. It’s so easy for us to blame others, isn’t it? We need to learn from Nehemiah and confess honestly, “Lord, I am wrong. I not only want to be part of the answer, I confess that I’m part of the problem.”

 

Urgent

Nehemiah recognized that sin is not merely a stubborn refusal to obey certain rules, but is also a defiant act of aggressive personal rebellion against a holy God. He knows that they “have acted very wickedly.” He didn’t try to candy-coat his sin. He owned it and called it what it was.  He was emphatic about this to the point of urgency. How urgent is your confession of your sin to our God?

 

Trying to hide our sins from God is impossible. He knows all about them. When we confess our sins we are not sending a list of particular sins upward. If that was true, we would have a problem if we forgot one particular sin. No, when we confess we are agreeing with God that we are sinners. In fact, in the oft cited promise of 1 John “If we confess our sins… He will cleanse us of all unrighteousness” the word homolegeo is the word translated as “confess”. This word means to “speak the same word”. The idea behind this is to agree.

So when I confess my “sins” to God, I am agreeing with Him that I am a sinner and I affirm my faith in Him, His promises, and His word. We must be intense, honest, and urgent concerning our sin before our Holy God if we are serious about our sanctification.

 

Do you remember the publican and the Pharisee? Remember how the Pharisee listed his accomplishments? Remember how proud he was? Compare that with the publican who simply said “have mercy on me a sinner!” Jesus said then that the publican went away justified not the Pharisee. Our long list of accomplishments – regardless of how wrapped they are in spirituality, are useless  if we are dishonest with God concerning ourselves.

 

So how are you doing? Are you honest about your sin with God? Do you agree with God that you have sin in your life? Without this transparency – without this honesty, no matter how much we want to mature in Christ we won’t.

In Whom We Trust, To Whom We Pray

In whom do you trust? Do you trust in your judgment? Your knowledge? Your wisdom? When confronted with an issue – whether big or small – do you ask God to bless your plan or do you ask God to bless you with a plan?   Recently my wife and I received a major lesson about trusting in someone’s word.

We were approached by a representative of a company that sells very high quality meat. After a few moments of talking, this rep began his sales pitch. He was convincing. He built trust by identifying himself as a Christian once he discovered that we are Christians. Near the close of his presentation, he asked my wife “Can you beat $3.00 per pound for meat at the store?” Stunned by the price, my wife said “I can get that for chicken on sale.” We decided to buy a bunch of meat right then and there. It was a great deal we thought. Well it was a great deal but not for us.   We discovered that this place sells meat by the portion rather than by the pound. That makes a BIG difference. We discovered that we had bought meat at the great price of about $9.00 per pound. Even on my worst day, I can beat that price at the store. I had trusted my judgment. I had trusted my knowledge. We didn’t pray about it. We just took this man at his word. We learned a hard lesson: the only One we can truly trust with full confidence is God Himself. Everyone else, we need to, quoting Ronald Reagan, “trust but verify.”

 

We jump quickly in the spiritual realm as well. We are confronted with a problem and we are quick to try to figure out how to approach the problem. We come up with a plan (with some backup plans of course). We then seek to spiritualize it by asking God to bless our plans. We really do get the order of operations wrong here. Instead of asking God to bless our plans when we are confronted with a problem, we should be asking God to bless us with a plan. But before we even get to that point we need to be convinced that Gods character is such that He not only CAN answer us, but that He is trustworthy enough TO answer us.  Let’s continue in looking at Nehemiah and learning some lessons about prayer here in chapter one.

 

After Nehemiah becomes concerned about he issues surrounding Jerusalem, he next expresses his conviction of God’s character in verse 5:

“I said, “I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who

preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments…”

In this verse, the word translated “Lord” is the Hebrew YHWH – the covenant name of God. Nehemiah is appealing to the personal name God revealed to Moses. He is appealing to Him based on His covenantal relationship with Israel. Nehemiah is convicted regarding the character of YHWH. YHWH is in charge. YHWH will listen. YHWH will answer. Otherwise, why would Nehemiah even approach Him? What else does Nehemiah say about YHWH? He next refers to His Lord as the “God of Heaven.” He acknowledged that YHWH was beyond the earthly realm and above all other gods. He is the One who is above all others. He is the God of heaven, not just a god in heaven. Do you see the difference? Nehemiah again is convinced of the character of God. He is above all others.

 

Nehemiah continues by referring to God as “great and awesome”. Have you ever listened to yourself referring to things of this earth as “great” or “awesome”? The Hebrew word we translate “great” has the idea of great in magnitude while the word translated as “awesome” has the idea of great respect or reverence. How many things we flippantly refer to as “awesome” actually deserve to be revered? I would say none, other than God. Ouch, that one left a mark on me. God deserves to be honored, revered and feared by all because of who He is.

 

Finally, Nehemiah describes God as the one who “keeps His covenant of love.” Nehemiah is convinced about God’s character. God keeps His covenants. Nehemiah is convinced of this fact. God is truthful, faithful and can be trusted. Artaxerxes thought he was in charge. He thought he was something great. He had a high opinion of himself. And Nehemiah, his cupbearer (a fairly high political office), could have thought the same of Artaxerxes and himself. But, as we have seen here, Nehemiah esteemed highly YHWH. He thought of Him as the only One to Whom his prayers need to be directed.

 

So how are you doing with your prayer time with God? Is He the ONLY One who can answer? If He is not the only One, who else is able? When faced with difficult decisions, what is your first response? What is your last resort? My hope and prayer for you (and me) is that we would all learn to not only be convinced about God’s character, but to rely on His character to answer us with the perfectly correct answer to our prayers.

After all, the One in whom we trust is the One to Whom we pray.

Prayin’ in the Rubble

“we must make prayer our

first course of action rather

than our action of last resort”

 

I remember reading a bumper sticker once. It sounded so spiritual and good. It said “When all else fails, PRAY!” That sounds good doesn’t it? So, when we’re at the end of our rope, we pray. I mean, what else do we have to lose? But is this the right attitude? IF we wait until there is no other way out, is prayer in its proper place? I don’t think so. When confronted with life—meaning each day, every day, no matter the situation  —we must make prayer our first course of action rather than our action of last resort. In other words, am I concerned enough about being holy to pray first?

 

In Nehemiah we see a wonderful example of a person who had this correct. We’ll continue on for the next few posts looking at prayer in Nehemiah 1. By the end of this look at Nehemiah, we should have a handle on having an effective prayer life. Now, on to Nehemiah!

So who is this Nehemiah guy?

We know from verse 11 that Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king. As cupbearer Nehemiah had a great job: he had intimate access to royalty, political standing, and a place to live in the palace. It was a cushy job that provided everything he needed. And yet, when one of his brothers returned from a road trip to Jerusalem, verse 2 says that Nehemiah “questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.” The word, “question” means “to inquire or demand” an answer. Nehemiah was greatly concerned about what  was happening in Jerusalem. He could have insulated himself if he chose to, but he didn’t. He sought them out and wanted to hear the first-hand report. You see Nehemiah was concerned about the problems  in Jerusalem.

This is an important starting point. It’s so easy for us to stay uninvolved and unaware. Some of us don’t want to even think about stuff that’s going on in our own lives. Even though Nehemiah had never been to Jerusalem, he had heard stories about it, and knew that his ancestors had been led away in chains when Babylon destroyed it. He was doing what Jeremiah 51:50 instructed the exiles to do: “…Remember the Lord in a distant land, and think on Jerusalem.”

As he thought on Jerusalem, he listened to the report in verse 3 that the survivors were in great trouble and disgrace, that the wall of Jerusalem was in shambles and that its gates had been burned with fire. As he tried to imagine the shame in the city of David, he could barely stand it. The phrase, “great trouble” meant that the people had “broken down and were falling to pieces.” Three words summarize the bad news: remnant, ruin, and reproach.

Nehemiah was broken over the complacency of the people of Jerusalem. They were living in ruins and they accepted it. They were willing to walk around the devastation instead of being concerned enough to do something about their situation.

Friends, nothing is ever going to change in your life, in the life of the church, or for that matter, our nation, until we become concerned about the problem. Some of us have become complacent about the way our lives are going. We’re living with rubble and it doesn’t even bother us any more. How sad. When we become so unconcerned with the state of our sanctification that we don’t engage it anymore, we are truly getting a little too comfortable in the rubble of life.

Think about this for a moment: have we lost the walls that once surrounded our lives? I’m not speaking about the protective wall God places around us. No I’m talking about the walls that hem in our actions  – the walls that keep us away from the things that we should avoid, and in the things we should be in. How are you doing here? Are you reading things you shouldn’t read? Are you looking at things that that are impure? We do not need to experience immorality to say immorality is wrong.

When Nehemiah heard this report, he hit the ground and began to weep in verse 4,  much like Jesus did when he cried out in painful tears when he observed the hard hearts of those in Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). He also fasted.  These are all signs of humility and show his deep concern for the problem of the desolation of Jerusalem.

Are you deeply concerned with your closeness to Christ? Or are you too comfortable in the rubble of your life? Have you taken steps to be more intimate with your Savior? Before you DO anything, pray. You know, its really hard to be intimate with someone when you rarely talk to that person.

Take time to be holy…take time to pray.

 

Holy Marksmanship

Does anyone remember this commercial? (the fact that this commercial appears here does NOT mean I endorse its products, employment practices, environmental record, etc. Its just an illustration, ok?)

 

Habits of the Holy will help the

Christian to become more Christlike

but they will not make one holy”

 

Like BASF claims to improve products (but not inventing products), when applied correctly the Habits of the Holy will help the Christian to become more Christlike but they will not make one holy. I see it much like becoming a marksman in the Marine Corps. Once I became a marksman – once I had the rudimentary skills – practicing the acronym BRASS-F became very important. In fact, the more I practiced BRASS-F, the better I got. But doing BRASS-F did not make me a marksman. No, like BASF claims, it simply made my marksmanship skills better.

 

But what is BRASS-F? It isn’t a metal polishing agent—that is Brasso. It isn’t a new way of interpreting evidence for the Big bang and Darwinian evolution. It isn’t even a new management technique.

So what is BRASS-F?

It represents a habit that, if performed each time, will refine the skills a marksman has developed.  I learned this acronym back in 1982 while in Marine Corps Boot Camp. It has stuck with me all these years. So, what does it mean? I’m glad you asked!

Breathe: Slow, steady breathing is essential to hit the target;

Relax: Relaxation of one’s grip on the weapon of choice is important as is the relaxation of every part of the sharpshooter;

Aim: Get your sight alignment and sight picture correct. Place your front sight on the target. One cannot hit where one does not aim!

Stop: Stop breathing for a moment—but just a moment while you perform the next step

Squeeze: With steady pressure, slowly squeeze the trigger of your weapon. Don’t jerk it back, squeeze it slowly while maintaining  your proper aim.

Follow-through: Let the weapon come to its natural rest.

I followed this acronym each time I had to qualify with my M16A1 Service Rifle. (For the record, my rifle serial number in boot camp was 4799618. Some things one does not forget!) Each time I qualified with my weapon during my time in the Marine Corps, I shot what is termed a “possible” at 500 yards from the target. What is a “possible” you ask? Well that means that for each possible shot I took, I hit the center of the target. That’s right. I have never missed the bull’s-eye from 500 yards away. And the reason isn’t because I am a great sharpshooter. No, I followed BRASS-F and formed a habit. While it was difficult the first few times I practiced BRASS-F, as I practiced it it become automatic. I didn’t have to think about it anymore – I just did it. The habit of practicing BRASS-F made me a better sharpshooter.

But what about holiness? Have I formed a habit regarding my walk with Christ that could be characterized as “holy”? Hmmm. What would THAT look like?

In my first post I explained how we are set apart by God as a holy people. That means that we are separated for a specific use.  That use, I believe, is to glorify God in whatever way He chooses to use us. The Habits of the Holy have to do with becoming much more like Christ in our everyday life. It is a habit that does not make us holy, but makes us holier. Much like BASF, the Habits of the Holy will make us closer to Christ in likeness and conduct. If we apply these habits everyday, we will become progressively more like Him

We need to understand that this won’t be instantaneous. We need to be patient and get out of our microwave, gotta-have-it-now  culture and realize life-change takes awhile. Much like becoming a better sharpshooter, the process of becoming more Christlike – the progressive sanctification process – will take time and effort on our part. We need to be patient and continually move forward toward being more Christ-like. We won’t sprint to get there. No, we’ll need to simply move forward with consistency and purpose. It’ll be like a plodder. Just keep moving forward…just plod along.

So how do we do this? Well, at the risk of being too cute, we each become a PLODR. We must

Pray and Persevere

Listen and Learn

Observe and Obey

Discern and Depend

Rinse and Repeat

Each of these habits are good by themselves. But they are better when practiced together. When we practice these habits together, we cannot help but become more Christlike. We’ll consider these five couplets which comprise the Habits of the Holy in the coming weeks. When we look at each one, I’ll be sharing from Scripture examples that teach each habit. So whaddya say? Wanna be a PLODR along with me and be habitually holy? Our first stop is on prayer.

 

What does it mean to be “holy”?

We usually associate the word “holy” with a pious individual. We  think they walk on water, never sin or mess up. In other words, we look at “holy” as sinless perfection. But is this accurate? Lets take a look at the words used in the Bible commonly translated as “holy” so we understand what the Bible has to say about this issue. 

 

Old Testament 

The Old Testament word commonly translated “holy” is the word qedos . There are many forms of qedos. These different forms demonstrate the various nuances of it. These nuances vary from describing a person to describing a place. All these nuances mean the same thing: separateness, special, set aside for a specific purpose. 

 

New Testament 

In the New Testament the term hagios is most commonly translated as “holy”.  Like the Old Testament term, this word can describe a place or a person. It can also describe an action. It too means that something or someone has been set aside for a specific purpose. 

 

So the idea of “holy” has less to do with conduct and more to do with purpose. Someone or something has been set aside for a specific purpose. But who does the setting aside? God is the One who sets us aside for a specific purpose. Christians, therefore,  are “holy” people. Notice I did not say we are perfect people. Holiness must never be confused with sinless perfection. But this does not mean that as holy people we do not make progress in the expression of our holiness. 

 

One of the uses of the term hagios  is  for the idea of  sanctification. The idea of sanctification is again one of separateness or specialness. Theologians typically classify sanctification in three ways: positional sanctification, progressive sanctification, and perfective (or final) sanctification. Lets take a look at each one of these so we understand how I am applying them in this series on holiness. 

 

Positional Sanctification 

The idea of positional sanctification has to do with our salvation experience. When we are redeemed by the sacrifice Christ made for us, we are immediately sanctified. We are set apart for a specific purpose. We can never lose this position since this is an act of God that is totally dependent Him and not on anything we have done. 

 

Perfective (Final or future) Sanctification 

This is still future to this writing. At some point in the future, every person who has Christ as Savior -each person who is a born again believer in Christ – will be fully sanctified. That is, there will no longer be sin in our lives, we will no longer even be tempted to sin since sin will have been consigned to the flames of hell. We will be perfect human beings. O what a day that will be! 

 

Progressive Sanctification 

This is the life we live on this earth in this age. We make progress in becoming Christ-like. We have setbacks. But our trend line should always be on an upward trajectory. Through the trials of life, God is drawing us closer to Him. We will continue to have sin burned out of us as long as we remain in this age. However, we will also continue to become more sensitive to sin. This is sure to happen because God will make it happen. But we have a responsibility in this part of sanctification. This is what “Habits of the Holy” is about. 

 

As we are progressively sanctified – as we become more like Christ – we should develop some habits that aid in our development as a Christian. Let me be clear: our habits do not make us a Christian or cause us to be holy. No, please understand that these habits are the result of being a Christian and of being set apart by God. 

 

But what are these habits? How do we develop them in our lives? In my next post, I’ll begin to unwrap what I mean by “Habits of the Holy” and how we can develop these habits.