Holiness – It’s a process

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I wish there was a shortcut to holiness. If there is I haven’t found it. What I have discovered is that we don’t become Christlike overnight. It takes a daily dying to my own desires, wants and laying down my life. This goes against everything in my human nature. I want to be in control. I want to have the power. I want people to do what I want them to do. I, I, I, I want. Holiness is the practice of denying self over the long haul of life. When I decided to follow Christ it was no longer what I wanted but what He willed.

C.S. Lewis once brilliantly said:

If God does not support us, not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other hand, no possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded of the greatest saints is beyond what He is determined to produce in every one of us in the end. The job will not be completed in this life: but He means to get us as far as possible before death.

We have a helper and His name is the Holy Spirit. He is nudging us along the way of life closer to Christ. We may not ever get to where we want to be spiritually but He is there to help us in our weakness. Sanctifying us day by day, bit by bit, choice by choice. We will not achieve perfection in this life.

John Stott puts it this way:

For Christ “gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness” to liberate us from all the ravages of the fall. This we have not yet experienced. The New Testament people of God, though already redeemed from guilt and judgment, are yet waiting for the day of redemption when we shall be made perfect.

The whole creation is groaning to be liberated from its bondage to decay. Some wonderful day Christ, the bridegroom will redeem us and the universe from all sin, pain, futility and decay. What a glorious day that will be!

While we wait for that day remember these words of Jesus for we have a lot of work to do.

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. – John 14:12-14 NIV

Let us be about doing greater things today. Love those around you with an unselfish love. Give generously. Don’t look for the worst in people but be about helping to bring out their best. Ask the Spirit to guide you and listen to His promptings. Love like He loved. Serve like He served. Give like He gave. When you can’t, beg Him for more strength.

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The Greatest Speech Ever Made

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“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

This is the invitation of Jesus to all of us in Matthew 11:28-30. Are you tired of the burden of religion? Are you worn out from playing a part? Does your heart feel exhausted, or even worse, have you gone numb from life?

Jesus doesn’t invite us to a religious order, but to Himself. He says, “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover you life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Here you can learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Learn to live freely and lightly.”

So that’s what we’re doing. We are taking Jesus at His invitation, walking with him, working with him, and watching how he lives. People all over the world are asking, “Does the way of Jesus work?”

The greatest speech ever made is found in the book of Matthew. It is known to many as the sermon on the mount. Where it begins is Jesus telling us about the reality God has created, and the life that is honored in the Kingdom of Heaven. When we say the Kingdom of Heaven, we are talking about God’s realm. Jesus begins the greatest speech ever made by singing a song about these realities within the Kingdom of Heaven. The lyrics of the song sound like this,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

These are the realities of the Kingdom of Heaven. In many ways, what Jesus does is take our value system, and says that Heaven, God’s realm has a different value system. People are wondering what kind of life is blessed. Who is it that God blesses?

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God blesses the poor in spirit, people who know they need God, who don’t believe they are enough on their own. If that’s you, then you are closer than you would imagine. Jesus says the humble in heart, the poor in spirit are blessed with the Kingdom of Heaven.

God has a blessing for those who mourn. It would seem that the happy people are the ones who are truly blessed, but Jesus says that God blesses those who mourn and grieve in this life, even those who mourn and grieve over the way the world is, there is comfort that is coming.

God has a blessing for those who have a greater hunger and thirst for the things of God, for justice as righteousness to be enacted here on earth as it is in heaven, for they will be filled. Jesus says those who hunger more for justice and righteousness than for food itself will be filled.

God has a blessing for the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Sometimes, people may think they will be shown mercy because of how strictly they have obeyed commands. Jesus shows us there is something else God values. It is in the heart.

God has a blessing for the pure in heart – they will see God. In a world that is filled with anger, lust, greed, and violence, God desires a pure heart. The pure in heart will see God.

God has a blessing for the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. This isn’t just people who keep the peace, but work to make peace in their context. They will be called children of God. God loves peace, not war. Peace honors God.

God has a blessing for those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Some people would think that their religious zeal that causes them to persecute others would be honored by God, but God blesses those who are persecuted because of right living. This isn’t about power. This is about giving away power for the sake of peace, and choosing love as the way of life.

God’s blessing continues on and on for those who do good despite people speaking evil against them, treating them with violence, and even in opposition, Jesus followers can rejoice and be glad. There is a great reward waiting for you in heaven. Not because you chose the way of violence, but the way of peace, love, mercy and compassion.

Jesus says the life God blesses is the life that invites the virtues of humility, mourning, justice, mercy, purity, peace, and righteousness into their lives. What would your life look like if you didn’t have to tell people how great you are? If you could know your mourning will be comforted by God? If your heart was more just instead of wanting to get even with others? If you extended the mercy you wish people would extend to you when you do wrong? If your life had more purity in your heart, and the dark cloud of selfishness lifted a little more? If instead of anger and bitterness, you worked for peace to happen? If you wanted there to be right living all around? What would that be like to have these virtues in your heart? In the Kingdom of Heaven, this is the life God blesses.

Are you tired? Are you worn out on bitterness and resentment? Jesus is inviting us into a new way of being human, and it begins with embracing the life God blesses. This begins in humility.

Jesus continues on in sharing the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven with his disciples. When he looked out into the crowd, you have to remember who Jesus was looking at. He was looking at people who believed their best days were behind them. People who were addicted. People who betrayed their family and nation. Prostitutes. Everyday people who wondered if God was interested in their life.

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Jesus looked at them and said,

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

You and I know what salt is used for. Salt is a preservative. Salt brings out the flavors where you are.

What does light do? It lets people see what is important. Jesus says there is a light within you, and when you use it in good deeds, the life centered on humility, mourning, justice, mercy, purity, peace, and righteousness, you are glorifying your Father in heaven.

These were people who thought they were worthless. They didn’t think they were good enough. They thought they had done too much evil. They thought God wouldn’t be interested in them.

Jesus looks at them and calls them salt and light. Because in the Kingdom of Heaven, that is exactly what they are. Salt and Light. Salt, the preservative in life. Salt, the people who bring out the God-given flavors all around them. Light, those who give light to what is important in life by what they do. Light, the people who felt like they couldn’t bring glory to God. Jesus says that is exactly what their light does.

Are you tired? Are you worn out on bitterness and resentment? Jesus is inviting us into a new way of being human, and it begins with embracing the life God blesses.

When you fast forward to the end of the greatest speech ever given, Jesus tells a story about two types of people, a wise man and a foolish man.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

This is the reality Jesus is sharing with us in the Kingdom of Heaven. People are building two types of lives. One life will last. One life will not. Jesus is telling us how to build a life that will last. Jesus is sharing the secrets of a life that endures. It is the life God blesses. This is the life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

This is not the life of acting like you are more. It is the life of being more. Becoming more like Jesus. Growing to be like Jesus. What we find as we look at the greatest speech ever made, Jesus was not just giving us principles to practice, Jesus was giving us the blueprint of his life. Jesus invites us in to see how His life continues to help people all over the world. Jesus is giving us the secrets of His own life.

This is not the life of acting like you are more. It is the life of being more. Becoming more like Jesus.

Jesus lived a perfect life. This was a life of love. This was a life of humility, mourning, justice, mercy, purity, peace, and righteousness. The salt of the earth. Preserving and bringing out the God flavors in everyone and everything. The light of the world. Reminding us what is true and beautiful, what is worthwhile, and what has meaning. Jesus is showing us what it means to be fully human, and invites us to follow Him into this.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Jesus. Get away with Jesus and you’ll recover your life. Jesus will show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Jesus and work with Jesus—watch how Jesus lives this life. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Jesus won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Jesus and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”