Thursday, October 27, 2011
But nobody is perfect!
I've been thinking a lot lately about sanctification and holiness. Not in the abstract only, but in real life. God has been revealing to me so many, many areas where I need to let him work: areas of selfish pride and self-pity, motivations that are impure and self-serving. Self, self, self, that is the problem over and over again! What does God require of us? Does He just want us to be good and kind people who live our lives by some moral standard? If we are faithful to our spouses, don't drink, smoke, or swear, and go to church on Sunday, does that make us holy and sanctified children of an awesome God?
Scripture gives me a resounding 'NO!' as an answer to this question. Morals and goodness and kindness are only fruits of a deeper and more real work of grace that God wants so much to do in each of us. Just as Jesus said that He is the vine and we are the branches, we see that as branches plugged into the life source of the vine, we can not help but bear fruit. The longer we dwell in the vine and the bigger and stronger our 'branch' becomes, the more inseparable we are from the vine and the more and bigger fruit we will bear. Our goal as the branch is not necessarily to focus on the fruit end of our branch, but to focus on our connection with the vine. If we have that part secure, the fruit will come.
Holiness is a concept that I sometimes find hard to wrap my mind around. Sure, God is Holy. That, I've been told, means "set apart". He is set apart and pure far above anything I can think or imagine. Jesus, as God living a human life, gives me a picture of what Holiness looks like in common, everyday humankind. But, still, even with these thoughts, do I really understand what it means to be HOLY? To be completely and totally pure and free of all selfishness? If I examine my own thoughts and motivations and actions, I find that the deeper I dig, the more junk comes up. The more I examine myself in the light of God's holiness, the more I see the depth of the deep-rooted sin. At times it seems like a hopeless task to deal with even some of it, much less all of it.
But does God take the excuse that "nobody is perfect?". When Peter says "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do..." did he really mean that? When Paul prays for the Philippians and says, "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God", does he really mean we are to be pure and blameless? Come on, nobody's perfect! I think that when we search the Scriptures we will find that we ARE indeed called to this high of a standard. Blameless and pure, the fruit of righteousness, holy. That's what we are required to be and to bear.
Thank God we do not need to do it on our own. We could not, anymore than we could save our souls from eternal condemnation. But stop here a minute. Did not Jesus die for our sins? Is not EVERY sin, no matter how small, the sin that nailed Jesus to the cross? If He died for them, they are conquered. If he died for them, there is absolutely NO excuse for our entertaining them any longer. We should loathe them and turn from them with disgust.
This means that my impatient words, my putting off of unpleasant tasks, my indulgence in a book at the expense of my family are all sins that I must not entertain any longer. Entertainment that does not glorify God should have no place in my life. Could Jesus walk through a day with me and listen to my words, watch my actions, and read my books or watch our movies (no tv in our house, but, of course, it is the same)?
We are called to be holy, righteous, and blameless. We are called to bear fruit of love, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control. We can NOT do this on our own strength. We need to first realize our utter helplessness before God and then "live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (Galatians 5:16) That is it. We must seek the Spirit. Let him know that we can not do it without Him and we know we can't. Seek Him until we've searched out, found, and exhausted all our hidden resources of self-reliance and must lean on Him in complete reliance.
I am not there, not by any means! I hope though, to never hear myself say or think that "nobody is perfect". Even when I make my excuses for my sin, which I often do, I hope that I always know that my excuses are yet another evidence of my self-reliance! I know that the reasons I wallow in the mire of my sin is that I don't want to give it up, or that I keep trying to conquer it on my own strength. I must reach a place of total dependence on God in which I can not help but pray and read His Scripture simply because I'm helpless without Him. Thank God that His grace is big enough to cover the breadth of my sin, but may I stop taking it for granted!