Tag Archives: Be holy as I am holy

Holiness is not an optional extra for the fruitful Christian; it is a requirement. It cannot be achieved in the flesh, but is an attribute of life in the Spirit.

Walking in the Light (2)

“If we walk in the light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7.)

I’ve come back to this verse because I’ve often often pondered it: it seems back to front, as I would have expected walking in the light and having fellowship with one another (ie true relationship in integrity and genuine  love) to be a consequence of being cleansed of all sin by the blood of Jesus, and not for it to be the other way round. But John puts the cleansing of sin as a consequence of walking in the light. I understand it like this:

Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Walking in the light is quite simply following Jesus. We go where the light goes. The entrance of His word brings light, (Psalm 119:130) so when we let His word enter our lives and do what His word says we are in the light. And since He is both light and love, we have to be walking in Love if we are walking in the light. Consequently we will have fellowship with one another. That seems straightforward enough. Not easy, but straightforward!

Walking in the light is a discipleship decision. If we are surrounded by the darkness of the world we simply mustn’t take our eyes off the light of Heaven. Just as there is no darkness in Jesus, there is no light in the World that isn’t from Him. If we are not following the way He shows us we are going to stumble, but (as I wrote in the earlier post) if we are walking in the light, we will discern the darkness in us whenever the flesh rises up, and we will bring it to the cross for cleansing. Because the flesh does rise up, and therefore we need to die to it, and we can’t die to the flesh if we’re not walking in the light. That’s why it’s a “living sacrifice” that we have to bring to the cross daily, as Paul urges in Romans 12:1. Because the flesh is alive, we have to keep sacrificing it. Jesus is fully in the light because He is the Light, whereas we walk in the light with him but bring the darkness of our flesh along with us.

Some Bible teachers will say that walking in the Light is to do what Jesus would do and manifest the fruit of the Spirit in our daily lives, and they point to the Sermon on the Mount as our set of guiding principles. And yes, the Sermon on the Mount is the manifesto of the Kingdom of God; it gives us the bullet points of the Spirit filled life, and if we let those principles guide us we will be blessed. And yes, to walk in the Light is to manifest the character of Jesus: kindness for cruelty, mercy for revenge, purity for pollution, generosity for meanness etcetera.  However we cannot do this on our own (well, I certainly can’t anyway); we cannot be living examples of the Sermon on the Mount unless we’re conscious of the Holy Spirit illuminating the scene that is before us. 

Temptation comes, in whatever area of personal weakness it is that the “prowling lion” (1 Pe 5:8) has spotted, and our flesh wants to yield to it because it is only by the light of the Holy Spirit that we discern it as sin, or as Jesus puts it Himself (John 16:8) it’s only the Holy Spirit that can bring conviction. If I feel slighted by someone, for example, I will fall into the sin of a negative reaction unless I see a beam of truth from the Holy Spirit showing up that reaction for the darkness that it actually expresses.  Once I see my piqued emotions as wounded pride I can make a decision take it to the cross for cleansing by the blood of Jesus, and I can keep my heart pure instead of giving sin a voice. It’s simple discipleship; it’s 1 John 1:7.

My choice is always simple: as I’ve said it might not be easy, but it’s simple. Do I charge ahead in the darkness, driven by my emotions and circumstance; or do I pause at every step, check that I am following the light, and respond according to His direction? Do I follow Jesus, or do I go my own way? If I want to walk in the light as He is in the Light I have to make a decision to dwell in His presence all the time. It isn’t being guided by a set of principles; it’s making a daily decision for step-by-step discipleship. There is no other way, no other truth, no other life.

“Plant the good seeds of righteousness and you will harvest a crop of my love. Plough up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.” (Hosea 10:12 NLT)

Sweep the Floor!

“Behold, I am coming soon!” (Rev 22:12)

This is a message given to me on 2nd December, for whoever has ears to hear:

“Take a yard broom and sweep the courts of My temple where you walk. Sweep the clutter and mess to the cross where it will be disposed of forever. It is the rubbish of the world that has blown into your lives. Sweep the floor! Sweep the floor! You cannot dwell in peace if you are surrounded by clutter and mess, and you cannot hear my word nor enter into my presence if you do not dwell in peace. Nor will my glory come into my temple when the courts are full of clutter and mess. So sweep the floor, I say, and prepare for my arrival! For I desire for My glory to come in to the courts of My temple and draw you to Myself, in the beauty of holiness where My presence dwells. For this is the place of commissioning, this is a place of appointments, this is the place from which I will send you into the world to take the land that I am giving you.”

Living in Hope

Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” (2 Peter 3: 11-14)

What is the foundation for our lifestyle? The passage above tells us to base how we live on the promise of Christ’s return, and the new Heaven and a new Earth that his return will bring. Gods righteousness is a gift of his grace which we receive by faith: no man or woman alive can be righteous in the sight of God without being cleansed, frequently, by the blood of Christ. As John says: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.…” (1 John 1:8) At the same time this does not absolve us from making every effort (what Peter calls being diligent) to live godly lives, to always seek holiness in our lifestyle; to walk in the peace of knowing that we are free of the spots and blemishes of sin.

We don’t live like this because of rules or doctrine that tell us to; we live like this in preparation for what awaits us. We live godly lives because our focus is on his promise of new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness reigns. This, our eternal destiny, is our hope, and “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.” (Heb 6:19) Life in the world is built on what has been established in the past. Life in the Spirit, like the lives of the “heroes of faith” listed in Hebrews 11, springs from a vision of what is promised for the future.

Psalm 119 verse 123 says “My eyes strain to see your deliverance, to see the truth of your promise fulfilled.” The promise of perfection, of deliverance from every “blemish” of our mortality, is not given to us so that we can “hang on in there” in the knowledge that it will all be better one day, but as a focus and foundation for godliness in our daily lives as we allow Him to purify our hearts. We ‘strain our eyes’ to see where we are headed, as, to use Peter’s terms, we ‘look for and hasten the coming of the day of God.’ Like a grappling hook that we have anchored in a far-off rock, we pull ourselves along the rope that holds us, towards the destiny that it promises.

Jesus is in the business of sanctifying His bride, so that “He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5:27) The previous verse says he does this “with the washing of water by the word.” Paul refers to the Galatians as “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you.” The purpose of the Ministry gifts listed in Ephesians 4 is that “we all come …to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:16) Leonardo Da Vinci said that his famous statue of David was always there inside the granite; he just chiselled away the superfluous rock until it appeared. So it is with the Word of God when we allow it to align our lives with God’s template of holiness: it cleanses us of our imperfections until the “perfect man” emerges in the image of Christ.

This age is going to end; Jesus will be returning for His spotless bride, and she will live with Him on a new earth, where righteousness reigns under a new heaven; and before that there will be a great and final harvest of souls. Jesus says to the Church today, whether it is in Wildwood, Wigan or Wichitaw: “Be holy as I am holy. Let me prepare you, because I am coming soon. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

If we live now according to the hope that is in us, we will be ready for Him when He comes; and because we will be walking in step with His Spirit will have a great harvest to bring with us as His wedding gift.

Walking in the Light

 “If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

There are three elements to this verse:  walking in the light, fellowship, and being cleansed of all sin by the blood of Jesus. If we walk in the light we are walking with Jesus. Jesus said: “If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” (John 11: 9-10) If we walk by the light that is in us we can see where we are going: our vision is clear. With clear vision, we can discern truth from error and good from evil, and we can  fulfil our priestly office which is to “teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” (Ezekiel 44:23).

If we walk in the light, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, we can ask the giver and source of the Light to shine on what we  face and reveal its source. We can expect answers to questions like “Is what I am thinking from God, from my own imagination, or is it a lie of the enemy designed to divert me from God’s purposes?” We can look at someone’s condition and expect to be able to determine whether it is natural or demonic. We will know if a “word” we have for someone actually is from the Holy Spirit, or just from our own desire to see that person encouraged. We can expect to receive words of knowledge in, or for, conversations with unbelievers. To walk in the light, as well as all that it means in terms of walking in love, is to be able to see clearly into the supernatural, spiritual realm. We are called to walk after the Spirit, but we need the light to walk by.

If we keep ourselves in the light, we will ensure that whatever sin the light reveals in our lives is brought to the cross and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. The cleansing is a result of walking in the light. But it is also true that we couldn’t walk in the light without having first received that cleansing: the two are interdependent. However they both have one consequence, which is true “fellowship with one another.” This fellowship isn’t just coffee after church; this is the outworking of 1 Peter 1: 22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit  in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” The fellowship of those who walk in the light is the fruit of the divine seed that we have been brought forth from;  the John 17 unity that glorifies the Father who sowed it.

David’s cry to the Lord was ever thus: ”Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Who is it that ascends the Hill of the Lord? “The one who has clean hands and a pure heart.” (Psalm 24:4) Who does Jesus say will be blessed because they will “see God?” Again, it’s the pure in heart. To be pure in heart is to be holy. The only way to walk in holiness is to walk in the Light, and the only way to keep walking in the Light is to allow that light to shine on anything in our lives that the blood of Jesus has to cleanse us from. If our hearts are pure our fellowship with one another is untainted and we can see clearly by the light of the Spirit. If sin comes into our relationships the light that we see by is dimmed and we need to go back to the Lord for our hearts to be cleansed.

I believe we are coming into the fulfilment of Isaiah 60 vs 1-3.

“Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the LORD will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.”

If we want the “Gentiles” to see our light, if we want kings to come to the brightness of our rising, we need to diligently walk in it ourselves. Psalm 119:130 says “The entrance of Your words gives light.” With the crystal-clear vision that is borne of a purified heart and unsullied relationships we can bring His words of light into any arena that He sends us to, including the courts of kings.

The Order of Melchizedek

This is the law of the temple: The whole area surrounding the mountaintop is most holy. Behold, this is the law of the Temple (Ezekiel 43:12)

If I were to give superhero epithets to Bible characters, I would call Peter “Pentecost Man,” because I think his apostolic ministry is defined by the power of Pentecost. Although the writer to the Hebrews introduces us to the concept of Jesus being a “priest forever under the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 7:17), it is Peter, “Pentecost Man,” who has the most to say to us about our priestly ministry as disciples of Christ. If Jesus, our great High Priest, is a “priest forever under the order of Melchizedek,” then our priestly ministry is under the same order, because as disciples we follow after the pattern of the Master.

We are probably familiar with the main principles of our order. Melchizedek was at once “priest of the most high God, and King Salem” (Heb 7:1): a priest-king, a role that did not exist in the ordinances of Old Covenant Israel where the priesthood was strictly separated from rulership. Jesus, of course, is at once the High Priest whose sacrifice satisfied once and for all every requirement of the Law, and He is King of Kings, seated on high over the entire universe. Jesus “The ruler over the kings of the earth… has made us kings  and priests to His God and Father” (Rev. 1: 5-6), so we too are, as 1 Peter 2:9 confirms, “a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” But over and above the ministry of Melchizedek was his immortality. Hebrews 7:3 tells us that he was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God.”

Like Jesus, Melchizedek was incorruptible. We too, have been “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Pe 1:23). “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of Truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruiits of His creatures.” (James 1:18) We  have an “inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away.” (1 Pe 1:4). We, too, are incorruptible. We have been chosen to bear incorruptible fruit – “fruit that endures.” (John 15:16) Born of incorruptible seed, sown and brought forth by God; destined for an incorruptible eternity, and chosen to bear incorruptible fruit: what is the condition of the fruit tree?

Pentecost Man said this: “as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pe 1: 15-16). We are priests of the order of Melchizedek. Our priestly service is to minister to the Lord in the Temple, and to minister to the people from out of our time in the temple, revealing Jesus to those who don’t know Him. “And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. (Ezekiel 44:23) We cannot teach “the difference between the holy and the common” unless we live by it ourselves. The law that governs the Temple in which we serve is holiness.

The devil has worked hard over the centuries at belittling the notion of holiness. Phrases like “holy huddle,” “holier than thou,” etc besmirch the word with negative connotations, and the popular idea of the “holy man” living a life of asceticism halfway up a mountain somewhere can make the state of holiness seem somehow inaccessible. But if that which has been brought forth from incorruptible seed is to bear incorruptible fruit it has to remain true to its incorruptible nature: in other words it has to be holy. To be holy as He who called us is holy isn’t just an exhortation to sort out our wayward behaviour; it is a reminder of our true nature as new creations that carry the DNA of the incorruptible seed from which we have been “brought forth.”

If we wonder what this holiness looks like, we need search no further than the template Jesus gave us in His teachings, especially in the Sermon on the Mount. We are no longer of the world, but as those of incorruptible stock living in it we have to guard against the corruption of the world affecting us. Therefore we forgive so that we are not corrupted by hatred and bitterness. We remain meek so that we are not corrupted by pride. We are merciful so that we are not corrupted by vengeance. We love so that we are not corrupted by hatred. We give so that we are not corrupted by covetousness. We trust God so that we are not corrupted by fear and anxiety. We “abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul” (I Peter 2:11). To keep strong in all of these and many other principles of everyday holiness we sustain ourselves on the “living bread”, the Word of God, and not the “bread which perishes” that the world would give us. And like Peter, we have to be “Pentecost people,” because without the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit none of this is possible.

We don’t know what is ahead, but we do know that the Church is moving into a new season. For many of us, the time of lockdown has been like a time of consecration; of preparation before entering the Land where the goodness of God will be poured out in an unprecedented move of the Holy Spirit. But first comes Jericho, where the commander of the Lord’s army says to us:  “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Joshua 5:15)

I believe we stand on the brink of a deeper fulfilment of our role as priests of the order of Melchizedek. It’s time to take seriously the law of the Temple.

The Plough and the Island

An Island in the ploughing season.

“I am ploughing the soil, cutting off old and unfruitful roots and connections. My church is to be an island in the ploughing season. While turmoil and disruption is going on around My Church, My church will be stable and show My glory when churning and instablity is happening all round. I want My church to stand out be different, not criticizing one another, not criticizing leaders of nations. All this will dim the light of my glory. Instead I want you to be praying for the leaders of the world and publicly praising them for what I am doing through them. For I Have set them in place for such a time as this. For if you do this your ears will be open to My Spirit and to what I am doing. My Glory will shine out to those around you and beyond if you dare to be different and do not conform to what is going on around you.”

Jake saw this “island” in the ploughed field while out on a walk. The Lord spoke to him through it, and he took the photo above. The picture of the church as a place of strength and refuge in the midst of desolation strongly echoes the “tall building” message given through two different people. 2 Corinthians 13:1 tells us that “A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” Here we have one message being confirmed by three witnesses. In other words it’s been underlined three times: we must not ignore what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2)

Do not be conformed to this world

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

The other day Anne and I went to Curry’s buy a new vacuum cleaner (If you’re not in the UK, Curry’s is one of the major electrical retailers over here.) Yes, we WENT to Curry’s – we didn’t www it! But when we had made the purchase, the bullying began. “We just need your name and an email address for the invoice, please….”

“No,” said Anne.

The assistant was shocked. This is a normal procedure. People don’t say no.

“Madam, I can’t give you an invoice unless I have your name. It’s for the guarantee…”

“No.” (This is an abbreviated version of quite a few sentences, explaining that Curry’s were not, under any circumstances, going to have out personal details; and that their invoice wasn’t necessary because we can register directly with the manufacturer.)

I won’t spin this out: Curry’s didn’t get our details; we did register for the guarantee as soon as we got home: there was a huge QR code on the inside of the box lid. As we left the shop, Anne said this: “Conform, conform, conform. We’re bullied into conforming with their procedures, just so they can get our personal details on their records. How many other people today have refused to give their details? This week even? This month?”

The episode made me think of Paul’s word to the Romans, and to us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The word “conformed” – syschematizo – is only used in one other place in the New Testament, and it’s  by Peter: “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance” (1 Peter 1:13-14) It means to fashion oneself according to another person’s pattern. The word “schema” comes from it. Paul and Peter are both telling us the same thing: we need to free our minds from the schemas of the world and the flesh, so that we can say “No!” to their bullying and “Yes” to the Kingdom of God and to the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Peter tells us to “gird up the loins” of our minds. The image refers to tucking one’s long robe into a girdle in preparation for action, free of the restrictions of the garment. The key to not “conforming” – whether to the world, or to the flesh – is to act as “obedient children,” free to walk in “the wisdom that is from above.” (James 3:17) I was praying for someone recently and the Holy Spirit spoke to me about the memory card that I had just taken out of my camera. We need to let Him take out our memory cards that are full of all the mental habits that we have accumulated since childhood, and let Him put in a new one where the memory files consist of what He has promised, what He has done, and what He has told us to do. Most digital cameras today have SD cards, but some newer ones have more powerful XQD cards. SD stands for Sin and Death. We are new creations: we need new, powerful XQD cards.  XQD begins with a cross.

So which pattern are we conforming to? I have just been reading the story of Esther. I love the glimpse that account gives us into the sovereignty and providence of God as He acts for those whose lives are submitted to Him. Haman was the chief minister under Xerxes, King of Persia. He hated Mordecai because he would not bow down to him, so Haman vowed to destroy all the Jews in the Kingdom of Persia where they were exiled. It is interesting to note the meanings of the names here. Haman was the son of Hammedatha the Agagite. Agag was the king of the Amalekites, the nation that God had commanded Saul to completely destroy and a biblical type of the demonic. Fittingly, the name means “I will overtop.”  Haman means “magnificent,” and Hammedatha means “double.” Mordecai means “little man.”

Who is the magnificent one who was “the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” (Ezekeil; 28:12), whose desire was to “overtop” the very throne of God, and who, once cast out of Heaven, set himself up as the double of the true ruler of this world? The prime minister of Persia in the story of Esther stands for none other than the devil himself, whom Jesus called the prince of this world. The little man refused to bow down to him, and ultimately Haman was destroyed, having been made to lead Mordecai round the city in one of the King’s own robes.

We too are “little men.” Our enemy is a bully and a manipulator. He starts to build his thinking into us from the day we are born, teaching us independence rather than interdependence; self-preservation rather than trust in God; retaliation rather than gentleness; greed rather than generosity; pride rather than humility, and many other demonic “doubles” of godly values. We need to learn that we can, and must, say “No!” to his schemas; to “set the Lord before us at all times” (Psalm 16:8) just like obedient children looking to their parents for direction; and to let the Holy Spirit renew our minds by replacing our thinking with His.

In today’s world, especially in the West, this still may seem a little optional; extreme even. But even now the scene is changing, and we may already be heading into a very different world. Under the guise of health protection as virus infections threaten, “track and trace” can be used as a tool for persecution. As identity theft and financial crime proliferate, and as the debt burden of printed money increasingly threatens our fragile financial systems, a new, one-world blockchain digital currency (like bitcoins) would protect the interests of world trade and keep individuals safe from scammers. Excellent, for the world system. But for a persecuted Church it will call for endurance, as it would also mean that the authorities could follow the movements of every penny that is spent or given away, and it would have Christians finally staring down the barrel of the mark of the beast as the new financial system requires their unique bank details to be microchipped under the skin of their hand or their forehead.

However, as we know, it is the King of Kings who has the last word, not the prince of the world, who ‘has nothing on him.’ (See John 14:30) He has given us His royal robe, and our names are in the Book of Life: we do not have to put them anywhere else, whatever the pressure.

“For you are the fountain of life,
the light by which we see.
Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you;
give justice to those with honest hearts.
Don’t let the proud trample me
or the wicked push me around.
Look! Those who do evil have fallen!
They are thrown down, never to rise again.”
(Ps 36:9-12 New Living Translation)

This is “that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

The Faith of Ezra

“I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him. So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.” (Ezra 8: 22-23)

Ezra and a remnant of the Israelites had been released from captivity by Ataxerxes, the King of Persia, to go and worship the Lord in the temple that had been rebuilt during the reign of Darius. Before they set out on their perilous journey, Ezra had gathered them at the river to fast and pray. However they weren’t going empty-handed: in the care of the priests and Levites was “six hundred and fifty talents of silver, silver articles weighing one hundred talents, one hundred talents of gold, twenty gold basins worth a thousand drachmas, and two vessels of fine polished bronze, precious as gold.” One talent weighed roughly 50kg; about the weight of one adult. So along with the men, women and children were another 100 people in solid gold, and 750 more people in solid silver, plus the other precious objects, presumably transported by donkey or ox-cart, all on a journey of around 2000 kilometres.

Ezra was a priest and a scribe. He knew the word of God. And not only did he know the Word, but he believed it without compromise, trusting God and not the armies of men for protection for all those people in his care, and all the wealth that they were carrying on this long and perilous journey. He believed what he declared, and walked in it. But also he didn’t walk in presumption, but under his leadership they prayed earnestly, they humbled themselves, and they fasted; and “the gracious hand of God was upon them” to deliver them safely to Jerusalem.

For us, as we journey on the road towards Jerusalem – the New One – how much of the word of God do we believe and walk in? At the time of writing we live in a climate of virus-induced fear, exaggerated by the negative words of headline-hunting media, reinforced by the sinister image of the face mask that robs the wearer of his or her smile, and by the deprivation of warm human contact through social distancing measures. As believers we are certain that God is at work through all this, because Romans 8: 28 tells us that “all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” However the fact remains that the virus and its ravages are the work of “the enemy on the road.” Yes, we have to comply with the law and its anti-virus measures, because the Bible tells us that as well. But do we give into the enemy of fear when we put the mask over our smile or imprison ourselves in our “social bubbles,” or do we believe that “God is my protection” and “No plague shall come near my dwelling?”

Our response to the enemy of fear in the context of coronavirus is just one aspect of many ways in which we can be selective in our faith. For example, the Bible is clear in both the old and new testaments that God detests same-sex relationships (For example. Leviticus 18:22, and 20:13; Romans : 24-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10.) Do we ignore that part of the word because it’s uncomfortable and hard to swallow, like a chewy bit of gristle that we leave on the side of the plate? There are no details given, but it isn’t hard to guess what some of the “detestable practices” of the surrounding pagan nations were that the Israelites, and many of their kings, found so attractive and which led to their downfall. A liberal gospel is not the gospel of Salvation. The narrow gate is like the restrictors found now at the top of airport and underground escalators: we can’t take all our baggage through, no matter how much we might want it with us.

Healing, deliverance, the critical importance of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, God’s promises of provision in times of hardship – how often is this food left on the side of the plate? Demons are another bit of gristle. They are a very real part of the unseen realm, but it is so easy leave them to carry on their activities instead of learning how to deal with them effectively.  And what does the Word tell us about division, backbiting and criticism, for example – what we might call the sins of the tongue rather than the sins of the flesh. Do we leave that as well? Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He gave Himself totally for our salvation. He is also the Living Word, and He is alive in us. If we want all that He has to give us, we need all of Him, not just the tasty bits, and we need to give ourselves totally to Him. We need the faith of Ezra in every aspect of our lives.

Holiness: you shall be perfect

You shall go to the ball…

If you are married, it is very likely that you and your spouse became man and wife because you loved one another. If your marriage is successful, one of the reasons is probably the fact that you were attracted to the qualities you saw in your spouse. You loved – and hopefully still love! – your spouse because of who they are, and because you love the qualities and the attributes that characterise them. We worship God, and tell Him we love Him. It’s reasonable to say that God’s standout attribute is His holiness. So do we love holiness?

If we put a poster on the wall saying Be holy, for I am holy,” our response to it at any given time would be a good litmus test of whether we are walking in the flesh or in the Spirit. The flesh is corrupt so it will always want to avoid even the thought of holiness, so in the flesh we would most likely just want to take it off the wall and put a photo frame there instead. If we want to run from the poster there is no point praying about anything, because we won’t be praying in the Spirit and our prayers will have no Life – unless of course we are praying about not wanting to run from the poster. However in the Spirit we will see those words and be drawn to Jesus, and coming from our heart will be a cry that He will continue to work in our lives to remove anything that stops the light of His holiness shining in our lives. That would be a good time to pray.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus sets us a goal which is more or less interchangeable with Holiness, when he says “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48) Seated in heavenly places, as we are, it is true that our spirits are “the righteousness of God in Christ,” and when the Father sees us in His Son all He sees is perfection, and the Beauty of Holiness. But earlier in the same chapter (verse 16), Jesus exhorts us to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Our mission on Earth is to live our lives in such a way that the world also sees what God sees. Paul uses the same Greek word for perfect – telios – when he writes to the Ephesians that the purpose of ministry is “the edifying of the body of Christ till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ep 4: 12-13)

As we have already explored, the words of Life that Jesus is sowing, the seeds of the Kingdom of God, would not be activated until the Holy Spirit came and watered them in. So we too need to hear them in the Spirit: perfection, just like holiness, comes by faith and by intimacy with Jesus – “the knowledge of the Son of God.” The pursuit of perfection is for the Church on earth: now, so that the light of Christ in us is not clouded by the flesh but shines strongly into the darkness that covers the nations; and ultimately so that when the groom returns He finds His bride pure, spotless, and “without blemish.” In these last seconds, (see “three seconds to midnight”) the Holy Spirit is reminding the Church that Jesus meant what He said in the sermon on the mount. And if we listen with the hearing of faith, we hear the promise as well as the instruction: “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven in perfect.”

Cinderella church, you shall go to the ball. But in our story, the ball starts at midnight…