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5 Benefits of Living a Holy Life

Would you like to sit next to God and snuggle up against His side? To be so close you could hear Him breathe? There would be no distance between the two of you, no barriers to prevent you from drawing near. You could linger in His presence and rest in the circle of His embrace.

All of us desire to experience this kind of intimate relationship with our heavenly Father. Yet, we often feel disconnected. We may even sense that something blocks our path to deep, personal companionship with God.

holinessAccording to Scripture, a life of holiness can pave the way for greater intimacy in our relationship with God. King David, described as a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), understood the connection between a holy life and experiencing God’s presence.

Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.  Psalm 15:1-2, NLT

Unholy living floods believers’ lives with the natural consequences of sin, including distance and strain in our relationships with God. But a pursuit of holiness is also a pursuit of God. As we embrace the holy life God calls us to, we are embraced by the Holy One Himself.

“Holiness” is often misunderstood. Many believers think living a holy life is just too hard. Or too boring. Or simply undesirable. They recognize the truth that God commands His children to be holy and want to please Him, but life gets in the way. Others compare themselves to the Christians around them and think they’re doing pretty good. But, God doesn’t call us to “pretty good.” His holiness is our standard (1 Peter 1:16).

Jesus died so we could be holy. If we belong to Jesus, we are a “new creation,” a “new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23-24). Holiness is for our good and God’s glory!

Sound like an overwhelming, daunting, impossible task? Humanly speaking it is. But, whatever God requires of His children, He also supplies. God requires holiness, but His Spirit provides the power to turn away from sin. God calls us to holiness and God provides what we need to be holy.

 

5 Benefits of Holiness

1. Holiness fosters intimacy with God and builds spiritual strength and stability (Psalm 15:1-6)

2. Holiness makes us useful and effective for God’s purposes (2 Timothy 2:20-26)

3. Holiness in your life causes people around you to glorify God (1 Peter 2:9-12)

4. Holiness builds peace with God (2 Peter 3:10-18)

5. Holiness pleases God and produces “fruit”(Ephesians 5:1-17)

And those 5 benefits are just the beginning of how God blesses a holy life!

God calls us to holiness so we can be set free from the bondage and consequences of our own sin. God also knows that a holy life paves the way for deep intimacy with Him (Psalm 15:1-2). Holiness sets us free and draws us close to God!

Holiness in God’s people also brings Him glory. When we live holy lives we reflect God’s character to the world. We become lights in a dark world that lead the way to the Savior.

Holiness. For our good. For God’s glory.

How have you thought about holiness in the past? Have you thought a holy life was too hard? Simply undesirable? Would love to hear your thoughts!

 

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6 Ways to Keep Moving Toward Holiness

New Start 15 holinessWe can’t become holy overnight. And it takes more than a few weeks, months, or even years. (Thought the recent emphasis on holiness, New Start 15, was a good start!) No, holiness takes a lifetime.

Throughout the month of January, many of you participated in New Start 15. We looked at the benefits of holiness, God’s call to us to be holy, and ways we can practically live it out in our day to day lives.

In case you missed it, here’s a quick list of the New Start 15 components/resources. They will remain available so you can review, do it again, or go through it for the first time, any time:

Even with all this, we just scratched the surface. The goal of the emphasis was not that we would have all “arrived”  on day 15, but that we would be firmly, solidly committed to pursue holiness for a lifetime.

On-Going Holiness

Remember, only the Holy Spirit can transform us, but He won’t do it without our obedient cooperation.  Here are 6 practical actions we can practice on an ongoing basis to foster continued growth in holiness.

  1. Practice an awareness of the presence of God – We know from the Bible that God is always with us. He sees everything we do and knows our thoughts, attitudes, and motivations. Purposefully remembering this truth and disciplining ourselves to regularly think about Him will nourish holiness in our lives.
  2. Stay in the Word – The Creator of the universe has revealed Himself, His will, and His ways to us in the Bible. It describes the holy life to which God calls us. But we cannot live by God’s Word unless we know God’s Word. Reading and studying the Bible will plant God’s truth in our hearts.
  3. Be proactive in our battle against sin – Sin takes root in our lives, growing and multiplying. To be holy, we must dig it out by the roots and get rid of it. Ask God to also help you recognize areas of weakness in your life so you can guard against potential sin.
  4. Respond quickly to the Spirit – Have you ever responded to the prompting of the Spirit with “in a minute?” I certainly have. If you’re a parent, you understand that “delayed” obedience is simply disobedience. Sometimes, we even intend to obey – later. Unfortunately, our delayed obedience causes us harm and dishonors God. We may miss out on God’s best plan for us or even put ourselves in danger. Immediate obedience is always best!
  5. Make the most of trials – God uses persecution for the sake of Christ and the common trials of this life to refine our faith and shape our character. If we fight Him in the process rather than lean on Him, trust His love, and follow His guidance we can waste much of what He wants to do.
  6. Keep an eternal perspective – If we allow the things of this physical world to dominate our thoughts and priorities, the temporal will drive our emotions and responses. But if we stay focused on God’s bigger, eternal picture we will be able to reject sin and stand firm in trials.

Although not an exhaustive list, if we continuously and purposefully pursue these six practices, God will have access to do His work in our lives.

My prayer for all of us is that God will continue to transform us into the image of Christ with “ever-increasing glory” (1 Corinthians 3:18). May our lives reflect His holiness and point a lost world to the Living Savior.

 

 

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Who Controls You?

who controls youWho controls you? The world says you’re free to be your own boss. Our culture tells you it’s your life, your body, your time, your resources; that you have the right to make all the choices, the freedom to do what you want.

But that’s a lie. Self-control is merely an illusion.

The Bible says we will either be controlled by sin or righteousness. There’s no neutral territory. We can’t be a spiritual Switzerland.

In today’s New Start 15 reading, Romans 8:1-17, the apostle Paul explains that every person is controlled either by her “sinful nature” or by the “Spirit of God.” There is no other option. In Romans 6, Paul uses the terms “slaves to sin” and “slaves to righteousness” to describe the same truth.

We will either be controlled by the desires of our fallen, sinful nature or we will be controlled by the Holy Spirit. The direction of the first leads to death. The direction of the second leads to “life and peace.”

No, we don’t have any control over our lives. But we do have control over who gets control.

No, we can’t be our own master, but we can choose who is. We can give ourselves as slaves to sin or as slaves to righteousness.

Want to live as a slave to righteousness?

Crucify your sinful nature, break free from the sin master, by surrendering your life to the One who was crucified for you.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

The true life of a believer is found when we allow Jesus to live His life through us.

And Jesus doesn’t want His way to be hard to find or confusing. In fact, when we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus, He gives us His Spirit to guide, transform, and empower us. We simply must give Him control.

Follow the Leader

Today’s New Start 15 Bible passage, Galatians 5:13-26, describes a life controlled by the Holy Spirit as “keeping in step” with Him. It’s like the childhood game “Follow the Leader.” If the Spirit moves to the right, so do we. If the Spirit stops and waits, we do too.

On a general level, the Spirit will guide us away from sin and into holiness. He will strengthen us to resist temptation and obey God’s moral commands.

But the Spirit’s leading is also very personal. The exact combination of experiences, relationships, challenges, needs, and temptations in your life is unique. You need wisdom and guidance for that unique mix. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Let Him do it. Give Him control.

Joy in the Spirit’s Control

And what joy there is in following God’s Spirit. Romans 8:14-16 eloquently describes the sweet relationship with the Father that results from following His Spirit:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.

The Spirit will lead you in ways for your good and God’s glory. Don’t fight Him. Don’t try to take control. You can’t have it anyway.

Considering the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, how important is it that we “keep in step” or obey Him? What are some ways we can foster quick and complete obedience?

 

This post is part of the New Start 15 emphasis on holiness. Want to learn more? Here are a few things to help you join in!

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A Holy Life is a Blameless Life – 10 Characteristics

Blameless Ps 15The greatest benefit of a holy life is the effect it has on our relationship with God. Holiness builds deeper intimacy with God and fosters a real sense of His imminent presence in our daily lives.

I’d be all for that! What about you?

For the last two weeks, you’ve heard me and some friends talk a lot about holiness through an emphasis we’ve called New Start 15. We’ve highlighted the benefits of holiness. We’ve reiterated God’s call to holiness. And this week, we’re getting down to the nitty gritty of practically living out holiness in our day-to-day lives.

Today’s New Start 15 Bible Reading is Colossians 3:1-17. In this passage, Paul repeatedly tells believers to “take off” our old self and all its sinful ways and to “put on” the new self God created us to be. The new, holy self. Today, I’d like to paint a picture of holiness. If we can see what it looks like lived out, then we can emulate it, right?

The Bible uses a few different words that all mean the same thing – living a life that reflects the character and nature of God. Some of these words are “holy, godly, pure, set apart, and righteous.” But today, let’s focus on one more.

A holy life is a blameless life

In Psalm 15:1, David asked God, “LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?” The Message translates it like this: “God, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list?”

If we were asking that same question, we would say something like this: “Lord, who can hang out with You? Who gets to be in Your ‘inner circle’ of trusted friends?”

We get God’s answer in Psalm 15:2. “He whose walk is blameless.”

Well, I long to enter God’s presence, but I’m not sure I would describe myself as “blameless.” What does that even mean?

The Hebrew adjective translated as “blameless” in Psalm 15:2 in the NIV and “uprightly” in the KJV, means “entire, whole, complete, perfect, sound, faultless, upright in one’s conduct, especially toward God.” (Definition from The Complete Word Study Old Testament.)

Good definition, but that’s too general for me to get my head around. I need a practical description. I need to know what “blameless” looks like in daily life?

What does “blameless” look like?

Thankfully, the Bible tells us. Psalm 15 and 101 describe a “blameless” life (Read them now if you have time. They aren’t long.) The following list of characteristics is derived from these two psalms of David.

  1. She practices praise (Ps 101:1) – Regularly contemplate the holy nature of God. Recognizing His worthiness will not only foster praise, we will also be moved to obedience.
  2. She lives with integrity at home, in business, and in the world (Ps 15:5, Ps 101:7)– Sometimes we fail to purposefully watch our words and actions at home like we do other places. We tend to let our guard down; to allow our first, sinful instincts to rule. We need to be as careful at home as we are away from home.
  3. She turns away from everything vile or vulgar (Ps 15:4; Ps 101:3)– “Blameless” women do not compromise with the sinful ways of the world. We don’t allow ourselves to become desensitized to immorality, crudeness, or risqué humor by watching it, reading it, or listening to it. Instead, we long to be holy. (For a sad example of how Christians can so easily slip into the culture, read my “Holiness is not a Shade of Grey.”)
  4. She ruthlessly guards against evil thoughts and behavior (Ps 101:3-4) – We must proactively rid our lives of every thought and action contrary to the nature and character of God and work to live holy lives.
  5. She does not use her words to tear others down (Ps 15:3)– Our speech should be edifying and encouraging. That doesn’t mean everything we need to say will be easy. But it does mean it will be helpful to the hearer.
  6. She does not collaborate with ungodly, wicked people (Ps 15:5, Ps 101:3-4) – The only way to never encounter ungodly people is to leave this life and transfer to heaven. However, we can choose not to enter into agreements, projects, or business dealings with people whose worldview is not Christ-centered.
  7. She embraces honesty (Ps 15:3, Ps 101:7) – Satan is the father of lies. Anytime we are less than honest we have yielded to the tempter! Let’s commit to total honesty in our own lives and conduct. We should also expect honesty from the people around us and distance ourselves from those who refuse to be honest.
  8. She does not seek gain that brings harm to others (Ps 15:5) – God wants us to use our God-given skills, talents, and gifts to support the Kingdom, serve others, and provide for ourselves and our families. However, any effort for gain or advancement that takes advantage of others is sinful.
  9. She squashes pride and conceit (Ps 101:5) – Pride fosters an abundance of sin. Those who want to live blameless before God will seek humility by keeping both God and herself in proper perspective.
  10. She helps, encourages, and protects the godly (Ps 15:4) – God calls us to serve others and meet the needs of those who cannot help themselves. Do we respond when they cross our paths?

Wow, seems like a tall order, doesn’t it? And this isn’t even an exhaustive list, but I’m sure you get the idea. “Blameless” is first cousin to “holy.” If we live like this we will be very different than many in our culture. We will be less like the world and more like Christ. In fact, that’s exactly God’s point!

Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in us. As we walk blamelessly and strive to live holy lives, we will also enjoy the intimate, abundant presence of our holy God.

Which of these 10 characteristics do you struggle with the most? Why is that, do you think?

 

New Start 15This post is part of the New Start 15 emphasis on holiness. Want to learn more? Here are a few things to help you join in!

 

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Say No to “Shades of Grey”

Think the outcry by some Christians against the upcoming movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” is overblown? Prudish? Legalistic? If so and you’re a Christian, please give me the chance to convince you to change your opinion. (I could not let the New Start 15 emphasis on holiness end without addressing this timely issue.)

First, please hear me. I have not perfected holiness. Over the years, I have read books and watched movies that I later regretted because the content was inconsistent with my faith. And I still make mistakes. But, oh sisters, this one is a BIG mistake. And it’s so easy to avoid.

Fifty Shades

No “Shades” Should be a No-Brainer

“Shades” is classified as “erotica,” which by definition means “sexually explicit literature or art.” Here’s a quick summary of the book I copied from a blog by Mary Kassian:

The books (Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy) in question are erotica that explicitly describe sexual bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM). The story follows an unfolding affair between a recent college graduate, the virgin Anastasia Steele, and handsome young billionaire entrepreneur, Christian Grey, whose childhood abuse left him a deeply damaged individual, and who enlists her to share his secret sexual proclivities. Steele is required by Grey to sign a contract allowing him complete control over her. Because of her fascination and budding love for him, she consents to a kinky sexual relationship that includes being slapped, spanked, handcuffed, and whipped with a leather riding crop in his “Red Room of Pain.”

Oh my. Let’s stop right here. Honestly, based on the book description and the dictionary definition of “erotica,” Christian women have no business reading this book. But they have. Christian women have no business seeing this movie. But they plan to. My question is: Why?

Justifying the Unjust

I’ve heard the arguments in favor of the New York Times best-selling book and what’s sure to be a blockbuster hit in the theaters. Here’s a sampling:

  • It’s just a movie. It won’t affect me.
  • It will spice up my marriage.
  • I need to know how to speak to the culture.
  • Christians shouldn’t judge other Christians’ behavior. What’s wrong for you isn’t necessarily wrong for me.

Any of those sound familiar? Maybe you’ve heard one. Maybe you’ve used one.

Let’s turn these arguments for watching “Fifty Shades” into reasons not to watch it:

  1. It’s not just a movie. It will affect you – Everything we allow into our minds shapes our thinking and eventually changes our behavior. That’s why God tells His people to think on “true, noble, pure, lovely” things (Philippians 4:8). He knows that our spiritual transformation begins in our minds. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). Spiritual maturity begins to develop when our thinking begins to line up with God’s thinking.(For more on this see “What are You Feeding Your Mind.”
  2. The sex in “Fifty Shades” is a warped, sinful version of God’s good gift – God created sex to be enjoyed within the bounds of marriage. It is to be an expression of a respectful, kind, and loving relationship between a man and woman who have committed their lives to one another. Among believers, there “must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (Ephesians 5:3). Sexual impurity and perversion is particularly destructive (see 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, 1 Corinthians 6:18). By the way, the movie’s Valentine Day release is very purposeful.
  3. We don’t have to “experience” every aspect of the culture to impact it for Jesus – Yes, Jesus commanded us to go out into the world – to share the Gospel and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), not to blend in with the world. Consider Jesus’ prayer for us the night He was betrayed in John 17:15-19. This passage is where we get the phrase “in the world, but not of it.” Jesus died so His people can be lights of holiness in a dark world. And I don’t have to read or see “Fifty Shades” to know it blatantly goes against God’s holy character. In today’s New Start 15 passage, James 4:1-10, James calls this kind of behavior “friendship with world,” which is also “hatred toward God.”
  4. God has already judged sexual immorality – Only God has the authority to determine right and wrong, good and evil. And He has. He doesn’t ask us to judge what’s right and wrong, but He does tell believers to hold each other accountable for His Word and to exhort one another to holiness. (For more on this see “To Judge or Not to Judge”)

So, considering God’s Word, why will believers still go see this movie? As the saying goes, sex does indeed “sell.” Unfortunately, sex sells to Christians too.

God’s Word is black and white. So why do we keep trying to blend God’s truth. Holiness is not grey – not any shade of grey.

This topic is heavy on my heart. I really want to hear your thoughts. And I would love for you to share this post.

For more information on the topic and the destructive nature of “Fifty Shades of Grey” read:

 

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Did God Really Say “Be Holy?”

Be holyThis post is a summary of the 2nd week of New Start 15, an emphasis on God’s call to His children to be holy. Click here for the summary of Week One.

If your children – or your husband for that matter – are anything like mine, they have “selective hearing.” That means they choose to hear only what’s to their liking. For instance, they will hear you say, “I’m making your favorite dish for dinner tonight,” but they won’t hear, “You have to finish your homework before you watch television.”

We may shake our heads at this phenomenon, but sometimes we do the same thing with God. We tend to have “selective hearing” when it comes to His call to holiness.

Did God really say…?

Remember when Satan whispered words of doubt to Eve underneath the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:1)? We often ask ourselves the same question:

Did God really say, “Be holy, because I am holy?” (1 Peter 1:16 & Leviticus 11:44).

New Start 15 Week Two in Review

For the past five days – the second week of New Start 15 – we have clarified God’s call to His children to be holy. Scripture leaves no room for doubt. Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve learned about God’s call this week:

Preview of New Start 15 Week 3

In the 3rd week of New Start 15 (January 20-23) we will discover how we can practically live out God’s call to holiness in our everyday lives. This is where the “rubber meets the road!” Here are a few highlights:

  • Practical holiness starts with true repentance. What does it look like?
  • What we put in our minds affects our behavior. How can we guard our minds and thought life so we can pursue holiness?
  • How do we “follow the Spirit” who supplies the power to live a godly life?

Missed part of New Start 15?

Here are a few things to help you join in!

These last two weeks have been exciting! What have you learned about holiness? Have you made any new or renewed commitments to our holy God?

 

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Holiness Training Partner

New Start 15Olympic champion Missy Franklin was born to swim. Her profile on the Olympic website describes her as “built for success.” Missy is six-foot one and wears size 13 shoes. Her dad jokes that his daughter has “built-in flippers.” Add in her six-foot, four-inch arm span and it’s no wonder she’s a swimming machine.

In the 2012 summer Olympics in London, Missy won four gold medals and a bronze. She also broke two world records in the London games.

Missy is young enough to take part in possibly three more Olympic games. With time and talent on her side, she has the potential to become the most decorated female Olympic swimmer of all time. Move over Michael Phelps!

Although Missy is physically equipped for swimming, she could never achieve this kind of success without rigorous training. Missy began her swim training when she was just seven years old. Now at the age of 18, she trains eight times a week during the school year and nine during the summer months.

Missy’s physical traits and dedicated training combined make her an Olympic champion. Without the disciplined workouts, her size and inherent strength alone would not be enough. Likewise, no matter how great her commitment to training, if Missy was not built for swimming her success would be limited. Missy needs both the physical characteristics and talent God gave her, plus the intense, purposeful training. This combination of physical power and disciplined effort creates a highly successful partnership.

Spiritual Partnership

A believer’s pursuit of holiness is also a partnership. We cannot do it without the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And He demands our obedient, intentional cooperation.

Today’s New Start 15 passage, 2 Peter 1:3-11, shows how our pursuit of holiness is a God-designed partnership. God supplies the power:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life … so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:3-4, NIV

And we supply the obedient effort:

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith…” 2 Peter 2:5a

The Power of Dynamite!

We have no excuse in our pursuit of holiness. God has equipped us with everything we need. The English word “dynamite” is derived from the Greek word translated as “power” in 2 Peter 1:3.” The power of the Holy Spirit living within believers can be explosive!

“Make Every Effort”

God has equipped us to obey His call to holiness. We have everything we need. But He will not do it for us. We must “make every effort” or diligently work to add the characteristics of holiness to our faith.

In 1 Timothy 4:7-8, the apostle Paul likened this diligent effort toward holiness to physical training. Holiness won’t happen by accident or haphazard effort. Our holiness requires a disciplined, conscious effort.

In his book, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life,” author Donald Whitney emphasizes the vital function of spiritual disciplines in a believer’s holiness:

“The only road to Christian maturity and godliness passes through the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines… Godliness is the goal of the Disciplines… They are the God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of godliness.”

God works through our disciplined efforts such as prayer, Bible reading, study, and Scripture memory to bring spiritual growth and shape us into the image of Christ. The correct practice of these kinds of spiritual disciplines is not legalism, but a heart-felt submission to the Spirit’s refining work.

Our Holiness is a Team Effort

Our holiness is wrought by the Spirit’s power working through our obedient cooperation. Our salvation is solely God’s work, but our sanctification is a joint project, a partnership between each of us and God. We can’t do it without God’s power and God chooses to do it through our disciplined effort. God gives the power we need for our efforts to affect the condition of our faith.

In what ways have you committed yourself to the pursuit of holiness? What spiritual disciplines do you practice regularly? What might God have you add to your efforts?

This post is part of the New Start 15 emphasis on holiness. Want to learn more? Here are a few things to help you join in!

 

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What Does Holiness Feel Like?

Kathy Collard MillerPlease welcome Kathy Collard Miller and her husband Larry as my guest bloggers today! I’m honored to have them share thoughts from their new book, “Never Ever Be the Same,” about how holiness feels in a believer’s life.

Have you ever wondered what holiness feels like? Malachi 4:2 expresses what God might like us to experience when we see the fruits of holiness that he is producing in our lives:

“But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”

Have you ever “leapt” in your spirit after recognizing that your trust in God had expanded to include forgiving someone who hurt you because you recognize how much you’ve been forgiven? Or giving grace by listening with understanding to a friend share a problem—even though she usually ignores you—because you’ve experienced God’s grace? Or resting calmly in a situation that normally drives you over the edge because you know God is in charge? Or being patient when your child spills milk at the dinner table for the third time because you know God has repeatedly been patient with you?

We’re no longer fenced in and held in bondage by sinful patterns like worry, fear, selfishness, hate, resentment, and so many other binding things.

The NIV words it: “And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.” Oh, to frolic like well-fed calves! Can’t you just picture it? This calf isn’t emaciated; instead it is healthy and well-nourished. It has drank often from the fresh, flowing spring. That seems to give the idea that it is assured that all its real needs are supplied and it is free from concern about receiving love and care.

New Start 15For you and for us, that’s the foundation of holiness: believing and trusting in God’s sovereign love that provides everything we truly need; therefore, we don’t need to demand it from people who are needy themselves.

We are still growing in this of course, for as long as we live, but the joy that comes when we cooperate with God is like skipping out of a pen where we’d been restrained. We do not obey in order to have that feeling, but how generous of God to give us the reward to bless us.

Are you like a calf encircled in some stall? Could it be bitterness, a critical spirit, a sense of entitlement, people pleasing, or self-absorption? Do you want to break free? You can in God’s power through Repentance and Surrender. Receive the healing. Get ready to leap, gambol, and frolic. God is opening the gate.

As you think of God opening your “gate” of holiness, what does that feel like for you?

Never Ever Be the SameKathy Collard Miller is the author of 50 books and has spoken in 31 states and 8 foreign countries. Kathy and her husband, Larry, have been married 44 years. Larry is a retired police lieutenant who also speaks and writes. They live in Southern California, and have two grown children and one grandson. Visit them at www.LarryAndKathy.com and www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today (Leafwood Publishers) offers Christians hope that they can change their destructive patterns of behavior through identifying their sinful self-protective strategies and then being empowered to trust God instead. Their book includes biblical principles, insightful stories, and helpful instruction.

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2 Ways to Invest in Your Future

My guest blogger today is Lori Moody. Lori is a New Start 15 contributor. 

Nine earthquakes hit the Dallas area this week. A recent article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram quotes a few locals:

    I’ve never felt an earthquake before 

    I’ve never experienced it

    I don’t know what to do when an earthquake hits

    Next time we need to be coached…

New Start 15Because earthquakes rarely happen in Texas, most Texans live like they would never happen. Many believers have a similar attitude about the return of Christ. Because Christ’s return is delayed, we often live like He will never return.

In 2 Peter 3:10-18, Peter addressed some believers who apparently doubted Jesus’ promised return. He reminded them that one day the heavens and earth will pass away, that all things on earth will be burned up, and by the spoken Word of God a new heaven and earth will come into being.

Sometimes, like these first-century believers, we too doubt Jesus’ imminent return. And if He doesn’t return, we won’t be judged. Therefore, instead of living for eternity we live for the here and now.

But just as God used Peter to urge believers two thousand years ago, He also urges us to look forward to the future in two ways:

1. Investing in the eternal (2 Peter 3:10-13)

We spend so much of our lives investing in the work of our own hands, often at the exclusion of investing in things of eternity.  Because of sin, this world is under a curse of destruction; judgment is coming, and the things of this earth will melt away. A.W. Tozer states it this way:

The whole purpose of God in redemption is to make us holy and to restore us to the image of God. To accomplish this He disengages us from earthly ambitions and draws us away from the cheap and unworthy prizes that worldly men set their hearts upon.

We should hate what sin has done to this world and begin to love the things that God loves. According to Spurgeon, “Holiness and godliness will outlive even the flames of the last great day.” The “new” has already come in our hearts (2 Corinthians 5:17), and a new heaven and earth are on the way! Therefore, let’s invest in our eternal future.

2. Living a holy life (2 Peter 3:14-18)

In this passage, Peter repeatedly calls believers to live a holy life (vs. 11, 14). The English word holy means “well” or “whole.” Therefore, to be holy means that we are spiritually healthy and that we recognize the hand of God in all things. It’s not that we can be completely holy, but that God imparts His holiness to us through Christ. He sets us apart, and then we give our lives over to the ways of God.

There was a time in my life when I wanted very badly to please God. I think it was born out of my need to be loved and accepted. I was a rule-follower and always wanted to do the right thing. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but through many years of growing in the grace and knowledge of God, I now want to please God because I love Him. There is a huge difference in my motivation and it’s very freeing.

Let’s not seek holiness in order for God to love us, let’s seek it because He already does.

When Christ does return, we want to “be found by Him” spiritually healthy and whole. John Piper says it this way, “These two motivations God gives us for our sanctification: 1) that the earth and all the vain accomplishments of man are going to be burned up, and only the fruits of holiness will remain; and 2) that the promise of new heavens and a new earth shines so bright with God’s righteousness and glory, how can we not walk in the light!”

Thank you Lori Moody for sharing with us today! Lori serves on the Women’s Ministry Leadership Team of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and speaks at women’s conferences, retreats, and events.

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Am I Useful to God?

2 Timothy 2:21, New Start 15One morning I was running late to church to lead the weekday ladies’ Bible study class. Two stoplights from my destination, the driver of the only car in front of me sat through the green light without making a move while she talked to the person in the passenger seat. I “patiently” waited behind her while the light turned red.

When the light turned green for the second time, it looked as if she might not make that one either, so I hit my horn. No, not a friendly, quick, little “toot.” It was an irritated, long blast. She began to move very slowly and I barely made it through the intersection before the light turned red again.

“I’ll show her,” I thought. As soon as I had the chance I darted around her, tossing back one of those icy glares as I sped by.

I approached the last light and got in the right lane to make my turn. I glanced in my rear view mirror. She was also in the turn lane. One block from church I was hit with a horrible possibility. What if the woman in the car was headed to my church? At that time, a community group met in our building on Tuesday mornings. She would see me go in and know I was one of those “Christian” women.

“No,” I reassured myself. “What are the chances? Surely she is headed to one of the homes in the neighborhood.”

I slowed to make the turn into the church parking lot. Another furtive glance in the mirror confirmed my worst fears. She was also turning! I scooted into the one remaining parking spot close to the doors while she drove further down the lot. I was inside the building and headed to my classroom before she got her seat belt unfastened.

Conviction & Repentance

Immediately, the Holy Spirit pressed in with conviction. Had those few moments gone differently, God may have used me to encourage the driver or share Jesus with her. When our paths crossed in the parking lot, perhaps God would have given me an opportunity to invite her to Bible study. But my anger and impatience did not make me “useful to the Master” that morning for encountering the woman. In fact, my heart attitude also compromised my fitness to lead that morning’s Bible study group.

I submitted to the Holy Spirit and responded to His conviction with repentance. I also prayed my sinful actions would not have a negative spiritual impact on the woman. I asked Him to completely fulfill His purposes for her life. Unfortunately, I was not blessed to be a part of what He wanted to do that morning.

In Paul’s second letter to his “spiritual son” Timothy, he emphasized how vital it is for believers to pursue holiness if we want to be effective instruments for God’s use. Here’s how Paul put it:

If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work. Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.  

2 Timothy 2:21-24, NLT

Pursue Holiness to be Useful to God

If we want God to work in and through our lives to reach people for Christ and to carryout His eternal purposes we must “keep ourselves pure.” The Greek word means to “cleanse, clean thoroughly, purge.” If we want to be fully useful to God we must rid our lives of any and everything that could limit our usefulness.

Although Paul does not give us a complete list in this passage, he does tell Timothy to “flee from” some things and to “pursue” others. The list below comes from the larger passage of 2 Timothy 2:

Use to God, 2 Timothy 2

The condition of our lives – our speech, behavior, attitudes, motives -determines how useful we are to God, how effective we will be for His eternal purposes. A believer, who purposefully strives to live a holy life, can be powerfully used by God.

And God does command us to strive for holiness.

Do your best (work hard, study, be diligent, strive) to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed… 2 Timothy 2:15a

I want to be an instrument God can use! How about you? Let’s ask Him to show us any areas of our lives that prevent or limit the way He wants to use us. Let’s commit to a new start in 2015! (Miss the invitation to participate in New Start 15? See it now.)

How could God use you this year? Is there anything in your life right now that’s preventing God from using you to the fullest potential?

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