“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-17). In his sermon last Sunday, Pastor Finney reminded us of the power and importance of holiness. Just look around today and you will discover that holiness is a strange and archaic idea, seldom spoken of and greatly misunderstood. For most people, seeking a holy God and living a holy life never crosses their radar. From studying the Scriptures and pondering the meaning of holiness, I have come to understand holiness as both a gift and a pursuit. As a gift, I receive holiness from God based on the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. He came to die for sinners…like me. Holiness is not something I somehow achieved and presented before God. Holiness is something provided for me, which I simply accepted by faith from the Lord in humble gratitude. However, that’s not the end of holiness. God’s gift of forgiveness and cleansing requires a lifelong pursuit. The Apostle Peter tells believers to continue moving forward, and not to turn back to “passions of former ignorance.” Those who study the Bible understand the pursuit of holiness as the “process of sanctification.” In other words, we are made holy to become holy. Think of an orphan living wild on the streets who is suddenly adopted into a loving family. The child becomes an immediate member of the family and then learns to become like the family. Our adoption into the family of God gives us immediate access into the presence of our loving and holy Heavenly Father. Our Father then motivates us with, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” In all of our imperfection and sinful tendencies, we should not be discouraged in this pursuit of holiness. The same Lord who saved us also empowers us to live holy. Through the Holy Spirit we receive counsel and power in making everyday decisions that please Him. He awakens within us a desire for purity in our hearts…so we are careful about what we read, what we watch, what we speak, and how we think. Holiness is not a matter of “looking good” in the eyes of people but of cultivating a close, honest walk with God. His presence and words influence us in the deepest way possible so that we continue to become just like Jesus. By the way, holiness of life is not a bore as the world wants you to believe. Holiness is the only way to find joy in this corrupt and confusing world! Just look to Jesus.
As a new believer, I thought of Moses’ ministry as somewhat “glamorous.” After all, he performed amazing miracles before Pharaoh and led the Israelites through the Red Sea. However, the more I studied and read about Moses’ life and ministry, the more I realized how difficult his calling must have been. Many times, I thought to myself, I’m glad I was not Moses! He endured 40 years in the desert with believers who easily caved to grumbling and complaining and sometimes threatening to go back to Egypt. In the Book of Exodus, many chapters describe the trials of enemy nations, rebellious leaders, and slim resources. To me, Moses is a hero of faith and perseverance. He stayed with his calling and brought the people to the threshold of the Promised Land. Of all the ways the writer of Hebrews could have described Moses, this is what he chose to say: “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future” (Hebrews 3:5). When I think of the power of faithfulness, I also think of Pastor Finney, Liza, and their sons. As you know, Pastor Finney started out as an intern with Pastor Wegner and ended up staying over 20 years! As pastor of Highway Tabernacle, I am honored to have served with the Kuruvilla family. Their impact through the example of faithfulness will always stay with us. In a city that desperately needs the blessing of loving homes and church families, the Kuruvillas modeled for us commitment, love, and faithfulness. This note is just a small way of saying thank you, Pastor Finney, Liza, and boys, for giving of your lives so willingly and serving with love and enthusiasm—even when it was difficult. Thank you for being faithful in God’s house! You are loved and appreciated by all of us! May our Lord Jesus continue to bless you and lead you in His harvest field!
“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:8-10). Today you don’t have to convince people of the importance of physical exercise. Gyms are everywhere. Sports of all kinds are wildly popular. The virtues of running and walking are well known. The Apostle Paul, in his travels through the Roman Empire, undoubtedly saw a lot of athletes and competitions. With his mind on the spiritual, he teaches us the importance of learning from exercise. Why is it that so many believers speak about faith while at the same time don’t “practice” their faith? As a young Christian I was surrounded at church by people who practiced a daily devotional time with God. They set aside time (usually in the morning) for reading and meditating on the Bible and for prayer. This practice became such a part of my “routine” that I feel weak and spiritually “run down” when I neglect this. Don’t misunderstand me…the routine isn’t what saves us or keeps us. Jesus is the Lord. He is the One we need. The reason I have devotions each day is to communicate with Him, and to listen to His voice through Scripture. The morning exercise of prayer and Scripture helps me stay strong through the day. I become sensitive to others and my environment. The Lord helps me keep my mind on Him as I say yes and no to the many thoughts that come my way. I also practice my faith by getting together regularly with other believers because I know I am stronger with them than without them. My encouragement to you is to practice your faith. Get yourself in the habit of presenting yourself before the Lord. Exercise yourself to quietly wait in His presence. Remember the words of Paul who taught us that godliness is of great value! Keep practicing your faith!
“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites’” (Exodus 19:3-6). The Lord never meant for us to feel as if serving Him was a loathsome burden. Some see God as a taskmaster who takes away their fun and replaces it with rules. How far from the truth that is! God spoke to Moses to convey a special message to the Israelites shortly after they were set free from Egypt. Before God entered into the covenant with them, He reminded them of what He did for them. He said, “I carried you on eagles’ wings.” Imagine this…the Lord is carrying us! Those who study eagles tell us that the mother eagle carries her young on her back until they are ready to fly themselves. I try to imagine myself as a little child who is being carried by the Lord through life—especially in those anxious, stressful times when life seems so hard. Others may not read the Bible because they have preconceived ideas about God being harsh or unjust. But I read in the Word that God is the One who loves us me more than anyone else and who gives me power and strength for each day. And in my hardest moments, I am reminded that He holds me in His mighty hand! Let the Lord encourage you today.
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). As a student for many years, I have taken plenty of exams! The most important test for any course is the final exam. This special test usually takes a longer time to complete and rehearses the entire semester, revealing the student’s proficiency of the subject. The Apostle Paul spoke of a “final exam” in 2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” Of all the exams I have ever taken, I am concerned about this last one most of all! I desperately want to pass this test and hear the words “well done” by the Lord Jesus Christ. So, how can I be assured of passing this test? In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul challenged the people of Corinth to do a “self-examination.” Some vital questions of this exam are “Am I in the faith?” and “Is Christ in me?” Living the Christian life is not a matter of merely going to a church or believing some things other Christians believe. True believers are those who live in Christ…and Christ lives in them! How do you know if Christ is in you? Paul, in the Book of Ephesians, called those following Jesus “children of light.” He went on to explain, “For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9). As “students” of the Lord Jesus, we are challenged to examine our lives before the great final exam. If Jesus is in us, we will bear the fruit of His life. We will trust in Him with our lives, and, from this faith, we will manifest a love for goodness, righteousness, and truth. Don’t be afraid to do a self-exam. By doing so, we will not have to worry or wonder if we will pass the final test!