Does Holiness Really Matter?

EmbracedbyHolinesslarge

This post is also a giveaway! Please read to the end to find out how to enter.

Two years ago, “Fifty Shades of Grey” caught the attention of American women – including many Christian women. They gobbled up the erotica with a shrug and justifications like these:

  • It’s only fantasy.
  • I’m not participating; I’m just reading fiction.
  • I need to know how to speak to the culture.

Good and glory buttonMaybe you were even one of those women – one of many Christian women who bought into the lie that it’s no big deal.

It is a big deal. And this book is merely one example of believers conforming to the ways of the world instead of purposefully cooperating with the Holy Spirit to be transformed into the image of Christ (Romans 12:1-2). Rather than actively pursuing holiness, many of us in the church don’t live or look much different than our non-Christian neighbors.

Does it matter? Is holiness merely a pursuit for the “super spiritual” or should holiness be a concern for every believer?

Before we turn to Scripture, let’s consider the impact of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Studies prove that what we put into our minds – read, see, hear – affects our thinking and fosters a change in behavior. Reading detailed, warped, and sinful descriptions of sexual acts desensitizes us to sexual immorality and harms our marriage relationships.

God’s call to holiness is for our good and His glory. He created us. He knows which attitudes, behaviors, and thoughts benefit us. He also knows which ones do not. He also wants His people to be a reflection of His character. To be a light in a dark world that leads the way to the Savior. But far too often we hang in the shadows ourselves.

This month at Do Not Depart, we will explore the biblical doctrine of holiness. Our call, what it is, what it looks like, how it benefits us, and more. Holiness really truly does matter – for your own life and for a world in darkness.

Have you given holiness much thought? Is it something you’ve actively pursued in your own life? Why or why not?

EmbracedbyHolinesslargeEnter to Win!!

This post is a giveaway. Comment on this post to enter to win one of three copies of Kathy’s new Bible study, Embraced by Holiness: The Path to God’s Daily Presence. This 6-week, in-depth study helps readers discover a deeper intimacy with God through a life of holiness. Embraced explores why believers should pursue holiness and guides readers through practical steps to pursuing a holy life. (Find out more about the study.) The contest closes at noon on Tuesday, June 10th!

UPDATE ON JUNE 11: The contest is closed. The winners are Yasmin, Brenda, and Lynn. Congratulations!!

Focus on Spiritual Gifts with a Wide-Angle Lens

Spiritual Gifts focus

When I take photos of people I like to get in close, to focus on the face, and cut out much of the surroundings. I’ve gotten some great portraits that way. However, focusing tightly on one subject loses the greater context. We can’t know where they were or what they were doing or if there was anyone else around.

Spiritual Gifts focus

The church treats spiritual gifts that way sometimes. For instance, we might focus on a single gift, its importance, or its function. Or, we might focus on an individual’s set of gifts, what she’s equipped to do or not do, or where she might fit in the church.

While this kind of focus can be helpful, we need to also view spiritual gifts with the wide-angle lens to keep them in the proper context. If we don’t, one or more of these problems, abuses, and limitations will likely pop up:

  • We might use our “gifts” or “lack of a gift” as justification to disobey God’s call to service or to a specific task.
  • We might limit what God wants to do through our life.
  • We might miss out on participating in an amazing work of God.
  • We might fall into pride over the manifestation of the Spirit in our lives.
  • We might unconsciously shift the glory God deserves to ourselves.

No one who loves Jesus wants to be out-of-focus when it comes to spiritual gifts. So, before the Do Not Depart team focuses in on specific gifts throughout the month, let’s take a step back, snap on the wide-angle lens, and view them in the larger context.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, NLT

What is the Source of Spiritual Gifts?

The Holy Spirit is the sole source of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:4). Without the Holy Spirit, there are no spiritual gifts, only the physical talents and natural abilities God gifts to every human.

But, if you are in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, then His Spirit resides within you (Romans 8:9-10). We don’t get a piece of Him. We get the whole kit and caboodle. The entire person of the Holy Spirit lives within believers, working through us to accomplish God’s purposes.

What are Spiritual Gifts?

According to the Bible, spiritual gifts are the way the Holy Spirit chooses to work through an individual to accomplish God’s purposes (1 Cor 12:6). The gifts are the way He reveals His presence in an individual life and uses them to serve the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:5,7).

Therefore, the gifts are the outflow of our relationship with the Holy Spirit. If our relationship is weak, the gifts will be weak. Whatever we’re “doing for God” will simply be in our own strength and power.

In the powerful little book, What’s So Spiritual About Your Gifts?, author Henry and Mel Blackaby elaborate on this truth:

“If we seek the gifts of the Spirit and not the Holy Spirit Himself, we’ll always focus on self. We must learn to understand that there are no gifts apart from an intimate relationship with the Spirit… If you do not walk in the Spirit, you do not have a spiritual gift. Apart from the Spirit, whatever “gifts” we display can only be our natural talents, drawing attention to self.”

What is the Purpose of Spiritual Gifts?

God gives individual believers gifts to be used for the good of the church. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7). Not so we can look good or do something great for God or feel useful.

Patti said it so well in her introductory post:

“God does not give us gifts to puff us up, or to make us feel inferior. His purpose in giving spiritual gifts is for us to use them for His glory, and for the good of others. In selfless service using our God-given gifts, we love actively and show Jesus Christ in the world.”

As we each use the gifts God has given us, the members of the body will get what they need and we’ll grow into spiritual maturity together. As each one does her part, the body will be built up in love and increasingly reveal Jesus to the world. (See Ephesians 4:12-16.)

Who Has the Power?

Too often we limit what God may want to do through us because we’re focusing on the gifts instead of the Giver. Have you ever said “no” to God because He asked you to do something that fell outside the realm of your “gifting.”

Believer, the Source of the gifts resides within us! The power He exerts through us to accomplish God’s purposes is the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead! (See Ephesians 1:19-20.) Nothing God asks of us can ever fall outside the realm of His resurrection power!

Oh sweet believer, let’s focus on the Giver and not the gifts. When we do, we will be operating in His power, for His purposes. And He will get all the glory!

How could our understanding and use of spiritual gifts change when we use the wide-angle lens?

 

Especially in the Storm

Especially in the Storm - Do Not Depart

I heard it for the first time during a funeral for a godly mother of two young children. An 18-wheeler ran right over her suburban in heavy city highway traffic. An entire family forever changed in an instant.

It wasn’t just the words of “Praise You in the Storm” that impacted me. It was knowing that the family had picked the song. In the midst of overwhelming grief and life-altering circumstances they chose to praise God and stand on His truth no matter how things looked – or felt.

Here’s the chorus of the song by Casting Crowns (find the full lyrics here):

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

storm buttonThe truth reflected in “Praise You in the Storm” is very biblical, though it doesn’t come naturally – or easy – for many of us. When circumstances are dire, when the way is difficult, and even the future looks dark, we can praise God. We can stand firm on the truth of Who God is, even when our emotions tell us He doesn’t care or He has forgotten us.

God lovingly highlighted this truth for me a couple of years ago when pain hit our own family. Believer, sometimes, on the darkest days, we must simply choose to believe that God is there and working for our good. When all we see is chaos and all we feel is hopelessness, we can cling to what we know to be true about God.

Along with the prophet Habakkuk we can declare:

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains. Habakkuk 3:17-19, NLT

God is faithful and trustworthy all the time. Not just when everyone is healthy and there’s money in the bank. He is faithful and trustworthy in the midst of the storm. Especially in the storm.

Tweetables:

“God is faithful and trustworthy all the time. Especially in the storm.” http://ow.ly/vyjC7 @DoNotDepart  Click to Tweet

“When all we see is chaos we can cling to what we know to be true about God.” http://ow.ly/vyjC7 @DoNotDepart Click to Tweet

Singing Mountains and Clapping Trees

Isaiah 55:12-13

I would not have wanted Isaiah’s job. For 60 years he went to work every day to warn God’s people of His coming judgment on their unrepentant sin. The job must have had great benefits, because he stuck with it until the end.

Even though Isaiah’s message and contained a lot of “gloom and doom,” life-giving portions of it promised God’s restoration and ultimate salvation. All this month, we’ve focused on chapter 55, one of those hope-filled sections of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Isaiah 55:12-13

Today, we’ll finish the chapter with verses 12 and 13. But let’s get a running start. Here is Isaiah 55:10-13 from the NLT:

10“The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

12 You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! 13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up. These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name; they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”

God’s Word will fulfill God’s purposes. I love that we can trust this promise!

I also love that God intends for His Word to bring His people joy and peace. When we receive and accept His Word in our lives it will fill us with His joy and peace. God’s Word will restore and refresh.

Where grief and sadness once grew, His abundant love will take root and a song will burst forth from our lips. Where sadness once ruled, God’s power will reign and our feet will begin to dance to the Father’s heart beat.

Is your life overgrown with thorns and briers? Immerse yourself in God’s Word today. The mountains will  begin to sing and the trees will clap their hands!

Use Your Words

Use Your Words {DoNotDepart.com}

Over the years, I’ve heard many believers say something like this:

“My life is my witness.”

And while it is true that our lives should testify to Christ and bring glory to God (Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12), this kind of statement is often used as an excuse to not open our mouths and speak words out loud about Jesus. People may indeed look at our lives and think we are great, kind, loving people. But if we don’t tell them Who makes the difference in our lives, it would just be sheer dumb luck for them to connect our good character with Jesus.

The New Testament is packed full of examples of believers “telling” the Good News of Jesus. The Gospel didn’t spread from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to Asia and to Rome because the first century believers led good lives. They “showed,” “went,” and “told!”

Use Your Words

I love Peter’s encouragement to tell in 1 Peter 3:15:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

Are you prepared to tell others? The rest of this post is filled with some practical helps and links to resources to help you be prepared to give the reason for your hope!

Prepare Your “Story”

Your personal testimony about Jesus’ work in your life is really your life “story.” And “story” is a lot less threatening word to many people than “testimony.” Can I share my story with you?

4 components of your Jesus story:

  1. Background – What was your life like before you came to know Christ? You may not have a “dramatic” story and that’s okay!
  2. Transition – What caused you to begin thinking about spiritual things? Even if you were raised in church, there still had to be point where you realized you were a sinner and needed a Savior.
  3. First Step – What was your first step toward God? How did God bring you to salvation? (Be sure to include the primary components about why we need a Savior and how only Jesus is able to save.)
  4. Now – They will be encouraged if you let them know that you are growing in your relationship with Jesus but you have not fully “arrived.” It’s important that people see that salvation is just the beginning and not the “end.” Share what God is doing in your life right now, what are you learning about God right now.

 4 Tips for Helping Your Story Connect:

  1. Use everyday language instead of “churchy” words.
  2. Emphasize an active, dynamic relationship with a person instead of a plan.
  3. Show how your faith is a growing, changing, and fulfilling relationship with a person instead of a one-time decision in the past.
  4. Consider what you can use that will connect with the person you are sharing with. For example, do you both have young children? Maybe you’ve both recently lost a loved one.

Free Prayer Resource: The most important thing we can do to “prepare” is to pray. Pray for your heart, for God to give you not only opportunity to share, but also to break your heart for the lost. Pray for those in your life that don’t yet know Jesus. The “Sharing Jesus” Prayer Guide is a downloadable resource that lists Scriptures to pray for yourself and for those who need to know Jesus. Feel free to print it and share it!

When we take time to pray and prepare, we will be ready when God gives the opportunity. Are you ready? Let’s preach it, sister!

When was the last time you shared Jesus with your words? Do you find that hard?

Tweetables:

“Your testimony about Jesus’ work in your life is your life “story.” “Story” can be less threatening to many.  http://wp.me/p1Su7F-2M8″ – Click here to tweet this.

“4 Tips for Helping Your Faith Story Connect with Others - http://wp.me/p1Su7F-2M8 via @KathyHHoward at @DoNotDepart #ShowGoTell” – Click here to tweet this.