Still reading The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.
Am I all alone?
Chapter 6 was about indwelling sin and ongoing battle for holiness. Chapter 7 provides the encouragement that there is help in that battle. Bridges starts by pointing out that God has seen fit to allow this daily battle against sin. Now I am to begin to form the habit of realizing I am dead to sin and alive to God, united with Christ through the Holy Spirit. I do not live a holy life in my own power. I must, in faith, look to the Spirit for the power and ability I need.
I feed my desire to live a holy life. I read the Bible and pray and ask the Holy Spirit to point out where I am sinning. Or I just go through the day and see a temptation to sin. Then I should resist the temptation, asking the Holy Spirit for help and strength and wisdom to do just that. Chapter 8 explains that we should seek to live a life of obedience. Obedience is a better word than victory, because disobedience is a better description than passive word like defeat. If I sin and say I am defeated by the sin then I have no hope. How can I fight against that? And I know the right answer is not to say that God didn’t do enough. If I admit I disobeyed when I sinned (Psalm 51 – against You and You alone have I sinned) then I know where to start to resist that temptation next time. I know how to approach each moment of the day – to obey.
One serving of contentment, coming right up!
One part of this brought out in chapter 7 is that “Holiness is not a series of do’s and don’ts, but conformity to the character of God and obedience to the will of God. Accepting with contentment whatever circumstance God allows for me is very much a part of a holy walk.” p72
We are a nation of doers, we fix things, we change things. We don’t just let things happen to us. If things do happen to us, we look for someone to blame. But this says I am to be content with whatever circumstances are allowed for me.
Then in chapter 9 he talks about the effort we are required to make (not in our strength, but as a conscious effort of the will and relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit) to put sin to death. To do this we must have conviction – to recognize sin and we convinced it is wrong. Then we must have commitment to actually follow through on the actions that put sin to death. He provides 4 questions to help decide if doing something is right or wrong.
Based on 1 Cor 6:12 – is it helpful to me? Is doing this making me a better person or improving something about me (now or later). Hm… sometimes it is nice to just do something fun, so I don’t think this should make me a boring person. But there are so many time wasters in the world today – books that don’t need to be read, Facebook and Twitter statuses that don’t need to be known, tv shows that don’t need to be watched, etc…
Also from 1 Cor 6:12 – does it bring me under it’s power? Is it something I have to have or have to do? For some people this is a specific tv show or having a drink after dinner or reading a gossip magazine. Years and years ago I was watching a soap opera and realized I was entirely too angry at one of the characters. It was just a tv show after all. I stopped watching all soaps and have never looked back. More recently, for months I chided Anthony for all the time he spent on the game Angry Birds. Then he got my mother hooked on it and I finally decided to check it out to see what she was enjoying so. It’s entertaining and I certainly spent plenty of time on it during Dec and Jan. But I also realized I got too frustrated with it and was wasting time on it better spent doing other things. I deleted it this week.
From 1 Cor 8:13 – does it hurt others? The example in the book is of a woman who had been a competitive tennis player and stopped when it started taking over her life (see the previous question). If someone else had tried to convince her that tennis isn’t evil and there was no reason for her to stop, that would have been detrimental to her at a time when her obsession with tennis was indeed a sin and drawing her away from God.
From 1 Cor 10:31 – does it glorify God? This should be my motivation.
Bridges then discusses principles from Romans 14 to addresses areas where Christians differ in their convictions about God’s will. There are three principles to provide guidance. 1. We should not judge people with convictions different from our own. 2. Our own convictions must be “to the Lord”, based on a sense of obedience. 3. We must be true to our own convictions.
Just try not to sin quite so much
These questions should help us reach the conviction about whether something is obedience or disobedience – right or a sin. Then we need the commitment. He refers to the 1 John where he says he is writing the letter so his readers may not sin. As Bridges says – I have lower standards than John. I am usually aiming to not sin as much. Am I ready to step up and accept the challenge to pursue true holiness, not just a little bit more holiness?
Lately I have been really frustrated with people and conditions at work. The new year just seems even crazier than normal, with way too many meetings and too many users who can’t read documentation, and I am pitching little private fits in my office during the day. I’m pretty sure that is not a sign that I am content with my circumstances. It would be easy to just blow steam this way. I am professional in my phone conversations, instant message exchanges, and emails with the users. No one knows what I’m doing. But it is really not helpful to my own emotional or physical state to get so frustrated. And I am not honoring God with the attitude. Between my (mostly) regular Bible reading and going through The Pursuit of Holiness, I am being convicted about all of this. And I am working hard to change it. Earlier this week as I was letting some fairly small question from a user irritate me I suddenly stopped and confessed that I was sinning by getting upset and resenting the user and the job and whatever else I was lumping in with my little tantrum. Praying for forgiveness and strength to be content and peace to replace my anger was quite helpful. Just calling it out as sin robs the thing of much of its power.
Each time I sin “just one more time” makes it that much harder to stop the next time. But each step of obedience in resisting sin and seeing some fruit of that effort as the Holy Spirit gives me strength and ability makes it that much more of a habit to live a holy life!
God is good!