The Pursuit of Holiness – Summary post

I began listening to The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges in January. It was the free audio book from ChristianAudio. I also own the book so I was reading each chapter after I listened to it. This helps me take notes and meditate on the subject.

I started blogging about my reading on Jan 13. Not entirely pleased that it has taken me over 3 months to finish it. But it has been timely for life over the past 3 months. Future re-reads will be a bit faster, since I don’t try to take notes or blog about each reading session. Below are my blog entries as I read through the book.

God’s holiness covered chapters 2 and 3

What is its motivation covered chapter 4

Little foxes covered chapters 5 and 6

with a little more in My own vineyard

Just do it! covered chapter 7 and 9

continued a bit in Working at it

But it’s so hard covered chapters 8 and 10

What if I were to not want to covered chapters 11, 12, and 13

Habit is stronger than reason covered chapters 14 and 15

Second verse, same… finished with chapters 16 and 17 as of March 21.

High level points from the book:

Why do we struggle so with sin and not able to be holy?
1.    our attitude toward sin is more self-centered that God-centered
we are more concerned with our own “victory” over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve the heart of God
God wants us to walk in obedience, not victory.  Victory is a by-product of obedience
2.    we have misunderstood “living by faith” to mean that no effort at holiness is required on our part
3.    we do not take some sin seriously

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About each action and decision – ask

  1. is it helpful
  2. does it bring me under it’s power
  3. does it hurt others
  4. does it glorify God

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When reading Scripture – as you read ask these 3 questions
1.    What does this passage teach concerning God’s will for a holy life?
2.    How does my life measure up to that Scripture; specifically where and how do I fall short? (Be specific; don’t generalize)
3.    What definite steps of action do I need to take to obey?

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About breaking bad or forming new habits:

first principle: habits are developed and reinforced by frequent repetition
second principle: in breaking sinful habits and acquiring new ones is to never let an exception occur
avoid the “just this once” type of thinking
third principle: diligence in all areas is required to insure success in one area
last: don’t be discouraged by failure

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Second verse, same…

Last two chapters of The Pursuit of Holiness touch on making it stick in every day life. He admits that we are called to be holy while living in a very unholy world. Surrounded by images and values and actions trying to draw us away or beat us down. We must be aware and prepared for these assaults. We must have a plan, have conviction to live by our Christian values. He mentions that one way to do reinforce this is to publicly declare our status as a Christian. In a gracious manner, not to beat people with it. We do know that expectations will be different if it is known that we are (or say we are) Christian. Sure, it may lead some to try even harder to tempt us or to disgust us, but it also validates our response when we refuse the temptation. And most of the people want to see that obedience on our part, even while they are cynical enough to expect us to give in.

He also mentions that our response shouldn’t just be defensive. We are called to be salt and light and our steadfast witness is combating moral and spiritual decay. But he doesn’t mean shoving our faith on others. Interesting reading this chapter after this blog post from earlier today. She has some sharp comments, about the current need to convert as many people as necessary being a terribly impersonal and misguided (something stronger perhaps?) attitude today. And about the attitudes toward people who don’t live as if every single word had to be aimed at converting someone. We are called to live a holy life and hopefully others will be intrigued and encouraged by that. Many others will also be offended by that.

Bridges provides an example of Henry Clay Trumbull, an evangelist, riding on a train beside a young man  drinking quite steadily. Each time he would take a swig, the man would offer some to Trumbull who would politely decline. Notice, Trumbull didn’t frown in judgment or initiate some monologue telling the man how awful it was to be drinking so heavily. Finally the young man started the conversation, saying he supposed Mr. Trumbull thought he was a pretty touch fellow. Trumbull’s response was “I think you’re a most generous-hearted fellow.” That is a personal conversation, and probably a good bit of forbearance as well.

The way to live in this unholy world, as we’ve heard throughout this book, is to stay in the Word. Let the Word cleanse our minds of the pollution that surrounds us, and shape and encourage us to seek God and His glory.

The last chapter is about the joy of living a holy life. We should not be a depressed or sour people. If we are obeying God, we are living the only way that can bring true joy. If we are in rebellion against God, and sinning, then the pleasure will not last and the results will (eventually) catch up with us, here in this life and in eternity. But as we obey the will of God more, we will know more pleasure. That doesn’t mean life gets easier and shinier, but that what we count as joy changes.

I’ll let Bridges have the last word.

But to experience this joy, we must make some choices. We must choose to forsake sin, not only because it is defeating to us, but because is grieves the heart of God. We must choose to count on the fact that we are dead to sin, freed from its reign and dominion, and we can now actually say no to sin. We must choose to accept our responsibility to discipline our lives for obedience.

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Habit is stronger than reason

The blog title is a quote attributed to George Santayana. And I would agree with it. I will do something because I’m used to doing it, even if I don’t “think” I should do it.

Chapter 14 of The Pursuit of Holiness is about our Habits. The downside to habits is that “the more we sin, the more we are inclined to sin.” The upside is that we can defeat old habits and build new ones. Bridges pulls in discipline and structure again, with the encouraging note that we can put off the sinful habits and develop godly habits. We need the frequent reminder that no one can do this in their own strength. We are to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and depend on the Holy Spirit in all of this. We put in the time and effort to stick to reading the Word, meditating on it, applying it to our lives. The Holy Spirit will work the fruit in us.

Bridges lists a few principles about habits. First – they are “developed and reinforced by frequent repetition.” So, building a habit of reading the Word, memorizing Scripture, thinking about what we’ve read when making a decision to act, is dependent on our doing it each day, throughout the day as appropriate. The second principle is a bit tough – “in breaking sinful habits and acquiring new ones” it is necessary “to lever let an exception occur.” In the context of the entire chapter and book, Bridges is not saying that we must be perfect, but that we cannot get into the habit of thinking “just this once” where we avoid admitting that it will be even harder to defeat the habit tomorrow.

Third principle is that “diligence in all areas is required to insure success in one area.” We can’t ignore or indulge one sin thinking we will be successful in any other area. The more we sin (of any type) the more inclined we are to sin (of any type). And last, he reminds us to not be discouraged by failure. We are not a failure unless we give up. We are to stay in the fight.

Chapter 15 is about Holiness and Faith. Holiness is not just about separating us from the World. As we’ve seen through the chapters, it is about obedience to God. Even when that obedience is costly and even painful. Bridges talks about the difference between Cain and Abel and how Abel offered his sacrifice by faith. God told them how he wanted sacrifices done and Abel took God at His word and offered a sacrifice as required, even if he didn’t understand why it needed to be a lamb. Cain didn’t see any real reason it had to be a lamb so he offered his grain and his sacrifice was not accepted. We are called to take God at His word and obey Him, even when we think it doesn’t really make sense or even make a big difference.

We talked about this last Wednesday night talking about Samson in the book of Judges. Some of the comments (including one of my own) lead to Corrie ten Boom and The Hiding Place. Corrie told about times she fudged the truth or lied to protect someone – her motivations were good and it usually worked out well. But her stories about her sister were electrifying. Her sister never lied, she always told the truth even to the bad guys. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to protect and help people, it was that she trusted God to be faithful and honor her obedience to tell the truth. And God did in amazing ways. So, sometimes we lie or at least shade the truth from good motives. And often God accepts that and even blesses the person (think the midwives in Exodus) But the examples of people who obeyed wholeheartedly and told the truth while still having the motivation to protect and help others but the ultimate motivation to glorify God, are examples that should inspire us and convict us. They do convict me of my small weak faith.

Bridges, on page 143, says:

The path of obedience in the pursuit of holiness is often contrary to human reason. If we do not have conviction in the necessity of obeying the revealed will of God as well as confidence in the promises of God, we will never persevere in this difficult pursuit. We must have conviction that it is God’s will  that we seek holiness – regardless of how arduous and painful that seeking may be. And we must be confident that the pursuit of holiness results in God’s approval and blessing, even when circumstances make it appear otherwise.

In a world with very different values, it can be a challenge to live this way. But it is what we are called to do.

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What if I were to not want to?

Still reading along in The Pursuit of Holiness. Reaching the end soon actually. The  last post was on chapter 10  and the place of personal discipline. Chapter 11 gets a bit personal – the title of the chapter is Holiness in Body. He starts out by accusing us of indulging and pampering our bodies, quoting from Romans 12:1 (which is a recent Fighter Verse) “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Bridges points out that we do not do this – we give in to our desires and let them rule over us instead of being master of them.

One of his points in this chapter is that if we do not and cannot control our physical desires (eating, getting exercise, watching tv, etc) then we cannot expect to control other desires. We should flee temptation, take steps to avoid things that entice us to sin, and avoid thinking of ways to indulge our sins. We should even study our sinful desires to see how they rise up against us and be prepared.

After this very convicting chapter about how every part of our life is called to be involved in the work to be holy, he turns to Holiness in Spirit in chapter 11. Not only should our outward conduct be regulated, but our inner life as well. He points to the commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. It is not enough that we do not kill, we must also not hate. (Studying the Westminster Shorter Catechism a few years ago I found it interesting how “do not murder” applies to even being angry at someone or thinking bad thoughts about someone. Convicting!!)

Bridges touches on Phil 4:8 and points out that “we cannot focus on controlling the body while ignoring our thought life”. Then he points to Ephesians 5:3-4 and that “we need to be reminded to be careful what we expose ourselves to and what we allow ourselves to think.”

This leads right in to chapter 13 on Holiness and Our Wills. Before the fall, our mind and emotions and will worked in harmony with each other and sought the glory of God. After the fall our “reason was darkened, our desires were entangled, and our wills perverted.” With rebirth this is undone but not all at once and we still have conflicting desires and don’t always do what we know we should.

We should use our minds to reach a decision, our will to implement it, and then our emotions to affirm it. But we often work in reverse and let our emotions control our actions with no good reasoning involved. We must be on guard about what “enters our minds and influences our emotions.” This takes us back to the Word of God. “The protective influence…comes as a result of diligent, prayerful, and purposeful intake of Scripture.”  So, we are back to discipline and having a structured plan.

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I am always surprised at the failure of the mind and will to do what I want (Paul covered this in Romans). I have been doing the Desiring God Fighter Verses and also refreshing the Westminster Shorter Catechism. I find that at night after the lights are out it is helpful to rehearse my verses. And often in the morning as I am getting up and getting ready. The point is there are no other distractions during this time so I can focus. But I can construct a distraction out of thin air. One of the verses is Psalm 62:5-8 and this is often how it goes. “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, [silence] hey, I fell asleep. What am I going to wear today? I should do my memory verses. Oh wait, I started those. where was I. Oh right. For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation… I have a meeting tonight, I need to remember to put that notebook out so I am ready. How did the toothpaste get moved over here? Oh yeah, where was I? He only is my rock and my salvation, I shall not be shaken….. (you get the idea).

So, I build my structure – I make my plans. I fall away frequently, but there is always a fresh start and at least there is a plan to come back to. What if I were to want to want to? That is what I am aiming for. For my will to want to do His will.

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But it’s so hard!

In reviewing my posts so far (it has been a little while since I found time to blog) I realized I skipped talking about chapter 8 of The Pursuit of Holiness. I understand why, given the topic I was trying to cover in chapter 9. But I did find chapter 8 to contain a very good point in those 4 pages.

The title of chapter 8 is Obedience – Not Victory.

The point is that if we use language like “victory over sin”, then we tend to use language like “defeated by sin”. That is passive voice victim whining right there. (my words, not the author’s)

Romans 8:13 says “you put to death the misdeeds of the body” making it clear there is work for us to do too. With the help of the Holy Spirit, as chapter 7 made clear. But very specifically in our will as chapter 8 makes clear. Chapter 9 and 10 points out ways we do it.

The wording we should use is obedience and disobedience. This put the responsibility squarely on our shoulders. We are defeated because we have chosen to disobey.

Chapter 9, covered in the previous post about this book, talked about the need for conviction and commitment.

Chapter 10 is all about discipline. If we are going to become obedient, it requires planning and effort. We don’t stop sinning overnight. There aren’t 3 easy steps to righteousness. There’s no pill or miracle machine that we can use. We have to just do it, and do it over and over until we start to get it right.

Discipline is not easy for me. Hard work and training even when something is hard is not my cup of tea. But the Bible is clear that we need to exercise discipline, we need to train, we need to put in the time and effort and perseverance necessary to change our patterns of living. In 1 Cor 9:25 says that like the athletes we must exercise self-control. Then 1 Tim 4:7 says we must train for godliness.

Bridges points out that all discipline begins with the Word of God, see 2Tim 3:16. That means a disciplined plan for intake of the Scriptures and for applying them to our lives. That means we need a planned time for being in the Scriptures every day. And we need a planned method of intake – hearing, reading, studying, memorizing are all different and are all necessary (not every single day maybe, but regularly).

And we must meditate on it – think about it and its application to life. This can be done during blocks of minutes throughout the day – a commute (not my short one down the hall) or while waiting for service somewhere. Remember that the objective of meditation is application – obedience to what the Word says. This requires discipline to change the patterns in our life.

He suggests that as you read ask these 3 questions

  1. What does this passage teach concerning God’s will for a holy life?
  2. How does my life measure up to that Scripture; specifically where and how do I fall short? (Be specific; don’t generalize)
  3. What definite steps of action do I need to take to obey?

And he ends with the fact that a necessary ingredient of discipline is perseverance. We will always fail at the start. But we cannot stop, we have to get up and keep going. Know that it will take time, have a plan for getting back in the game. It’s like changing eating habits, just because you blow one meal isn’t reason to blow the rest of the day. And just because you blow one day doesn’t mean you might as well give up on the whole week, or month, or year. You start again from right now. Sinning is the same way. If you sin, acknowledge that you did, repent, and get back to your plan for working toward obedience in this area.

He also points out that the more we read and see God’s law, the more we will see just how far we fall short. Romans 7:15  describes our struggle. This isn’t meant to discourage us or make us give up. It should reassure us that what we are going through is normal and part of the ongoing daily battle. Keep working at it.

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My last post about this book was Feb 11. In that post I confessed my attitude at work and my intention to to fix that. Since the Holy Spirit is convicting me of this in just about everything I read lately, there is good reason to expect ready assistance from Him any time I cry out. And I do mean everything I am reading. This blog post by Octamom was just another place where the Holy Spirit was speaking directly to me.

So, I know I need to work on it, I’m actually keeping up with my Bible reading and memorization plans, and I even shared some plans with a friend for “catching” myself each time I have a fit. All of that means I have surely seen great success since then, right? Welllll, not exactly. Things have been busy and work is crazy, and really, if people would just read the documents I’ve written I wouldn’t have to repeat all of this to them over and over.

Now you know why I write these blog posts – to keep myself honest. I’m starting (again) and I’ll start (again) as many times as necessary. I will cry out to the Holy Spirit, I will pray for myself and the others that I’m frustrated with, I will stay in the Word. And there is no telling how long it will all take before I see victory. And even then I promise you there will be something more to work on.

It’s a lot of work, it’s hard, and it is worth it!

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Did someone mention running?

Well, it is that time of year. The weather and the lack of sunshine conspire to prevent my running. I know people run in the dark and the cold in lots of layers. But that just isn’t happening for me. I don’t like the cold and I don’t like the cold dark, and I’ve just been busy.

Last winter I ran in the middle of the day when I could. I had days where I didn’t have any meetings for an hour or so and I could slip out for a run. About 1 or 2 pm when it was as warm as it could possibly get and the sun was shining directly down was best.

I see that in Nov of 2009 I ran 8 times for a total of about 18.5 miles and in Dec of 2009 I ran 4 times for a total of 9.5 miles that month. Then I ran once in January and twice in March. Things started picking up again in April!

This year has pretty much repeated that. It started getting cold in November plus life got turned upside down and I spent most of that month in Raleigh. December and January were just not conducive to running. And work has been crazy – I do not have an hour without meetings any day of the week these days.

Here is what my running has looked like, including the 3.2 miles I ran (very slowly) today.

The main difference is that last winter we were doing P90X almost every single day so even while I wasn’t running I was working hard. This year, not so much. I have made it to yoga class 6 times and that is about the extent of my workouts. It isn’t like I’ve been sitting around on my bum, though. I have been out with friends, at meetings, doing deacon things, ringing bells and singing with the choir, walking around wineries, etc.

But today was so nice and while I’m tired and sore just from a short run, I am really eager for Spring to really arrive and my early morning runs to start up again!

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Bible reading plans

Well, it seems my Valentines Day post will be about The Word – something I do love.

but his delight is in the law of the Lord
and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2

I am collecting here some links and information on various Bible reading plans. I think all of them have a lot of merit and fit for different people or at least different times of life.

Ligonier has a plan in their monthly magazine Tabletalk. Plus you get cool daily devotionals and weekend articles to read.

Discipleship Journal has three reading plans depending on the amount of time you have to spend.

See this great blog entry by Tim Challies about the plan I am currently using that actually touches 10 different chapters a day in 10 very different parts of the Bible. I am enjoying this because I never feel like I’m falling behind, but I am staying in all parts of the Word. And I love seeing some cross-over. Once chapter early in Job was echoed very well in the Psalm I read that day. Then as I read Hebrews I was also reading about the same sacrifices in the OT. You can do just 5 chapters a day and just take 2 days to do all 10 chapters. Some chapters take more time than others and I don’t consider this my deep study for the day. This is the one that keeps me in the Word and remembering all the truth and promises through out.

This article talks about how hard it can be just to open your Bible and has a great suggestion for young moms who are just so busy at this time of life. There is also a link to a Bible reading plan that lets you do whatever you can do on whatever day you find time, but at least gives you some guidance so you aren’t just lost trying to figure out what to read.

Then there is a convicting post at Vitamin Z that addresses whether we need to read the entire Bible in a single year anyway. Perhaps there is a need instead for meditating more deeply on just a few verses. This post includes a link to a Daily Bible Meditation Guide (not a “reading plan”) with scriptures chosen for meditation. There is no Leviticus or Deuteronomy or Chronicles in here. I think there is still a need to revisit those parts of Scripture. I am actually finding 1 Samuel a very good read this time – partly due to the notes from when Pastor David preached through it last year. But the passages here will do you a lot of good and are worthy of deeper study than a plan to read the entire Bible in a year would give you.

Keep it secret, keep it safe

There is also a need to memorize Scripture. Jerry Bridges mentions it The Pursuit of Holiness. We need to be in the Word, and we need to have the Word in our hearts and minds so the Holy Spirit can bring it to mind when we need to hear it, to be convicted or reassured or reminded. NavPress (of Discipleship Journal and mentioned by Jerry Bridges) has a Topical Memory System that has been used for ages.

Another good program is the Fighter Verse program that Desiring God promotes. I am not fond of card systems for various reasons, mainly because I just don’t keep the cards handy. It is available right from the Fighter Verses website for free. And the iPhone app (now that I have an iPhone) is very handy (and reasonably priced). There are 3 verse collections: Legacy (the original collection), the new primary collection, and the Extended Collection that promotes memorizing larger pieces of scripture. Each is a 5 year program and the iPhone app is really well done. You have the option of KJV, NIV, and ESV. My current Bible is an ESV and I like memorizing in that format. But I recently read an interview with Joni Erickson Tada where she stated that she uses the KJV for memorization because the rhythm of the language made it easier. I find that makes sense. I can recite the 23rd Psalm and the Apostles Creed in the more formal language much easier and faster than trying to remember the more modern versions. Not sure if that is due to the years of repitition when I was younger or that it really is easier to recall.

Lots of ways to do it, but the point is to do it. Be in the Word. Read it regularly, study it and meditate on it. And memorize it. Funny (sad really) how easily it is pushed aside and crowded out by other things.

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What I learned at yoga class

My sister (in-law for those keeping score) has a yoga studio and I love to go take a class when I can. (See my thoughts on yoga here.) I haven’t made it in the past few weeks due to a busy schedule, but today freed up so I headed down for her 9:30 class. The floor is cork, the lighting is just right, the atmosphere is good for a challenging and refreshing yoga practice.

One reason I headed down to Charlotte on what could be a day off is because my left hip started hurting (again) earlier this week. Nursing it hasn’t worked, so it was time to do something different/better. Yoga is strenuous in ways and comforting in ways, and usually a good balance for a body part that is sore.

I had a few thoughts while sweating and breathing and stretching.

Being content – in class and out of class

Early in the class Christine stated that our breathing and emotional state should be consistent throughout the practice and life. (not her exact words, it was a few hours ago.) It occurred to me that this sounds like the call to be content in all circumstances.

No, I do it myself!

Toward the end of class, as I tried to get into pigeon pose, I realized I often start a pose by tensing my muscles and struggling to get into the right position, knee over ankle, arms up or out or down, hips even or open, whatever it is. The struggle then is to stop struggling 🙂  I need to learn to relax into the pose. As I was doing this I meditated on the fact that I do the same when I try to live in my own strength. I struggle to do the right thing, have the right attitude, feel the right emotions. But I do better when I relax into the strength of the Holy Spirit. Again – not that I’m just taking it easy and kicking back. But I turn to the Holy Spirit for the help, guidance, and strength that I need. Then I trust that He is there, giving me the words or the patience or the wisdom.

And sometimes it’s just time for a good nap.

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Working at it

I didn’t want this to get lost in the long post I just published, so here’s a shorter post to point to another helpful resource I ran across this month.

Paul Tripp wrote a blog post on Desiring God about Spiritual Muscle development while waiting for God. Here are some of my thoughts but it is really best if you go read the blog yourself. It’s good stuff!

He starts with a great discussion of why we should understand the purposes in waiting. It is much about what we are becoming while we wait, not just the end result. This fell in with what I am reading in The Pursuit of Holiness, because that is what he is saying. We can become more holy, we can build the habit of obedience if we wait properly.

Then Tripp explores some bad habits we should recognize and resist. The section on doubting God, wondering if God is really good, if He really knows what is going on and is in control, grabbed my attention. I have marveled (and prayed in praise and requesting more faith for her) at the way my sister-in-law has trusted God through this separation. Some things that happen to us are just horrible circumstances and it is difficult to be content in them. But allowing myself to doubt God is a really bad choice.

The next habit Tripp mentions is anger – and he points out that while we think we are angry at the people or the unfair circumstances that we are experiencing, really we are angry with the God who is in control of these people and  circumstances. Wow – was that convicting as I considered my recent fits of temper. Am I really willing to be angry with God?

The bad habit of discouragement – when the voices start talking. My Bible reading to me to 1 Samuel 27 today – notes from Pastor David’s sermons talk about how King David let himself become discouraged and afraid and he made bad choices as a result of that. No need to borrow trouble from tomorrow by imagining what could go wrong or what the worst result could be.

Then Tripp talks about envy. Who knew it was really about feeling forgotten and forsaken. Do I realize that when I envy someone else I’m really saying I don’t think God has my best interests at heart? Again, do I trust God enough to be content with the circumstances He has me in?

Ooh, and he ends with the habit of inactivity. Should I just give up and quit trying to obey God since He isn’t answering me as quickly as I wanted? But as Peter said – “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Paul Tripp ends his blog entry with exhortations to pursue holiness and trust God, with a list of the practical tools given us to do that – including study of the Word and meditation on God’s truth and goodness.

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Just do it!

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.

Convict 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!

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