Last week we began a study on one of the most important but neglected areas of many Christian lives: Sanctification. Sanctification is simply separating yourself from the world's ways in order to be closer to God; in order to share God's mindset and passions; in order to hear God more clearly; in order to love and serve others more like God. Although we cannot be Sanctified without the Presence and help of the Spirit, God clearly gives us the command of pursuing Sanctification by choice and with passion because it is our way of showing our desire for Him and His ways. Most Christians lead drab and unsatisfying Spiritual lives because they become contented in their menial walk with Christ, either never knowing there is more to their walk with Him, or not wanting Him desperately enough to pursue more of Him.
There are two major parts to Sanctification: 1) remove all of the things in life which would influence our hearts and minds towards ungodly, unloving and selfish tendencies. Last week we learned that we are all deeply influenced and affected by many of the things we still choose to allow into our lives, simply because we are so much like the world; so attached to the entertainment and the values of this world, that we have been slow or unwilling to let them go. 2) will do no good at all, until you are willing to do whatever is necessary to accomplish the first step—separation—for God's sake.
How many have ever had a computer or iPad which had bugs in the operating system or an app? Often new programs or apps will come out for download to fix these bugs, right? Well, what if you removed the old program from your computer to stop the effects of the bug, but never downloaded a new program? Have you made anything better? Worse off now, right? Or, how many have ever been on a diet? Many diets require that you stop eating certain things that you once ate, right? But, did you just stop eating altogether? Of course not; you would die. You replaced bad nutrition with something better. There are many Christians who try desperately to cut many things from their "spiritual diet", but they never replace those things with something more nourishing and delicious, and they end up longing for something to eat again. So, they get frustrated and go back to their old diet. Listen to the First Psalm of the Bible, written by David, about the differences between Sanctified believers and sinners: Psalm 1:1-4: Happy or "blessed" is the man who does not follow the ways of the world, or involve themselves in the activities of others who sin, or join those who mock and ridicule God and His Ways. Is that not exactly what we discussed last week? Removing yourself from the influences and ways of the world that darken your heart and mock our Jesus with every breath? Now, note what David says to do "instead": delight yourself in the Lord's instructions; meditate or think hard about what He says day and night. Once you have decided to remove the many influences of this world, you must replace them with God's thoughts, ways and principles, or you have done nothing to change your heart and mind towards God in His Righteousness and Love. If you were to build a new house, but measure every board according to other people's judgment rather than a True, unchanging tape measure; use everyone else's ideas and plans, rather than sticking to the planned design, how would it turn out? Then how much more important is it to build your life on a Solid, unchanging, True Design? Replace all of those opinions, fads and ideas of the popular world, with the unchanging, solid truth of God in your life: Psalm 119:1-3;
Psalm 119:5-8; Psalm 119:9-12; Psalm 119:59. We struggle so hard to make time to read God's Word, and when we do read it, we are often unfulfilled or confused? So, we very commonly end up quitting or rushing through it. This is why: because just like the motivation for resisting worldly habits is often done with a legalistic attitude of necessity and guilt, so is our reading of God's Word. Reading a set portion of Scriptures systematically to get through them when we can make the time (which is not even the case for most) accomplishes very little towards knowing God more intimately. Remember, everything must be done with the passionate desire to please Him and know Him, not as a side-chore after the world. We must make God's Word a higher priority than entertainment, work or even family when we have to (It's God's very thoughts).
Here is the secret to making it wonderful rather than tedious: a good reading plan is great and needed, but why not use the awesome technology we have at our fingertips for something other than social media and Google verses or stories in Scripture that relate to exactly what we are going through at this moment in our lives? (Takes about 1.2 sec) And then do what David said—meditate on His Words. The Words that will speak directly to where we are at right now; the Words that will give wisdom, peace, direction and motivation to live life. Make it come alive by reading every passage, asking yourself, “what is the situation in the passage? Who is God talking to? Why did He tell them this? Why did He act in this manner? What does this passage teach me about the intimate thoughts, purposes and feelings of God Almighty? How should this wisdom be applied to my situation and life? What does this say about how He loves me?” If you will read with the desire and objective of finding God's heart and will in every Word, you will see Him and His Word differently. His Word will become exciting, and you will begin to think like Him; know His will without having to ask others, or pray about what you should already know. You will begin to react according to the new input, rather than as the world reacts: Psalm 119:18. You will begin to see others differently, have hope bigger than your problems and circumstances: Psalm 119:25; Psalm 119:28; Psalm 119:50. Do you not see how it is impossible to be Sanctified and set apart for God without a steady diet of His thoughts and feelings? His Word will give you a different perspective to every person and event in your life. Will you get that from your steady stream of mindless internet browsing and Jesus mocking entertainment?
And here is the next thing we must begin to add to our lives in place of all that we remove: time with God. If I spend all my time learning about my wife, but never actually spend time with her, sharing our thoughts, desires, and struggles, how will I ever really know her intimately? How will I know what her plans and priorities in life are right now? So that I can be a part of them? Again, prayer is a struggle because we have turned it into a legalistic act of obedience, and we have turned it into a "self-fest", spending all of our time asking for what we want and need and then fretting and feeling like prayer is useless anyway when we don't see results in our way and time. First of all, please contemplate the fact that Jesus Christ literally had His Flesh torn from His body and was nailed naked to a tree until dead to win the right for you and I to talk and share with Him freely and intimately. Why do we take this privilege so flippantly? Some receive terrible punishment and even risk their lives in order to pray. Don't pray to Him, pray with Him. Don't just make it a time of legalistic petitions. Pray with the first priority of having communion with the One who holds the universe. Pray with the goal of knowing Him more intimately, pouring out your sorrows, fears, doubts, anger and sinful struggles and then accepting His acceptance of you anyway. Pray with the objective of learning what HE wants right now in your life. Of how He sees your heart and mind right now; of how He sees your situation; why He has you where you are; what He has for you to do here and now. Pray with the expectant objective of receiving His knowledge and will about the needs of those around you. His Spiritual knowledge of the needs, fears and struggles of loved ones and acquaintances; how you can be Jesus to someone else; knowing and believing that you can be the intercessor that makes real change in their life forever: Exodus 33:17. We can have new found confidence that God really will move when we pray, if we are set apart for Him, and in tune with His Will: 1 John 3:22. Pray with the desire to simply stop and recognize all of the blessings He has given to you today and worship Him for His kindness, creativity and sacrifice for you. Heartfelt and intimate prayer, directed at knowing Him and His desires will transform your life and others'. Isn't that more exciting than useless internet Vines, video games and TV shows that will be forgotten tomorrow; affecting no one for the better?
And lastly, there is one more thing to add to our lives of Sanctification: listen again to David's Psalm: Psalm 1:3. We can do away with all of our bad habits and learn all of God's Precepts, but if we are not truly in agreement and passionate for what He is passionate about, we will never act on what we are taking in to produce fruit. And if all we do is take in, but never flow out, the change dies in us. There are two major bodies of water in Israel: the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.
One is thriving with life, the other is completely lifeless, though life is all around. There is only one major difference. The Sea of Galilee has an inlet and an outlet, allowing it to remain fresh and clean. The Dead Sea only has an inlet. It takes everything that it receives and holds onto it, motionless, it until it dies in stagnation. Water that is not moving incubates dangerous parasites that grow. I don't believe that even these two bodies of water are present in God's Nation by accident. True fellowship comes with experiencing things together; working together, winning together, making a difference together. You will never learn to trust His Character until you step out with Him. You will never feel the joy of helping someone or changing a life until you act. You will never learn true selflessness until you sacrifice time and effort for others in His Name. Again, this is not a forced legality—not just doing more—it is the developed mindset of seeing and serving that comes from real love for them over self; of wanting people to know how deeply you care by putting them first; of feeling accomplishment by how you've touched and helped people rather than what you've gained or enjoyed; of giving God the right to live and work through you because of all He's done for you; of sharing a moment of intimacy with God as you join in concern and love for another. Serving others is not a chore when it is motivated by a heart close to God, in love rather than necessity. That is acting in Sanctification, not legality. That is being set apart in joy, rather than struggle. That is a way of life, rather than a righteous action: 1 Corinthians 16:13-14.
I don't think there is anyone here who would argue with a single point made today if you truly want to be closer to God. But, like so many other times in our lives, Satan snatches our good intentions and we settle for life as usual, never really bringing ourselves to that point of real change, always comforting ourselves with the thought of, "I really need to do that soon," and "soon" never happens. And You and I remain distant from God, remain unfulfilled and sometimes even lukewarm. Real change comes from real desire. You do what you truly want to do. If you truly see that you are not living a Sanctified, set apart life for Christ, do you really want to or not? If you do, the next question is how do I make such radical changes? About a year ago, Brenda and I moved from Teays Valley to a mountain top in Hurricane. For a long time, I had to consciously choose to take a new way home from any location to which I drove because everything had changed, and I could no longer mindlessly drive by instinct to my home. There were a couple of times I found myself driving the wrong way when I was distracted. I had to make a conscious turn and go another way. I couldn't just follow my instincts no matter how tempting because the changes in my life forced me to do something different. Moving day had come and i had a new address. You and I have committed to serving God. We have committed to living and serving in a different place from the rest of the world. Yet, many [most] have never moved from their current location; never Sanctified themselves—set themselves apart to be with Him—never had a moving day. Many have had good intentions, but you have never set a date, packed up and moved. If you truly believe what you've heard today, and truly know you haven't set yourself apart from the world for God, there is no reason whatsoever to wait another day. We must make a move in passion; we must decide today is moving day and go all out to be closer to Him or just go home.
Fast starting tomorrow with the single desire and objective to know a Him more. Remove all influences that are not righteous—whatever it takes, whatever you let go of. Have time in Prayer with Him, before anything. Make a list of people to learn about in prayer. Make a list of what He tells you about you. Read His Word with desire to know Him, searching His Word for situations of where you are now. Learning His will for your situation, drawing comfort and wisdom. Serve others before self, even in simplest of ways; see what you can do, in love, for others before settling down to play or be entertained.
Joshua 24:14-15: What about your house? Join us starting right now: it's moving day!
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