Quiet Time Reflection: Walking as We Ought & Pleasing God
February 14, 2017
The believer's life is not just 'getting saved' and then living as we want to live. In the salvation prayer, we pray to make Jesus Lord which isn't just a verbal confession but translates to us surrendering our entire existence and life to his authority. Every decision, thought, behavior, desire, and ambition suddenly comes under his authority, surrendered to Him.
Sometimes I think we put too much emphasis on the wrong parts of scripture, whereas a balance is needed. We overlook how we "ought" to live for the sake of heralding the comfortable, vastly appealing parts. We are maybe scared we will make living for Jesus sound too much like legalism so in fear we ignore the harder parts and cling to the love and grace message which is much easier understood and applied. Yes we are forgiven for all of our sins, but as Paul talked about, this is not a license to sin and abuse God's grace. Instead, this is a reason to pursue holiness and righteousness.
A believer who is pursuing Jesus will undergo a process of sanctification, or a process of becoming more like Jesus. More holy. More righteous. We gain the foundation sanctification we need for eternal life and forgiveness of sins when we meet Jesus, but we further are sanctified after that moment by the way we live our lives. We aren't changing our behavior to gain salvation; we are changing our behavior as a result of salvation. Both active and passive forces are involved. Our will and the Holy Spirit's ways.
In my quiet time today I was reading Paul's letter to the Thessalonians. In it he offers to them something I think we all wonder: "how (we) ought to walk" and "how to please God" (4:1). It is important to understand that we can become saved and then walk in a way that is not pleasing to God nor his will; however, we also can walk in a way that does please God and is his will. One way or the other will not result in losing our salvation, but one way does glorify God.
Paul says that their sanctification is the will of God (4:3). There is a way we ought to walk and there is a way to please God and submitting to that way is God's will for our lives. Submitting to that results in sanctification. In other words, becoming more like Christ - righteous and holy - is God's will for us.
Paul gives specific examples of what God's will and thus our sanctification may entail: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you (4:3-6)." He says, "For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you (4:7-8)."
God has called us for purity and holiness while man on the other hand calls us to live impure, unholy lives. You may be like me and have felt shame and isolation for trying to pursue a holy life. I believe church culture now is so afraid of pushing people away who aren't walking in freedom that it doesn't celebrate near enough the people who do. Christians are so sensitive to thinking our pursuit of holiness may make someone else feel inferior or like a failure that we are afraid to boldly speak of the Lord's provision and protection in our lives as we have pursued holiness. We are made to feel as if we need to 'make up a sin' or exaggerate a sin to be relevant and connect with people so as to make ourselves seem more relatable. Of course we need to be constantly examining our own hearts, minds, and lives for lurking sin, ready to be vulnerable in sharing the struggle and ready to confess, repent, and be changed. THAT is part of pursuing righteousness. But Christians also need to be encouraged not to hide behind their pursuit, afraid of mischaracterizations and false labels. We have made Pharisees and legalism and 'churchy' people so much the enemy that we hide behind any possibility of being misunderstood in our pursuit of righteousness. We have to remember Satan is the enemy and Pharisees, legalists, and the churched need grace and love just as much as the rest.
We need people who are speaking of the incredible benefit of faithfully pursuing God and holiness for long seasons of their lives so that people who are just beginning that journey can be encouraged in their pursuit. I have found in my life that Satan not only uses shame to chain us to our sin but he uses shame to shut our pursuit of God and a holy life up in a box so that it cannot further glorify him. Don't relinquish the opportunity to speak about how pursuing holiness through pursuing the Lord has resulted in a fuller life. Let's be champions of God's amazing grace AND confidently walk in and proclaim the vast benefits of pursuing him - living a life that honors God, glorifies God, and points others to him. As Paul reminded us, God's will for us is sanctification - which only results from faithfully pursuing righteousness and becoming more like Jesus.