This week's devotional is from Pastor Jeff
ENCOUNTER: Read 1Thess. 4:1-8 and 1Peter 1:13-17
“... live in order to please God... For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” 1Thess. 4:1,7
Let’s be honest. We are a bit jaded about the possibility of being “holy.” I mean, our over-sexualized culture is so all up in our chili, as Pastor Ben would say, that we feel a bit splattered and stained by its over-spray even on our best days. At our worst, we feel mired in it and find ourselves thinking and/or behaving in ways that we know aren’t even close to God’s best for us. After reading scripture like the passages above, and after the struggle of living in the ups and downs of seeking sexual purity, we might be tempted to just figure that we are failures and give up hope that any real progress toward holiness is possible for us.
Has that happened to you? Even, maybe, a little bit? Have you sort of settled in your current state of sexual purity/impurity and sexual brokenness, without a much hope of change, must less a plan to increasingly move toward Christ. I’m encouraging you to think about his because, in my experience, “giving up” isn’t often a dramatic intentional choice but instead it’s more like a creeping fatalism in the form of generalized malaise and spiritual shame that casts a subtle but very real pall over literally everything in our lives. Our relationships get shallower, our spiritual practices get less dynamic, our joy becomes elusive, God’s presence feels so far away that it becomes more of an abstraction than a reality.
Friends, this happens to, literally, EVERYBODY. You are not alone in this. That is why the scriptures are so clear in their teaching about confession, grace, and restoration of relationship with God. Our gracious God in heaven kept reminding his prophets and apostles to keep reminding his people that giving up and settling into our relative lack of holiness is not necessary. The passages above, and others, remind us of these things that are true and good news: That a) pleasing God is his will and our calling, and b) that we must live in the healthy fear that the stakes are high, and c) that we can depend on the Holy Spirit to grant us the grace and power we need to have victory, and experience transformation. And don’t miss this one: d) We can even keep shame at bay in the midst of defeat because of the unrelenting mercy of our Father who loves us.
Don’t give up hope, dear servants. “ No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Cor. 10:13.
BE A BLESSING:
As part of each weekly devotional we include some thoughts about how living for others, and being a blessing to them is an integral component to our moving toward Christ. We are called to a ministry of loving the world as God’s hands and feet. This is Gods’ strategy of tangibly loving the world: He uses us! (AND because we live it out toward others, the truth penetrates deeper into our souls and aids our transformation. What a powerful mystery!)
Here is a crazy, and rather specific, idea that is haunting me this week regarding sexual purity. What if we all took one step toward boycotting something in our culture that adds to how over-sexualized and sexually inappropriate our environment has become. We can love the world and those immediately around us by not supporting some media, some product, some side conversation at the office, some TV show that comes into our house, etc. I’m not naïve enough to think that this will stop the tidal wave of sexual temptation that comes our way, but God will no doubt, in some way, honor even one action that either protects the people we love, or stands against the constant onslaught that is contributing to all of our desensitization and spiritual malaise.
Living in an honest community of sincere, grace-filled, grace-comprehending believers WILL have a tremendous impact on your pursuit of sexual purity. It just will. For many reasons, and in many ways. Is it time for you to meaningfully invest your life into some others who are moving toward Christ alongside you? Come to MCCU tonight and next Wednesday as a start, and then find a group to grow with after that.
One last passage for your encouragement... Remember, church, that no matter how well your battle toward holiness has gone or how devastating is has been, it is never too late to turn to him in repentance for mercy and grace. These are offered day after day after day to those who seek it and surrender their lives to his lordship.
Lamentations 3:19-27 (The Message translation)
19-21 I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
22-24 God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.
25-27 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
to stick it out through the hard times.