Without Holiness

Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 11:00 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Broken and Contrite.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Hebrews 12:4-17 (NASB).

Divine Discipline (vv. 4-11)

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Following the exhortation, in vv. 1-2, to lay aside all hindrances to our walks of faith and the sin which so easily entangles us, so that we can run with perseverance the race God has set before us, comes words of caution certainly intended for the Hebrew Christians, but with which we may also identify, and can surely learn from. Those of us who are still alive have not yet resisted Satan and sin to the point of dying for our faith and testimonies for Jesus Christ, and for his gospel of salvation. Many believers in Christ today, nonetheless, are being put to death for the sake of the name of Jesus and his gospel, and many followers of Christ today are facing the reality of the threat of that on a day-to-day basis. Yet, others of us have not yet had to face that possibility, but it is coming, most assuredly.

Since, for some of us, our faith has not yet been put to that severe a test, and we have known little of that kind of severe persecution, there is the danger that we may become too casual about our walks of faith and too relaxed concerning the determination we should have to resist Satan and to flee temptation, and to throw off all hindrances and all sin which might easily entangle us. The Lord does discipline those he loves, for our good, to help us to mature in our walks of faith, and to strengthen us in our resolve to continue in him in obedience to his commands. Yet, if our faith is not strongly tested, we also may not take the Lord’s discipline seriously, and thus we may be unaffected by it in the way of transformation in our hearts and minds, in the way God intended.

There is also the danger that we might not recognize that the trials we are going through are God’s discipline on our lives so that we will learn to rely upon him and not on ourselves, and thus we may be at risk of losing heart and of giving up in defeat, because life got harder than what we imagined, or else it got more difficult than what we were prepared for. I’ve been there before, so I know. And, it was because I got my focus off of Jesus and who he is and what he has promised, and I focused my attention on the waves crashing all around me. So, when we go through hard times, we should look at it as God is allowing this or he is causing this for our good, and we should submit to his will for our lives, and ask him what he wants us to learn from it all, and how it is that he wants to mature us through it.

So, what is the ultimate purpose of such divine discipline in our lives? It is that it would produce a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

A harvest is what we reap from what we sow. It is the return for our labor. It is the fruit (produce, results) that is evident in our lives as a result of us responding to God’s discipline in the manner in which he intended. Righteousness “refers to what is deemed right by the Lord (after His examination), i.e. what is approved in His eyes” (biblehub.com). We learn about this righteousness by reading the Word of God, in particular the words of Jesus and those of his NT apostles, and through the witness of the Holy Spirit within us, who was given to us by God to teach us all things and to remind us of all Jesus taught.

In other words, God’s discipline in our lives should produce within us obedience to his instructions for our lives in holy living and in submission to his will and purposes for our lives. As well, the peace that such discipline should produce is not a worldly peace, but peace with God, which comes from being surrendered to him and from living the life he has planned for us in the power and working of the Spirit of God within us.

Straight Paths (vv. 12-13)

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

This exhortation here, to strengthen weak hands and feeble knees, has to do with us having our walks of faith in the Spirit of God strengthened (reinforced) as a result of submission and obedience to God/Jesus Christ when disciplined by him for our good. The picture we get here from this imagery has to do with what it talked about in vv. 4-6 where it cautioned us against taking the Lord’s discipline lightly or responding in fear and defeat when we are reproved by him. Instead of being too casual about our relationship with our Lord, or easily frightened to the point of defeat by the slightest difficulty in our lives, we should allow his divine discipline in our lives to strengthen us in our walks of faith, and to make us all the more determined to stand strong in our faith, and to resist Satan’s evil attacks against us, and to flee temptation to sin, because one day soon the test is going to get much harder.

Not only must we resist Satan, and flee temptation, and stand strong against Satan’s evil attacks against us so that we don’t give in or give up, but we must be proactive in making straight paths for our feet. In other words, we can’t live the Christian life just by being reactive to difficulties or temptations, but we must be conscientiously active in pursuing righteousness and holiness, by spending time daily at Jesus’ feet, listening to him, learning from him, fellowshipping with him, worshiping him, and by doing what he says. If we are lazy about pursuing righteousness, then we leave ourselves wide open to defeat. We can’t wait until the trials come and hope we will have the strength to endure. We need to be daily putting on the armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, we will be able to stand. For, we are in a spiritual battle, and Satan is fighting to get us back. We need to get serious about God and about walking in the Spirit and about casting aside all that hinders.

The Sanctification (vv. 14-17)

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

It instructs us here to pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification (or holiness) without which no one will see the Lord.

Many people are talking these days about world peace, meaning that the people of the world and the people of all faiths should come together as one and unite together for one common purpose and objective. This is not what is intended here, for we could not live holy lives unto God and yet be united in partnership (agreement) with the world of sin. The two don’t mix, for they are opposites. We also can’t live holy lives if we are compromising our faith and convictions in order to live in peace (harmony) with all human beings. To be holy means to be set apart from (unlike) the world, because we are becoming like Christ. Without this kind of holiness we will not see the Lord. If we continue to conduct our lives according to the flesh and our sinful desires, we will die. But if by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (Ro. 8:1-14; cf. Ro. 6-8; Eph. 4:17-24; Lu. 9:23-25).

So, what does it mean then to pursue peace with all men (and women)? I believe it means we should not be at war with people, i.e. we should not be antagonistic or hate-filled or mean-spirited or vengeful towards others, but rather we should work toward reconciliation, where possible, and harmony, as much as is possible to do without compromising truth, our convictions, the scriptures, and our faith in Jesus Christ. This does not mean we don’t share the gospel because it might offend people, or that we don’t confront sin out of fear that people might not like us, or that we don’t expose evil or call people to repentance. What it does mean is that we should love people with the love of Jesus Christ and we should care about their legitimate needs, and we should be ministers of God’s grace and mercy. Yet, we should never water down the gospel or withhold what is good from people, i.e. what is in their best interest, out of fear of rejection or out of a desire to have everyone like us.

There is a common teaching today within the institutional church which teaches that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, should “stay in our own lane,” meaning we should not confront people with sin or talk with them about needing to repent, but we should just be “nice” to everyone so that they feel good and are not made to feel uncomfortable. They may see this as pursuing peace with all people. Yet, the scriptures here describe this peace in a different way. It instructs us, the body of Christ, to see to it that no one comes up short of the grace of God, i.e. we need to share the truth of the gospel so people can be saved. We are to see to it that no one is sexually immoral, so this means we must lovingly and humbly speak to others about forsaking sin. So many people today are teaching that it is kindness and love to stay in our own lane, but it is really selfish, because we don’t want to be ones who are tagged as disunifiers, intolerant, and judgmental. True love confronts sin, most especially first in our own lives, and it calls for repentance, so that people can be saved and at peace with God, and can have the hope of eternal life, for without holiness no one will see God.

Broken and Contrite / An Original Work / May 13, 2012

I come before You, Lord, my Savior,
With humble heart and crushed in spirit.
I bow before You, I implore You,
Heal my broken heart, I pray.
Love You, Jesus, Lord, my master,
You are the King of my heart.
Lord, purify my heart within me;
Sanctify me, whole within.

Oh, Lord, I long to obey fully
The words You’ve spoken through Your Spirit.
I pray You give me grace and mercy,
Strength and wisdom to obey.
Father God, my heart’s desire,
Won’t You set my heart on fire?
Lord, cleanse my heart of all that hinders
My walk with You, now I pray.

Oh, Jesus, Savior, full of mercy,
My heart cries out for understanding.
I want to follow You in all ways,
Never straying from Your truth.
Holy Spirit, come in power,
Fill me with Your love today.
Lord, mold and make me;
Your hands formed me;
Live Your life through me, I pray.