If you’re considering reviewing your spiritual growth this year so that you can have an effective pattern of growth next year, there are two things to review. Last time, we looked at reviewing our growth in character over the year. Assessing our growth in maturity is helpful after we’ve planned and executed on a plan. But when it comes to biblical growth, there are two things that are pivotal; purpose and action. Let’s talk about how your purpose effects your growth. .
What happens without purpose?For many Christians, their quiet time or devotional life is a mindless ritual disconnected from the rest of their lives. When we lack clear purpose, several things happen. First, more often than not, we are (at best) inconsistent, having a quiet time on an occasional basis. Second, without purpose, we won’t benefit from our quiet time. These two things fuel each other so that our lack of benefit leads to less consistency. The lack of consistency in turn also contributes to the lack of benefit. The unfortunate result can be catastrophic. At best, we will become disillusioned with the Bible, and with the Lord. When this happens, often we wonder what other people are doing in their Christian lives and we imitate them to get the same satisfaction they seem to have. Unfortunately this often doesn’t include reflection on the Word of God. Instead, it often means seeking satisfaction in Christ through the church experiences, social friendships (albeit through church) and even through personal mystical experiences. Many of these are good things, but they need to be part of God’s purpose for us.
God’s Purpose reduxGod’s purpose for His people was clearly stated to Israel, “You will be holy because I am holy” (Lev 11:44, 45, 20:7, 20:26, 22:32). If Israel was to be the people of God, they needed to reflect His character. This same purpose is stated of New Testament believers in numerous places. Peter cited these Old Testament passages, “you shall be holy for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). Paul explains that this is the purpose of election (Rom 8:29), and then tells the Thessalonians specifically, “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). There are many New Testament passages that reinforce our need of holiness.
Our personal holiness is the consequence of believing that doing what pleases the Lord is better, more satisfying and brings greater joy than doing what pleases our flesh.
What is holiness?I’ve explained in other articles why holiness is a better focus than the more common idea of “a relationship with God.” I’ve also explained that holiness is about more than being morally upright. Here is a quick recap. Holiness does indeed carry a moral dimension, but the root idea of holiness is that we set ourselves apart for the Lord in every aspect of life. This means we seek to please to him in our work, our marriage, our service to the local church, our family, our friends, our coworkers and every other part of our life. Our personal holiness is the consequence of believing that doing what pleases the Lord is better, more satisfying and brings greater joy than doing what pleases our flesh. As a result, we resolve to identify the fleshly desires, beliefs and choices and to submit them systematically to the word of God. As we submit to the Word of God, we put off things we find are not pleasing to Him, and replace them with thoughts, beliefs, desires, affections and choices that do please the Lord.
Where faith steps inThis raises a question: Do we want to be holy? Do we see the value of God’s purpose for us? Do we believe that living an obedient life is the best and most satisfying way to live? This doesn’t mean that we don’t recognize that the flesh provides a level of pleasure. Instead it recognizes that the supreme pleasure comes from honoring our Creator and involving ourselves in what He is doing in us, in others and in the world He has created for us.
As we submit to the Word of God, we put off things we find are not pleasing to Him, and replace them with thoughts, beliefs, desires, affections and choices that do please the Lord.
How to adopt God’s PurposeIf we believe what God says, we will make God’s purpose our own purpose. Holiness needs to motivate us. It needs to be a subject we reflect upon regularly, an outcome we desire and therefore a motivation that determines what we do. How do we do this? Ultimately we all work differently, but here are some simple things to do that might help: 1. Select a verse which emphasizes holiness to function as an anchor for our resolve. Some of the verses listed above might work, or something like Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all men, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (ESV). Memorize it, or write or print it and put it somewhere prominent. 2. When you find resistance to this idea, confess it as arising from the flesh, ask for forgiveness, and ask the Lord to change you. The Lord is faithful to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). This verse tells us that the Lord doesn’t just forgive, he is involved in the process of change too! 3. Make holiness a regular pursuit. We’ll look at this in the next article.
If we believe what God says, we will make God’s purpose our own purpose.