Perfecting holiness in us is God’s ultimate plan and purpose for our lives. But we fail to realize that His fundamental goal and objective is the process that we go through…not just the end result. The process of holiness is not a once and done action…but rather a fulfillment in our lives that leads to the full expression and realization of God in us.
It tells us in I Corinthians 15:33 that, “Bad company corrupts good character.” Which means, that it really does matter who we hang around with. For without realizing it, those we associate with can sway our thinking about God…moving us farther and farther away from His Will…until we find ourselves doing things that we’d never before consider doing…things totally contrary to His Word. And in the end, the friends we thought we could change, have instead changed us…for the worse.
James 4:8 tells us to, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” What does “coming near to God” look like though? It starts with communing or fellowshiping with our Heavenly Father…and that means getting to know Him. It’s similar to when you first started dating your spouse…you talked together endless hours, getting to know each other. God wants us to know Him…and He wants us to trust Him. But we have to know Him before we can trust Him…and that means reading His Word and praying. God assures us that if we seek Him, we will find Him…for He’s longingly waiting for that opportunity to be known by us.
In this story, a Gentile Roman Centurion had approached Jesus asking Him to heal his servant. This commanding officer not only knew who Jesus was, but had witnessed and then understood the authority by which Jesus taught and healed the sick. For it was by this powerful authority he saw in Jesus that he related. It says that Jesus was astonished and commended him for his great faith and understanding of authority…and his servant was healed that day.
God is not up in Heaven right now pacing and wringing His hands…nor is there the slightest sign of uncertainty or doubt on His face. Rather, God is seated on His throne in total and absolute control of every situation happening today. For there is no person or thing that can successfully oppose or block God’s Will. That’s because His ultimate plan and purpose is always being worked out perfectly to conform to His Will…for with God all things are possible.
I bet sometime in your Christian walk you’ve asked God the same question…”Why did you make me like this?” That’s because we’re never really satisfied with what we have, the spiritual gifts we’ve been given, or the lot in life we’ve drawn. We look at others and think, “Why can’t I have that special Ministry, or gifting, or talent?” The Lord has an ultimate plan and purpose for each of our lives. Some of us are like articles in the house made of gold and silver that are used for special occasions…while many of us are humble, mediocre items that are used everyday made of wood or clay. Each has importance…each is needed to make the house run smoothly. But the most important thing to remember is that no matter the use, whether noble or common, we are all the work of God’s hands. (Isaiah 64:8)
King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah were desperate. Enemy armies were fast approaching and they didn’t know what to do. They found themselves in a dark valley of desperation, discouragement, and fear with no way out…but they resolved to trust God. And it’s in that same valley that God worked a mighty miracle…giving them victory over their enemies. That valley of their suffering was changed into the Valley of Beracah…the Valley of Praise. With God’s help, we can grow during those hard times. Our faith can increase and be strengthened in the midst of turmoil, loss, and strife…if we trust God. It’s then that our valley of the shadow of death can also become a Valley of Praise.
At the end of all Believer’s lives we would hope to be able to echo Paul’s words here. Yes, I’ve struggled against temptation daily, but I’ve valiantly tried to remain honest and upright before the Lord. I’ve professed my faith to others…contending for the prize… the victor’s crown of eternal life. And in the end, like Paul, I wish to be able to say with confidence, that I have finished the race and completed the task- the ministry- that the Lord Jesus Christ has laid out before me. (Acts 20:24)
These blue cord tassels were to be a daily reminder of the Lord’s commandments and the fact that the Jews were a holy and separated people. But if we go to Matthew 23:5, Jesus is calling out the Jewish Leaders who had taken this Scripture to an excess by making their tassels extremely long in order to make a show of their “religiousness”. It’s called Legalism…and the Church over history has been really good at it. We’d rather focus on the strict and excessive conformity to the letter of the Law, than embrace grace and mercy. Or we’d rather obsess over external appearances than do the hard work of changing our hearts, minds, and attitudes. Legalism is taking God’s word to an extreme and then affixing human rules and regulations to it. Legalism lets us focus on things we can control and be proud of…the “Look at me, I’m so very religious!” But like white-washed graves, we look so nice on the outside, but hold so much decay within.
We probably all know a person who has fallen away. Someone who consciously rejected the spiritual enlightenment they had once received…who had tasted of God’s goodness, but chose instead to abandon their faith. And when we intentionally reject Jesus Christ, we’re essentially saying that His sacrifice on the Cross meant nothing. For when anyone falls away, they have turned their back on God’s truth and can only then look forward to His final judgment.