Holiness Walked Among Us

“Shout and be glad, Jerusalem. I am coming, and I will live among you,” says the LORD. ZECHARIAH 2:10

God became a baby. He entered a world… of problems and heartaches.

“The Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness” (John 1:14 NLT).

The operative word of the verse is among. He lived among us. He donned the costliest of robes: a human body. He made a throne out of a manger and a royal court out of some cows. He took a common name— Jesus—and made it holy. He took common people and made them the same. He could have lived over us or away from us. But he didn’t. He lived among us.

He became a friend of the sinner and brother of the poor.

When Christ Comes

The Holy Spirit and You

Becoming the person God designed you to be isn’t complicated. In fact, it requires just a single resolution.

Self-improvement—it’s a hot topic this time of year, but the term means different things to different people. Some folks equate it with being healthier, getting a better-paying job, or pursuing a college degree.

But for Christians, the goal is always to become more like Christ, though we oftentimes go about it in the wrong manner. Scripture memorization, Bible study classes, and serving others are all wonderful ways to grow in faith, but if we want to truly improve ourselves, we should turn to the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence is essential for our inner transformation, and we’ll never develop godly character and behavior apart from Him. This old flesh of ours is predisposed toward selfishness and sin. Only as we yield ourselves to the Spirit will He begin to express the life of Christ through us.

Instead of embarking on your own self-improvement program, why not work on discovering who God created you to be? You can be confident that the Spirit will come alongside to help in the transformation. But remember, He will not force you to change. The only way you’ll experience your full potential in Christ is by cooperating with Him.

Let the Spirit lead.

If you want to become everything God has designed you to be, the place to begin is self-denial. It runs counter to everything the world tells us, but we are not meant to rule ourselves. That’s why Jesus said, “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33). It’s impossible to be a disciple of Christ and still be in charge. Our full potential is discovered only when we let the Spirit have complete control of our life.

You see, there’s a battle going on inside every Christian. The Holy Spirit wants to lead us into obedience to God, but our flesh desires its own way (Gal. 5:17). Satan tries to convince us that freedom is achieved by doing whatever we want, but in reality, that ends in bondage. God promises that if we’ll walk by the Spirit—letting Him lead the way—we won’t carry out the desires of the flesh that threaten to enslave us (Gal. 5:16). The question is, Who’s going to be in control of your life: you or God?

Make the decision to let the Lord lead, and then consistently surrender authority over your life to Him. In time, you’ll notice His power in you increasing and your flesh becoming less dominant. Instead of insisting on your rights, you’ll listen to His promptings and seek to follow God’s will. I’m not talking about a life of perfection, but one that is bent toward obedience. Though we all stumble at times, when we are filled with the Spirit, we’re quick to confess, turn away from our sin, and reclaim the promise of His fullness.

Rely on the Holy Spirit.

When you get up in the morning, do you think about the Holy Spirit before you set about the day’s routine? Do you make a conscious choice to depend upon Him to equip you for whatever awaits? The reason many Christians feel defeated is because they don’t understand what the Spirit has come to do in and through them. Instead of relying on Him, they’re trying to live the Christian life in their own strength. However, self-reliance is a guarantee of a fruitless life.

Remember, what the Lord desires is a display of Spirit-produced fruit, not self-sufficient achievements. Human beings are capable of amazing accomplishments. We can preach sermons, teach Sunday school, feed the poor, and minister to the hurting in our own strength. In fact, entire churches can function without any help from the Spirit. But that’s not what God wants. The work He has for us is supernatural and requires a corresponding power to accomplish it. None of us is adequate for the task, apart from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit as He works through us. This was true even of Christ’s disciples: until the Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, they weren’t ready for the job of spreading the gospel (Luke 24:49).

Don’t think for a moment that this principle applies only to those who are serving in “the ministry.” We all need the Spirit’s power for every aspect of life. Anyone can live “a normal life,” but Jesus calls us to live supernaturally in such a way that we display His character in everything we do. Without divine empowerment, how are you going to become a godly parent or spouse, forgive someone who has hurt you deeply, endure suffering without bitterness, model Christlike character in the workplace, or demonstrate patience and kindness to cantankerous people? The fruit of the Spirit isn’t pumped out with self-effort (Gal. 5:22-23). All our striving and struggling to become better Christians will never produce a godly life. The only way to attain that is through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Use your spiritual gifts.

Part of discovering your full potential in Christ is finding out what God has planned for you to accomplish. We’re called to serve Him in everything, but He’s also given each of us a unique calling. You don’t want to spend your entire life living as you see fit, only to arrive in heaven and discover you’ve missed what God had in mind. That’s why it’s so important to walk in the Spirit every day of your life. He’s the one who guides you into your calling.

Since the Holy Spirit knows exactly what the Lord created each of us to accomplish, He’s given us corresponding spiritual gifts. These are divinely bestowed abilities that enable us to fulfill God’s unique will for our life. Although spiritual gifts carry the full potential for effectiveness, they don’t usually come to us completely developed. For instance, God may give you the gift of teaching, but without diligent study of Scripture, your effectiveness will be limited. If you have the gift of mercy, it may take time to learn how to comfort the different people He brings into your life. Don’t give up too quickly. Spiritual gifts develop over time, and we become more successful as we practice using them.

Pursue purity.

You have so much potential in God’s eyes, but there’s one more area that could prevent you from experiencing His best. If you’re holding onto anything the Lord doesn’t want you to have, you’re compromising your purity and quenching His Spirit. It could be an outright sin or something that stands between you and complete obedience to Christ.

You may feel you can’t live without the things that distract you from serving the Lord, but that’s just Satan’s lie. His temptations always result in bondage. That’s why letting go is such a struggle. Whatever you’re clutching can never match the value of what Christ can do in a surrendered life. He’s waiting for you to let go and fully submit to Him. If you’ll lay it down at His feet, He’ll replace it with a life of victorious power and freedom, and you’ll become the person He created you to be.

Do you know God?

by Charles F. Stanley

The First Sacrifice

“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21)

This action by the Lord is very significant. God Himself apparently sacrificed some of His animal creation (possibly two innocent and blemish-free sheep) in order to provide clothing for the first man and woman. In the first place, this tells us that clothing is important in God’s plan for human beings; nudity became shameful once sin entered the world.

In the second place, we learn that symbolically speaking, clothing must be provided by God Himself. Man-made “aprons” of fig leaves will not suffice, as they represent human works of righteousness which can never make us presentable to God: “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). However, God has sacrificed His own “Lamb of God” (John 1:29), pure and spotless, yet also willing to die for us. Thereby “he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10), fashioned from the perfect righteousness of the Lamb.

But in order to do this, the innocent blood of the sacrifice must be shed, for “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). When sin entered the world, there also came “death by sin” (Romans 5:12), and “without shedding of [innocent] blood is no remission [of sin]” (Hebrews 9:22).

How much of this could have been comprehended by Adam and Eve as they watched God slay their animal friends so that they once again could walk with God we do not know, but it changed their lives. Just so, when we really see “the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19) spilled in sacrifice for our redemption, our lives also are forever changed. He hath covered me with the righteousness of Christ. HMM

I will refine them as silver Is refined, and will try them as gold is tried

I will refine them as silver Is—refined, and will try them as gold is tried.— Zechariah 13:9.

AS the purifying process is carried on, “the refiner watches the operation, with the greatest earnestness, until the metal has the appearance of a highly polished mirror, reflecting every object around it: even the refiner, as he looks upon the mass of metal, may see himself as in a looking-glass, and thus he can form a very correct judgment respecting the purity of the metal. When he is satisfied, the fire is withdrawn, and the metal removed from the furnace.”

See Jesus, as the Refiner, watching “with the greatest earnestness” the purifying of thy soul in the furnace of earth, His hand has lighted the lire which is now separating the pure metal of holiness from the dross of sin in thee. His loving eye is ever eagerly watching for the moment when the purifying work is done.

Then, without a moment’s delay, He withdraws the fire, and the purified soul is removed from the furnace. See, again, when it is that the purification is completed; it is when the Image of Christ is reflected in us, so that He can see Himself in us as in a mirror. Raise your eyes, then, amidst the flames, and see the Face of Jesus watching you with the lender pity and intense interest of His love.

One star differeth from another star in glory

One star differeth from another star in glory. 1 Corinthians 15:41

By the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all. — Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.

They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righeousness as the stars for ever and ever.

1 Corinthians 15:41. Mark 9:34,35. 1 Peter 5:5,6. Philippians 2:5-7,9,10. Daniel 12:3.

Oh that thou wouldest keep me from evil

Oh that thou wouldest keep me from evil. 1 Chronicles 4:10

Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. — The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. — I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible. — He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. — The LORD knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations.

Luke 22:46. Matthew 26:41. Proverbs 30:7-9. Psalm 121:7. Jeremiah 15:21. 1 John 5:18. Revelation
3:10. 2 Peter 2:9.