I had the privilege of being asked to speak at the annual Women's Retreat I attend through Rocky Mountain Calvary, Women of Calvary. The theme was Pursuing Holiness, based on the book, Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges. The previous several posts were my notes as I was reading the book. Below is the final presentation talking points and slide content. This isn't a transcript of what was actually said, but the raw notes of what I planned to say.
Here's a link to a cell phone recording of the actual presentation. I'll update the post with the official video when I get the link.
Sunday a.m. Session Presentation
WOC Retreat 2023, The Pursuit of Holiness
Blessed morning, ladies!
What’s been your highlight so far?
[Pause for responses.]
I’d have to say my highlight, besides standing right here, was ________________.
Also, who else loved that youTube playlist? That was a wonderful gift in preparing to come here.
For those who don’t know me. I started at Rocky Mountain Calvary at the Central Campus at the end of 2015 and then I moved to the Ellicott campus when it opened. So, I’ve gone to this retreat all but one year since then.
This is one of my happiest places.
Pretty much since I’ve attended these retreats, Lisa Beech has been either the MC or a speaker; and she set the bar really high by handing out presents when she on stage…
Not to be outdone…I brought some presents this morning.
The different is, while Lisa and I share a first name, she’s all trendy and classy and happy…while I’m more of the nerd variety of Lisa. So while she had trendy and classy and happy presents…I have nerd presents.
Can I get a shout of from my fellow nerds?
Nerds like games. My husband and I discovered this two-person quick-play game that is viciously fun and, even though a round of play only takes a couple of minutes… it’s highly addictive.
Do I have two people who need a new, fun two-person game to play?
Nerds like pens. I know it probably sounds funny to some of you…but there’s nothing like a good pen. This year for my birthday, my husband gave me a different purple pen everyday in June.
I have 14 Pentel EnerGel pens, with limited time colors, for the first 14 people willing to come up and admit they are pen nerds!
Nerds like to read and write.
I love to write; and I used to keep a written journal as part of my bible study/ quiet time. Then my beloved husband made a blog page for me, Paloma’s Ink! Now I capture my thoughts and reflection from my study time in my blog.
So to motivate some other writer out there, I have a beautiful daily journal with an inspiration passage for each day --to prompt your writing. It would also make a nice gift for some aspiring writer in your life.
For reading…one of my all-time favorite books, The Velveteen Rabbit. I was 19 years old before I read this for the first time, a gift from my biological brother. I sobbed like a baby!
Do I have an adoptive mom or foster mom who would like this 100th year anniversary edition?
Ok look, one more slide…this is my cat, Princess. She’s a nerd too.
I had a cat nerd present to give out but it didn’t arrive in time, so we all get the present of getting to see the pretty kitty…
Ok. Let’s start the rest of this time together in prayer.
It is with awe and trembling that we come before You, to Your throne room of grace. I lift of each of these women to You, Lord, and beg You to search each heart.
Holy Spirit, please convict each one of us- that we would leave here changed, committed to obedience to and dependence on You.
And Jesus, we humbly offer our Hallelujah to You that You made this all possible through Your own obedience to the Cross and through the Resurrection.
Please speak through me, setting aside any agenda or words that are not from You.
Speak to each women in the way that they know it’s from You; and that they each have a clear call to action as we transition from this holy retreat, back to our lives, down the mountain.
In all thing, at all times, we pray for Your will; and that You would be glorified.
In the precious name of our Savior, we pray these things.
Sunday Morning, ladies! What a blessing.
What a privilege to retreat to the beauty and seclusion of the mountain top; all the while knowing we must also prepare to transition back to daily lives.
That’s what we want to do this morning.
To transfer what we’ve been hearing and seeing and feeling and learning into something that leaves us changed for the Lord. Something that will be with us a year from now, and a year from that.
This morning is the Call to Action of the weekend!
Be holy as He is holy.
Yikes. Quite the call to action.
I’m going to start with my conclusion and then we can work backwards to explore how we take all of what we’ve learned this weekend about pursuing holiness:
First, the Holy Spirit convicts us to be holy. And then the Holy Spirit provides the spiritual power to actually be holy.
To live by the Spirit is to live both in obedience to and dependence on the Holy Spirit.
There is a balance between
our wills (expressed by obedience)
and our faith (expressed by our dependence).
Our journey to a holy harvest will include:
- Why pursue holiness
- What, specific area of your life, or sin. to pursue holiness in
- And How to pursue holiness in that area of your life
Why Pursue Holiness?
It seems like such an impossible call to action sometimes. Maybe not while we’re here, surrounded by this view and all of these other amazing women of God. But what about during work on Monday; or when all the things crush in…kids and family and chores.
We better know why we would even try to do this, seemingly, impossible thing.
Firstly, an obvious reason is that He said so…just like we tell our kids…”Because I said so.”
And also because He IS holy and can only be reconciled to us if we are holy (In Christ Jesus). So the first reason to pursue holiness is because we aren’t given another option.
Another reason to pursue holiness, found in the final chapter of the book by Jerry Bridges, is JOY. It’s a beautiful chapter and he makes a great case. I recommend that you read it.
There are many other reasons to pursue holiness.
But I want to explore a “Sunday morning, heading home from the retreat reason” to be holy. In a word:
Let me start with a passage that you all know very well. The danger being you’ll assume you know it well enough to tune out; but I beg you to listen as if it’s a new story.
Turn with me to Matthew 26: 33-54
33 Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”
34 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”
35 Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”
And so said all the disciples.
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. 41 ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’
42 He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him.
50 Jesus replied, ‘Do what you came for, friend.’
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
52 ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’Matthew 26: 33-54
We know from John, Chapter 18 that the companion that drew the sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant was _____?
What does this passage tells us about why to pursue holiness?
I’m going to read verses 52 and 53 again.
52 ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
Jesus knew He could call on His Father and have twelve legions of angels to fulfill whatever purpose He had? He was in the final hours of His ministry and of His human freedom before He faced unimaginable pain, suffering, and loss. What did He want from His 12 legions of angels? ______
[Pause for a response.]
Apparently, despite the power and might they could bring, He had no purpose for them in this story. It’s in all 4 gospels, so we have a pretty good idea of the events.
No angel purpose.
What did Jesus actually want in the last hours of His ministry and freedom?
Here’s the review from the highlight reel:
- Sit here while I go over there and pray.’
- My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’
- Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’
- Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’
What Jesus wanted… was support from His friends in His time of trouble.
These disciples, and Peter in particular, had been given a clear purpose.
It hurts me to think about how much that probably hurt the heart of our Lord.
Have you ever felt betrayed, let down, abandoned? In the hours when you were troubled and in need of support?
Maybe we can sympathize with the disciples for fleeing in fear when the mob came for Jesus; but the more I read this passage, the more my heart hurt for their failure of purpose in the Garden beforehand.
I suspect that the real reason Peter struck the high priest’s assistant?
Failure stings. He woke up from a nap to find that the worst had happened and he wasn’t there for Jesus.
What’s the point? What does this tells us in our pursuit of holiness?
For the answer to that, let’s all say together a very common verse, Ephesians 2:10:
“For we are His… workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for… good works, which God prepared… beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10, NKJV
You have a purpose.
And it’s not just good works.
But good works prepared beforehand just for you.
When you head down this mountain, you have a purpose. Just for you.
One motivation to understand the pursuit of holiness, and the role of the Holy Spirit in that pursuit, is that we don’t want to be Simon Peter in Gethsemane. Cutting off body parts when all that was asked of him was to sit with a troubled friend and pray.
See if this sounds familiar to you.
When I was in high school, I used to cringe when a boy said to me that he would die for me.
Great. Human Kevlar…very helpful.
It’s a nice sentiment, and maaaybee it was even true… [head nod “no”]
but I wasn’t interested in getting married to anyone until I found the one who would be more focused on living alongside me.
As you head down the mountain, the same is true for you. While it’s possible one or more of you might be asked to give your life for Christ; more probable for most of us, those good works prepared beforehand will include
- shining our light in the workplace
- or fulfilling duties as a spouse, parent, adult child, or one of the many other roles we have in our lives down the hill
- serving those in need- inside our church and out
Sometime we long for our story to be grand. Defending our Lord with a sword…
”take that, person on social media that I disagree with…”
We all, sometimes, long to be the MVP, the hero, the award winner, big swings, big accomplishments, but what we should be asking ourselves is…
- what does God have for me right now?
- What season does have me in right now?
Maybe God is actually asking you to sit with a struggling friend in garden, or patience with a struggling child, or submission to a struggling husband…
Think about the actual purpose for a few people from the Bible:
- The “sinful woman” in Luke who washed Jesus feet and poured perfume on Him.
- Deborah had to encourage a struggling leader.
- Then Jael had to finish the job for that same struggling leader by using a tent stake and hammer, used in her routine chores of her nomadic life.
- The owner of the donkey colt when he heard that “The Lord has use of it.”
- “Dude with the pitcher” who had a room for this large group to celebrate Passover.
- Shamgar, a rancher using the tools of his trade to accomplish miracles in God’s hands.
Can you tell we’re in the book of Judges out in Ellicott?
Lots of Judges references on that list… But not a lot of super powers, or even proper names…Just faithful folks using the tools of their trades, the gifts they had been given to fulfill their purpose in God.
And that’s how we arrive at pursuing holiness with obedience to and dependence on the Holy Spirit.
We cannot fulfill our designed purpose without Him.
I know what you may be thinking. Because I’m thinking the same thing.
“Of course I want to be holy.
Of course I want to fulfill my purpose, the good works created just for me before the world was made.
Of course I want to Let my light so shine before men, that they may see my good works and glorify my Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16, NKJV)
I have some great news for you this morning. There is a way.
But before we talk about how, let’s talk about… let’s be super clear about … the “what” we will be pursuing toward.
If we’re honest, we’re at a church retreat and we try to put our best foot forward. That’s fine. I’m not encouraging everyone to head back their rooms and play truth or dare.
But before we go any further, it is essential for you to consider, and hopefully identify, at least one specific area of your life where you can make a plan to pursue holiness.
PAUL, for goodness sake, PAUL tells us that when he wants to do good, evil is nearby ready to offer a "helping hand". Paul did a lot of really good things. But it was a struggle, not easy.
In Romans 7:21 he tells us
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
If Paul can admit it, so can I.
I have struggled my entire life with food issues. I showed up in my adopted family from foster care with strange food issue. And I am letting these food issues destroy my body. Not an excuse, but a clear area to pursue holiness.
And at my work. I’ve had issue at work for months now, and I have been incredibly disappointed in myself with some of my behaviors.
Maybe yours in something physically addictive, like drugs or alcohol. Maybe it’s shopping or gambling or inappropriate relationships. Or maybe it’s something good, like exercise, that’s become an idol. It’s essential to be honest with yourself and to bring this ugly thing from wherever you’ve tried to hide it and name it before God.
WHAT is a specific area in which you can pursue holiness?
In the movie 28 Days, in which Sandra Bullock goes to rehab for alcohol abuse, Steve Buscemi plays the role of the rehab administrator and counselor named Cornell. In the following excerpt he gives his AA speech:
Cornell: If that will make you happy, I will stop drinking. And then I would tell myself “tonight I will not get wasted”. And then something would happen.
Or nothing would happen.
And I'd get that feeling and you all know what that feeling is; when your skin is screaming and your hands are shaking and your stomach feels like it wants to jump through your throat.
And you know that if anyone had a clue how wrong it felt to be sober, they wouldn't dream of asking you to stay that way.
They would say “Oh geez, I didn't know. It's okay for you. Do that mound of cocaine. Have a drink. Have 20 drinks. Whatever you need to do to feel like a normal human being, you do it.”
And boy I did it. I drank and snorted. And I did this day after day, night after night.
I didn't care about the consequences because I knew they couldn't be half as bad as not using.
And then one night something happened. I woke up. I woke up on a sidewalk and I had no idea where I was. I couldn't have told you what city I was in. And my head was pounding and I looked down and my shirt is covered in blood. And as I'm lying there wondering what happens next and I heard a voice.
And it said “Man, this is not a way to live. This is a way to die.”28 Days, Steve Buscemi as Cornell (2000)
If you have or ever have suffered from addiction, of any kind, you probably recognize these thoughts. Maybe not the extreme consequences of such hard drugs; but this feeling:
And you know that if anyone had a clue how wrong it felt to be sober, they wouldn't dream of asking you to stay that way. They would say, “Oh geez, I didn't know. It's okay for you.”
For me, with food, if I get my feelings hurt, or am having a bad day, or feel stressed out…I feel a compulsion to eat junky, sugary, chocolaty food. It makes me feel better. How can that be wrong? Or wait…too much food is killing me, I remember now.
Maybe you have a similar compulsion… and you see the consequences, but it feels like those consequences matter less than what you think you need.
You know how I know? Because humans have been telling ourselves these lies since this happened in Genesis 3: 4-6:
Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of the fruit and ate.Genesis 3: 4-6
When the conversation started with the serpent, Eve wanted to do good. She had the rule memorized and she even shared it with the serpent. But like with Paul, evil was right there with her. Giving her the message that she shouldn't have to go without anything she might want.
Some of you, right this second, think that this doesn't apply to you. You don't drink. You would never in a million years do drugs, and you wouldn't have let that serpent convince you to eat that fruit.
Woe to you if you cannot think of a single example in your life where you need more holiness. While there are specific verses about being sober, there are far, far more verses about being prideful, being arrogant, gossiping, having unforgiveness in your heart, and failing to help those in need.
In James 4, He goes so far as to tell us that God resists the proud, using language that indicates a military confrontation.
But we like to categorize sins more like crimes. Felony versus a Misdemeanor, or maybe even just a White collar crime.
Sin is sin, but a sin like pride or unforgiveness, that God pounds away at in book after book, Old Testament and New...maybe don't think of yourself better than Steve Bescemi’s character struggling to stop drinking.
- My food issues could kill me.
- Gossip and unforgiveness can wreck a family or a church.
- Pridefulness and arrogance can disrupt the purpose God has for your life.
Back to Peter in Gethsemane.
If asked directly, Peter would never image he would let the Lord down. That he would sleep when asked to watch and pray. But in his wanting to do good, evil was by his side, luring him into a nice, restful nap. Three times!
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.Ephesians 5:15-17 NKJV
Too many of us fall into the trap of the enemy of having the goal of appearing holy to those around us. It's "easier" than the work of confronting hard fact from our lives. Maybe
- we have a severely broken relationships within our family
- cannot get along with our spouse, or co-worker, or boss,
- or even be alone with ourselves for an hour.
- We can't help ourselves from sharing critical gossip about people we don't like.
- We don't know why we're so angry, or sad,
- or desperate for control or comfort.
I once heard a strange piece of advice that I wrestled with for weeks after. It goes something like this- "There comes a time in your life when you have to accept that most of your problems [pause] were brought on by your own choices."
Boy I didn't like that.
I immediately started a mental list of all the things that had been done TO ME.
“NOT MY FAULT!” cried my brain!
And it's true. I have had things happen to me outside of my control. The rain falls on the just and the unjust.
The fact that I had such an angry and defensive reaction to this simple sentence made me wonder. Why was it so important for me to find other factors to blame other than myself for certain parts of my life?
You know why, don't you? It's so easy to see in others.
If I can't blame others for the troubles in my life, I may have to acknowledge that I am making choices that bring me consequences. Why would I fight that?
Why can't I eat what I want?
Why can't I buy what I want?
Why can't I...
In our hearts, until we go home to Jesus, we have desires that seem ok in our own eyes. You must be able to acknowledge that. Or the enemy has free rein to USE YOU AGAINST YOU.
Remember Cain? God tells him,
...sin crouches at the door and its desire is for you. But you must rule over it.Genesis 4:7
What's Cain's response? To murder the person he blames for his failure.
We all have a few Cains in our lives, don't we?
- I have a few Cains as Facebook friends.
- They post endlessly about all of their terrible bosses, co-workers, family, and circumstances, and even the judges that they face in court...
- without even a hint that maybe their own undisciplined desires have brought some of the folly.
What's the cure?
Just as Cain should have done. Aim your desires at glorifying the Lord. When we make choices for Him, ruling over our desires, rather than being ruled by them...we're fueling the right side in the battle.
Eating a whole pizza, cheesecake, and bag of M&Ms isn't going to glorify the Lord. But if that's what is the desire of my heart, I need to be on my knees, in the word, in contact with an accountability partner,
and most of all…dependent on the Holy Spirit.
Remember our friend Peter, and the one thing Jesus asked of him:
40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mt 26:40–41, NKJV
Watch and pray, my sisters, lest you enter into temptation.
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to… sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth… death.James 1:14-15, NKJV
So why am I being such a bully?
Why am I trying so hard to persuade you to find an area of your life where you could use more holiness?
Because in that recognition, that this is a lifelong battle, and in the recognition that as long as you have breath in your lungs and want to do good, evil is right there with you, you will see that you cannot be holy without dependence on the Holy Spirit.
That's what we call good news.
You need God.
God sent His Son to die in your place.
And left behind a Helper to seal your hope of salvation by helping you.
Now we come to the How.
Throughout his book, Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges mentions some of the tools available to you for fulfilling your purpose in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
I am going to talk about those tools and then add a few others for you to consider.
We are pursuing holiness so that we can fulfill the purpose of our lives.
We accomplish this by obedience to and dependence on the Holy Spirit.
If I’m dependent on Him, then won’t the obedience come from Him?
- We cannot be holy without Him.
- He won't bring us to holiness without our participation in His plan. We have to do the walking.
- We can't pray for victory and then fail to walk in obedience and expect His favor. (Just ask King Saul.)
I know it sounds like a contradiction. But submitting to Him and depending on Him are separate from our personal responsibility to participate in obedience.
Jerry Bridges opens his book with a great image of this seeming contradiction.
Imagine that you are a farmer (or a gardener). This won’t be hard for some of you who grow some amazing gardens.
Have any of you seen my garden?
That a leach field.
Nope. There is no garden at Casa Connor.
Anyone care to guess why?
Go ahead, Ellicott ladies who know me, explain why I don’t have a garden…
- I don’t plant.
- I don’t water.
- I don’t weed.
- I received a Baby Yoda Chia pet kit 2 years ago and I can’t be bothered to pour the stupid dirt in the stupid Yoda head.
- I kill all but the most hearty plants inside my house, let alone anything outside.
Ironically enough, I grew up on a farm. Doing farmer stuff.
So I know…A real gardener. A real farmer. Has to do her part to make the crops grow. They plant and water, and weed, and harvest. And you know want else they do?
Some pay tens of thousands of dollars in hail insurance because there are more things that they can’t control as things they can.
They, like you and I, have to do our part and then, in faith, we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to ACTUALLY grow all of the things.
We aren’t in control of a seed under the earth. All we can do is our part and then, LEAN IN to the Holy Spirit every day to make the seed open, push its way through the dirt and continue the long journey to the harvest.
So farming and gardening are joint ventures between the person and God.
Pursuing holiness is a joint venture between a woman and her God, through the Holy Spirit.
Philippians 2:13 tells us:
13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the POWER to do what pleases Him.
Galatians 5:16 tells us:
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Walk in the Spirit to do good and not do bad.
Galatians 5: 22-25 tells us:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 [g]gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Man’s responsibility versus God’s sovereignty- one of the mysteries, one of the points of tension in our daily walk.
One absolutely essential reminder here, we’re talking about our purpose on earth as God’s children. We are not talking about salvation…I could speak for days on why that is exclusively the work of Jesus Christ.
We’re talking about walking out the work He has worked in us.
For that, it requires obedience to and dependence on the Holy Spirit.
What does that mean practically? What does that mean for you as you drive down the mountain and reenter the atmosphere of your life?
The practical tools to grow your garden are called the spiritual disciplines. Sometimes also called the Christian disciplines.
The author touches on a few of them; but I’m going to give you a more comprehensive tour of a holy harvester’s tool shed.
Then you can choose a few to commit to learning and using when you get home.
Because the spiritual disciples are the HOW; the enemy of your heart knows how important they are. For each discipline, the enemy of your heart meets you with a worldly counterfeit for each of these harvesting tools.
As far as I know, there is no comprehensive list of spiritual disciplines in one place in the Bible, so I compiled a collection of biblical, spiritual disciplines-- mostly from the incredibly powerful book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney. This was an SOD book, so many of you may know it well.
Before I show you my list, what’s yours? Let me hear some of the tools you use to pursue holiness.
Here’s my list…we won’t look at all of them in depth, but I wanted to show the whole list- because I don’t know which sin you chose to tackle; and I wanted remind us all of all the tools we can choose from.
Let me know afterward if you see one I missed.
- Read the Word
- Study the Word
- Memorize the Word
Yes, those are three different disciplines.
- Silence and Solitude
- Learning and gaining knowledge.
That’s quite a list, huh? Maybe all of you do all of these all of the time…
But if there are one or two of you in the same situation I am in, fighting for holiness in a specific sin, let’s take a look.
In his book, Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges quotes Jay Adams:
You have sought and tried to obtain instant godliness. There is no such thing...We want someone to give us three easy steps to godliness, and we'll take them next Friday and be godly. The trouble is, godliness doesn't come that way.
Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges (page 75)
The same is true for pursing holiness. Three easy steps to arriving at holy and not having to worry about it anymore ISN’T A THING.
But if we want to live in the tension between being dependent on the Holy Spirit and obedient to Him in our personal choices...here's the real how:
Paul tells us to disciple ourselves to be godly. (I Tim 4:7) and (spoiler alert), It's not a destination; it's the journey. As many of you have probably heard, Paul was using the Greek language of an athlete preparing to compete in the games. That's a structured, ongoing training.
Spiritual Disciples: The Word
The Word was God-breathed by the Holy Spirit. So dependence on Him is rooted in the Word He inspired. Knowing what He has for us in that book more and more, deeper and deeper- gives us a foundation to build on. Rooted in the Rock.
· It gives us concrete guidance on what to avoid · and how to come back when we stray.· It strengthens us by building our confidence in what He thinks is importance for us to know.
If you're sitting around waiting for a holy rush, an inspiration, an emotion, start with what He already gave you. Yes, there are mountain top experiences, but if you're thirsty- drink from the well He provided.
We must respond to what the Holy Spirit has already done if we are to expect Him to do more.Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges (page 77)
Plan a time each day or the day will slip by you.
Read or Listen to the Word
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, THAT THE MAN OF GOD MAY BE COMPLETE, THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED FOR EVERY GOOD WORK.II Timothy 3:16-17
Remember our “Why” pursue holiness? Here’s that PURPOSE
Study and Memorize the Word
- Don't let the enemy of your heart tell you that you're too tired or too busy. Find the time. Just like you do for your the friends and loved ones whom you prioritize.
- Look for a system that works for you. There are a lot of study methods out there. Ask around and investigate. There are many different learning styles; but it does need to be you and His Word.
- Reading is important; but until you Actually study the Word and hide it in your heart through memorization; it limits what the Holy Spirit can bring to mind as you walk out your good works.
- Ask yourself how a scripture SPECIFICALLY applies to you and how you can be changed by it.
- And don't forget to look at the scripture through the lens of being the Pharisee or King Ahab. There is a natural tenancy to want to identify with the "good guys" when often we learn the most, grow the most, and bring the most glory to the Lord by finding the ways we make the same mistakes as the "bad guys", opening our hearts to be changed by the Lord.
- Personally, I was surprised how much I had in common with King Ahab, one very terrible King of Israel...it’s most humbly to realize that the only reason I could never be as "bad" as he was because God was wise enough to never make me the king of a nation. We have no idea what we'd be capable of given all the money, fame, or power we think we'd love to wield.
Before we leave this collection of disciplines related to the Word…I mentioned that the enemy of your heart has provided counterfeits to keep you from using these tools to fulfill your good work make for you before time began.
I’m going to pause and have you talk to your neighbor for 60 seconds and list the counterfeits for reading, studying, and memorizing the Word.
What did you come up with?
The world is happy to fill your time and entertain you. It’s the Vanity Fair from Pilgrim’s Progress: TV, movies, hobbies, social media. Most of the things are not bad; but as a substitute for actual time in the Word, you’re left without one of the basic gardening tools- the Holy-Spirit-breathed Word from your creator.
Spiritual Disciple: Meditation
This is NOT an emptying of your mind, as the world wants you to do, making you vulnerable to the enemy of your heart; but by focusing on specific scriptures, turning them over in your mind, applying them to your life.
I know what you might be thinking...I can't meditate...I get so distracted...HOWEVER, every woman I've every spoken to at any length will admit that they meditate, they just don’t call it that.
We focus on conversations and ideas in our head, usually starting around 3am. We can't seem to stop them from rolling around and rolling around. Arguments with a spouse or a co-worker that exist solely in our heads and last for days.
What if, when the obsessing started, we TOOK OUR THOUGHTS CAPTIVE, put off the mental ranting, and used that same energy and emotion to put on meditation on a scripture and how it could apply to our lives?!?
What’s the Counterfeit?
I’ve already alluded to the counterfeit offered by the enemy of your heart.
Yes, it is the same word; but the world wants you to clear your mind and leave it open for the enemy. Remember in Luke 11, a demon leaves a man’s house, but when he decides he wants to come back, he brings 7 big, ugly friends…
Fill that void with the Word. Don’t make any provision for the enemy.
Spiritual Disciple: Prayer
Volumes of books are written on prayer.
But most basically, for “gardening tools” in pursing our holiness harvest, it’s just so essential to remember that God has made a way to communicate with us.
Not only has the King allowed you access to Him; but has actually requested it. Paul goes so far as to demand it from you. Pray without ceasing.
Name a healthy, thriving relationship in your life in which there is no communication.
You almost assuredly can’t. Because that’s not how relationships work.
What is the Counterfeit?
The counterfeit here is subtle. It’s anything you lean on in the world as the solution to all of your problems. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your problems with family, friends, social media, prayer chain, the lady behind you in line at the grocery store, writing a poem, smoke signals…however…ask yourself this…have you taken your trouble to the Lord in prayer.
Not to mention all the other purposes of prayer that are lost when this discipline is replaced with all of the other things in our life.
Spiritual Disciple: Fasting
In Luke 11 JESUS talks about Fasting. He doesn’t make a case for why it’s good. He just assumes you’re doing it in some capacity and He adds some criteria about WHEN you fast- not if.
Fasting was a normal part of life for most cultures throughout history.
But modern marketing campaigns have convinced us that we need three meals a day, snacks, and maybe a treat or two.
But you may have noticed that fasting seems to be making a come-back as HALF of U.S. adults are technically pre-diabetic or full diabetic.
I’ll stop there and let you do your own research on religious, dietary, and medical fasting…but it is interesting that it’s making a resurgence. Even the best marketing campaign does not change God or the tools He offers to us when we are dependent on Him.
What’s the Counterfeit?
No need. Just have a snack and be happy that you never have to go without food. For even an hour.
Spiritual Disciple: Worship
Personally, this is my favorite gardening tool.
I love to worship corporately in church, and loudly in my car, and freely in my home. Worship music is an almost guaranteed healer of a bad mood and helps me refocus when the world draws my mind to meditate on the wrong things.
But two extremely important warnings about worship.
- WOE to she who lies to the Lord in worship.
Worship is one of the only things we can give our Lord from our own possessions. Much of what we can offer Him, He already gave to us. But worship is from us. From our heart. And if you are blindly singing whatever lyrics are the screen,
Imagine a really tender moment with a loved one. Friend, spouse, parent, child…When you’re expressing your love and appreciation for them, and they respond by randomly talking about someone or something else.
The reason worship music moves us so much is that it was designed by God. Be so careful that you mean what you say to Him when you worship.
- Woe to she who only worships in song.
Many of us love the emotional rush that comes with musical worship.
But what about being a good employee in our secular jobs, even when we don’t feel like it.
What about how it feels to do chores when we’d rather choose recreation.
We owe Jesus everything. And how we live our lives… is the actual reflection of our worship of our Lord.
What’s the Counterfeit?
I think it’s obvious what the counterfeit is here… Music and anything else to which we offer sincere worship.
Have you been to a concert lately? Or a sporting event?
Hands raised! Emotions poured out! You can see the passion and adoration in the faces of the fans. Fans is short for fanatic. Lots of sincere worship, but it’s not offered to our Lord.
I pray for each of you that the Lord would search your heart, in search of idols that you worship. And that you would surrender those at the foot of the Cross---keeping true worship for the only one who is worthy.
The rest of this list does warrant our time and attention. But we’ll never head back down the mountain if I keep going.
If one of these piques your interest or seems interesting to you, feel free to ask me about it or do your own research. They are all powerful tools as you pursue the harvest of holiness.
Remember to ask yourself what counterfeit the enemy of your heart offers to keep you from each of the listed disciplines.
- Silence and Solitude
- Learning and gaining knowledge.
I’ll close this section on “How” to be obedient and dependent on the Holy Spirit with a quick word about holy habits.
The areas of our life where we find disobedience are often habits that we formed. Putting off the old habits and putting on new ones requires discipline. These are the moments when we both lean on the Holy Spirit in prayer for supernatural strength; but also take personal responsibility to choose.
For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity."Proverbs 24:16
Because the righteous man has the Spirit in him by the work of Jesus Christ. It still requires the man to get up after falling. Joint venture.
Peter fell down several times that night; but when the Lord met him for breakfast on the beach...he jumped in the water and raced to his savior.
Judas was brought down by calamity.
Our bodies should be our servants, not our masters.
...make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.Romans 13:14
All of this physical holiness requires a combination of dependence on the Holy Spirit and the choice to walk in obedience.
Remember, Sunday morning…getting ready to head down the mountain each to our own garden.
This is our call to action.
Be holy as I am holy.
- It requires diligence and effort
- It's both a lifelong and a daily task-as we conform in one area, He reveals a deeper place for us to work.
To live by the Spirit is to live both in obedience to and dependence on the Holy Spirit. There is a balance between our wills (expressed by obedience) and our faith (expressed by our dependence).
Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges, page 58
We started this session off in Gethsemane.
Peter, himself, with massive failures in the rear-view mirror such as sleeping at Gethsemane, chatterboxing during the Transfiguration, and denying his Lord, later in life gives us this perspective after he matured:
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.II Peter 1:3-4, NKJV
Did you catch that? He's talking about the Holy Spirit! He made a way for someone like Peter, and Paul, and me… He has the same tool box open for you.
Be holy as God is holy so that you may be about the purpose He has for you- in dependence on the Holy Spirit.
Amen. Thank you so much, to each of you, for your time an attention.
I have a couple of final gifts to give…
First come, first serve,
I have a new copy of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
And, finally, I have my sad, neglected Baby Yoda Chia pet with cat grass! If someone would like to redeem it, I also included the cutest Groot planted/pencil holder as a companion!
Blessings on your travels home!