holiness ... 3

A work of beautification

The marvellous opportunity that lies before us as Christians is the process of developing and bringing forward the beauty of this inner work of God’s grace where it visibly impacts our daily lives. We are instructed to “put on” this new nature outwardly. Paul advises us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”  (Romans 13:14 NASB) But we can’t live the purity and beauty of God’s righteous and holy nature which dwells within us, outwardly in our own strength alone. Putting on this new nature outwardly is a joint effort, a sanctifying work of grace that requires faith, faith in God’s abundant supply of strength to continue working in us what He has already begun to accomplish; and a sturdy commitment on our part to make adjustments and corrections when we are not inline or are inadequate. Removing all the character blemishes can be as simple as repenting of the unsavoury thoughts, words and actions that sometimes appear in us. We don’t ignore them and we don’t hide them, we deal with them.
We can maximise the impact of God’s transformative work in us, by aligning to His ways and His will for us. Philippians 1:6 tells us that we are confident that God, who has begun this good work in us, will perform it right up until the day Jesus returns, and that it is God who is at work in us to both to will and to do His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13) Exercising faith (believing, obeying, abiding and trusting) is our responsibility, and according to our faith, God’s transformative work will be done. Since God is so committed to our progress, so too should we make every effort to do the things that please Him.
Everytime we take God’s word to heart, it’s like having beauty therapy on our soul, as the word programmes love and morality into our being. When we look into passages of Scripture such as Ephesians 4:24, that says we have been created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, it serves as a compass that guides us to the glory of the new birth. Scripture helps to translate to our minds the essence of this new spiritual nature of holiness in terms of its corresponding behaviors. Renewing our minds as we read and meditate on these passages has the effect of creating a bridge of truth between our inner spiritual nature, our understanding, our spiritual strength, and our outward conduct. For Christians, our integrity, wholeness and holiness have very closely related meanings.
Those who wish to have fellowship and intimacy with God will understand the importance of submitting to follow Christ; praising Him with reverence, devotion and earnestness. “O send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling places.”  (Psalm 43:3 NASB)
God is able to impart His own beautiful nature in us. It is understanding truths such as “imparted holiness” that allows us to know the depth of fellowship we have with the Father and His Son and His Kingdom. Experiencing the reality of His Kingdom is made possible for us as we “put on” or choose to live in accord with the new nature that has been imparted to us. To achieve these virtues will require a degree of strength, courage and skill. How we can apply this truth is explained by the Apostle Peter:
Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;  for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.“ (2 Peter 1:3-11 NASB)
It should delight us in knowing that God sees us as souls of value and potential beauty; and through His plans of salvation, redemption, sanctification, He will purposely make us beings of much more beauty. The Scriptures guide us into being beautifully dressed for the Kingdom. We are encouraged to diligently pursue moral excellence in thought, word, and deed. Aligning ourselves to the true holiness that has been wrought in us, we are to clean up our thoughts and attitudes that once wedded us to the world; for true holiness from within requires the effect of a renewed mind to be displayed outwardly, so that we think, speak and act with integrity.
We are to be renewed in the spirit or disposition of our minds, and to do so we have strong injunctions to “come out from their midst and be separate”. (2 Corinthians 6:17 NASB) The standards God sets for us are high; He expects us to use self-discipline, patience, forbearance, and wisdom; and to adopt attitudes that are fitting of having benefitted from being under God’s grace.
We are quite good at discerning physical beauty, but not so accomplished at defining or discerning spiritual beauty. Of the many ways we enjoy physical beauty, we should have the capacity to enjoy spiritual beauty in a more meaningful way. If we were to do this, then we would diminish the power of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes. God is the author of beauty, and being created in His image, we have the capacity to compare things from a beauty perspective, to experience beauty, and to create beauty. To better appreciate some aspect of physical beauty, we need to move away from the solely physical encounter and connect it to an inner appreciation. Whether it be beautiful music, beautifully written words, beauty in nature, beautiful food, beautiful lifestyle objects or a beautiful person; we can look to what it is within us that values this beauty, without be a captive of it. Holiness is what separates us from the unhealthy lure of physical beauty, allowing us to appreciate it without being entrapped by it. Listening to a beautiful melody created by a masterful musician is wonderful, yet more importantly would be our appreciation of things of an abstract nature.
Consequently, we are wise to spend time in prayer each day, study God’s Word and praise and worship Him, for these are exercises that require self-control and will develop an increasingly personal relationship with God. They give us a higher perspective about things, a time of sanctification or refreshing of our souls, a reminder to be willing to forgive and be concerned for others’ needs resulting in some forms of caring and helpful service, a connection with God through our demeanor and behaviour. Being serious about achieving holiness would include a review of our day’s progress in working towards quality while looking ahead to make the most of upcoming opportunities.
Jill's self talk
"I am open to being transformed. I have a renewed mindset that is akin to Christ's. I present my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. I pursue the good works that God has prepared for us to be done. I become the clay in the potter's hands."

Will our beauty stand the tests of time

There are areas where we will encounter spiritual conflict; for it is the purpose of the opponents of God to employ every tool possible to hinder and prevent our development and progress. It could be people, circumstances, or events in our lives that are extremely challenging to us. It can also be struggling through the contradictions between our condition and our ideals. “Do not be surprised,” Peter said, “at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12 NASB) Testing refers to a means of refinement, and very often, God uses the unique and difficult situations of our lives to achieve His good purposes in us. We may not understand why things are the way they are, but we are to trust Him in them. If we are to value the opportunities for God to work in our lives, despite the problems that some situations cause us, we can even find joy in them, knowing He is with us and that those unpleasant events or people are actually purposefully helping to refine our holiness in meaningful ways. Sooner or later, we have to pass these tests, and the only way is to be godly in our response.
It is the power, person, and presence of the Holy Spirit at work through our new nature of holiness that provides and produces a dynamic spiritual witness of grace, truth, and light in our lives at the office, at home, at church, and all places in between. The Holy Spirit is our Helper, as well as God’s Helper. No one is better able to build godly qualities in us than God Himself. The more time we spend in prayer believing we are near to God’s presence and confessing the reality of who we are in Christ, the more clearly and powerfully our quality is influenced from within. The soul of great beauty focuses on building upon the foundation of benefits of holiness and righteousness already provided by Christ to enhance the display of Christian virtues from the inside out in everything we think, do and say. Together with the Holy Spirit, we put on the virtues of the disposition of Christ.
As well as desiring and developing holiness, we are equally charged with avoiding un-holiness. Some strategies for preventing the un-holiness around us from influencing or corrupting us include: preparing, avoiding, confronting, resisting, settling and withdrawing. “To prepare” means to know which areas of temptation we are susceptible to and take steps to arm ourselves with specific verses or principles that we can use, just as Christ did when He was being tempted by Satan. “To avoid” means to keep ourselves away from places and people that we know are unholy. “To confront” means to call out the un-holiness for what it is as a most repugnant condition, with reasons to validate your viewpoints. “To resist” means to stand your ground with unwavering strength against those forces or people who would influence or provoke you. “To settle” is to agree to disagree and to give yourself an exit without burning bridges. “To withdraw” is to extract yourself from a situation if it’s clearly a dead-end that you would be better off nowhere near.
Holiness demands quality thinking. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NASB) When we are committed to holiness, there is no room in our minds for feelings of greed, jealousy, lust, anger or resentment. The better response is the opposite of these things. Every time we are presented with ungodly thoughts or urges, we have to quickly put them in their place, and re-calibrate ourselves straight back to the fine and beautiful perspective of holiness.
We are not to be deceived. We cannot achieve godly pursuits while revelling in the ways and thoughts of the flesh and of the world. The spirit of the world is set against the things of God; it denies and rebels against Him. The spirit of this world, as well as our old sin nature, is absorbed with many nasty and selfish concerns for creature comforts, pleasures, and appetites of the flesh as a means to an end in and of themselves. It ignores the plight of others and does not do for them what we would want if we were in their situation.
Jill's self talk
"I will not fail the testing of my faith. With strength I will resist all immoral forces. I will control and conquer each and every type of attack. My beauty will rise like the sun, and shine forth in holiness and courage, never to be extinguished."

Concluding remarks

Holiness literally acts as a discernible shield between us and the impulsive notions of sin that previously had us bound to the needs and desires of our flesh. So we must see ourselves, divorced from of a culture that obsesses over physical forms of beauty; and instead wedded to a Kingdom culture that appreciates abstract qualities, like the great worth of a virtuous character and a compassionate heart.
Christians can confidently shun evil in a way that displays true power, as we silently impress upon others a holy alterntive. Christ Jesus lives in us as the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Jesus has given us His expectation about our being separated unto Himself and given us the resources to facilitate it. He expects us to broadcast a different and strong signal to the world. In our godliness of our lives, we are to be a lighthouse of integrity and a beacon of hope for the lost world.
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. “And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.” Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfectingholiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18 and 7:1 NASB)
The initial impact of the Church portrayed in the book of Acts was not an anomaly, but an example to us of a living, vital, and powerful body of Christians who were walking and living by faith in the power of God which was at work through them. As we learn and apply the fundamental Christian value of holiness, by faith, each one of us can experience a personal revival of godly dimensions as we tap into the power of the divine nature. The holy power of the Holy Spirit that infuses us, will overcome the influence of the sinful nature, one area and layer at a time, transforming us from glory to glory.
Jill's prayer
"Lord, you alone have the strength and power to make men holy. You alone have the power to defeat evil. We remember how Christ suffered and died for these reasons. Lord, we rely on your power to make the world a better place, to rid evil from the hearts of men, and set apart for yourself a holy nation of your people."
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