What to do with youthful passions contrary to God’s grace

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19But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” 20Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 22So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.  2 Timothy 2:19-22

Knowing Jesus generates response and the desire to honour Him with our lives. But our passions may seem to get in the way of responding honourably to Jesus and the Gospel. We may be disappointed that passions, our desires, do not automatically align themselves with the purity of the Holy Spirit. This is where we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit for a lifetime.

We can lock onto God’s vision for our lives and return to Him over and over; set apart for Him; holy by His grace; useful to the Master of this house.

We can cleanse ourselves of what is dishonourable to Jesus through confession and deliberate gatekeeping. In His loving presence we learn to recognize our temptations drawing us away from the sincere satisfaction available in His grace and truth.

We can flee youthful passions, deciding not to feed and entertain them.

We can pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, redirecting the energy and youthfulness of our lives into participation in His work.

We can connect with the fellowship of Jesus’ followers who call on the Lord in the promise of a heart forgiven and cleansed by Jesus’ labour of love at the cross, for support and encouragement.

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NT Wright on Prayer & Holiness

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I’ve been reading N.T. Wright’s book, After you Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. I keep returning to his discussion of Romans 8:12-17. Absolutely beautiful! My systematic theology professor, use to say our generation had one of the most under-developed eschatological visions ever. N.T. Wright is out to change that.

 

After You Believe, p. 93-95. (Harper One, 2010, paperback)

So the telos, the “goal” of being “glorified” over the creation, is to be anticipated in the present by replacing the slave-habits of mind, heart and body with freedom-habits—habits that both share in God’s freedom themselves and bring that freedom to the world. That is, more or less, what Paul understands by holiness or sanctification, the learning in the present of the habits which anticipate the ultimate future. But that sovereign and redemptive rule of renewed humans over God’s world is also anticipated in the present time through prayer.

The whole creation, he says, is groaning in labor pains, longing for the birth of the new creation from the womb of the old (8.22). We ourselves, within that creation, find ourselves growing as we await our own “adoption as sons and daughters, the redemption of our bodies” (8.23) But precisely in that state, as we are longing for and anticipating the final “glorification,” the Spirit is also at work within us, “groaning without words,” and thus enabling us, even when we don’t know what to pray for as we ought, nevertheless to be interceding for the whole world (8.26-27). This essentially priestly vocation, standing before God with his whole creation on our hearts, joins up with the vision of royal sovereignty over creation, and is one of its key aspects. This passage offers one of the strangest but also most moving descriptions in the whole New Testament of what the Christian understands by prayer: the inarticulate groaning in which the pain of the world is felt most keenly at the point where it is also being brought, by the Spirit, in the very presence of God the creator. This is central, in the present time, to the entire human vocation. Learning this language is the second key habit which forms the pathway to the eventual goal, the goal of “royal priesthood.”

In other words, the present anticipation of the future glory consists not in lording it over creation, imagining ourselves already its masters, able to tyrannize it and bend it to our will. It consist, rather, in the humble, Christlike, Spirit-led activity of prayer, the prayer in which the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Spirit (5.5) so that the extraordinary and almost unbelievable hope that is set before us is nevertheless firm and secure (5.1-5; 89.28-30). Thus, at the heart of arguable the greatest chapter of certainly his greatest letter, Paul sets out the pattern of present anticipation of future hope. This is what virtue is all about. The hope is that all those who are “in Christ’ and are indwelt by the Spirit will eventually reign in glory over the whole creation, thereby taking up at long last the role commanded for humans in Genesis 1 and Psalm 8 and sharing the inheritance, and the final rescuing work, of the Messiah himself, as in Psalm 2. And if that is the telos, the goal, it is to be anticipated in the present by the settled habits of holiness and prayer.

Conduct Yourselves

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13Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 1 Peter 1:13-18

I was 27, married and traveling Ireland with my wife. Yet, even when we left the house my uncle said to us, “Now you, conduct yourselves.”  He said it more than once! We laughed like kids but the exhortation stuck with us.

Peter writes, “You also be holy in all your conduct.” Holy conduct is seen in relationships.

Holiness is a condition gracefully given us through new birth in Christ Jesus and it is a response to the Gospel. Holy conduct is generated when we are in awe of the high price for our ransom – the precious blood of Christ. Holy conduct is generated when we consider our conduct in relationship to people for whom Jesus died. They are valuable to Him and we must treat them accordingly.

Holy conduct is generated by our awareness of our Kingdom citizenship. This place is not our final destination; we are passing through. Yet, what we in this life and day does matter to God. God, our Father, judges impartially. And this judge has a glorious vision of our lives — that we would live in the holiness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

So prepare your mind for action, for holy action consistent with the character of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Prepare your mind by setting it fully on the hope you have in Christ Jesus. He is present in you now and shaping you for life with Him and for His glory.

Your body is meant to be a sacred space.

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18So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

John 2:18-22

 

Jesus saw two temples: The temple Israel built with stones. And the temple of His body built by God.

 

Which temple mattered the most?

 

Which holy space is God’s most dear concern?

 

Jesus had just cleared the Court of the Gentiles of the people committed to profiting from His Father’s house and the desire for righteousness. When asked for a sign to show His authority, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and three days I will raise it up.” His audience was confused and incredulous. The Temple in which they stood took 46 years to build.

 

But the temple of which Jesus spoke was His body. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) Jesus was looking forward to the culmination of His passion in the resurrection of His body. The implications are staggering. 1) Jesus understood that His body was the first arena for experiencing and knowing the Heavenly Father. Your body is meant to be a holy space. 2) Through Jesus’ occupation of flesh, God has solidarity with people. People matter to God. 3) Therefore the buildings we build for His glory must serve God’s greater purpose for the redemption of people.

 

Jesus anticipated His destruction at their hands on the cross. But he also anticipated  the impact of His completed work of forgiveness for sin: The Holy Spirit would be sent by the Father in Jesus’ name to occupy the “temple” of every one His disciples. Later the apostle Paul would write:

 

For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

 

Grace!

 

You are what you do.

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:13-17

13Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Observations:

Peter continues to address the challenge of being a Christian under pressure, in a hostile environment.  His theme is suffering even while doing good.

Peter tells the disciples who are under pressure to
–not fear their agitators.
–to honour Christ the Lord as holy in their hearts
–to be prepared to make a defence for their good behaviour by sharing the “reason for the hope that is in you.”
–to do so with gentleness and respect, keeping a good conscience.

It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Application:

We can see the difference.  You are what you do.  Not just what you think and feel.  Donald Miller observes that the only story people know about you is what you do, not what you think.  Peter envisions a community of disciples of Jesus who stand out because of their good behaviour.  Their goodness, what can be seen in their relationships with people, cuts against the grain of their society.  In fact the general crowd may call the disciples’ good “evil.”

When confronted for the behaviours that people can see, the disciple of Jesus is to be prepared to give reasons for the hope they have.  This is a profound observation.  Goodness, quantifiable “holiness” flows out of the heart and mind that has been captivated by Jesus.  It flows from the daily confession, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”  Hope has reasons.  Why else would we bother to go against the tide of public opinion and view of what is normal?  People don’t know what’s in your heart and mind until you tell them.  But they may not care about what you know until they care about what you have been doing… or not doing.

Do followers of Jesus really rush in where angels fear to tread?

Hope has its reasons?  Our hope is wrapped up in the Gospel of Jesus wherein we have seen the grace and truth of the Father’s love for us.  Jesus the Son of God, according to the Scriptures, born of Mary, ushers in the Kingdom of God, killed on the cross for the forgiveness of sin, buried in the tomb, raised on the third day to new life, ascended to the Father’s right hand, and now giving the Holy Spirit to empower His church, shall return someday in fullness of glory to judge the living and the dead and usher in a new heaven and new earth.

Hope has its reasons.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father can you see the difference?  Infuse our hearts with the hope of the Gospel so that we have reason for acting and living differently according to the holiness of your Son Jesus Christ.  AMEN.