Reaching for the Mark

The phrase “That’s good enough” just isn’t good enough when it comes to true holiness. True holiness will have nothing to do with sin to any degree. Anything less just doesn’t make the grade and so falls short of the bulls eye. So what is real holiness?

Put simply, “holiness is grace, mercy and lovingkindness. And, sin is anything which stands against that.” God has told us that the fruits of His Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)  Any fruits contrary to these are encouraged by spirits of His enemy and are unholy.

For example, taking a quick glance at the concept of grace (overgenerous preferential treatment), we see that it embodies generosity, therefore, willingly choosing to be stingy, greedy, selfish or in any other way ungenerous is a sin (unholy).

Both the prophet Isaiah and John the disciple report having heard heavenly beings near the throne of God crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord.” (Isaiah 6:3 & Revelation 4:8) In ancient Hebrew culture, repeating a phrase three times was a commonly understood practice of expressing intensity such as on a logarithmic scale. It’s like saying God is 1000 times holy. (He is a thousand times graceful, merciful, loving and kind.) God’s prophet, Habakkuk, also said of Him, “…You are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil. You cannot tolerate wrongdoing…” (Habakkuk 1:13) Those who reject Jesus and die without having allowed Him to take away their sin (Act 4:12) will personally experience just how holy, holy, holy God truly is and will taste for themselves just how much He loathes, loathes, loathes sin. (I am terrified for anyone who chooses that path. Please don’t reject Jesus.)

Jesus tells us through His disciple, Peter, “…But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy, because I am holy.’…” (1 Peter 1:15-16) Jesus also tells us through His disciple, Matthew, “…But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect…” (Matthew 5:48) I personally take this to mean that we must be perfect in our holiness. We must be perfect in our grace, mercy and lovingkindness, and if we allow Him to, Jesus will get us there, for He is faithful. (2 Timothy 2:13 & 1 Thessalonians 5:24)

When Jesus walked this earth in the flesh, He lived a holy and prefect life, a sinless life. He was loving, kind, merciful and both naturally and supernaturally gracious (generous beyond measure). He abounded in all the fruits of the Spirit, but He was also one other thing. He was obedient, even unto death. Through His disciple, John, Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” (John 14:15) “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. (John 14:21) “All who love me will do what I say.” (John 14:23) So you see, acts of disobedience and rebellion are not lovingkindness and are therefore unholy, a sin. (From what I understand, Jesus obeyed not only God but everyone God placed in authority over Him including His mom.)

Jesus’ life on earth was given to us as our example to follow (1 Peter 2:21 & John 13:15). A “true follower” of Jesus is anyone whom the Holy Spirit is teaching to follow His ways, which means not just learning about them but living out His example every moment. (James 1:22) There is great wisdom in teaching our children to be followers of Jesus; to always ask themselves “What would Jesus do?” If we adults had only been trained to this habit as children, then we should still be constantly looking to Jesus as our example today. (Proverbs 22:6) For, we all, adults and children alike, are commanded to acknowledge God in all our ways (Proverbs 3:6), not just some of our ways, some of the time or until a certain age.

In your every action, reaction, situation and decision, do you choose Jesus’ way? Do you follow His “ways of holiness”; His “ways of grace, mercy and lovingkindness”? Do you even have a sense of that high mark to which the holy, holy, holy Son of God demonstrated and is calling us; that perfectly beautiful mark for which all our hearts should desperately hope and long to reach? Or, have you perhaps settled for your own less-than-perfect vision of holiness? Do not rest there on your own understanding, beloved. (Proverbs 3:5)

Most Christians have heard of The Beatitudes as recorded in the disciple Matthew’s account of Jesus life. (Matthew 5:3-11) But, have you noticed what comes after? Was not Jesus in fact showing everyone that their concept of holiness is much too low? Didn’t He in fact raise the bar?

In the Ten Commandments which God gave us through Moses, number six tells us not to commit murder, but in Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus shows us that murder means more than just physical killing. Who knew? Likewise, the seventh commandment tells us not to commit adultery, but again, in Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus raises the bar. And, so on it goes, all the way to the end of Matthew, chapter 7.

Is not God showing us that “reaching for the mark” means more than we think? The mark of true holiness is higher than our current understanding. If we truly long to be like our Heavenly Dad, to be His sons and daughters, then what can we do but ask His Holy Spirit; His “gracious, merciful Spirit of lovingkindness” to teach us; to reveal each step up on our path to His holy, holy, holiness.

Then, gradually, day-by-day, as we continue to acknowledge our Heavenly Dad in all our ways; as we joyfully (or not so joyfully) obey His commands; as we seek to know Him and His holy (gracious, merciful, loving, kind) ways through the words He has graciously given to us; and as we listen as best we can to His gentle, quiet, guiding voice inside us, let us wait with patient endurance and childlike trust while we, the clay, are carefully pounded and molded on the Master Potter’s wheel and then baked in His fiery furnace until we each are, at last, made a perfect, holy vessel lacking in no good thing and fit for His amazing purpose, for we have His promise that He will finish what He starts. (Philippians 1:6)

Oh, for us all to be holy, each one overflowing with grace, mercy and lovingkindness, exceedingly abundant in all the fruits of His Spirit! What a beautiful kingdom that will be!

Keep reaching for the mark, beloved.

One Step Up: A Growing Sensitivity

Here is a step up that God showed me on the path to perfect grace, mercy and lovingkindness. We all know that lying is a sin, right? But, did you know that there are five forms of lying? They are fabrication, denial, omission, exaggeration and minimization. Think about that for awhile.

As a child, because God’s laws were written on my heart (Romans 2:15) my conscience was sorely bothered by my first fabrications, denials and deliberate omissions. Had I simply ignored my conscience, I have no doubt that eventually it would have been seared and lying would have become easy for me. Instead, my heart told me that I should obey my conscience, so I resisted the temptation to lie. Then over time, an unexpected thing happened. My conscience became even more sensitive, and eventually omissions by silence, then exaggeration and, lastly, minimization began to feel the same as my first experiences with lying, which led me to realize that they must also be forms of lying. A little research confirmed this for me.

From this experience, I have come to believe that, if we would just strive to climb even one step up toward holiness, God will then reveal to us another step up.

Jesus said through His disciple, John, “…The devil has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a deceiver and the father of lies…” (John 8:44)

Jesus said through His prophet, Barbra, “…All of Satan’s words are lies, you don’t need to know his words. His lies just pop into your mind. This you can not prevent, but what you can do is not believe them, and do not speak them out loud…” (The Pike Lake Transcripts, December 4, 2012) It’s no wonder then that we need to ask for forgiveness daily. “No one is righteous–not even one.” (Romans 3:10) “For all have sinned…” (Romans 3:23)

Now to address a particular subtlety of one specific form of lying:

Negative, unrealistic statements containing such absolutes as “always” and “never” are exaggerations intended to manipulate opinions about someone’s character. (i.e. “You never…” or “He always…”) This particular form of manipulation is often employed by children and the childish. Sound familiar?

Jesus said through His prophet, Yolanda Ballard, “…When your motives stem from manipulation, you are dabbling in witchcraft…” (At The Father’s Feet, April 5, 2009) [paraphrased]

I suspect many people may not even realize that God sees an exaggeration (which is not meant jokingly) as a lie; a manipulation akin to witchcraft. How much more sensitive then does one’s conscience need to be to realize that using negative absolutes is also dabbling in witchcraft?

Let us carefully consider the wisdom of avoiding speaking out loud any sudden thoughts that negatively apply absolutes such as “always” and “never” to any of God’s children, for exercising such wisdom is yet another step toward holiness, bringing us that much closer to our Heavenly Papa who love us so very much.

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