Author Archives: Michael E. Lynch

About Michael E. Lynch

A Bible teacher, writer, editor, and former pastor, with a B.A. in Psychology and Journalism from Syracuse University (1987) and an M.Div. in Pastoral Counseling from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (1991).

God’s Holiness. III: Holiness and Renewal of the Mind

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’ If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:14–19; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image from pxhere.com. Published under a Creative Commons 1.0 Public Domain license.

Our previous post showed that Christians are already holy because we have been set apart for God. However, sometimes we do not look holy. We may not feel holy. Perhaps we may feel like nothing has changed in our lives. While our status as Christians is holy people, set apart for God’s glory, our entire lifetime is a process of learning how to manifest His holiness in our lives.

Peter told his readers, “Do not be conformed to your former lusts.” Old habits of thought and behavior have a way of creeping in even after we have walked with Jesus for a while. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds to conform to God’s will, not to the ways of the world:

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1–2).

This renewal of the mind is a lifelong process. The world continually bombards us with messages that contradict God’s Word and wisdom. Television, radio, music, news media, the Internet, etc., try to tell us what to think and how to feel about everything. Most of what they say gives little concern for what God has to say; some hold God in open contempt.

To counteract the world’s mindset, we must yield to the Holy Spirit as He renews our mind through God’s Word. You can find several articles on this subject here.

The Bible is our primary source for the renewal of the mind. Its words give life, unlike those of an ordinary book. Peter wrote that the Word of God is the imperishable seed through which we are born again (1 Peter 1:23). Jesus said that His disciples are sanctified through His words:

“But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:13–23).

Probably most Christians have a problem accepting these words at face value. “Even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us.” “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them.” I admit it: I do not always feel like I am in Christ to the same extent that He is in the Father. I know my attitude and behavior can sometimes be quite a bit below the level of “godlike.” People do not always see the glory of God in me. Perhaps, no matter how long you have been a Christian, you may say the same thing. But, this is what Jesus says. This is the Word of God. I can choose to believe and accept it or I can deny it. I can seek God’s holiness to be revealed in my life or I can call Him a liar and decide that is impossible. Do we believe that God is truthful? If so, let us seek all that He promises for us!

We need God’s Word to counteract the lies of Satan. The world will continue to bombard us with its propaganda. Also, we have heard numerous messages that diminish our value and potential. We are told to accept sin and spiritual defeat as a normal part of our lives because we are “only human.” To counteract that, we need to spend time reading God’s Word, meditating on it, and studying it, all within a context of prayer to Him. God’s Holy Word, enlightened by the Holy Spirit within us, is vital to produce holiness in our lives.

It can be hard to take God at His Word, especially when He makes such bold statements. Let us not lose heart. Let us hear, read, know, and believe His Word and trust Him to bring it to pass in our lives. If we believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), let us trust Him that He speaks the truth when He speaks about our lives.

In what ways would you like to see God’s holiness manifested in your life? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Holiness, God's Moral Attributes, Renewing the Mind Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Holiness. II: Holy People for a Holy God

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’ If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:14–19; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image from pxhere.com. Published under a Creative Commons 1.0 Public Domain license.

The previous post in this series introduced the concept of God’s holiness. It is an important attribute of God. The term refers to something that is different, set apart, or consecrated, as opposed to something common or ordinary. We then saw that God calls His children to share in His holiness and communicate it to those around us.

How do we do this? How can we participate in God’s holiness? What does this look like? The discussion in this post and the two that follows it assumes that you are a Christian, who has received forgiveness of sins and everlasting life through faith in Christ.

First, we must admit that we cannot make ourselves holy. The Disciple’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1988) has this note regarding 1 Peter 1:15–16:

“God alone is holy. Objects or persons can be classed as holy only by participation in His holiness.”

We cannot make ourselves holy. The best we can do is receive and participate in God’s holiness.

To do this, we must recognize that we are already holy through faith in Christ. Holiness is not something we seek or earn as much as it is something we live out and practice. If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you are already holy. He has already purchased you with His blood and made you His own. 1 Peter 1:18 says that He has redeemed us. We belong to Him. He has already set you apart. God has given us His Holy Spirit living within us.

Most of us have moments when we do not feel holy, though. We know we are not acting holy. Sometimes, our behavior borders on diabolical. To change this behavior, we have to remove the obstacles that are hiding God’s holiness in our lives and let it flow out of us.

The exhortations in the next two posts are not a complete list. Numerous authors have written entire books on holiness in the Christian’s life. Three brief blog posts will not be able to cover everything. This is also not a step-by-step guide to holiness. Finally, I must emphasize that this is not a guarantee of instantaneous sanctification. The Christian life is a marathon, not a 100-meter dash; persistence and long-term obedience to God and fellowship with Him are necessary. Spiritual growth always takes time. Every Christian struggles with his or her own obstacles to holiness. Thus, we may each have to take different steps to grow. However, God has the same purpose in mind for each of us: That we may be conformed to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29).

In what ways would you like to see God’s holiness manifested in your life? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Holiness, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

God’s Holiness. I: Defining Holiness

“Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy’” (Leviticus 19:2; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

What do you think of when you hear the word “holy”? Most people immediately associate the word with God. We immediately guess that it has something to do with God or Jesus. “Holy” is one of those religious-sounding words that we might throw around without knowing exactly what it means.

Some churches will claim to be Holiness churches, with an emphasis on holiness or entire sanctification. Many in such churches will be adamant about wearing the right clothing (women always wearing dresses, for example) or listening to the right kind of music (it must mention Jesus by name, and it cannot sound like rock!). They have other rules: no dancing, no alcohol, no cigarettes, etc. If you feel that God is leading you to live such a lifestyle, please continue to do so; even if these rules are not explicitly biblical, they can protect you from certain excesses that can lead to sin. However, rules do not make a person holy.

The Hebrew word “qadosh” is usually translated as “holy, sanctified, or consecrated” in the Old Testament. It describes God as exalted above His creation, set apart from infirmity, impurity, and sin. People (priests, Nazirites, prophets, etc.), objects (oil, priestly garments, etc.), places (tabernacle, temple), and even times (the Sabbath, Passover, Day of Atonement) can be set apart for God’s worship, service, or glory.

The New Testament uses the Greek word “hagios.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that it comes from a word meaning “religious awe or reverence,” so “hagios” describes something as “worthy of veneration.” However, most New Testament writers use the term in the same way as the Hebrew word “qadosh.” Biblehub describes it like this:

“The fundamental (core) meaning … is ‘different’–thus a temple in the 1st century was hagios (‘holy’) because different from other buildings (Wm. Barclay). In the NT, hágios (‘holy’) has the ‘technical’ meaning ‘different from the world’ because ‘like the Lord.’”

The opposite of “holy” might be “common or ordinary.” God is holy; we approach Him with respect and awe (the Bible uses the term “fear of the Lord”). We should not think of Him as “the man upstairs” or as someone we can treat lightly and bring down to our level.

A church building is holy because we set it apart for God’s worship. Photo by Adrien Olichon on Pexels.com

As mentioned earlier, we may ascribe holiness to people or things that have been consecrated to God’s use and glory. Considering these objects might help us understand what it would mean for a Christian to be holy.

Think of some of the objects that might be considered “holy” by different Christians. Some churches have holy water, which church members might anoint themselves with before entering the church. Chemically speaking, it is just ordinary H2O. It is not “magic water.” However, it has been set apart as “holy.” We use it for worship; we do not use it to make coffee.

I have a small vial of “holy oil” that I might place on a person’s forehead while praying for them. There is nothing special or magical about that oil. I could probably refill the vial with extra-virgin olive oil from the grocery store, set it aside, and consider it “holy” because I use it only for prayer ministry, and have the same results. My church uses wine for communion; even though it is ordinary wine, and you might be able to buy it in any liquor store, we do not pop open the bottle to enjoy it with dinner. A church building is constructed with ordinary materials and may not look impressive or imposing; however, if it has been set apart for God’s worship and glory, it is holy and should be treated differently.

Each of these objects is holy, not because they are chemically unique, but because we set them apart to worship God, and He receives them. Thus, they can communicate God’s holiness to people.

It should be like that with us as followers of Jesus. God has received us into His family. He has set us apart to worship and glorify Him. We are declared holy by Him. We should participate in His holiness and communicate it to those around us.

Perhaps many of us pray, “Jesus, make me holy.” Instead, may our prayer and heart’s desire be, “Jesus, you have already made me holy. Reveal Your holiness in me.”

Where do you most see God’s holiness revealed? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Holiness, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Knowing God to Be Like Him

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
“Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy’” (Leviticus 19:2).
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY’” (1 Peter 1:14–16).

Over the last few months, this blog has discussed what some theologians refer to as God’s majestic attributes, the qualities that set Him apart from everything He created. These include His omnipotence (being all-powerful), omniscience (being all-knowing), omnipresence (being present everywhere), and His eternal nature (everything besides God has a beginning; He has no beginning and no end).

black cross on top of mountain
Image courtesy of Pexels.

Theologians will refer to some of God’s other qualities as His moral attributes, including His holiness, love, justice, goodness, mercy, etc. These qualities make God truly worthy of our worship. Omnipotence without justice or love would produce the worst tyrant imaginable. Omnipresence without love and mercy would give us no hope of escape; because of God’s love, His permanent presence makes Him a refuge to which we can flee. His majestic attributes set Him above everything He created. His moral attributes allow us to worship Him and take comfort in His presence, power, and wisdom.

On the other hand, the distinction between God’s majestic and moral attributes is somewhat arbitrary. Each of God’s qualities is an essential part of who He is. He does not slip between His majestic and moral attributes as different circumstances arise. He is always all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, eternal, holy, loving, and righteous. God does not fragment Himself and exercise only one or two of His attributes at one time, then switch to a few others as the circumstances dictate.

One clear distinction exists between God’s majestic and moral attributes. God urges His children to share in His moral attributes. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus told His disciples to be perfect, even as the Father is perfect. (If you think “perfect” here means sinless, or if you are prone to perfectionism, please read this post. God will love you even if you sin.) We should love others because God is love. We should forgive as we have been forgiven. The child of God should desire to be like his heavenly Father.

Several forthcoming posts will look at some of God’s moral attributes. As we consider them, we must remember that a proper definition of His qualities is necessary. The Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). We will get some bizarre ideas if we define love the wrong way; the love of God should not be confused with the ideas of “tolerance” that are popular nowadays, or with the distorted “love” of a child molester, or with my undying love for cream-filled doughnuts. Nor, when we think of God’s holiness, should we mistake it for the self-righteousness arrogance of some religious people who claim to be holy. God is the ultimate example of love, justice, holiness, and goodness; we should not expect Him to submit to our culture’s expectations and standards.

As we reflect on who God is and what He is like, may we be drawn to become more like Him and be the people He made us to be.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Which of God’s attributes inspire your life and worship most? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spiritual Gifts and Natural Talents

Let’s start with a Bible trivia question. Who is the first person whom the Bible says was “filled with the Spirit?”

Did you say Jesus? John the Baptist? Did you go back to the Old Testament and say David, Moses, or Abraham?

All of those answers would be wrong.

The correct answer is “Bezalel.” You might be asking, “Beza-WHO?”

“Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you: … they are to make them according to all that I have commanded you’” (Exodus 31:1–6, 11; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

“Bezalel,” by James Tissot (1836-1902). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

(Notice that Bezalel was a craftsman or carpenter. Jesus was a carpenter until He was about 30 years old and then preached for only three years. Feel free to ponder that in your free time.)

Many Christians think God draws a big distinction between the secular and the spiritual. We may be tempted to think that there are areas of our life that God is really concerned about and others that do not matter to Him. We think God is interested in what we do in church or how we study the Bible and pray. We can think of a few rules that we think God is really interested in enforcing, like whether we dance, drink alcohol, or listen to the “wrong” kinds of music.

However, we might be inclined to think there are other areas of our lives that do not matter to God. For many of us, one of those areas might be our jobs. It is easy to forget about the Lord while we are working. We immerse ourselves in our work, stop thinking about God for eight hours, and perhaps assume God is not paying as much attention to us.

The story of Bezalel changes that perspective. For the first time, the Bible says that God filled someone with the Spirit of God. In spite of that, Bezalel’s career was not what we usually think of when we hear that someone is filled with the Spirit. He was not a prophet. The Bible never quotes him. We do not know anything he said. He was not a king or ruler. He did not perform any miracles or heal anybody. In fact, we do not even know for certain if Bezalel ever felt the leading of the Holy Spirit. Maybe he never felt like God was telling him how to do anything. It is very possible that he spent his entire career simply relying on his skills and experience, even while building the tabernacle, not realizing that his best ideas had been implanted in his brain by God.

However, God saw things differently. Bezalel’s talents, experience, wisdom, and understanding were all gifts from God, instilled throughout the years. He had probably spent decades building and crafting ordinary everyday items. He probably developed his skills while working as a slave in Egypt before Moses led God’s people out. Even in such mundane circumstances, God was preparing him for important service.

Stained glass image of Mary and Jesus, working as a carpenter. Photo by Thomas Quine, via Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

How can we follow in Bezalel’s footsteps?

First, remember that everything you have—including your talents—comes from God. He orchestrated your DNA and your life experiences to make you the person you are. Even if you do not feel like your gifts and talents are particularly “spiritual,” they still come from God.

Those talents should still be consecrated to the Lord’s work. The Kingdom of God needs different people with diverse talents serving in various ways. We will not effectively spread the Gospel relying only on pastors, musicians, and Sunday school teachers. Your skills and experiences have placed you in your current career. You can minister to people—co-workers, classmates, customers, etc.—whom your pastor will never meet.

Even within church, a variety of gifts are necessary. While pastors, teachers, and worship leaders get most of the attention, most churches have important behind-the-scenes servants whose talents are needed to ensure that the worship service runs smoothly: from the person who prepares the bulletin, to the janitor who cleans up after service, to the person who fixes anything that breaks in the building, to the hospitality team that provides coffee and bagels for post-worship fellowship time.

Whether you have spiritual gifts in a strict biblical sense (see 1 Corinthians 12:1–11, Romans 12:3–8, and Ephesians 4:11–16) or skills that could be used mostly outside the church, all of your talents can be consecrated to the Lord’s service.

I can see this in my own life. My strongest spiritual gifts are teaching, discernment of spirits, and word of wisdom. However, the clergy at my church often ask me to serve in areas which rely more on my administrative and organizational skills. While those are abilities I developed in the workplace, they have at times benefited the church and helped in spreading the Gospel.

You have such skills as well. See where your greatest talents lie. Use all of your abilities for God’s glory. Your talents come from God. Give them back to Him.

“Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

What talents has God given you? How are you using them for His glory? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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