Devotional–The Struggle of Sanctification–Making Lifestyle Changes
There are stories in the Bible that cause us to feel intense grief, the fall of Adam and Eve, the emancipated Israelites [Exodus chapters 12-14], Noah and the flood, Samson and Delilah, the rich, young ruler [Matthew 19, verses 16-22], and the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats [Matthew 25, verses 31-46].
Because of their allegiance to the Egyptian’s pagan practices, God took the nation of Israel through the wilderness to achieve a spiritual transformation in them. Yet, due to their disobedience and love of paganism, a journey that should have been 11 days lasted 40 years. Sadly, the consequences of their refusal to obey God resulted in everyone 20 years and older dying without ever reaching the land flowing with milk and honey.
“Surely none of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and above, shall see the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because they have not wholly followed Me…” (Numbers 32:11)
Throughout their 40-year wilderness journey, Joshua and Caleb were the only two people over the age of 20 who demonstrated steadfast faith, loyalty, and obedience to God. Yes, God rewarded His faithful two. Not only did they enter Canaan, but God appointed Joshua as their leader when Moses died.
Neither Moses, Miriam nor Aaron were allowed to enter the Promised Land because of their acts of disobedience. “And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is”(Deuteronomy 34:5-6).
Yet, God’s love and mercy were demonstrated for His faithful prophet and leader, Moses. In Jude, verse 9, Michael the Archangel, who is Jesus, came from heaven and resurrected Moses, taking him to heaven. Verification that Moses is in Heaven: “And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him” (Matthew 17:3). Refer to Matthew 17, verses 1-8 for the story of the Mount of Transfiguration.
The Rich, Young Ruler represents those who value wealth over discipleship. He dutifully kept the law but had immeasurable wealth and social status that he loved more than becoming a disciple of Christ. “Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:16-22).
The thought-provoking question “Have I lost sight of God’s standards of righteousness?” is quickly answered by our priorities and lifestyle. The time that we give to God in daily worship provides us with a definitive answer to the status of our loyalty and obedience to Him.
Psalm 95, verses 6-11 is a call to worship God with love, loyalty, and obedience.
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture And the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice:
8 Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
9 When your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My work.
10 For forty years I was grieved with that generation, And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways.
11 So I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest.
Just as an employer would not tolerate substandard performance from an employee, God requires a heart filled with 100% loyalty and obedience from us. Worship flows from the heart that loves God and has a steadfast relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. Human beings are creatures of habit. Praying and studying the Scriptures is a lifestyle that happens naturally when God is first and foremost in our lives.
Discipleship requires humility and is demonstrated by our outward activities of worship, witnessing, and seeking to help others every day. It is not enough to attend weekly church services or to share the love and saving power of Jesus Christ when we feel like it. Giving money to the Benevolent Fund does not replace active service in Community Outreach programs. Disciples are loyal to Christ and follow in His footsteps. If Jesus obeyed God, His Father, and served others, then God has the same expectation of us.
“All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:32)
For many years, I did not understand the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. The two groups represent Christian believers, not believers and unbelievers. Sadly, the goats served God, attending church once or twice a week and giving tithe and offerings but did not financially help others. Nor did they fulfill the Great Commission [Matthew 28:18-20].
This group of believers had their own agendas. And they were not filled with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. How do we know the goats did not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ ” (Matthew 25:44).
The characteristics of love, loyalty, humility, obedience, faith, and trust in God are requisites for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Our willingness to do the will of God prepares us for a spiritual lifestyle change. The Holy Spirit provides teaching, guidance, knowledge, discernment, and comfort to Jesus’ sheep–His disciples. We become aware of our spiritual gifts, spiritual assignments, and specific instructions on using our gifts and the stewardship of our money from the Holy Spirit.
Without love for Jesus, we will not pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal our gifts nor will we have an interest in truly serving God and others. Many are doing just enough to get by because their interests are in temporal things. They perform church duties or random acts of kindness because it is the right thing to do, but never receive pure joy from serving God. And they rarely give up their financial resources to help others, but quickly say, I will pray for you.
Like the freed Israelites, we do not have to end up living our lives in vain. Loving God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds produces humility, loyalty, and obedience for which we will be rewarded. We must persevere in maintaining our heart-to-heart relationship with Christ. With faith, we trust God by seeking Him daily through worship and living a faith-based, purpose-driven life.
Jesus is our Role-Model. Our spiritual gifts [and financial resources] are used to finish the work of Christ [spreading the Gospel and making disciples] as when He was on this earth.
Making a spiritual lifestyle change happens when we have a zeal to complete our Savior’s earthly work. Thankfully, we are never left to figure out the details of our spiritual assignments. The Holy Spirit will guide us.
We must consistently pray and study the Scriptures. Remaining steadfast in our faith keeps us connected to our Spiritual Team, God, the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. God gives us daily instructions and provisions to complete His kingdom work. Great is His faithfulness! Allow Him to guide your earthly life and you will receive the reward of eternal life in the New Heaven and New Earth. Amen!
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” (Revelation 22:12)
Prayer: God, we need to make lifestyle changes. We ask You to anoint us with the Holy Spirit and to reveal our gifts and how to use them. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.