How to change, part four

27 Dec

I don’t know how you feel when someone says they want to talk about holiness, but I can imagine there are many people who don’t get excited about this subject, because they think of holiness as something that’s almost oppressive.

“Oh man I am going to feel guilty.”

Or.

“It’s going to be all this talk about sin.”

And on and on.

But obviously, of course, if we were thinking straight, we’d see feeling that way about this whole subject of holiness is really kind of crazy because biblically, holiness is something that is beautiful.

Actually.

Holiness is beautiful.

It’s the way humans are supposed to be really, which means, we could say that when we are talking about pursuing holiness, we really are talking about how to be beautiful, because there is no one more beautiful than God, and when we talk about becoming holy, we are talking, really, about becoming more and more like Him, which is not something that is oppressive, obviously.

At all.

But, you know, at the same time, I can understand, I guess, if you think of it as something hard.

Holiness.

Not as something oppressive, but as something hard. Difficult. To be. And, to do.

I haven’t sat down with many people who have said, holiness is something that comes easy for me, overcoming sin. Not someone that really understands it. Not even the apostle Paul, actually.

That’s why he is constantly describing the Christian life as a fight and as a war.

And it sometimes feels like we have everything going against us in this fight for holiness, and I am sure if we started talking about the particular struggles, you are facing, the temptations you are giving in to, you would have lots of real challenges you are able to bring up.

Like.

My parents.

Or.

Where I grew up.

Or.

My culture.

Or.

My temperament.

The way I am.

I think most of us, if we look at the specific ways we are tempted, we have a lot of different, very real, real feeling, at least, obstacles to us, doing the right thing, and those obstacles, can be a major problem, because they can make it very difficult for us to see the real source of our temptation.

Why we do what’s wrong.

Take the people to whom James is writing as an example, because they are suffering. He describes them in verse 1 as the twelve tribes in the dispersion, and that’s, I think a figurative way of telling us, he’s writing to Jewish believers, who have been scattered throughout the world, as a result of persecution.

Religious refugees, really.

And they are going through trials, which means hard times, obviously.

They are poor, it seems like. There are quarrels and fighting within the church. And they are abused and mistreated in the countries to which they’ve fled. And so obviously they have lots of different challenges, and James is concerned actually as he begins this letter, that they don’t start using those challenges as an excuse, for giving into sin.

It’s very tempting.

When we are talking about temptation and sin, to start blaming other things.

I sometimes feel like when we are talking about change, as long as there is this but, but, but, then it is going to be very difficult for us to get very far.

And of course, I think, many of us, sort of know that, we sort of know, we can’t blame our lack of holiness and are giving into temptation, on other people, and yet, honestly, in our own lives, when it is our own sin, we are trying to overcome, it can be very, very hard, to actually believe that.

We can see why that other person can’t blame their circumstances, but it is so tempting for us, to start blaming other things, in our lives, and actually, even, sometimes, God.

Which is where it gets very, very serious.

We kind of have this hard eye towards God and we might not say it at church, and we might not even admit to ourselves, but deep down, we kind of think of him as stingy, or unkind, or just as making our lives impossible, and so, as a result, we almost feel like we have an excuse for sin.

Which is actually James’ concern for the people to whom he is writing.

You can see how he says in James 1, verse 13.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God…”

 This is like a big caution.

Like,  “Whoah. This is one thing you can’t say.”

Which maybe seems like, I can imagine some of us are saying, “How can anybody say that? Like, oh these people.”

But, actually, if you have ever really been tempted, you know, how crazy you can start to think, where you are looking all around you for excuses.

It’s my friends.

It’s this.

It’s that.

And sometimes, we’ll even get to the point, where if you really look at what we are saying, and we are really ultimately, blaming God.

Either directly or indirectly, we are saying, “God’s the one who’s tempting me to sin.”

Which of course is a big old, lie and it’s why James says, in verse 16, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.”

I feel like the start of this whole how to change series is me saying don’t be fooled, and yet, that’s ok, because it’s really hard to change if you are believing lies and one of the most common lies we believe when we are struggling with sin has to do with the actual source of the problem, which is why James starts unpacking here, why it absolutely can’t be God, who is the one making you sin either directly by forcing you to sin. Or indirectly by putting you in situations where you can only sin, and James starts out in verse 13, with saying, it can’t be God because it just doesn’t fit with what we know to be true about God’s holiness with what’s God’s like and His character.

In other words, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one.”

Which is pretty straightforward, I think, actually.

We might have some questions about it sitting here. Like those debate kinds of questions.

But I am telling you if you were somehow transported to God’s throne room it would be pretty clear as you look at the holiness of God, that there’s no way this God who is sitting on that throne with these seraphim crying out holy, holy, holy, would ever be enticed by something evil or ever want to force someone to do what’s wrong.

It doesn’t really make sense with what we know to be true of God.

I mean, after all He is already is as happy as He can be, and He already has absolutely everything at his disposal, there’s nothing lacking in Him, and He sees everything absolutely clearly which means He’s not going to be tempted to do evil, because He is somehow, fooled into thinking it’s going to bring Him more pleasure, because He’s already satisfied and He’s not going to be tempted to do evil, because He is fooled into thinking, it is going to benefit Him or give something He lacks, because He already has everything He needs, it all belongs to Him and He’s not going to be tempted to do evil, because He’s fooled into thinking that is the better choice either, because He knows absolutely everything. He sees evil for what it is, stripped of all its disguises.

Which is why we can be sure as we are being lured away and enticed to do something that is wrong.

That temptation is not coming from God.

Which is actually.

Again.

 Very, very practical.

 When it comes to pursuing holiness because, if we are going to change, we are going to need to put away with the excuses.

In our last post we said we need to see ourselves for who we are. And in this post, we are saying, we need to put away the excuses.

Once and for all.

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