All teachers have their tricks; I had a few. We usually “borrow” them from other teachers. One of the “tricks” I used every semester went like this. I would stop class and ask my students to mimic what I was about to do. With great seriousness, I would have them hold their right hands out in front of them and ask them to make a circle with their thumb and forefinger. Then I asked them to look through the circle. After that, I would ask them to pull the circle up above their heads. Then in a firm voice, I said “put that circle on your chin.” At that time [with all their eyes trained on me] I put my circle on my right cheek.
Very few students put their circle on their chin. Most put their circle on their cheek, following my action. It was funny to watch a few who actually heard my words; they would move their circles from their chin to cheek and back again. They did not know what to do. But most did not hear my words; they just watched my behavior.
This little illustration was used to make this point: actions speak louder than words.
As Pastor John Bevere begins to close Chapter 9 in his book Good or God?, he tries to be clear about the idea of holiness. He says holiness before God is a two-fold concept.
First of all, we have a position in Christ. What this means is explained in Ephesians 1:4: “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.” This is a gift from God. We can never say we earned this position by our behavior.
The second aspect of holiness is the behavior that results from holding this position. Here is where actions do matter. When we say we have dedicated our lives to Christ, we should act like we have dedicated our lives to Christ. We have all heard the cliché “You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”
In First Peter 1, the Bible says “The heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of Him during your time…” The Christian who proclaims a love for Christ and then lives in willful disobedience should be very concerned. Bevere writes “If we are truly His, we should passionately want to not hurt His heart by living in sin” [Bevere, 133].
Now before going further, let’s stop and admit that living a holy life is hard. Because of how we are made and the influences we have from those in our lives, it is easy to get “off track” and have moments of weakness. Because of our natural tendency to sin, it is hard to fight off temptation. We are not automatons; we react to life around us and some of our behavioral choices are not appropriate.
What must we do to live a life that is holy? We have to rely on the gift of our new nature.
If we truly accept Jesus Christ in our lives, there is a Helper that can lead, guide and direct us away from temptation. That Helper is the Holy Spirit.
For so many years I have struggled with a particular weakness that has been so frustrating. I did things that I knew I should not do. I would then pray prayers of repentance and hope that God would forgive me. Eventually I would have a few days of being able to handle my weakness and then out of left field, I would sin again. This hurt my relationship with God so much as I felt distant from Him due to my disobedience. Why would He not stop me from being tempted? Why did He not take away my weakness?
Maybe it was because He wanted me to do my part in the process of growing as a Christian. Maybe He wanted me to listen to my Holy Spirit, do what the Spirit said and then thank Him for the guidance.
Now that I think back on this, maybe I was being lazy. I thought God should have done all the “clean-up” work. I wanted to be the asker and the receiver. Maybe God wanted me to “act” better for my sake and the sake of those around me. I had declared that I had a relationship with Christ but in times of frustration, I knew that I had heaviness in my heart due to my disobedience. Pastor Bevere knows when he writes about purity, sinless behavior, holiness and upright living that many of his readers will get irritated and say, it is impossible. They realize they don’t have what it takes to change.
It is possible to make progress toward a holier life and Bevere will be discussing that in Chapter 10. How do we make sure our actions are in line with our words?
Lean on the Helper; our Holy Spirit will lead guide and direct.
God wants us to do that; He knows we are weak.
We will always struggle to get our actions to line up with our words…
Without His “Help”…