I can resist anything except temptation.” We might smile at this quip by Oscar Wilde, but it also may invite us to challenge ourselves: Has our pursuit of holiness—reflecting God and conforming to His will—been weakened through the corrosive influence of modern culture’s love of pleasure? How can we, as we seek to honor God, resist temptation?
Some believers continue the process of conforming to God’s will by observing the season of Lent. Traditionally, the forty days leading up to Easter Sunday and modeled after the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, Lent has been a time for believers to examine their hearts, minds, and souls prayerfully. Some people abstain from certain foods or drinks, while others add positive behaviors, such as an act of daily kindness.
This season can be a time to seek the purifying work of the Holy Spirit as we prepare to celebrate the gift of our risen Savior. During Lent, we can remember Jesus’ testing in the wilderness, which came at the start of His ministry following His baptism (Matthew 3:13–4:1). He didn’t thunder into Jerusalem to seize authority, but—led by the Spirit—withdrew to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1). With the help of the Holy Spirit, He resisted the devil’s three temptations (to turn stones to bread, to jump off the temple, and to worship Satan), because He sought to follow the will of His Father (Matthew 4:3-10).
As we seek the help of the Holy Spirit, we too can follow Jesus’ example by standing firm against the devil, our fallen nature, and the world’s temptations. As we follow God’s will through His Spirit, we can begin to reflect His ways, not only in Lent but throughout our lives. May we pursue holiness in God’s strength.
It is a trap to presume that God wants to make us perfect specimens of what He can do— God’s purpose is to make us one with Himself. The emphasis of holiness movements tends to be that God is producing specimens of holiness to put in His museum. If you accept this concept of personal holiness, your life’s determined purpose will not be for God, but for what you call the evidence of God in your life. How can we say, “It could never be God’s will for me to be sick”? If it was God’s will to bruise His own Son (Isaiah 53:10), why shouldn’t He bruise you? What shines forth and reveals God in your life is not your relative consistency to an idea of what a saint should be, but your genuine, living relationship with Jesus Christ, and your unrestrained devotion to Him whether you are well or sick.
Christian perfection is not, and never can be, human perfection. Christian perfection is the perfection of a relationship with God that shows itself to be true even amid the seemingly unimportant aspects of human life. When you obey the call of Jesus Christ, the first thing that hits you is the pointlessness of the things you have to do. The next thought that strikes you is that other people seem to be living perfectly consistent lives. Such lives may leave you with the idea that God is unnecessary— that through your own human effort and devotion you can attain God’s standard for your life. In a fallen world this can never be done. I am called to live in such a perfect relationship with God that my life produces a yearning for God in the lives of others, not admiration for myself. Thoughts about myself hinder my usefulness to God. God’s purpose is not to perfect me to make me a trophy in His showcase; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He wants.
“Oh,the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” Romans 11:33
When was the last time you looked into a kaleidoscope? Remember those long tubes, usually made of cardboard with hundreds of little colored beads at one end? Inside, a series of mirrors within the tube reflect the beads, creating beautiful symmetrical shapes that change as you turn the tube. I’m always amazed to think that even though the number of beads stays the same, the patterns change each time you look into the tube. It’s an amazing picture of harmony and order.
I thought about kaleidoscopes recently as I was thinking about the glory of God. I was thinking about the fact that we often only think about one aspect of God’s character. We may look at God’s Word, for example, with only the love of God in mind. We talk about how loving God is, praise Him for His love, and fixate on that one particular aspect of who God is. And, to be sure, God is supremely loving—more than you and I could ever possibly imagine.
But the problem with focusing so intensely on just one characteristic of God’s nature is that we then act as if that particular characteristic is set aside in certain contexts. For example, having focused on love, we turn to passages that talk about God’s justice, wrath, and rightful condemnation of a sinful, fallen world and think, “Hey, wait a minute, where did the love go?” Or having obsessed on God’s grace for a while (again, an infinitely worthy place for us to focus our attention!), we turn to God’s holiness and fail to see how it interacts with His grace.
The glory of God is that He reflects all of these characteristics, all of the time, all at once! He never ceases to be loving. He never stops being holy. He is eternally gracious, righteous, all-knowing, all-powerful, and present everywhere. Like a kaleidoscope’s changing display, sometimes different aspects of God’s glory are brought to the forefront. As He poured out His righteous and just wrath on sin, for example, when Jesus was on the cross, we also see that God’s love and mercy in beautiful harmony was on display. Think of where you would be if God was just but not compassionate. All-powerful but not good. All-loving but not faithful. The hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” has a great line in it. It praises God as “merciful and mighty.” Where would you be if He was merciful but not mighty enough to exercise His mercy in your life? Or mighty but not merciful? That’s a scary thought!
Thankfully God is not a “one-man band”! His character and attributes march in perfect step creating a harmony of joyful praise to His Name! His attributes roll into one huge statement about the radiant expression of all that He is in all His unsurpassed, praiseworthy, stunning perfection.
Our joy is that we can spend not only this lifetime, but eternity, gazing into the kaleidoscope of God’s glory. Moment by moment, day by day, new reflections of His character and nature can captivate and motivate our passion for Him. I can’t think of anything more beautiful or worthwhile! Take a look for yourself today.