An undefiled life

Daniel 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

We are told that Daniel continued in his position in Babylon for approximately 60 years, until the first year of Cyrus which means he was probably a teenager at the beginning of the book of Daniel. Yet even at so early an age, his desire to obey and please God overruled even his desire for a life of ease in Babylon.

This food that the captives were being provided would have been quality food, for it came from the king’s own table. But it almost certainly would have been offered to pagan deities and may have been animals considered unclean to an Israelite. It would have been so easy to just go along with the other captives and eat what was set before him. There were so many justifications, not the least of which was the fact that he was now basically a prisoner in a foreign land with no ability to direct the course of his own life any longer. What choice did he have?

But he wanted to live a life that was pure and holy before God, even if that meant depriving himself of the flesh pleasing delicacies that others enjoyed. But wouldn’t he lack? Wouldn’t his health suffer by so restrictive a diet? Did it really even require all that?

Don’t we ask similar questions of ourselves when the Holy Spirit begins touching on a part of our lives that is defiling us?

Other Christians are doing it. Why can’t I?

It isn’t a sinful thing, so what’s it hurting?

Doesn’t it seem a bit fanatical to lay this thing aside?

I have found that the Holy Spirit will have me lay something aside mainly for this one reason – it hinders intimacy with Jesus. Friend, if you have cried out to the Lord in your desire to draw near to Him, one inevitable outcome of such prayers is that you will become aware of things in your life that you will need to let go of to allow more room for Him.

Daniel didn’t know when he was making decisions to live in purity as a teenager that the Lord would elevate and prosper him in the kingdom the way He did. That wasn’t Daniel’s goal. He just wanted to live pure before God.

Oh that we would have that same heart and desire to cast away everything that defiles our life. We might actually see God do amazing things in our lives if our greatest desire was to be pleasing to Him.

From riches to rags

Ezekiel 16:8-15 “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord GOD. “Then I washed you in water; yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil. I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck. And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty. Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you,” says the Lord GOD. “But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it.”

This passage was written to Israel as their idolatry had finally brought judgment upon them and they were carried off to Babylonian captivity. The Lord reminded them that HE was the one who made a mighty nation out of one man and bestowed it with glory and beauty. Israel was as helpless as a newborn baby, abandoned and left for dead, but the Lord loved them and gave them such prominence among the nations of the world. Wouldn’t you think they would be grateful to God? Faithful to God? They weren’t. Their history is littered with their backslidings as they forgot God and chased after the gods of the nations around them.

I wish I could say that we are different. Sadly, we are not. The financial prosperity that God has blessed us with, we squander on our own desires. The gifts He has given us for the purpose of serving Him and building His kingdom we have used to serve ourselves and expand our own influence and importance. We too, forget.

Think for a moment about the relationship between a father and child. That father provides all that the child needs. Food and clothing certainly, but what father would be content to clothe his child in rags. He wants to give her beautiful princess dresses so she feels pretty. Imagine he sends her off to school in her pretty sparkly clothes and she comes home in tattered shorts and a stained T-shirt. He would be shocked by her appearance and ask what happened to her beautiful clothes. She traded her beautiful dress to a friend because she liked the shorts and T-shirt better. Imagine the father’s sorrow. He wanted to make her beautiful but she traded it for filth.

Beloved, God has made us beautiful in Christ. Don’t trade that beauty for the pollutions that inevitably follow our ventures into idolatry with this world.

It just isn’t worth it.

This Present Evil World

Galatians 1:3-4 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father.

Our mighty Lord Jesus has saved us who have called upon His name from the penalty and power of sin, opened our eyes and turned us from darkness to light. Because of Him, we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. But although we are not of the world, we are still in the world… this present evil world.

It is a world system that is in view in this verse, with its thoughts, opinions, and values which continually press us and attempt to mold us into its image. The world is not content with merely being corrupt. It insists upon actively exerting its corrupting influence upon our lives. Not all at one time, mind you. Little by little, numbing us by increasingly graphic scenes of violence and immorality on the news and in entertainment, the distracting nature of current events, and an endless variety of cares of this world. All of it numbing us and pulling us away from that which is truly important.

The will of God is that we would be free of that influence, however if we continue to immerse ourselves in it, then we will undoubtedly be affected by it. How can we be sensitive to the Spirit of God when our souls have been polluted (and oftentimes entertained) by the corruption of this world?

This verse has been a strong reminder to me today. Maybe it will be helpful to someone else.

An undivided heart

“Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”  Psalm 86:11 NIV

“Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, that I may honor you.” Psalm 86:11 NLT

This verse makes my heart soar!  Yes God!  This is what I want!  Many times I have prayed something very similar in my time with God.  I desperately desire these things – a pure and undivided heart, knowing His ways, the fear of the Lord, walking in His truth.  Who of His children would not desire such wonderful things?

It is easy to feel quite holy when praying such a thing.  But when the day comes that He begins answering this prayer with His refining fire, in that day the seriousness of our desire to walk with Him will be tested.  When He requires those dearly loved Isaacs to be placed upon the altar, then the battle begins.  And it is then that we see how divided our heart truly is.

What can cause more sorrow to a follower of Jesus than to see Judas lurking within their own heart?  I cannot afford to pity Judas, but must ruthlessly drive him out of my heart. 

Just like Jesus said to the rich, young ruler “sell all…and come, follow Me”, He says the same to me.  He wants all of my heart.  What soldier can be trusted in battle who has divided loyalty?  What husband can be trusted who has a roving eye?  We expect loyalty from others, and do we think Jesus requires anything less?

The purifying of a heart is painful.  If we don’t have a burning desire to walk closely with God, we will not endure the process.  But if we continue with God, He will grant us more grace, and more grace, and still more grace, to be able to endure the refining.  It will still be painful, but we will be able to see past the pain, looking to the joy that lies before us of a closer fellowship with Him.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”