1. Practice consecration with prayer. Consecration is the act of giving ourselves completely to God through prayer for His will and service, recognizing that our life and all that we have is His. E.M. Bounds has said: “Prayer enters into every phase of a consecrated life…Consecration is really the setting apart of one’s self to a life of prayer.”
And how does all this affect holiness? If affects it directly and in every aspect. We cannot be holy without it. Why? Because consecration is that which prepares the heart for holiness. It is the act of giving ourselves to God by bringing our desires in line with His, thus by making our attitude right before him. Moreover, by consecration we both prepare ourselves for holiness and we enter into that holy life. A holy life in every phase is a life of consecration with prayer.
2. Practice meditating on the Word. David said, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word” (Ps. 119:9). This means of course that we must obey the Word; but first we must abide in it and meditate on it, so that we know what it means. Jesus tells us in John 8:31-32 that if we abide in His Word we are truly His disciples, and we shall know the truth, and the truth shall make us free. This freedom is not a freedom to do whatever we want. It is a freedom from the bondage of sin. It is deliverance from sin.
In John 17:17, when Jesus was praying for His disciples He said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.” William Beck translates the verse this way: “Make them holy by the truth, Your word is truth.”
But if you really want to know the truth, and thus to become holy (that is, if you really want to abide in His Word), you must take time to meditate on the Word and delight in it. For when we delight in it and treasure it in our heart (Ps. 119:11), then God will do a work in us so that we will want to do His will more than anything else. David said, “I delight t do thy will oh my God, yea thy law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8).
3. Practice right thinking. The practice of meditating on the Word will be most beneficial for right thinking, because when you are meditating on the scriptures your mind is occupied with right thoughts. And the scriptures will also guide you in what else to think about in the world besides the scriptures. One of the passages that specifically tell us that is Philippians 4:8. Here Paul outlines for us seven things we should think about; or I think we could also look at it as seven qualities or virtues we should seek out and think about in different things in the world, such as in people, books, movies, and institutions.
But we are not to just casually think over them; the word translated “think on” or “meditate on” (logizesthe), suggests more than just thinking. The word actually means to take inventory, to reason, to reckon, and to esteem. Adam Clark suggests that the things we are to meditate on, we are also to “esteem them highly, recommend them heartily, and practice them fervently.” Likewise, Jamieson, Fauset, and Brown, in their commentary, says that it means “have regard to, so as to ‘do’ these things (Phil. 4:9) whenever occasion arises.”
Therefore, we should not look only at the scriptures for what to think about, but we should regard that God has placed virtue all around us. So we should seek to find those things and think about them, then to esteem them highly and to practice them fervently.
4. Practice keeping your eyes pure. Some would say, “It is impossible these days to keep your eyes pure, because there is so much pornography out there; we see it practically everywhere we go.” But I want to tell you that with God’s help, and with practice, it is a battle that can be won!
In one of my next posts I will write about how people get trapped into viewing pornography, and about its results, and how to fight against it.
5. Practice grieving over sin. It seems to me that one of the things we do wrong in America is that we spend too much time convincing ourselves that we are okay, and not enough time grieving over our sins. Many of us tell our children when they have done something wrong to take a “time out” to think about what they did. But do we practice this ourselves? Do we take the time to think about our own sin and grieve over it? I think if we did, we would be in better shape; holiness will not come without reflection, and grieving, and repentance. Let us take time regularly to think about what we have done wrong, grieve as God grieves, and determine to change our ways.
6. Practice being thankful. There is something about the regular practice of thanking God for everything that just makes everything better. Thankfulness and praise to God will give strength to your purity like nothing else; but unthankfulness will contribute to ungodliness (Rom. 1:21). When you are thankful to God in your spirit, you don’t complain or argue (Phil. 2:14); but when you decide not to be thankful, you become bitter and selfish. Thankfulness is how you worship God; but being unthankful and ungrateful is how you grieve God. Strive to be thankful always, and God will reward you with peace and holiness (Phil. 4:7, Phil. 2:15).
7. Practice suffering. One of the reasons why addicts can’t break their bad habits, can’t quit their addictions is because they haven’t learned how to suffer. They are probably afraid of suffering.
In Mark Laaser’s book Faithful and True, Sexual Integrity in a Fallen World, he states, “The first part of the sexual addiction cycle is preoccupation. Rather than allowing themselves to experience their shame, pain, and loneliness, sex addicts will start thinking about sex.”
This statement really hit me because it is so true of so many of us. We have not learned the art of suffering, that is, we have not learned how to let ourselves experience our pain. We have not come to believe that God calls us to suffer, and that He will help us in suffering.
Jesus was the model sufferer. He knew that God called Him to suffer and He did not back down from it. Do you remember what Jesus said to Peter after he cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear? Jesus said to him, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me” (Jn. 18:11)? Hence, Jesus was willing to suffer through everything, even His crucifixion.
Job was also a good sufferer. When his wife suggested that he give up—to “curse God and die”—because of his suffering, he replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble” (Job 2:10, NIV)?
Therefore, what I am saying is that if you want to be holy you must learn how to suffer; you must accept your pain and suffering as from God and for our good. Too often we try to ignore or go around or replace our pain with something else, something that seems to be kind to us but that we know is not good for us. Many of us choose to think of sinful thoughts because we think that it will help us to get through the pain. And you know what? It does help us at first. But then the cycle of sin we began, eventually, and quite quickly, takes us down into more pain and despair.
The only way you will be free of oncoming sinful thoughts in your mind is to let yourself experience whatever pain you happen to be going through at the time—to suffer through it. Then, in time, in a short time, God will come and help you and make you stronger. 1 Peter 5:10 says, “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
So whatever pain you are going through, whatever shame, whatever sorrow, whatever loneliness, whatever it is, learn to embrace it and call it your friend. Don’t reject it. Don’t go around it. Don’t try to replace it or make yourself feel better by engaging in lustful thoughts and sinful behavior. Face your pain head on. You can pray over it. Yes, talk to God about it. And He will help you go through it. And you will come through it stronger and wiser (But don’t ask Him to remove your pain. Just ask Him to help you go through it).
The Devil will tell you that sin (to start to think of some sin) will help you to get through your pain. But that’s a lie. The only way to get through your pain is to face it and pray through it. And when you do you will be stronger for it. And you will find, joyfully, that the very pain that once brought you to sin now makes you stronger through suffering, and better able to resist that sin (Read James 1:2-4). How great a God we have! He makes all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28).