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I'm a Pastoral Resident at the Austin Stone Community Church. This is my blog about everything I'm doing and learning.

Fighting for Holiness as a Community

One of our preaching pastors taught this past Sunday on how to fight for holiness in our lives. When our Missional Community met last night, we talked through the main point of the text that the sermon was based off of; that thankfulness produces holiness.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. – Ephesians 5:1-5

This text is addressing sexual immorality, and provides a way to fight for holiness in our sexuality through thanksgiving. The Bible is telling us that if we are going to have a fighting chance to “be imitators of God” in our sexuality and holiness, that we have to be thankful. If you think about this for a minute you’ll see that it’s true; every time we sin sexually, it’s because we are going after something that we think we’ve had withheld from us.A single person may desire and act out sexually because they don’t want to wait until marriage to experience sex.A married man may cheat on his wife because he wants a more exciting sex life that he thinks he can find in another woman.A woman may look at pornography because she is drawn into a romantic story that is portrayed, while at home her husband isn’t pursuing her like she wished.

We are pursuing one thing because we sense that we’re lacking in another. We aren’t thankful or aware of what we have been given. In the sermon on this text, our pastor challenged us with this statement; if you are worshiping Jesus you won’t sin. What he was saying is that when we are tempted to sin, if we would but turn our heart away from that sin, remember what we have been given by God (being thankful), and worship him, then we wouldn’t sin. And, our joy would be more full than if we had sinned!

Pursuing Holiness as a Community

As we were discussing this in our community this week, I began to consider that this is not only a personal fight, but a communal one. As a community of believers, we are exhorted to encourage and build each other up daily.

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. – Hebrews 3:13-14

Most believers would not have a problem with this principle and the Scripture that is driving it. Where things get hard for me- and I suspect that I’m not alone here – is the actual practice of daily encouragement through thanksgiving. Our own hearts attest to the fact that it’s difficult to have a thankful and encouraged heart; we grow bitter, frustrated, sorrowful, and experience countless other emotions throughout the day. Our own internal fight for joy and thanksgiving is often difficult – how much more do you think it is hard for a community of people?

Thankfully, difficulty isn’t reason enough to not pursue what God wants for us. If God is calling us to holiness as a community, it’s going to take some work. Here’s a few ideas that my Missional Community tossed around as first steps towards growing in thankfulness together.

  • Sharing stories of God’s grace in our lives, and actively responding to one another. We did this for most of our time last night, and it was an awesome experience to hear how God was producing thankfulness in different ways among us. Whether we were great at it or not, we tried to verbally affirm each other and say amen to what God is doing.
  • Intentionally investing in our spouses. The way that a husband and wife love each other can directly influence the other person’s worship and thankfulness. When we love and care for each other well, thankfulness should come out of our hearts and be powerful to fight temptation to sin when it comes.
  • Actively recognizing God’s work in another person. Grab a friend and speak a word of encouragement to them; remind them how you specifically see God working in them.
  • Encouraging each other with the gospel when we forget. We all loose sight of the hope of the gospel, and need to be reminded of it by one another.
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