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Holiness is hard. Or, perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that growing in holiness is hard. No. What I mean to say is that when God breaks my pride and reveals my depravity, it hurts. The pain can be strong and the wound may run deep.
I love the passage in Philippians 2 which exhorts us to:
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil 2:5-8 NKJV)
What a beautiful picture of humility! I have long loved that passage and have set it before my eyes as a goal for humility in my own life. In the midst of a recent period of prayer and fasting, God made my lack of humilty and the strength of the “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16 NKJV) in my own life very real. He was gracious in making me aware of this and merciful in granting me repentance. For that I am grateful, but though the surgeon’s scalpel cuts for the purpose of healing, the cut produces pain nonetheless.
Jerry Bridges’ book, The Pursuit of Holiness, speaks in chapter 13 of the role our desires play to influence our will:
“God most often appeals to our wills through our reason, sin and Satan usually appeal to us through our desires… Knowing that Satan attacks primarily through our desires, we should watch over them diligently and bring the Word of God to bear on them constantly. This is not ascetism; it is spiritual prudence.” (ch 13, pp 127)
Here are some scriptures to which Bridges directs the reader to guide our process in “watch(ing) over them (our desires) diligenty”:
“flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness” 2 Timothy 2:22 ESV
“be transformed by the renewal of your mind” Romans 12:2 ESV
“seek the things that are above” Colossians 3:1 ESV
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 ESV
Though the process is painful, the pursuit of holiness and the pursuit of God is well worth the effort. Brothers, let us not grow weary and continue to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 NKJV).