Nearly 8 years ago now the Lord took me to a church in Adelaide where the Holy Spirit was poured out on a group of us young adults in a profound way. I was 25 then and the presence of God was so thick in the room every time we met to worship and pray and seek His face. It was so thick standing was difficult at times and along with His sweet presence came encounters with the angelic and an increase in the manifestation of the spiritual gifts – prophecy, tongues, words of knowledge. Something changed in our hearts too back then. We found that we no longer enjoyed much of the secular movies or music we had in the past– without even realizing that it had happened we had found a greater love. I remember how we all started deleting our pirated music and movie collections, how we would gather sometimes to watch a movie and find we just didn’t enjoy anymore those movies we had loved for so long. They simple were no longer engaging.
I tell this story to say that we didn’t make a conscious choice to do this. We didn’t get all religious, set a bunch of rules and decide that we were going to only let God-centred material into us. It just happened. This taught us an important lesson – for all the pleasure of worldly entertainment there is a pleasure to be found in God that is far greater. And as we stopped filling our minds with secular media we also began to find an increased sensitivity to the things of the Spirit – dreams, visions, angelic encounters, prophetic words. I don’t believe it was because we were now holy and God rewarded us instead it was because now there was room for God to put into us those things that were being crowded out by other voices before. Interestingly, we also found that we began to sleep much better and experienced a near complete end to nightmares and unpleasant dreams.
I’m still holding on to the truths learned in that experience. I’m still wrestling with what it looks like to live in a secular society and pursue Philippians 4:8, 9 – “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy –meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
I am also realizing that there’s another part to it as well. For as I try hard to pursue purity in my own strength I find myself making it a religious duty and at the same time treading into the territory of judging others. So here’s the other part. It must also involve the pursuit of the pleasure of encountering Jesus. It’s not going to be enough to only keep ourselves “unspotted from the world” (James 3:27) (though surely scripture makes clear that is something God asks of us). We need to fill our need for joy with something else, something better. I know to many that may sound like common sense but let me share with you a way to explain that which blew my mind the other day.
This comes from a preacher whose ministry has impacted my life deeply. He started by talking about the Apostle Paul’s revelation of the worth and beauty of Jesus described in Philippians 3:8 – “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ…”
This preacher goes on to say,
“It’s rubbish Paul said. Don’t tell me what I gave up…It’s rubbish. I don’t want to hear about it. It doesn’t belong on the scale with the Man of Revelation. The body of Christ is asking the entirely wrong question. The question they’re asking in the grace of God is how far can they go to the limit of sin and promiscuity and be forgiven and still be in the kingdom… Their understanding of the grace of God is to figure out how far out they can get in agreement with Satan’s kingdom, polluting their hearts and minds, how far they can get to the edge and still, in grace, escape the wrath of God… It’s the wrong question…. Here’s another question: what will you give me permission to give you Lord? I want to give more but I know that this thing is not born of man nor the will of man or of flesh but it’s born of God. We need a divine escort. We need Grace into greater realms of consecration. Grace is born of God, not born of the will of man. I’ve come before the Lord and I’ve said, “I’d like to live this kind of way. But I can’t do that. I don’t want to get into religious self-determination. I am asking you to escort me into another realm of consecration before you. What will you give me the power to give you? What will you give me the permission to give you to be more abandoned? That is what liberty (freedom) in the grace of God means.”
This statement struck my heart deeply. What a high calling! That’s such a different way of looking at things than what I’m used to. That new question takes our eyes off sin and measuring where we and others stand and puts them on searching out the beauty of Jesus (Psalm 121:1, 2). Jesus is worthy of everything we have and this is an invitation in the Spirit to encounter that worth in a new way. I think that’s what the pursuit of holiness is. It’s to be captured by a vision to seek empowerment in the eyes of He who stands ready to fascinating us with a love so amazing it will turn the way we live up-side-down.
Joel Ratcliffe, 17 September 2018