The Pursuit of Holiness Starts with a Thankful Heart

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Be holy, as our God is holy. This is a command. It requires a transformation of heart not just our mind, and this transformation needs to connect our mind to our body. This is why it took the Israelites forty years to reach their destination with a route that merely requires one month or less. However, God does not waste time. He does what He sees necessary. Throughout the forty years in the wilderness, God has set out an important objective for his people: to love Him and obey Him. Although these Israelites know God, they had a hard time transforming the God of their knowledge into a God of their everyday life and a God that they naturally love and obey. God wants a transformation from the very basic aspect of the Israelites, and so does he require us to acquire such transformations. As we are blessed to become part of His family at such a young age through the blood of Jesus Christ, we are warranted even more to take up the stewardship for a holy lifestyle.

First step first, God requires us to have a thankful heart. Complaining was one of the things the Israelites mastered in the wilderness. Easily, they lost sight of God’s redemption and provision. Rather than trust in the Lord’s guidance, they turned away to idols to satisfy their needs. Their complaints root in their unbelief. Because of their little faith, they were easy targets for temptations. For example, once a group of people started complaining about the routine pattern of the daily diet of manna and pigeons, others followed up and spread the negative sentiment among the crowd. In another scenario, as they were tired of the unstable lifestyle in the wilderness and they were fearful of the people in Canaan, they started complaining and even said words as harsh as, “if only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert!” The consequence of this generation that complaint to Moses and Aaron was that they could never enter the promised land. While sometimes our complaint seems to be insignificant, we need to examine our heart to see what causes our complaint. Most of the time, our little faith causes us to worry about life, and our worries make us prone to complain when things don’t go our ways. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” says Paul to the Thessalonians. Having a thankful heart is a reoccurring theme in the Bible as it is a foundational attitude we should have in our daily life. Just as we like to receive others’ appreciation, and so does God. Moreover, He is worthy of our praise. There is no reason why we should cease praising Him.

Another reason that the Israelites were so prone to complaints rather than to obeying God in the wilderness was that they still have a heart of slaves instead of a heart of sons. A slave obeys his master due to the master’s authoritative commands and the slave’s fear to the master. In contrast, a son’s obedience to his father is founded upon love and there is no fear in love. Since the Israelites have not realized what it meant to love God as a son, they lived in fear. When they were in fear, they tried to find all means to escape the control of God, for they thought that true freedom indicates no obligation to obey. This is a mindset of many of us, who have first known the authority of God but have not tasted the goodness of God that comes from His love to us. God is love. It is in His character. Love defines God and God manifests love. A true and lasting obedience must be based on love rather than fear, and this is a relationship we should have with our heavenly father to pursue a holy life.

Sermon Reflection 2018/4/08