Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to escalating wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.
In the biblical sense, a slave is someone who does not have any ownership rights of their own; they belong to another. In a primary respect, the life of a believer is simply an honest recognition that the life they are living is not their own. Everyone serves a master, whether sin or God; we are simply choosing to follow God.
The life we are living should be voluntarily offered back to the One who provides it to us in the first place. This is so simplistic, it is almost inconceivable. Unfortunately, we are so used to viewing our lives as belonging to ourselves that we easily fall back into old practices of doing whatever we want with them. We many times unwittingly go back to serving impurity and wickedness out of habit.
However, a believer, in the process of being freed from sinfulness, accepts another intentional yoke upon themselves, a yoke that is bearable and easy. This is because it is a life being lived as the Designer has created it to be: a life separated to Him. We recognize that all life flows from God and we are simply yielding ourselves to live within the parameters of the life that he has given us.
A life that is set apart in holiness is separated because it is constantly being renewed in the image of the One who made it. Our mindfulness in remaining intentionally and purposefully bound to this life is what causes us to become holy and set apart for use by God.
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
The lamp of the body is its gaze; with clear vision, your whole being will shine brightly.
We have clear vision when we have a single purpose. There is nothing that can distract us from our primary objective. A person who is consistent and true stands out from a crowd because they have a definitive purpose and role. Standing out creates a separate-ness, a holiness, that can positively influence others.
Interestingly, Yeshua here contrasts the person who is single-minded with someone whose eye is considered “bad” or “wicked.” When we don’t have clear purpose, we tend to have divided interests among many other things that may not be in our best interest and lead us into wickedness. These secondary objectives cloud our vision and create a darkness that envelops our judgment.
The larger context of this saying is that it is joined directly to Yeshua’s admonition that we cannot serve two masters: God and worldly wealth. In this respect, focusing primarily on worldly gain will divide up our interests more, taking us further from singleness of purpose.
When we constantly look upon the things of God and his kingdom, our lives of unified purpose and godly intentionality become shining examples to others.
Holiness, in its essence, is “apartness” or “separateness.” Purity of heart is definitely something that is different than the rest of the world, and is a primary aspect of this state of being set apart. When we are kept from disobedience, or sin, then we are in a state of apartness or being separate. Purity of heart then is a root, a foundation, of holiness.
In the sense being discussed here, the heart is the wellspring of who you are physically and ethically.
Proverbs 4:23-27 – Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
When the heart is right, then our speech, our focus, and our walk will be in line and keep us from disobedience. How many times can you recall saying the wrong thing, or taking your eyes off of God, or walking where you shouldn’t be walking? My own personal list would be extensive.
According to this proverb, we need to keep our heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. What is in our heart is what we express.
Luke 6:45 – The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
What is in the abundance of your heart? You know it by the things you say. If your heart is pure, then your speech will be pure.
Additionally, the Bible tells us that the heart doesn’t just need to be pure, it needs to be continually purified. This is similar to the cleansing effect of fire on precious metals, refining them until they have no contrary elements left.
Psalm 66:10 – For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
Proverbs 25:4 – Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel;
Isaiah 48:10 – Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
Daniel 12:10 – Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.
Refinement is the state of being free from a mixture of false and true until only what is sincere and genuine remains. This is a process, not an instant occurrence. As you can tell from these passages, some of this refining takes place through affliction, some is self-induced by those who are wise. The implication is that if it is not done voluntarily, God can make it happen by outside means.
Another example of ongoing refinement is that it is like a vine that is pruned of dead, unproductive branches so that the plant has the energy and room to bear more fruit.
John 15:1-2 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
1 John 3:6 – No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
3 John 1:11 – Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.
Hebrews 12:14 – Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Living in this way with a pure heart is what sets you apart from the rest of humanity; this is what holiness is.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Grieve for unrighteousness, and you will be blessed, as God will be near to comfort you.
Many times this verse is used to comfort those who are grieving the loss of a recently departed loved one. However, the intent of this wisdom goes beyond the general aspect of mourning for death. Instead, it is a promise of God’s comforting presence with those who have a deep and sincere grief over unrighteousness, whether personal or within their shared experience.
This type of mourning takes place when one realizes their wayward actions are an affront to a holy God. This can result in personal repentance and a recommitment to do what’s right.
It is also a type of deep grief when one recognizes a state of unrighteousness among those around them, A godly heart is offended at the things that offend God. This can result in fervent prayer and intercession on the behalf of others.
If we are growing in our understanding of God and his desires for the ideals of his kingdom to be present here and now, then we are likely to also be demonstrating a sincere and passionate dissatisfaction with the unrighteousness that is exhibited within our experience each day. We grow to want what God wants, both for us and for others.
This holy grieving over lack from the ideal is spiritually healthy, and helps to keep our focus on what is truly of eternal importance. This is growing in holiness,
“Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God.”
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. … “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Matthew 5:27-28, 31-32
Never forsake your commitment to your spouse. Do not even think about others lustfully in your heart. When our eyes stray from the things of God to the things of this world, we can lose our perspective and make harmful choices.
The most intimate of human relationships contains an indication of our relationship with our Creator. The act of adultery is an affront to the holiness of God, as it is a violation of one of the base commandments. Yeshua carries this base commandment even further into the realm of its origin, in our thoughts. The wrong thoughts lead to wrong actions, and wrong actions are sin.
In the Bible, adultery, while wrong in and of itself, is a metaphor for idolatry. Time and again, Israel’s unfaithfulness with the gods of the surrounding nations is compared to adultery with God.
We are urged to maintain our holiness, being set apart for the purpose of God, by keeping ourselves from being swept away by the lure of the created things that would distract us from our true purpose. Keeping our thoughts pure keeps us from sin.
“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites [do,] for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.”
When you fast, take measures to be certain it is not obvious to others.
Our private works of humility and worship in the service of, and communion with, the one true God should remain private. If we are sincere in preparing our hearts and bodies to be receptive to the leading of God, we must maintain that intimacy.
When our inner convictions become just an outward show, we have denied ourselves and create a mockery of God. Self-adulation and false humility demonstrate a shallow understanding of our spiritual condition for the simple purpose of bettering ourselves in the eyes of others.
Denying body and soul is a personal discipline that is meant to take our eyes off of ourselves and our own needs. Making a display of it contradicts everything it is intended to accomplish.
However, maintaining a vital and dynamic intimacy with God through our heart understanding working in concert with our actions provides great personal reward. This is an unseen way in which we are strengthened to visibly serve others effectively in his name.
“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the [nations] do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray, then, in this way…”
Make every effort to pray in a private place, simply and sincerely. Prayer should be a core practice that comes from the very center of a believing heart. It is the one place and time where our focus should be solely on conveying the deepest recesses of our being to the One who created us. It should be a time set apart from everything, and everyone, else. In this intentionally isolated place and time, we have no masks to hide behind, no one to impress, and nothing to offer except our barest hopes and aspirations. “…[A]nd your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.”