2016 Areas of Focus (Part 1 - Holiness)
This is a condensed version of our first Areas of Focus spotlight, shared in the Communion Service on February 14.
Each year the elders select areas of focus, in prayerful consideration of how the Lord is leading us as a church in obedience to Him. Our two areas for 2016 are outreach and holiness. They flow directly from the Lord’s Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20a, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Jesus said to make disciples, so outreach is an emphasis that we continue from last year. Jesus also said “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded…” so the theme of holiness flows naturally from that obedience. In this spotlight we will focus on holiness and next week we’ll discuss outreach.
The emphasis on holiness throughout the pages of the bible is pervasive and once you begin watching for it, you will see it in nearly every passage you study. It applies to every one of us. As Chuck Colson has written, "Holiness is the everyday business of every Christian. It evidences itself in the decisions we make and the things we do, hour by hour, day by day." I'm relieved that we have a whole year to share and focus on holiness, there is so much!
Many of you today may be cringing, you may have some wrong ideas about what holiness is. You’re not alone, author Ray Stedman says that he "thought of holiness as grimness. I did not like ‘holy’ people....holy people never smiled and never enjoyed anything. In fact, if they did enjoy anything, they felt guilty about it!...They looked like they had been soaked in embalming fluid…but that is not holiness." Instead, we must learn that holiness is right living and is GREAT. It will bring happiness and peace and wholeness to us, and glory to God. Psalm 96 tells us we are to "worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness". Splendor!
That holy splendor was ours in the garden of Eden, but sin entered the world and entered each of our lives, tearing and staining and destroying; masquerading as “my personality”, “my rights”, “my needs”, “my truth”. Sin separates us from a Holy God, but Christ's blood washes away our sins, we get a new nature, and the HOLY Spirit living in us. And Ephesians 4:24 says we can "put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." We get holiness back! There is no power for holiness that we do not have available to us if we are in Christ!
We need each other to be holy, do we not? In our families and in our church. And the world needs us to be holy, that they may see reflected the glory of our savior. We as your elders want this church to be a holy church - a place where we are not only saved from sins by grace, but then living in obedience to Christ. This is why we have chosen holiness as a focus in 2016. We echo these words by the great C. H. Spurgeon."
There is nothing which my heart desires more than to see you, the members of this church, distinguished for holiness. It is the Christian's crown and glory. An unholy church! It is of no use to the world and of no esteem among men. Oh, it is an abomination, hell's laughter, heaven's abhorrence. And the larger the church, the more influential, the worse nuisance does it become when it becomes unholy. The worst evils which have ever come upon the world have been brought upon her by an unholy church".
Join us in learning and striving more for holiness this year! And experiencing the many blessings that pour forth!
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