“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51). I love that text. Jesus had a goal and nothing – absolutely nothing – was going to keep Him from fulfilling His mission.
Very few of us will set our face to go anywhere. Jesus’ mission was going to cost Him and cost Him greatly, yet He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem. I hate the first couple of weeks of January at the gym – it’s hard to get in the pool – everyone is going to get healthy in the new year; but that only lasts until the middle of the month. I’ve baptized many folks never to see them again. I’ve heard people swear off cuss words (see what I did there?) only to begin using them again in the next sentence. It’s hard – so very hard – to change our behavior.
Yet, our change is both the blessing of God and the call of the Gospel. When we are baptized into Christ, we become different people. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself” (2 Cor 5:17-18). “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:9-11). I love, absolutely love the way Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6 – after listing a litany of sins that will keep one from God’s kingdom, Paul says some of the Corinthians were – past tense – guilty of some of those sins but God had cleansed them of those sins in the blood of His Son. Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step groups will tell us that once someone is an alcoholic, he’ll always be an alcoholic. There is wisdom in such a statement, wisdom that only those who suffer from an addiction can ever fully appreciate, but the message of the cross is that Jesus’ blood can fully cleanse one of his sin and make one a new creation.
While God cleanses us of our sin in the precious blood of Jesus, every Christian has a responsibility to keep himself pure. “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). “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’” (1 Pet 1:14-16).
As God’s people, we do not remain in our sin. God has cleansed us of our sin, and we have the solemn obligation to set our face to holiness. Setting our face toward holiness involves: Knowing the holiness God requires, praying for the courage to carry out that holiness, putting away sin, and adding holiness to our lives. But, fundamental to this change is setting our face to holiness – i.e., setting a goal of holiness and moving toward it.
What sin needs to be removed from your life? What holiness needs to be added to your life? Over the next week, I want us to think about walking with God in light of setting our faces toward the goal of holiness, just as Jesus set His face toward the goal of Jerusalem. Here’s my plan:
Tomorrow: I’m going to write about some of the goals I’ve set for myself – these goals aren’t necessarily about putting away sin and adding holiness; however, I want to share with you my strategy that we might apply that strategy to sin and holiness.
Monday: I’m going to write in a general way about how we can set goals.
Tuesday: I’m going to write about how we discover the holiness God requires in our lives.
Wednesday: I’m going to write about how we pray for the courage to carry out the goal of holiness.
Thursday: I’m going to write about how we put away the sin which so easily ensnares us.
Friday: I’m going to write about how we can add holiness to our lives.
Until tomorrow, be blessed as you walk with God!