Does Easter seem like it was weeks ago? But maybe you were singing in the choir, preaching, playing a musical instrument, or helping in some other way for worship. In that case, you probably know it’s only been a few days since we celebrated Jesus’s resurrection from the dead. While many of us have returned to our usual schedules and activities, others will celebrate Ascension Day, forty days after Easter, to celebrate Jesus’s ascension to heaven, to take his place at the right hand of God, the Father. Then, fifty days after Easter comes the celebration of the first Pentecost. And yet shouldn’t we “celebrate” Jesus’s resurrection and ascension, along with the Holy Spirit’s coming every day? What would our lives look like if we celebrated Jesus’s work daily? God generously shares his holiness with us, but we turn aside to the world, self-centered concerns, worries, and earthly disappointments instead, “Spiritual and heavenly blessings are the best blessings; with which we cannot be miserable, and without which we cannot but be so. This was from [God’s] choice of them in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that they should be made holy by separation from sin, being set apart to God, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, in consequence of their election in Christ. All who are chosen to happiness as the end, are chosen to holiness as the means. In love they were predestinated, or fore-ordained, to be adopted as children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, and to be openly admitted to the privileges of that high relation to himself.” (1) The other day I anchored on Psalm 65:4 to begin my studies for this devotion. “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!” This was the same day my dog, GG, decided to wake me up before the alarm. First, he sat on my leg. I didn’t move, so then he nosed my shoulder. Getting no response, he snuggled me on my neck. When I finally moved a twitch, he kissed me and was on top of me instantly. He wanted to be as close as possible to me for some reason. Isn’t that a picture of how we should respond to God’s love and intimacy—not by cuddling with him but drawing close to Christ through our worship, Bible study, prayers, and fellowship? God blesses us by choosing us to be holy, blameless in Christ, and blessed—happy to dwell in God’s holiness. My prayer for us is to embrace our blessings of God’s election in Christ as we share in his holiness.
God Chose David
“Our communion with [God] must be spiritual, by faith in his word. When we are ready to make this world our home, and to say, it is good to be here, then let us remember our Lord Jesus is not here, he is risen; therefore let our hearts rise, and seek the things that are above. He is risen, as he said. Let us never think that strange which the word of Christ has told us to expect; whether the sufferings of this present time, or the glory that is to be revealed. It may have a good effect upon us, by faith to view the place where the Lord lay, [now empty].” (2) David recognized God’s sovereign choosing of him, as he chooses us to believe. “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts!” (Ps. 65:4a) David understood that God chose him to be king, but he also realized God’s election to know Him while he was still a young shepherd whose heart longed for fellowship with Him. This was the kind of man the Lord wanted to rule over his people. (See 1 Samuel 16:7, 12.) The Lord created David and gave him a heart that was devoted to God. In a sermon on election James Boice writes, “Election is not the problem some have made it to be. In fact, it is actually a great blessing of the gospel… Election eliminates boasting…[since] salvation is utterly of God…[and] gives assurance of salvation…As Calvin says, ‘If … our faith were not grounded in God’s eternal election, it is certain that Satan might pluck it from us every minute.’ Election leads to holiness…election to salvation and election to holiness go together. They are never separated.” (3)
Called to Share God’s Holiness
God blesses us by choosing us to be blameless in Christ, and blessed—happy to dwell in God’s holiness. It’s lovely to see how David’s faith in the Old Testament reflects God’s good, holy purposes in the New Testament in Christ. “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:4-7) “To come into communion with God, to this blessedness…It is to approach to him by laying hold on his covenant, setting our best affections upon him, and letting out our desires towards him; it is to converse with him as one we love and value.” (5) “Paul’s praise emphasizes the mediation of Christ for all God’s blessings by repeating that these good things are ours ‘in Christ,’ ‘in the Beloved,’ or ‘in him.’ Spiritual here communicates that the saving gifts of God are conveyed by the Holy Spirit, whose personal presence throughout this age is the guarantee of future heavenly blessings. Hence, these blessings are in heavenly places, since that is the Christian’s future abode in imperishable glory when he is resurrected in a spiritual body through the ‘last Adam,’ the ‘life-giving spirit’…God chose them with the goal that they be holy and blameless before him. This goal is not optional for Christians–it is the purpose of election.” (6)
Holiness Shows Up in Conflicts
Sanctification is how the Holy Spirit works in us, with our cooperation, to make us more pleasing to God. He gives us the desire to be holy, and we frequently experience this work through our inner conflicts. “In the highest sense [holiness] belongs to God, and to Christians as consecrated to God’s service, and in so far as they are conformed in all things to the will of God. Personal holiness is a work of gradual development. It is carried on under many hindrances, hence the frequent admonitions to watchfulness, prayer, and perseverance.” (4) When we want all the world offers but also want to be the person that God intends, our hearts are divided. But “…the persons whom God has chosen for himself…are brought nigh to him…and through the grace of Christ they have nearness to him, and communion with him.” (7) God blesses us by choosing us to be holy, blameless in Christ, and blessed—happy to dwell in God’s holiness—especially as the solution to our divided hearts and conflicting desires. Isaac Watts wrote an article titled,” ‘The Scale of Blessedness,’ which starts from Psalm 65:4…and launches out into an exploration of the idea of blessedness itself. “Rung by rung, Watts climbs the ladder of beatitude: from the blessed man, to the blessed savior, to the blessed Trinity, ‘this ocean of being and blessedness, that has no limit, on either side, no surface, no bottom, no shore'” Watts describes the “blessedness to be within earshot of the gospel, “the blessedness of being saved…a sacred and superior pleasure it is, above all the joys of sense, to love the great and blessed God, and to know that he loves me! To walk all the day in the light of his countenance! And some Christians experience more of this peace and power than others…Watts is overcome with the contemplation: We are lost in this ocean of being and blessedness, that has no limit, on either side, no surface, no bottom, no shore. The nearness of the divine persons to each other, and the unspeakable relish of their unbounded pleasures, are too vast ideas for a bounded mind to entertain. It is one infinite transport that runs through Father, Son, and Spirit, without beginning, and without end, with boundless variety, yet ever perfect, and ever present, without change, and without degree.” (8) What a gift, to have the blessing of election, with the desire to linger in God’s holiness. What is your level of intimacy with God’s holiness on a scale of 1-10? Do you love how holiness messes with your old nature and brings you to a place of peaceful surrender? Or do you despise its intrusion on your plans and choices? “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
Related Scripture: Psalms 16:11; 27:4; 33:12; 84:4; Isaiah 6:3; John 6:44; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Ephesians 1:3-6; 2:18-22; 1 Peter 1:8, 16; Revelation 21:3.
- Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Ephesians 1:4, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/ephesians-1.html
- Henry, Ibid, Matthew 28:1-8, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/matthew-28.html
- Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Ephesians 1:4-7—“Blessings of Election,” Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
- Easton’s 1897 Dictionary of the Bible, software version, “Holiness,” M.G. Easton.
- Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible, Psalms 65:4, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/psalms-65.html
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Ephesians 1:3-4, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalms 65:4, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-65.html
- Sanders, Fred, “Blessed Saints, Blessed Savior, Blessed Trinity” (by Isaac Watts), 2009, scriptoriumdaily.com/blessed-saints-blessed-savior-blessed-trinity-watts/
April 22, 2022