Have you ever noticed that the word "holy" tends to get a bad rap? After all, "holy rollers" are said to be too extreme in their spiritual views, while other religious folks get described as "holier than thou." In both cases, the word "holy" is used to describe something off-putting.
In the Bible, however, the word "holy" is a beautiful term that describes a key aspect of God's nature. In fact, the third Person of the Trinity is called "the Holy Spirit." There is absolutely nothing within the God of the universe that is not perfect in holiness, righteousness, and truth.
When God created Adam and Eve, the first two human beings had nothing but holy desires within them. And yet somehow, when the crafty serpent seduced Eve's mind, she began to entertain evil ideas. This was introduced to her from the outside. And Eve's choice to contemplate forbidden fruit led to impure desires, which in turn led to this infamous decision:
"When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it." (Genesis 3:6)
Ever since that fateful decision, man has experienced a never-ending cycle: Holy decisions spark holy desires, while unholy decisions spark unholy desires. Adam and Eve chose to do what you and I choose to do at times when we allow our thoughts, words, or actions to "go off the rails" in defiant disobedience to our Creator's will for us. In fact, we find ourself making such choices far more often than we may like to admit.
As we grow in our life of Christian discipleship, we tend to start making better decisions. The old adage "three steps forward, two steps back" gradually develops into "four steps forward, one step back." That is, if we choose to obey God in those areas of our thought life, speech, and behavior that present us with daily options to choose good over evil, and holiness over wickedness.
Even the "one step back" is something the Holy Spirit is very concerned about in our life. After all, He is always holy and therefore only promotes righteousness and holiness. We, on the other hand, still make sinful choices at times. Our sin may involve something as simple as thinking wrong thoughts about another person for 30 seconds, or giving into some other "vain imagination." (Romans1:21)
As believers, we are instructed to guard our thought life. "We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5) Eve lost the battle in her mind before she and her husband made the choice to eat the forbidden fruit. Eve's misguided thinking preceded the sin of eating the fruit God had placed off limits. And eating this fruit brought desires into human beings which God did not want man to experience. Nevertheless, those desires came flooding into man's heart the moment Adam and Eve opened the floodgates to sin.
"Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin." (Romans 5:12)
And one of the biggest proofs that the soul of man "died" in the Garden of Eden is the fact that human beings ever since have experienced sinful passions of various kinds and given into so many unholy desires.
There is no getting around this fact: Holy decisions spark holy desires, whereas unholy decisions spark unholy desires.
Susanna Wesley stated it beautifully: "Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind, that is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself."
So how are things going in your life of discipleship? Do you find your soul being filled with God's love and with songs of praise? Or do you find yourself spending most of your time battling unholy desires. While temptation is certainly going to be a part of every believer's life, we at times make it harder on ourselves than it needs to be. That is, we make choices which cause us to be consumed with unholy desires, rather than staying under God's mighty flow of grace, goodness, and purity.
The solution? Well, we can place all of our transgressions under the blood of Jesus by asking the Lord to wash away the sins we committed in our thought life and behavior. And then we can seek to remain "under the waterfall" of God's abundant wellspring by choosing to say "no" to unholy options, while saying "yes" to praise, worship, obedience, thanksgiving, prayer, service, and trust.
There is not one of us who can pull off such a feat in our own strength. But God is more than able to do it in us and through us. As we yield our mind, body, and decisions to our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of holy desires within us. And once we find ourself back in the flow, it is much better to stay in the flow than to continually move in and out of God's will by unwise decisions.
This of course is the plight of every Christian, or if you prefer, the opportunity of every Christian. There is actually no need to see this dynamic in a negative light. After all, we as believers have been redeemed from sin, death, and the devil. And it is marvelous to celebrate this good news as we bask in the glow and the flow of the Holy Spirit's power through faith in Jesus Christ.
No matter how far you may have drifted from a place of spiritual peace and confidence in Christ, this could be your day to once again choose holiness over sinful thoughts and forbidden behavior. And when you do, you will be quickly reminded of why it is always better for a believer to obey God than to make the same mistake Adam and Eve made in the Garden of Eden.
I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. But the pressing question is this: "Will I learn from my previous missteps and sinful choices, or will I continue jumping into the same pit over and over again?"
We often hear people say, "It's only natural." Well, here is a spiritual principle that is not only natural, but also supernatural: Unholy decisions spark unholy desires, and holy decisions spark holy desires.
It was true in the Garden of Eden, and it is true in our lives today. If you don't think so, just try writing down your decisions over the course of an entire day, and take note of what desires flow from those decisions. You will find that your life is no exception to the rule.
God's living water refreshes man's soul with grace, forgiveness, and holy desires. And without the cross of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, we would be lost forever in a sea of unholy passions and wicked desires. Tragically, many people have gone to their grave in such a condition.
Will we learn from our own experience, as well as from the experience of those who have already left this world? Or will we simply allow ourselves to be swayed by whatever temptation or desire presents itself along our path on any given day?
God gave Adam and Eve free will. Unfortunately, human beings don't always use such freedom to pursue God's best for our lives. By the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit in our heart, let's begin anew today to "hate what is evil" in our thought life and behavior as we "cling to what is good." (Romans 12:9)
How else could we ever hope to make progress in our life of Christian discipleship?