Have you heard of “vampire facials”? This is the colloquial term for a “microneedling treatment using platelet-rich plasma—a component of your blood that can lead to impressive results when absorbed into your skin.” The treatment promises to “enhance the skin’s overall appearance.” However, it is also a way to contract HIV; a third case has now been confirmed from a now-defunct spa that offered this service.
In other news, a businessman named Mark Exposito is accused by prosecutors of raiding his company’s bank accounts to steal more than $8 million he and his wife used to support a lavish lifestyle. Exposito, the stepson of former US Senator Claire McCaskill, faces about two dozen wire fraud counts.
A dear friend alerted me to these articles and commented on them: “Although very different stories, they share a common thread: a desire to be someone other than God created us to be.” He added: “Sadly, they have missed the fact that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ by a loving Father. In pursuit of something else, we forget to whom we belong.”
Pastor and author Craig Groeschel agreed: “Being consumed by what people think of you is the fastest way to forget what God thinks of you.”
Abortion ban saves nearly 10,000 lives
Yesterday we discussed the importance of making public our faith stories of transformation by God’s grace. Using our influence to promote biblical morality is a vital way we can serve God’s kingdom and advance the common good.
For example, it is estimated that the abortion ban in Texas has saved the lives of nearly ten thousand precious babies. Our state’s pro-life policies are largely the result of decades of selfless service by pro-life faith-based advocates. Indiana is now seeing a similar drop in abortions for similar reasons.
Believers should be engaged not only in politics but also in public media. Jim Morrison was right: “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” And we should encourage people to join us for worship; studies show that those who do so regularly tend to have more close friendships, which can in turn lead to better health outcomes.
However, the most foundational way we can be catalysts for moral transformation is to be the change we wish to see. In his daily devotional, Dr. Duane Brooks recently included a sentence that would change every person who embraces it: “The only Bible we really believe is the Bible we live.”
Paul would have agreed. In discussing the characteristics of an effective faith leader, he stated that he “must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7).
“There is a reckless abandonment about him”
In one sense, there is nothing sinful humans can do to make ourselves more holy. I cannot learn to fly faster if I do not have the inherent ability to fly at all. Watchman Nee was right: “Just as one cannot be saved through good works, one cannot overcome through good works.”
On the other hand, we are frequently encouraged by Scripture to practice the various spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, solitude, and meditation. Why are we to do so if such disciplines cannot sanctify us?
The balance inherent in spiritual growth is captured by Paul’s phrase: “sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). On one hand, we are to “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” (v. 15). On the other, we are to pray for God to “comfort [our] hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (v. 17).
As we work, God works. As we practice spiritual disciplines, we position ourselves to be transformed by God’s Spirit.
Our part of this partnership involves a daily commitment to know Christ in every circumstance of our lives. The spiritual genius Oswald Chambers observed: “The spiritual saint never believes circumstances to be haphazard, or thinks of his life as secular and sacred; he sees everything he is dumped down in as the means of securing the knowledge of Jesus Christ. There is a reckless abandonment about him. The Holy Spirit is determined that we shall realize Jesus Christ in every domain of life, and he will bring us back to the same point again and again until we do.”
Thus, “The aim of the spiritual saint is ‘that I may know him.’ Do I know him where I am today? If not, I am failing him.”
“The gleaming water in a jar”
St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–c. 395) commented on today’s theme: “The life of the Christian has three distinguishing aspects: deeds, words, and thought. Thought comes first, then words, since our words express openly the interior conclusions of the mind. Finally, after thoughts and words, comes action, for our deeds carry out what the mind has conceived.
“So when one of these results in our acting or speaking or thinking, we must make sure that all our thoughts, words, and deeds are controlled by the divine ideal, the revelation of Christ. For then our thoughts, words, and deeds will not fall short of the nobility of their implications.”
How do we do this?
Gregory continued: “Each of us must examine his thoughts, words, and deeds, to see whether they are directed towards Christ or are turned away from him.” This is because Jesus is “like a pure, untainted stream. If you draw from him the thoughts of your mind and the inclinations of your heart, you will show a likeness to Christ, your source and origin, as the gleaming water in a jar resembles the flowing water from which it was obtained.”
Will your thoughts and actions “show a likeness to Christ” today?