I recently read a verse and devotion that are part of the Advent readings I’ve been participating in, and this phrase from 1 Thessalonians 3:13 really grabbed hold of me:
13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
So strengthen your hearts in holiness…
These words have a beauty.
The phrase packs a punch.
The concept…well, it causes me to pause and ask: What does it mean for my heart to be strengthened by holiness?
I know I’m not holy without Jesus’ holiness in me.
I know my heart is weak without God’s strength.
But I’ve never put all this together in one package before – not till today.
I think about the context of where and when and why this verse/letter was written…by Paul to the church he started in Thessalonica. These young converts were often persecuted for their faith and needed much encouragement and spiritual direction as they made their way in the world in which they lived…as Christ followers.
This verse in chapter 3 is part of a prayer that Paul lifted up on their behalf. They were discouraged. They were tired. They were worried they might die before Christ reappeared.
Their hearts needed strengthening. They needed to be reminded that with Christ in them, their hearts were not only strengthened but made holy.
Do you ever get to that place? Where your heart needs strengthening?
- Maybe your time and energy are of high demand. And. You’re. Just. Tired.
- Perhaps you’ve known recent loss and your heart…it aches and hurts.
- Or maybe your heart is full of good things but you face newness. And you need strength!
- Some of us face hard decisions, and we need our hearts to be made strong by Jesus.
I’m sure there are dozens of scenarios, but hopefully you get the idea.
We need our hearts strengthened.
And with holiness? What does that mean? How does that look?
Holy. God is holy. He is so pure, so good that He cannot even be in the presence of something or someone who isn’t as pure and good.
Christ is holy. He is God’s Son. He is divine. He, too, is so good and so pure that sin and death cannot “live” in Him…they cannot even be in His presence.
We. We are not holy. We are not so pure or so good that we become undefeatable by sin or death. But we have a Savior. One who died SO THAT He can make us holy. He can make it so that we are able to stand up against those unholy, ungodly things of life. Jesus is why we can go to God in prayer. Jesus is how, when we meet God in heaven, we are able to meet God in heaven.
As one of the three members of the holy triune (Trinity), Jesus is the intercessor. It is through Him that we have redemption and salvation and life eternal with God.
It is through Jesus that our hearts can be strengthened in holiness. His holiness.
What Christ has, he freely offers to us.
And us, well, we have to open that door we knock upon so that He can step through and do His holy work in us. We have an active role in seeking, accepting, and living out holy lives – with Christ at the center of our lives.
Matt Maher’s song, “Lord, I Need You,” has a great line that underscores this notion:
“Holiness is Christ in me”
Holiness only happens in us and to us when Christ is in us. So for our hearts to be “strengthened in holiness,” we have to open the doors of our hearts to Him who is the way, the truth, and the life. And we have to walk in that way, that truth, that life.
On our own, we just won’t ever be holy. We won’t ever find the strength we need. But WITH CHRIST, our hearts can be strengthened in holiness.
May that be your truth and reality this Christmas…whatever you face, whatever your heart condition, let Jesus strengthen your heart in holiness.
Opening that door to my heart,
(that Advent study I mentioned is J.D. Walt’s Not Yet Christmas — check it out on Seedbed.com)