Women’s Retreat Session Notes
Session 1: Holy Living in an Unholy World
Our unholy world: immorality is rampant. Pornography is a click away. The Bible no longer has the authority of being God’s Word. Wrong is applauded. Churches are no longer influential in the community. Many who call themselves Christian resemble the world more than the Lord.
God’s will for us as believers is holiness. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 tells us this is how you ought to live and how to please God. This is His will: your sanctification. God has not called you and me for impurity but for holiness. To disregard this is to disregard God who has given His Holy Spirit to us.
What does it mean to be holy? Holiness is NOT a halo; perfection; huddling up together in church; shutting the world out. Holiness IS being set apart from sin; being consecrated and devoted to God alone, personally and within the body of believers.
What is the goal of holiness? That individuals would be conformed to Christ, look like Him, act like Him, think like Him, respond like Him.
What does it look like to live a holy life, set apart for the Lord? This is the theme of the weekend: living differently in an unholy world, not getting caught up in the trappings of our culture, yet not isolating from the culture either. Living to impact others for Christ.
The way of holiness is easy to see in the life of Peter through his spiritual journey, and the process the Lord took him through to create in him holiness, the set apart life that God could use for His glory.
Peter was a well-known personality in the Bible. He was very human, easy to relate to, bold, boisterous, impulsive. He had a big hear and a big mouth and was somewhat of a natural leader. Sometimes he had great spiritual understanding, and sometimes he didn’t. He was a rough, uneducated fisherman from Galilee until Jesus called him. He was one of twelve disciples who followed Jesus. Acts 2 tells us he was also a powerful preacher and leader of a newborn church.
So how did Peter get from being a fisherman to the leader of a church? He was an unlikely candidate. Uneducated. Unrefined. A common laborer. He had no theological degree. He was the last person you would pick. It is so like God to work in ways contrary to what we think.
The Lord chose Peter not for who he was, but for who He was making him to be. But there was a refining process. Peter was very full of himself and needed to be brought to the end of himself to be usable. God took those qualities in Peter that were liabilities and redeemed them for His kingdom work.
These are true for us today. To be used of God in the way He desires He has to bring you and I to the end of ourselves: our self-dependence, self focus, selfishness, confidence in what self can do, self controlling everything, self seeking.
Holy living begins with a humble, repentant, and yielded heart for the Lord. Salvation is the first step in the process, but it continues throughout our lifetime. The process: as God presents us with new challenges there will always be new areas of giving up control; new areas of needing to be humble before Him. There are three steps in the process: Peter’s heart for God; Peter’s humanness; Peter’s humbling.
Peter was a good Jew. He was morally respectable, observed the law, longed for the Messiah, had clear-cut boundaries. He was most likely a disciple of John the Baptist, so he would have heard John’s message of repentance and would hear John talk of One more worthy who was coming. In this, the Lord was preparing Peter’s heart to respond. It drew him. It gave him an awareness of sin. His heart was softened and prepared. John’s message created in him a desire for the Lord.
It is God’s plan to refine us to completeness. You may feel like there is nothing worthy in yourself. The Lord who created you views you with delight because He sees the finished product. We will be stunned because we will be stunning on that day in heaven when we view each other as we were created to be, sin removed. Right now we are in process. How can this encourage us? We are not discarded or overlooked! The Lord of the universe views you as worthy of investing in. He desires to use you for His glory. He takes raw ingredients and shapes it all to achieve the holiness He already sees.
God uses our failures often to form in us the humble dependence on Him that enables us to be used by Him. That process is death to self, to flesh, to pride. Paul said it this way in Galatians 2:20 (paraphrased): The rest of my life will be spent in dying to myself and living to Christ. It is a lifelong battle and process, so strongly does self desire to assert and take over.
Where are you in the process? When the Lord begins stripping off layers of self in your life, how cooperative are you? How often do you associate the process with the end result, anticipating what he is making you to be, and how he wants to use you?
Being holy, impacting the culture for Christ, begins with a repentant, humble, yielded heart for the Lord that responds to His voice, is teachable, and trusts God in the process of holiness.