Recently I attended a beautiful service of worship in a lovely church. The worship culminated with several people dancing beautifully around the altar. They were mostly young people in the early 20’s – that age group with whom we minister so much. And I thought, “How great! Here are representatives of a generation which is so confused, and so accused; so criticized for their rebellion and protest. Isn’t it marvelous to see such a witness of their devotion to God“.

But then the thought hit me: “Well, how good IS their witness? What kind of DISCIPLINE do they show to the world or to the church at large on the other six days of the week? How do they perform on the job, on the campus, or in their family and in their neighborhood? Do they follow a set of ‘Rules for Holy Living’?” 

I got that title for this letter out of my NIV . . . Bible. It’s the paragraph heading for the beginning verses of the third chapter of Colossians. I write notes to myself in the margins of my Bible, and in this paragraph I have written the words “Acts of the Will” with lines drawn to several underlined phrases: “SET YOUR MINDS on things above, not on earthly things“. SET YOUR MINDS – a determined act of the will. “PUT TO DEATH what belongs to your earthly nature.” A determined act of the will: “PUT TO DEATH” or this, “Now you must RID YOURSELF of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language“. RID YOURSELF! Again, [it’s a] determined act of the will.

And there are others. Verse 12, for example [says], “CLOTHE YOURSELF with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience“. Take another look at that verse. Read it all: “Therefore, as God’s CHOSEN PEOPLE, HOLY and dearly loved, CLOTHE YOURSELF. . . (a determined act of the will) – dress up in the garments of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (emphasis mine). Amazingly, these are characteristics of HOLY people, CHOSEN of God – characteristics of our RELATIONSHIPS with other people. These are not our attitudes towards God; they have to do with our treatment of other people!

The next statement, verse 13, carries it still further along the same lines: “Bear with (put up with) each other, and forgive WHATEVER grievances YOU MAY HAVE against another“. That speaks clearly of a determined act of the will on MY part, not waiting for the other person to make a change!

All of [this] reminds me of Peter’s strong words of exhortation in his first letter (1 Peter 1:13-16): “Prepare your minds for action: Be SELF-CONTROLLED! As obedient children, DO NOT CONFORM to evil desires. . . . You are called to be HOLY, so BE HOLY in all you do!” He picks it up again in chapters 4 and 5: “Be clear-minded and SELF-CONTROLLED, so that you can pray“. “Be SELF-CONTROLLED and alert; resist the devil; stand firm in the faith“.

Many of us, if we were asked how to be holy might likely say something very spiritual like, “Oh, just trust God. Let the Holy Spirit purify and sanctify you“. But God says to us, “BE holy as I am holy“. By a determined act of my will, I WILL TO BE HOLY!!!

From Jay Fesperman’s “Letters of Exhortation”, Number 22, June 1982.