Holiness: The Motivation for Holiness.

As we come to the conclusion of our study of holiness, I am sure that I have not exhausted this subject of its breadth, length, depth, and height. Nevertheless, the concluding theme today is in the form of a question. What is to be Christian’s motivation in striving to be holy? I’ve listed three reasons for your consideration.

First, the believer’s motivation for holiness is to be like our Lord. Leviticus 11:44 says, “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground.”

I Peter 1:13-16 says, 13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Second, the believer’s motivation to be holy is because of our love for the Lord. This motivation is found in the following verses.

Deuteronomy 6:1-11 says, “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Matthew 22:34-40 says, 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

I Peter 1:3-9 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Finally, believer’s motivation for holiness is because of the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our King is coming soon.

2 Peter 3:11-13 says, 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

I John 2:28-29 says, 28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”

J.C. Ryle brings us home when he writes, “Christ is all (Colossians 3:11). These three words are the essence and substance of Christianity. If our hearts can really go along with them, it is well with our souls. If not, we may be sure we have yet much to learn. Christ is the mainspring both of doctrinal and practical Christianity. A right knowledge of Christ is essential to a right knowledge of sanctification as well as justification. He that follows after holiness will make no progress unless he gives to Christ His rightful place.”  

That rightful place is that Jesus Christ is both Savior and Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

  

 

Holiness: The Holy Fight.

 “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (I Timothy 6:12)

 J.C. Ryle, in describing the fight for holiness, explains, “Where there is grace there will be conflict. The believer is a soldier.  There is no holiness without a warfare. Saved souls will always be found to have fought a fight.”

What kind of fight is the good fight of faith? It is a necessary fight. Believers in Christ cannot be neutral regarding holiness.

It is also a fight in which all believers are to be engaged. There are no exceptions. All believers in Christ face the pitfalls of pride, sloth, love of money, lust for a forbidden something or someone. The devil, the world, and especially our sinful flesh is ever near.

It is an ongoing fight. There are no timeouts, halftime, or rain delays. Worship services may be canceled due to weather of pandemics, but there is no cancellation to the spiritual fight for holiness. As Bishop Ryle so eloquently wrote, “We must fight until we die.”

I conclude today with these thoughts from Bishop Ryle. “We may take comfort about our souls if we know anything of an inward fight and conflict. It is the invariable companion of genuine Christian holiness. It is not everything, I am well aware, but it is something. Do we find in our heart of hearts a spiritual struggle? Do we feel anything of the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, so that we cannot do the things we would (Galatians 5:17)? Are we conscious of the two principles within us, contending for the mastery? Do we feel anything of war within our inward man? Well, let us thank God for it! It is a good sign. It is strongly probable evidence of the great work of sanctification. All true saints are soldiers.”

And what do soldiers do?  The fight the enemy. May we continue to fight the world, the flesh and the devil. While we may be at war on three fronts, may we rest assured that God has established with us His eternal peace (Romans 5:1).

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Holiness: In Time of War.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” ( I Peter 5:8-11)

Bishop J.C. Wyle explains in the believer’s battle with the devil that, “That old enemy of mankind is not dead. Ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, he has been “going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it,” and striving to compass one great end—the ruin of man’s soul. Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour. An unseen, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out all our ways. A murderer and a liar from the beginning (John 8:44), he labors night and day to cast us down to hell. Sometimes by leading into superstition, sometimes by suggesting infidelity, sometimes by one kind of tactic and sometimes by another, he is always carrying on a campaign against our souls.

The Apostle Peter, throughout his first epistle extensively addressed the issue of the believer’s suffering for Christ while living in this world. The apostle did not shy away from this biblical truth. However, what, if any, hope does the believer have that the trials of life will eventually end? Does God provide any promise that our trials will give way to something better and greater? Will our battle with the world, the flesh and the devil ever be concluded?

As Peter neared the conclusion of his letter to suffering saints, the Holy Spirit led him to provide some lasting encouragement to those beset by temporary trials. One pastor writes, “Christians are to live with the understanding that God’s purposes realized in the future require some pain in the present. While the believer is personally attacked by the enemy (I Peter 5:8-9), he is being personally perfected by the Lord.”

Peter acknowledged the reality of suffering at the beginning of I Peter 5:10. The word suffered (πάσχω; pascho), which is also in I Peter 4:13, means to undergo an experience of pain. See Luke 22:15. However, the believer’s suffering is only for a little while (ὀλίγος; oligos), a small amount or a short period of time.

This parallels what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

What does God promise to do? To begin with, we see that Peter identified God as the God of all grace (θεός πᾶς χάρις; theos pas charis). Grace, which is unmerited favor and divine kindness, belongs to and originates from God and God alone. This is who God is.

What the God of all grace has done is that He has called us to His eternal glory in Christ. To call (καλέω; kaleo) means to summon and to invite. This was done by God at a particular time and which impacted our entire being. Consistently, the call of God refers to His effectual, saving call of the sinner unto salvation (I Peter 1:5; 2:9, 21; 3:9). His eternal glory (αἰώνιος δόξα; aionios doxa) refers to the believers everlasting life in heaven. This eternal glory is because the believer is in union with Christ. While our sufferings are temporary, our life in Christ is eternal.

Because of the believer’s status in Christ before the God of all grace, God promises to do four things on the believer’s behalf. First, God promises to restore the believer. To restore (καταρτίζω; katartizo) means to make adequate or furnish completely. To confirm (στηρίζω; sterizo) means to strengthen and to make more firm. To strengthen (σθενόω; sthenoo) means to make more able. Finally, to establish (θεμελιόω; themelioo) means to literally lay a foundation. All four verbs are in the future tense indicating that these actions are what God will do.

These four verbs all speak of strength and steadfastness of the Christian’s character. God is working through the believer’s temporary struggles and battle for holiness, to strengthen the believer’s eternal and godly character. While the struggles are temporary, God uses them to bring about everlasting results.

What was Peter’s response to all of this? The apostle acknowledged that God is sovereign and has dominion (κράτος; kratos) power, might and strength (Acts 19:20; Ephesians 1:19; 6:10; Colossians 1:11; I Timothy 6:16; Hebrews 2:14; Jude 25; Revelation 1:6). Our sufferings are not cause by the impersonality of fate, but rather are purposed by the eternal, sovereign God of the universe. He is in control and we bow down to Him.

Peter’s concluding word in I Peter 5:11 is the familiar conclusion “Amen.” It means that what the apostle has written is true and that what we read in I Peter we acknowledge as truth from God.

In this similar benediction to the one found in I Peter 4:11, the Apostle Peter praised Christ who has all power for all time (Romans 11:36; 1 Timothy 6:16). Jesus Christ certainly has the power to strengthen His church as and when she undergoes persecution.

A wise general once said, “In time of war it is the worst mistake to underrate your enemy, and to try to make a little war.” However, it is also an equally serious mistake to underrate our Lord in the time of our spiritual war. Christian warfare is no light matter. Take time today to thank God and worship Him as the sovereign God of your salvation. He is working in you from beginning to end and everything in between.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Holiness: The Enemies of Holiness: The Devil.

“The principle fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh and the devil. These are his never—dying foes. These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war. Unless he gets victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. If he had a nature like an angel, and were not a fallen creature, the warfare would not be so essential. But with a corrupt heart, a busy devil and an ensnaring world, he must either ‘fight’ or be lost.” J.C. Ryle

I find Bishop Ryle’s statement referring to Satan as “a busy devil” to be most intriguing. The devil certainly is a busy character.

I Peter 5:8-10 says, Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

God command’s believers to be sober-minded and watchful. Both statements are also God given commands. Even though God is sovereign in the believer’s circumstances, we are not to be lazy and careless regarding spiritual disciplines.

To be sober-minded (νήφω; nepho) means that with one’s entire being our minds and thoughts are to be restrained and self-controlled. It means to not succumb to irrationality.

To be watchful (γρηγορέω; gregoreo) means that with one’s entire being we are to be alert and vigilant to be self-controlled and restrained. In short, to be aware of the enemy. Who is our enemy?

Our adversary (ἀντίδικος; antidikos) accuser and enemy is none other than the devil (διάβολος; diabolos) who is by nature a slanderer and a wicked being. Along with the fallen world (I John 2:15-17), and our flesh or sinful nature (Romans 7:13-20), the devil is the believers mortal enemy, not unlike an opposing attorney in a legal dispute.

Much like a roaring lion, the devil and his demons are on the prowl. The word prowl (περιπατέω; peripateo) means to go about with a singular purpose to destroy. Peter emphasizes this truth by then using the phrase “seeking someone to devour.” To seek (ζητέω; zateo) means to actively and continually try to find something.

What is the devil trying to find? The devil and his demons are trying to find someone they can devour. To devour (καταπίνω; katapino) literally means to swallow one’s prey. It means to completely ruin and destroy. Therefore, the destroyer is constantly seeking someone to destroy through temptation, persecution and discouragement. This is the devil’s nature and his mission (Psalm 22:13; 104:21; Ezekiel 22:25).

Along with being sober-minded and watchful, the believer must also resist the devil. To resist (ἀνθίστημι; anthistemi) is a God-given command to actively oppose the devil’s pressure and power to sin against God. We are able to resist by remaining firm (στερεός; stereos) and steadfast in our faith (πίστις; pistis), which is our commitment to, dependence upon, trust in and worship of God alone through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The encouragement Peter gives his readers is that they are not alone in their suffering along with the devil’s constant attacks and accusations before God against them (Job 1:6-12; Revelation 12:10). Believers throughout the world, then and now, are under the same oppression.

Martin Luther once wrote, “When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means! For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where He is, there I shall be also.”

Martin also wrote, from Psalm 46,

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

We must, and we can resist the devil. Let me encourage you today to read Colossians 2:5-17. The Apostle Paul gives us some practical instruction regarding being sober-minded and watchful. Get behind me devil. You have no claim over me. I belong to Jesus and forever I shall be.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Holiness: The Enemies of Holiness. Part 2.

4 “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

One of the many evidences the Bible is the Word of God is that it tells its readers what they need to hear and not necessarily what they want to hear. You see, people want to be told that they are alright, no matter what they do. In other words, that they’re okay. The Bible, on the other hand, doesn’t tell us what we want to hear, but rather what we need to hear. Especially when the subject happens to be salvation.

The Scriptures reveal to sinners, there’s an inflammatory word, that they are bound for hell if they do not receive God’s righteousness by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. The Bible says that sinners need to be delivered from the penalty of their sin. The Bible holds forth that this salvation is available only by a trust in, commitment to, dependence upon and worship of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Romans 3:21-26; Ephesians 2:1-10).

The Bible also promises that there will be a deliverance for every believer in Christ from the very presence of sin. The Bible calls this glorification (Romans 8:28-30; I Corinthians 15:35-49; I John 3:1-3).

The Bible also sets forth that there is a deliverance for every believer in Christ from the power of sin. This is called the process of sanctification (I Thessalonians 4:1-12). This is living a life of obedience before God which is pleasing to God.

In all three areas of salvation, the believers faces enemies or opposition. Those enemies include our sinful nature or flesh. While its power is eliminated at salvation, its residual influence remains with each believer in Christ. In effect, the believer encounters a war within their soul (Galatians 5:16-26).

A second enemy of the believer’s sanctification and life or holiness is the fallen, world system. This is the worldview that God does not exist, that there is no absolute right or wrong, there is no ultimate purpose to life resulting in people having to figure out their own reason for living and being.

Today’s text, from James 4:4, indicates that friendship with the fallen world by the believer in Christ is to become an enemy of God. The word friendship (φιλία; philia) means to have an affection for and to have an association with the world’s view of life and living. The word enmity (ἔχθρα; echthra) means to be an enemy or to be in opposition to God. That is James’ conclusion. There is no middle ground.

This is what Jesus said about the world system, and what followers of Jesus could expect from the world, in John 15:18-21. 18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”

The answer to the world’s hatred of our faith in Christ is not to make our walk with Christ so like the fallen world’s rebellious system of thought and behavior against God that there is little, to no, distinction between the two. This becomes the epitome of worldliness.

I John 2:15-7 says, 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

J.C. Ryle writes, “He (the Christian) must fight the world. The subtle influence of that mighty enemy must be daily resisted, and without a daily battle can never be overcome. The love of the world’s good things, the fear of the world’s laughter or blame, the secret desire to keep in with the world, the secret wish to do as others in the world do, and not to run into extremes–all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on his way to heaven and must be conquered.” See Galatians 6:14; I John 5:4; Romans 12:2.

Our goal to be holy must include a consistent pattern of behavior which is obedient to the Lord and His Word, and consequently in contrast and opposition to the world.

As one pastor observed, “We are not supposed to go looking for persecution or hostility, but if we never experience it, that should be a wake-up call to tell us we may not be as committed to Christ as we say we are. Every believer will at some point face hatred from the world to some degree. If we are never hated for the gospel’s sake, we are likely not being true to the gospel.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

Holiness: The Enemies of Holiness.

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:1-3)

Biblically, there are three enemies to our pursuit and consistent acquisition of being holy as the Lord is holy (I Peter 1:13-16). The first of the three that we will examine is our remaining sinful flesh. Within this context, the flesh refers to the earthbound, mortal, and still incarcerated sinful humanness. As believers in Christ, we are no longer in the flesh. However, until glorification, the remnant of our sinful flesh remains in us.

James describes how this remaining remnant of the flesh within believers in Christ can manifest itself in unholy behavior within the church. Fights and quarrels arise from within the church due to hedonistic passions or lusts which arise from within the soul of individuals. If this remains unchecked, it can lead to devastating consequences.

The Apostle Paul knew well of this battle for holiness against the flesh.  He documented it in Romans 7:14-25. Some have interpreted the apostle’s self-description as pertaining to his pre-converted life. However, Paul was describing the believer’s inner conflict of desiring to obey God’s law while at the same time realizing how far they fall short.

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

The Apostle Peter also acknowledged the believer’s internal battle for holiness. I Peter 2:11-12 says, 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” 

 Dr. John Walvoord explains, “Understanding the conflict in personal sanctification involves seeing the relationship between a believer and his indwelling sin.”

 Dr. R. C. Sproul states that, “The war between flesh and spirit depicted in Scripture (Galatians 5:16-26) is not a war between body and soul but rather a war within ourselves — a war of our desires. We have new life from the Spirit, and our remaining sin, that part of our Adamic heritage that we have not yet fully cast aside, hates this new life (John 3:1–8Rom. 7:7–25Eph. 4:17–24). Of course, having trusted in Christ alone, we have been set free from enslavement to sin and enabled to live according to His commandments. Our sinful flesh, however, remains present until we are glorified, and until then it rises up and strives to quench and grieve the Holy Spirit’s influence (Eph. 4:301 John 1:8–9). Until we are glorified, we are commanded to put our fleshly nature to death so that we will keep in step with the Spirit (Col. 3:5). This is achieved through taking up God’s armor against our flesh. And through the defeat of the flesh, we defeat the Devil, who entices our flesh to rise up against the Lord (Eph. 6:10–20).”

J.C. Ryle writes, “He (the Christian) must fight the flesh. Even after conversion he carries within him a nature prone to evil and a heart weak and unstable as water. that heart will never be free from imperfection in this world, and it is a miserable delusion to expect it. To keep that heart from going astray, the Lord Jesus bids us to, ‘Watch and pray.’ ” See Mark 14:38; I Corinthians 9:24-27; Colossians 3:5.

This is why the pursuit of holiness is so crucial for the believer. It is only as the Christian is pursuing holiness that they will obey the Lord and consequently have consistent victory over the flesh.

Soli deo Gloria!

   

 

Holiness: A Cooperative Effort. Part 2.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

The pursuit of holiness is a cooperative effort between the Lord and the believer in Christ. While justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone and regeneration is a work upon the heart and soul of a sinner by the Holy Spirit alone, sanctification, or a life of holiness, is a mutual effort involving both the sanctifier and the sanctified. In other words, sanctification involves both the Lord and me.

We have examined our responsibility, as set forth in Philippians 2:12. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,”

 What then is God’s responsibility? Specifically, what is the Holy Spirit’s work in our souls which produces holiness?

Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” I have stated several times in this blog, and when preaching/teaching God’s Word, that Philippians 2:13 has been my life’s verse for well over 40 years. However, what I thought referred to the Lord’s work through me for the benefit and purpose of ministry is not necessarily found in this text.

On the contrary, Philippians 2:13 has more to do with the Lord’s work in my soul for the purpose of developing my holy character and not necessarily a successful ministry. What an illumination this was for me.

There are two points of doctrine within this verse regarding holiness. First, the desire or will for holiness. The Holy Spirit places a desire within each believer for holiness. Second, there is the capacity to carry this desire into effect. Therefore, God receives the glory because the pursuit of holiness, and the Holy Spirit’s work in our souls towards that end, pleases God.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Although the believer is responsible to work (v. 12), the Lord actually produces the good works and spiritual fruit in the lives of believers (John 15:51 Cor. 12:6). This is accomplished because he works through us by his indwelling Spirit (Acts 1:81 Cor. 3:16–17; 6:19–20; cf. Gal. 3:3). God energizes both the believer’s desires and his actions. The Greek word for “will” indicates that he is not focusing on mere desires or whimsical emotions but on the studied intent to fulfill a planned purpose. God’s power makes his church willing to live godly lives (cf. Ps. 110:3).

 Thank you Lord for helping me to see that my life’s verse has little to do with my life’s ministry and service and more to do with my personal life of holiness before you and other people. Thank for the understanding.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

Holiness: A Cooperative Effort.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

The pursuit of holiness is a cooperative effort between the Lord and the believer in Christ. While justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone and regeneration is a work upon the heart and soul of a sinner by the Holy Spirit alone, sanctification, or a life of holiness, is a mutual effort involving both the sanctifier and the sanctified. In other words, sanctification involves both the Lord and me.

Today’s text is an immediate conclusion, notice the word “therefore,” following the Apostle Paul’s magnificent treatise on the humility of the believer based upon the humility of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:1-11). The confidence the apostle expressed towards the obedience of the Philippian believers concerned the subject of humility. Paul was absolutely sure that they would continue esteeming other people better than themselves whether he was with them in body or spirit.

He then challenged them to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” This is the believer’s responsibility in pursuing a life of daily holiness. To “work out” (κατεργάζεσθε; katergazomai) is a present and personal imperative command for all those who are in Christ. It means to cause something to happen, to make something happen, or to bring upon or to bring about a desired goal.

The work the believer is to cause to happen is not their own salvation or justification. Philippians 2:12 is not a proof text for a works based justification but rather a text focusing upon the believer’s work in sanctification. The believer’s responsibility in pursuing a life of daily holiness involves a daily reading, meditating, memorizing and application of Scripture (Psalm 1; Psalm 19; Psalm 119). It also involves daily prayer (Matthew 6:9-15; I Thessalonians 5:17). Thirdly, it involves daily and weekly, individual and corporate, worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24; Ephesians 5:19; Hebrews 10:24-25).

Dr. Don Carson writes, “The example of Christ is not only one of humility; it is also one of obedience (8). To such obedience, whether or not Paul is with them (cf. 1:27), the Philippians are called. Work out here has the sense of bringing to completion. It is not a matter of working for salvation. We could never do that. The very word salvation (which means ‘rescue’) signifies that we cannot save ourselves (cf. Jn. 15:4–5; 1 Cor. 15:10; Eph. 2:5, 8), but we can and must live lives that show God’s saving power that we have made our own.”

Living a life of holiness and separateness from sin involves the attitudes of both fear and trembling. Fear (φόβου; phobou) refers to reverence and awe. Trembling (τρόμου; tromou) means to literally, or emotionally, shake or tremble because of sheer loyalty. Both of these nouns have the Lord as their object. This is to be the believer’s vision for holiness.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “The Greek verb rendered “work out” means “to continually work to bring something to fulfillment or completion.” It cannot refer to salvation by works (cf. Rom. 3:21–24Eph. 2:8–9), but it does refer to the believer’s responsibility for active pursuit of obedience in the process of sanctification (see notes on Phil. 3:13–14Rom. 6:19; cf. 1 Cor. 9:24–27; 15:582 Cor. 7:1Gal. 6:7–9Eph. 4:1Col. 3:1–17Heb. 6:10–11; 12:1–22 Pet. 1:5–11). The attitude with which Christians are to pursue their sanctification involves a healthy fear of offending God and a righteous awe and respect for him (cf. Prov. 1:7; 9:10Isa. 66:1–2).

Do you have a desire to work out your pursuit of holiness with the attitude of fear and trembling before the Lord? Has your fear of offending God and respect for God recently waned, diminished or faded? Immediately pray that the Lord would restore in your soul a reverential awe of Him, so as to live a holy life for the glory and praise of God.

Soli deo Gloria!      

 

Holiness: Do not be Conformed, but Transformed.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

As we begin focusing our attention on pursuing holiness, the word “pursue” means to chase, hunt, or search for something or someone. A pursuit is an important quest. The important quest for the believer in Christ is the pursuit for the holiness of God. Romans 12:1-2 is a key biblical test regarding this subject. A brief review of what we have thus far examined from this text is in order.

 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers.” Paul is urging and imploring his brothers and sisters in Christ to do something. What is the basis for what the apostle is urging and imploring the Roman Christians to do?

“By the mercies of God.” The appeal by the Apostle Paul is because of the manifold mercies which belong to and originate from the Lord. These are the mercies Paul spoke of in Romans 1-11. What then, on the basis of our redemption, justification, reconciliation, adoption, does the apostle urge believers to do?

“To present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” The purpose of believer’s offerings their physical beings to God is to become a living sacrifice. The Lord compels the Christian to offer their physical life and living to Him as a display of love and devotion for all that God has done.

“Holy and acceptable to God.” However, our sacrifice is to be holy. To be holy means to be separate from sin. It also means superior moral qualities and possessing certain essentially divine qualities in contrast with what is human. Second, our sacrifice is to be acceptable which means pleasing to God.

“Which is your spiritual worship.” In other words, to pursue holiness is the very definition of genuine praise and honor to God alone.

“Do not be conformed to this world.” This is the first negative statement contained in today’s text. To not be conformed means to shape one’s behavior or mold one’s pattern for living according to a set standard. The set standard that believers in Christ are not to be conformed to is the world. The word “world” (αἰῶνι; aioni) means age. It refers to a set system of secular standards without any reference to God. If the believer in Christ is to be holy, then there can be no conformity to the fallen worlds system dominated by a lust of the flesh, a lust of the eyes and a boastful pride of life (I John 2:15-17).

“But be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” To be transformed (μεταμορφοῦσθε; metamorphousthe) means to be changed in one’s nature, and subsequent behavior, from the inside out. A metamorphosis or change is to occur within each believer’s life. This happens when the believer’s mind is renewed by the Word of God.

Dr. Don Carson writes, “not by a mere outward disconformity to the ungodly world, many of whose actions in themselves may be virtuous and praiseworthy; but by such an inward spiritual transformation as makes the whole life new—new in its motives and ends, even where the actions differ in nothing from those of the world—new, considered as a whole, and in such a sense as to be wholly unattainable save through the constraining power of the love of Christ.”

“That by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The purpose of this lack of conformity, and biblical renewal of one’s mind or thinking, is so believers may evaluate and examine what is the biblical will of God, which is good, acceptable and perfect.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “As one’s mind keeps on being made new by the spiritual input of God’s Word, prayer, and Christian fellowship, his lifestyle keeps on being transformed.”

John Calvin writes, “This is the purpose for which we must put on a new mind –that bidding adieu to our own counsels and desires, and those of all men, we may be attentive to the only will of God, the knowledge of which is true wisdom. But if the renovation of our mind is necessary, in order that we may prove what is the will of God, it is hence evident how opposed it is to God.”

Let us not be deceived by false imaginations, but rather be renewed each day by the Word of God.

Soli deo Gloria!

   

Holiness: A Living Sacrifice.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

As we begin focusing our attention on pursuing holiness, the word “pursue” means to chase, hunt, or search for something or someone. A pursuit is an important quest. The important quest for the believer in Christ is the pursuit for the holiness of God. Romans 12:1-2 is a key biblical test regarding this subject. A brief review of what we have thus far examined from this text is in order.

 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers.” Paul begins with an appeal. An appeal is a request, an entreaty of a plea. The word “appeal” (Παρακαλῶ; parakalo) in the text means to presently and actively urge and implore someone to do something. Paul is urging and imploring his brothers and sisters in Christ to do something. What is the basis for what the apostle is urging and imploring the Roman Christians to do?

“By the mercies of God.” The appeal by the Apostle Paul is because of the manifold mercies which belong to and originate from the Lord. These are the mercies Paul spoke of in Romans 1-11 which form the basis, and the results, of our salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. What then, on the basis of our redemption, justification, reconciliation, adoption, does the apostle urge believers to do?

“To present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” To present (παραστῆσαι; parastesai) means to make available. What believers in Christ are to make available is their bodies or their physical beings. The purpose of this is become a living sacrifice. This appears to be a contradiction because a sacrifice, by its very definition, is an offering killed on behalf of a deity. However, the Lord compels the Christian to offer their physical life and living to Him as a display of love and devotion for all that God has done.

“Holy and acceptable to God.” What type of sacrifice or offering of our lives should we present to God because of His many mercies to us? First, our sacrifice is to be holy. To be holy (ἁγίαν; hagian) means to be separate from sin. It also means superior moral qualities and possessing certain essentially divine qualities in contrast with what is human. Second, our sacrifice is to be acceptable (εὐάρεστον; euareston) which means pleasing to God.

“Which is your spiritual worship.” In other words, to pursue holiness is the very definition of genuine praise and honor to God alone.

Dr. Don Carson comments that, “Paul’s summons to transform our lives does not come in a vacuum. It is only in view of God’s mercy that his appeal becomes relevant and that our obedience of it is possible. As we recognize all (the word ‘mercy’ is plural in the Greek) that God has done for us in his Son, as Paul has surveyed it in chs. 1–11, we realize that offering ourselves to God as living sacrifices is, indeed, a ‘reasonable’ (logikēn) act of worship. The word living reminds us of what God has made us: we are people who are now ‘alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (6:11). Paul encourages us to look at our entire Christian lives as acts of worship. It is not just what is done on Sunday in a church building that ‘ascribes worth’ to God, but what God and the world see in us every day and every moment of the week.”

How do we maintain such a pursuit every day and every moment of the week? That is what we will examine in Romans 12:2 when next we meet.

Soli deo Gloria!