< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Holiness is not an option

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiness is not an option

Continuing lesson from book The Pursuit of Holiness:

Let’s look at Hebrews 12:14 that says without holiness no one will see the Lord. People may read this and start to wonder if their salvation depends on attaining some level of personal holiness.

First – scripture is clear that even the “best” Christians can never merit salvation through their personal holiness. Isaiah 64:6 says “our righteous deeds are like filthy garments in the light of God’s holy law.”

Second – scripture repeatedly refers to Christ’s work on our behalf.

Romans 5:19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

Christ not only lived a sinless life on earth, but died to fully pay the penalty of our sins and placate the wrath of God toward us.

Hebrews 10:10 shows us that our holiness before God depends entirely on the work of Jesus Christ for us by God’s will. Hebrews 10:10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Christ came to do the will of His Father. We have been made holy in God’s eyes by His work.

So what does Hebrews 12:14 refer to? This passage is talking about a holiness we strive for. And without this holiness, the writer says we won’t see God. Scripture speaks of both a holiness which we have in Christ before God (ie Hebrews 10:10) and a holiness we strive for after we are saved (ie Hebrews 12:14). Think justification and sanctification. We are immediately justified (declared holy) when we place our faith in Christ and we are sanctified on a daily basis after that. Our salvation is a salvation to holiness.

1 Thessalonians 4:7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people,

This reminds me of the faith versus work argument. We are saved by faith, but because we are saved we live a life of good works pleasing to God.

The Holy Spirit inside us is working to make us holy. So if we don’t at least yearn in our hearts to live a holy life that pleases God, we need to seriously question whether our faith in Christ is genuine.

This desire may be just a little spark in the beginning, but it grows. Christ not only saved us from the penalty of sin, but from its dominion.

The author says that the whole purpose of our salvation is that we be “holy and blameless in His sight” (that’s from Ephesians 1:4) To continue to live in sin as a Christian is to go contrary to God’s very purpose for our salvation.

Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,

The same grace that brings salvation teaches us to renounce ungodly living. God has called us to fellowship with Himself and Jesus. Their very natures demand holiness in their presence.

When we hold on to some sin, we aren’t pursuing holiness and we can’t have fellowship with God. David wrote:

Psalm 66:18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;

God doesn’t require a perfect, sinless life to have fellowship with Him, but He does require that we be serious about holiness, that we grieve over sin in our lives instead of justifying it and that we pursue holiness as a way of life.

God will discipline us for our own good if we keep persisting in some sin. (from Hebrews 12:6)

When He speaks to us about some sin, we need to heed and take action!

Holiness is also necessary for effective service to God. 2 Timothy 2:21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
It’s the Holy Spirit who makes our service affective and empowers us for service. Note He is called the HOLY Spirit!

Ephesians 4:30 tells us that when we indulge our sinful natures and dwell in unholiness, the spirit of God is grieved and will not prosper our service. We’re not talking here about the times we fall in to temptation and immediately seek God’s forgiveness and cleansing, we’re talking about lives that are characterized by unholy living.

True faith will show itself by its fruits.

The author of this book wrote, “The only safe evidence that we are in Christ is a holy life.” We need to ask ourselves, “Is there evidence of practical holiness in my life? Do I desire and strive after holiness” Do I grieve over my lack of it and earnestly seek the help of God to be holy?”

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