holiness ... 3
A work of beautification
The marvellous opportunity that lies before us as Christians is the process of developing and bringing forward the beauty of this inner work of God’s grace where it visibly impacts our daily lives. We are instructed to “put on” this new nature inwardly and outwardly. Paul advises us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Romans 13:14 NASB) We turn away from the power of the flesh, we refuse to be its prisoner any more. In order to be transformed, we need to deal with whatever unrighteous acts or thoughts we commit. They need to be brought to God for forgiveness and brought into line. But we can’t live the purity and beauty of God’s righteous and holy nature in our own strength alone. Putting on this new nature is a joint effort, a sanctifying work of grace that requires faith, faith in God’s abundant supply of strength to continue working in us that which He has already begun to accomplish; and a sturdy commitment on our part to make adjustments and corrections when we are inadequate in our responsibilities.
Philippians 1:6 tells us that we are confident that God, who has begun this good work in us, will perform it right up until the day Jesus returns, and that it is God who is at work in us to both to will and to do His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13) Exercising faith is our responsibility, and by it, according to our faith, God’s transformative work will be done. Since God is committed to our progress, so too should we make every effort to do the things that please Him.
When we look into passages of Scripture such as Ephesians 4:24, that says we have been created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, it serves as a mirror that reflects the glory of the new birth, and that is our compass. Scripture helps to translate to our minds the essence of this new spiritual nature of holiness in terms of its corresponding behaviors. Scripture identifies what things are ungodly. Renewing our minds as we read and meditate on these passages has the effect of creating a bridge of truth between our inner spiritual nature, our understanding, our spiritual strength, and our outward conduct.
Those who wish to have fellowship and intimacy with God will understand the importance of submitting to follow Christ in holiness, praising Him with reverence, devotion and earnestness. “O send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling places.” (Psalm 43:3 NASB) In Christ, all the lofty ambitions for self-actualisation can be fulfilled. For Christians, our integrity, wholeness and holiness have very closely related meanings. Holiness includes moral integrity, and without it we can never be the complete package.
It is understanding truths such as imparted holiness that gives insight into the depth of fellowship we can have with the Father and His Son and His Kingdom. Experiencing the reality of His Kingdom is made possible for us as we “put on” or choose to live in accord with the new nature that has been imparted to us, forsaking the old. To achieve these virtues will require a degree of strength, courage and skill. How we can apply this truth is explained by the Apostle Peter:
“Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.“ (2 Peter 1:3-11 NASB)
We are encouraged to diligently pursue moral excellence in thought, word, and deed. Aligning ourselves to the true holiness that has been wrought in us, we are to clean up our thoughts and attitudes that once wedded us to the world; for true holiness from within requires the effect of a renewed mind in order to be displayed outwardly, so that we think, speak and act with integrity. We are to be renewed in the spirit or disposition of our minds, and to do so we have strong injunctions to “come out from their midst and be separate”. (2 Corinthians 6:17 NASB) The standards God sets for us are high; He expects us to use self-discipline, patience, forbearance, and wisdom; and to adopt attitudes that are fitting of having benefitted from being under God’s grace.
If we really want to be holy, if holiness is one of our top aspirations, we are wise to spend time in prayer each day, study God’s Word and praise and worship Him, for these are exercises that require self-control and will develop an increasingly personal relationship with God. They give us a higher perspective about things, a time of sanctification or refreshing of our soul, a reminder to be willing to forgive and be concerned for others’ needs resulting in some forms of caring and helpful service. Being serious about achieving holiness would include a review of our day’s progress in working towards a life of quality, while looking ahead to make the most of upcoming opportunities.