A Lesson in Holiness


Be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect, (Matthew 5:48).

Jesus didn’t tell us to be good, He said to be perfect.  But how?  I try!  I really do try!  But I keep doing the things that I don’t want to do.  Paul explains it beautifully:

The trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good.  The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.  I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I hate, (Romans 7:14-15, emphasis mine).

That explains the problem, but how, then, can we ever hope to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect?  And realize that this is the Apostle Paul speaking.  I am not alone in my struggle against the flesh, and neither are you.  Even Paul[1] struggled.

And realize that struggling against your flesh is a sign that you are truly His.  Those who aren’t struggling have given up the fight and surrendered to their flesh.

But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good, (Romans 7:16, emphasis mine).

Struggling against your flesh proves that you know that what you’re doing is wrong, and that you agree that the Law is good and right.  So when we sin we are choosing another law over the perfect Law of God.  Sin is rebellion against God’s perfect Law.

Christians are not perfect.  Even with the help of the Holy Spirit we struggle against sin.  I believe that most of us are truly grieved that we’re not perfect.  How can Jesus tell us to be perfect when logically it’s impossible?

The word perfect is τέλειος, teleios in the original Greek, meaning:

Perfect, (a) complete in all its parts, (b) full grown, of full age, (c) specially of the completeness of Christian character[2].

So it’s not a matter of having no flaws, but one of completeness and maturity.  And those words of Jesus echoed for me something that God said to the children of Israel in the desert:

I am the Lord your God.  You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy, (Leviticus 11:44, emphasis mine).

The word holy is: קּדּוּשּׂ, qadosh, meaning:

Set apart, dedicated to the service of God.

Holiness, therefore, is a matter of separation.  We’ve got to separate ourselves from the sin nature that continues to dwell within us[3].  Remember, we’ve got an enemy that wants to draw us back into the old life when he had us[4].  But remember also that he is a defeated enemy.  His defeat has been sealed because as Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth[5], so is the enemy defeated from the foundation of the earth.

He’s tenacious and sneaky, though.  He will try to trick you out of your salvation any way that he can—or at least try to make you unfruitful.  God has given us everything we need to have the victory and to keep the victory.  Check it out:

For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account, (Hebrews 4:12-13, NKJV, emphasis mine).

The Word of God can help you separate yourself from the sin nature that is within you—and any creature that is using it to tempt you, too.

Anyone who continues to live in Him will not sin.  But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know Him or understand who He is, (1 John 3:6, emphasis mine).

Understand that John is not saying that we will never sin.  Instead what he is saying is that we cannot happily keep on sinning.  This is the key to personal holiness: using the Word of God to separate yourself from sin and everything that causes you to sin.  And when you sin (not if, but when), run to Jesus:

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.  So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.  But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts, (1 John 1:5-10, emphasis mine).

Like Paul, John also understood the dichotomy we are living under.  And John also understood our standing with Jesus:

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate who pleads our case before the Father.  He is Jesus Christ, the One who is truly righteous.  He Himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.  And we can be sure that we know Him if we obey His commandments, (1 John 2:1-3, emphasis mine).

And what about those sins?  The guilt might torment you.  But once you’ve made confession, you have put all those sins under the blood of Jesus.  God no longer sees the sin, but sees the righteousness of Jesus.

If, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!  Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people, (Romans 5:16-18, NIV).

And God put your sin far, far away from you:

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west, (Psalm 103:12).

When you keep your heart clean before God, He doesn’t remember your sins at all[6].

So to live a holy life:

  1. Struggle against sin. Do your best to live a sinless life.  Don’t ever give up and let sin win.
  2. When you sin, run to Jesus and confess. Understand how God sees you: that when He looks at you He sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
  3. Use God’s Word to separate yourself from the sin nature. Resist the defeated enemy[7]!
  4. Start to see yourself as God sees you. And then walk in it.

Holiness is simple, but powerful.  God is good!

[1] The greatest apostle: apostle to the gentiles and writer of most of the New Testament.

[2] Strong’s Greek Concordance.

[3] Romans 7:17.

[4] Ephesians 6:12.

[5] Revelation 13:8.

[6] For more about this, see Divine Forgetfulness.

[7] James 4:7.

One thought on “A Lesson in Holiness

  1. Pingback: The Horizontal | Walking By Faith in Europe

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