Archive for the ‘Holiness’ Category
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Notice that he says in verse 11 that such were some of you. The Corinthians once were these people. They once were living in sin but now through Christ Jesus, they had been saved (1 Corinthians 1:18-25) and the Lord was in the process of making them holy (Hebrews 10:14). If you read 1 Corinthians, this was by far a perfect church. They still had their struggles including one man have an adulterous relationship with his step-mother (1 Corinthians 5). The Corinthians were a divided church (1 Corinthians 1:11-13). The Corinthians were a church that even had drunkenness at their love feasts (1 Corinthians 11:21). This was by far a perfect church (1 Corinthians 3:1-3) and yet Paul called them saints in 1 Corinthians 1:2. They were being made holy.
Sanctification is not always an instant process. My father was a smoker before he was saved in 1952. He instantly stopped smoking. He stopped cursing. He became what 2 Corinthians 5:17 describes. Yet my father was far from perfect and I saw his imperfections up close as a boy and now as an adult. I praise God that my daddy is saved but he is not perfect. None of us are. Our aim, however, must be to become more like Christ. We should not become stagnate in our passion to be holy. My desire is to be just like Jesus (1 John 2:6). I want to be able to say, like Paul, imitate me as I imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
For others, sanctification is a hard road. Some struggle with smoking or drinking before salvation and after salvation are still (and sometimes more so) tempted to go back to those ways. Some just give in and claim this is how they are. Some fight with their own will power but they lose the battle. It is this way with many men I know over sexual sins. Before salvation, they gave into their sinful desires to please their sexual desires but after salvation, they now hate sin but still face daily temptation to sin.
Here is the key: temptation is not a sin. We must see this. If you struggle with sexual sins, drugs, lying, gossip, idolatry, etc., the temptation to do these things is not a sin. We all face temptations. 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises us:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Call me naive but I believe this verse. I believe that every sin can be avoided if we look to the promise here. God is faithful, He is able to deliver us. Ponder this for a moment: the last time you sinned, who made you sin? You did! We choose to sin. We choose to give in to our flesh. We are faced with temptation and we give in. God doesn’t make us and in fact, He often is convicting our conscience to not sin, to run from the sin (1 Corinthians 6:18). The Holy Spirit comes and He convicts us of sin (John 16:8) yet at times, we all have rebelled against His warning and sinned. What do we feel after sinning? Shame. Remorse. Failure. Weeping. Just like King David in Psalm 51, we hate our sins and we confess them to God. Amazingly, God is merciful and kind toward us and He does not send us to hell as we deserve the moment we rebel but instead He lovingly convicts and restores just as He did with David through Nathan the prophet (see 2 Samuel 12:1-14).
The pursuit of holiness is not always an easy road. I have been a disciple of Jesus for over 20 years. I still face temptation sometimes on a daily basis. Temptation is not sinful but when I give in to that sin, that is sinful. The hope for us all is that Jesus Christ is our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). Our salvation is focused entirely upon Him and He is more than able to deliver us from sin. 1 John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Notice what the command is here to being cleansed from sin: to walk in the light. We walk in the light by walking according to the teachings of Jesus, by focusing entirely upon what Jesus has done for our salvation. This is our hope for redemption both initially when we repent and all through our life as His disciple.
In closing, I don’t begin to try to say that I am a perfect man. Far from it. I am a fallen man like all of you are fallen humans as well. My wife can surely testify to my sins. Yet I pray that we all see that God can help us overcome. This is the miracle of salvation, that God actually does save us from sin and its power (Romans 6:1-12). Galatians 5:16-17 describes our battle with our flesh in terms of a war. This is just what it is. We are at war with Satan and with our flesh but we have a mighty God on our side (Romans 8:31). We can overcome! The grace of God is our strength (Titus 2:11-12 NIV). I pray that today this post will not condemn you in your sins but you’ll see that there is hope in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1-4). Jesus can deliver us from sin and He can help us to be the holy people of God that God calls for us to be (1 Peter 1:15-16). I pray that you’ll look evermore to Him for strength (2 Peter 3:17-18).
I believe the Bible calls us to holiness (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and I believe that we are to pursue holiness for without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). I believe that the Bible is clear that Jesus came to save us from not just the penalty of sin but also from the power of sin (Matthew 1:21; 26:28; Romans 6:23; 8:1-4, 9-12). I believe that 1 John 3:6-9 clearly shows that we are not to practice a life of sin and in fact, 1 John 2:1 says that we should not sin. I believe that the words of Jesus in John 5:14 and John 8:11 show that we are to forsake our sins. The very nature of repentance is a cosmic change of mind and heart about sin and about the holiness of God. Acts 3:19 makes it clear that repentance involves turning away from sin and 2 Corinthians 7:10 says it produces salvation. Hebrews 10:19-39 makes it clear that we are not to return to a life of sin or thus we crucify the Lord Jesus all over again since we count as unworthy His precious blood to help us overcome sin. 1 Corinthians 10:13 assures us that we can overcome sin by God’s grace. Titus 2:11-12 says that God’s grace given to us in Christ Jesus helps us to say no to sin.
Yet we sin. I sin.
The temptation then is to read the above passages and to try to make them not teach what they don’t seem to teach and that is that God calls His people to pursue perfection. Jesus said in Matthew 5:48 that we are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. John Wesley defined this as “perfect in love” and not sinless perfection. There certainly is a danger in sinless perfection teaching in that it becomes all about avoiding this sin or that sin but it doesn’t deal with the heart. Further, the focus becomes all on what we do and not on what Jesus has done. Our performance becomes the focus and not the Lord Jesus nor His grace.
Now I am of the opinion that God does not want us to sin. In fact, there is no sin that His blood can not cleanse us from and can help us to overcome. Nothing is as powerful as the blood of Jesus to cleanse and sanctify. Those who believe they are trapped in sin need to hear the good news that Jesus can set them free by His grace. We cannot overcome sin by our own power or discipline. It is only by the grace of God that we can overcome sin. The grace of God can motivate us to be holy and to honor the Lord in all that we say or do (1 Corinthians 10:31). The will of God for us is clear: our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). God called the children of Israel to holiness (Leviticus 11:44) and He calls us, the saints of the Church, to holiness as well.
However, I know of people who claim to sin everyday. I even wrote a post on Amazon.com about holiness through a book review. I actually had some folks writing about how we can’t be holy and how we sin everyday. They actually looked right at the passages on holiness and the call to forsake sin and said, “Nope, can’t be done. I sin. Therefore, these cannot be obeyed.”
I for one will not do this to Scripture. Simply because I have failed at holiness doesn’t mean that the call to holiness is not real nor does not exist. I must seek forgiveness and I will still pursue holiness. I will not give up. I will not quit. Just because I fall down doesn’t mean that I will now look at 1 John 2:1 and say, “I can’t be holy and so I will stop trying to be holy.” No! I hate sin and I will not stop seeking to be holy.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ends with Paul the Apostle praying for the disciples and I love what he prays:
23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Do you pray this for others or for yourself? Do you pray for the Lord to sanctify people completely? I do. I long to be holy and I long for the saints of God to be holy. I pray for the Lord to sanctify myself, my family, and all the Christians that I know. I want to see the people of God honoring the Lord through faithfulness. Paul promises in verse 24 that God will do this. Amen!
Just wanted to give a short post on the subject of receiving the Holy Spirit. Why does God give us the gift of the Holy Spirit when we repent (Acts 2:38)? Jesus promised His disciples in John 14:16-17 that He would send the promised Spirit. Jesus said that the Spirit of truth dwelt with them (in the person of Jesus; 14:6) and He would be in them. John 7:37-39 clearly shows that the Spirit was not in the disciples until after the cross. Many, like myself, believe that John 20:22 is when the Apostles received the Spirit.
In Acts 1:8 Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would enable the disciples to be His witnesses. The Holy Spirit does this in two ways. He enables us to live godly lives for the glory of God (Galatians 5:16-17; Titus 2:11-14). Secondly, the Spirit of God empowers us to boldly preach the Lord Jesus Christ to the lost. We need the Holy Spirit to do effective witnesses for the glory of God. We are not effective witnesses merely because we can debate with an unbeliever. What we need is a godly life filled with the power of God to enable us to live for the Lord and to speak of Him.
Hebrews 12:14 says that without holiness no one will see the Lord (NIV). This is true both in the eternal sense and in the temporal. When we are living a holy life, it shows the salvation of the Lord. Sanctification begins at the new birth (Hebrews 10:10, 14) and yet we are to continue to die to self and to sin (Romans 6:11-23). Ephesians 4:22-24 says:
22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
This can only happen as we trust in the Holy Spirit. This is why we need the Holy Spirit. God does not give us the Spirit merely to give us an emotional experience but He gives us His Spirit to help us to be His witnesses and to glorify His name.
I’m just wondering where are true holiness preachers? Where are those who will preach the wrath of God against sin, His grace given to us to be forgiven of our sins, and the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin? We can be free from sin and it’s power. If we fail to teach that Jesus is not only able to forgive us of the penalty of sin but also to release us from the power of sin, we are essentially teaching that sin is still more powerful than the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is able to set us free from sin. Jesus is able to help us overcome sin. Our focus should not be upon our flesh but upon the Lord Jesus and He is able to deliver us from the penalty and power of sin.
I just wonder where are the preachers who will tell the people to stop sinning. I’m not advocating preaching fleshly holiness where we overcome sin by our own powers but I am speaking of the grace of God to deliver us from sin (Titus 2:12). I am speaking of the mighty blood of Jesus that is able to set the soul free from sin and is able to empower us to victory (1 John 1:5-2:2). 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises us that God helps us escape from sin. We sin by our own free will. We choose to rebel by our own free will. Yet for the child of God, we can look to Christ and His work on the cross to save us from sin and to help us to overcome sin.
Oh holiness preachers, arise! Preach the powerful blood of Jesus Christ to not only free us from the penalty of sin but also from the power of sin.
Lance was my friend. He and I use to go to eat together every Tuesday while we were in college. We both loved God, love His Word, love teenagers (we were both youth pastors at the time) and both had dreams of evangelizing the world for Christ. Lance and I had a good friendship until one night we debated eternal security. Unbeknown to me, Lance had begun reading some “radical” eternal security books that taught cheap grace, easy believeism, and antinomianism. We debated at his kitchen table for hours about grace, the love of God, salvation, faith, security, perseverance of the saints, hell, etc. Lance held that God’s love was so wonderful and His grace so great that He would keep us no matter what we did. He reasoned that since salvation is a total work of God, God keeps us and He promises us eternal life (which eternal life means that it is eternal) and thus: we are saved forever. No matter what sins a person may commit, God promises to keep the person forever.
This was our last meeting. We lived in different cities at this point and we both became busy with life. Time passed by.
Lance’s new embracing of this radical view of eternal security led to major changes in his life. His passion for prayer went away. His hunger for worship slowly evaporated. He once guarded his eyes from watching ungodly movies but no more. He confessed to me once that he struggled greatly with lust. No more. He simply begin to live out his passions. After all, he reasoned that night I met with him, God is the one who keeps us. Lance fell further and further into gross sins. Eventually, he had an adulterous relationship with the choir director of his church and left his wife and two children for his mistress. He completely turned away from Christ and today is a shell of the man he use to be. Pray for Lance.
There are three major views regarding Lance at this point. The first is the radical, “once saved, always saved” view that says that Lance is bound for glory. Lance probably would hold to this view. He perhaps would know that he is not “in fellowship” with Christ but he would still claim heaven. Many cheap grace advocates (or free grace as they call themselves) would agree. I heard Dr. Tony Evans say once, “Even if you deny Christ and become an atheist, when you die, if you have believed even just once, He will drag you to heaven with you kicking and screaming that you don’t want to go.” The only thing Lance is losing right now is his rewards at the final judgement (1 Corinthians 3:15).
The second view would be that A) Lance was never saved to begin with and his apostasy proves he was not saved. The problem with this view is that no person reading this can have the assurance of our salvation. It is possible that you or I are false converts. It is possible that you will fall from the faith this time next year (1 Corinthians 10:12). If we could go back to the days when Lance and I would eat lunch together and you could ask him if he would fall away, he would have denied it. None of us wants to believe that we would deny Christ. Like Peter, we want to believe we would stand for Him no matter what (Matthew 26:33 and notice all the disciples agreed in verse 35) yet Peter still denied Christ as did all the disciples (Matthew 26:56). The person holding this view has no assurance since they believe that God keeps them but if they turn away from Him, they are not saved to begin with. Would it not be better to teach that we are saved through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1) and we are kept through faith in Christ (1 Peter 1:5)?
B) Lance is still a child of God who is in rebellion but under the conviction and discipline of the Lord, he will repent and be restored. This view holds that a child of God should live a holy life and if they don’t, God will discipline the person even to the point of death in order to save them (1 Corinthians 5:5). This view holds that true children of God do commit sins and even commit gross sins but this does not change the fact that they remain children of God. Since God has given us eternal life, we can never lose that life. It is eternal! Therefore, God will discipline His sinning children but He will never cast them away (John 6:37). He has promised us eternal life (Romans 8:38-39) and nothing can separate us from His love.
Let’s just take one example from Scripture in the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-24. Read the text and then ask yourself these questions:
Was the son truly a son in Luke 15:11?
Did the father view him as alive to him or dead to him according to Luke 15:24?
In this case, the prodigal was a true son and rebelled against his father and begin to live a life of sin (Luke 15:13). The father considered him dead to him and lost (Luke 15:24). I have heard Luke 15:11-24 preached so many times toward sinners but Jesus is not using this parable that way (Luke 15:31-32). The prodigal son was not the lost sinner but the rebellious child who left the home and lived in sin. Until he repented (Luke 15:21), he was lost and dead. Life is only found in the father’s home and he knew this.
This leads me to the third view and that is the Lance must repent or he will not have eternal life. Eternal life is found in Christ alone. All of us will go into eternity some where. Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus said in John 5:24-25,
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
Notice that Jesus says that life is found in Him. The Greek in this text is in the present active tense so that Jesus is saying, “Whoever hears (and keeps on hearing) My word and believes (and keeps on believing) Him who sent Me has eternal life.” This passage is much like John 10:27-29 where Jesus says that if we hear His voice (and keep on hearing His voice) and follow Him (and keep on following Him), we have eternal life and no one is able to pluck us out of His hands. True security is not found in ourselves but in Christ alone.
Some, at this point, we say that all of salvation is a work of God and I would agree. Salvation is accomplished through Christ alone (John 19:30). Jesus alone is our salvation and our only hope (1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Titus 1:1-2). Jesus alone is the one that we look to for salvation from beginning to end. He is our righteousness, our redemption, our mediator of this new covenant, our everything. We acknowledge that salvation is found only in Him and not in a church, an act of flesh (John 1:12-13) but completely in Him (Acts 15:11). Yet I would argue that God calls us to remain FAITHful to Christ (Romans 11:20-22). We are to remain in faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 11:2-4; 12:21-13:5). Jude 21 says to keep ourselves in the love of God. I have heard many “once saved, always saved” advocates dance around this verse but they ignore what Jude is saying. As we stay focused on Christ, Jude 24-25 promises us that He will keep us as well! 1 Timothy 1:19 says some can shipwreck their faith. How can they shipwreck faith if faith here is not true? True faith focuses on Jesus alone for salvation from beginning to end (Romans 2:6-7). Jesus taught us to “stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning” (Luke 12:35).
Jesus said in John 8:51, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Again, this is the present active tense of the Greek. If we keep and keep on keeping Jesus’ word, we will never see death. Eternal life is not a vague concept but eternal life is found in an eternal Jesus. Salvation, sanctification, glorification are all found in Christ Jesus alone. To argue that a person can be saved apart from Christ is not found in Scripture (John 14:6). Eternal life is found in Christ alone.
My view of Lance is that Lance must repent or he will go to hell. He is found, right now, in Revelation 21:8. Sin will keep people out of heaven because sin is against a holy God (1 John 3:4). Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Galatians 5:19-21 that sin leads to eternal death and not inheriting the kingdom of God. Galatians 6:7-9 teaches us that if we sow to our flesh we will reap from the flesh and that is death. We are called to be a people of holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and to hate sin. We are called to confess our sins for forgiveness (1 John 1:9 which makes no sense if we completely forgiven of all sins at the moment we believe). Jesus is our salvation and He is the one that we cast ourselves upon to be saved in this life and the life to come.
When it comes to grace, it seems we can swing to either sides of extreme views regarding grace. On the one hand are those who would, in my estimation and I believe in light of the Bible, abuse God’s grace for their sins. Many of these folks are well-meaning people who want to protect salvation by God’s grace and not distort salvation with works so they avoid works altogether to the point of denying that good works flow from a saved life as part of sanctification. They run to passages such as John 6:29 or Acts 15:11 or Acts 16:30-31 but they avoid passages that speak of obedience to Christ as Lord such as Jesus’ commands in the Gospels (see Matthew 7:21-23 or Luke 6:46-49 as examples) or passages such as Acts 5:32 or Romans 1:5 or 1 John 2:3-6 that speak of obedience as necessary for salvation.
Antinomians hold that the moral law has no bearings on the New Testament disciple. They hold that grace is so wonderful, so powerful that a person need only to believe in Jesus once and they are bound for eternity. They hold that obedience to Christ, holiness, bearing fruit, walking in the Spirit, loving God, etc. are all optional and while they are all good, they are not necessary for salvation since we are saved by grace through faith in the Jesus Christ. This salvation is all of grace and none of works and the promises of God are that He will keep us forever (Romans 8:38-39) no matter what. All our sins are forgiven in Christ the moment that we believe the gospel since Jesus died once for all (Hebrews 8:13; 10:10, 14).
There is a certain appeal to antinomian teaching of course. We can still claim to be a Christian while living in outright sin. Many antinomians would decry such a position and would not claim that they hold to that view. Yet this is where their teaching lives. I once had an e-mail discussion with such a teacher. He held to the radical, non-Lordship view that one needed only to believe the gospel once and they were bound for eternity (once saved, always saved). He held that sin, after their initial confession of Christ, has no bearings on that person anymore and they are now free in Christ (Galatians 5:1). He held then that any sin is permissible but not beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12). I asked him point-blank if any sin was allowed in the life of a disciple and he wrote me back “YES!” and he added, “What joy there is in knowing this!” A couple of books that endorse this view are Charles Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life, and Bob George, Classic Christianity.
Yet true grace in the New Testament teaches us to say no to sin. Titus 2:11-12 (NIV) says:
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
True grace does not give us a “sin no matter what” attitude but true grace points us to salvation in Christ Jesus and teaches us to say no to sin. True grace wants to please our Lord and not ourselves or our flesh. Paul asked the question in Romans 6:1-4:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Because we have been buried and raised with Christ Jesus in His death and in His resurrection, this should cause us to walk in the newness of life. This life is not a life of slavery to sin. Romans 6:6 adds, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” The disciple of Jesus is a slave to righteousness and not sin (Romans 6:18).
True grace understands that we are not perfect (James 3:2) but true grace understands that our source of salvation, our hope for eternal life, our righteousness before God, our security, our redemption, our holiness, our life is found only in Christ Jesus our Lord (John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31). True grace runs from sin, not to it (Jude 4). Matthew 1:21 says that Jesus came to save His people from their sins. Many want to be His people but few want to be saved from their sins. Jesus came to set us free from sin.
Think about it. If Jesus came to earth, suffered on the cross for our sins, how can sin no longer be the issue? Sin is what got us here in the first place (Romans 5:12). Sin is what separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Sin is what brings death (Romans 6:23). God said in Ezekiel 18:4 that the soul that sins shall die. This still holds true today as it held in the time of Ezekiel or the time of David or the time of Adam and Eve. Our only hope to crush sin in our lives in the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus. His Spirit enables us to crush sin in our lives (Galatians 5:16-17). This is not some sort of self-will power to overcome sin. This is not “pick yourself up by your bootstraps and dust yourself off” but this teaching in the New Testament on grace empowers us to follow Christ, to love Christ, to worship and adore Him in holiness. True grace helps the disciple love God, love His Word, fear Him, hunger for Him, long for His presence, long to honor and please Him in all things (Colossians 1:9-12) and why, because of the gospel of His grace (Colossians 1:13-14). The gospel motivates us to obedience. This obedience is not fleshly or self-labor. This obedience flows from our love for God in light of the gospel. 1 John 3:23-24 says:
23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
We obey Christ in light of the gospel. We do not obey Christ to earn His righteousness or to have favor with Him. We obey Him because of what He has done in saving us (1 John 4:9-10). We obey Him out of love and out of worship and not out of fleshly obedience. We recognize that salvation is accomplished only through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9) yet we know that God prepares us to obey and serve Him (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14). Good works flow naturally from our true source for life, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I pray that today we would honor the Lord Jesus Christ through our lives (1 Peter 1:15-16). I recommend Dr. Michael Brown’s book, Go and Sin No More: A Call to Holiness.