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Don’t Be Holy In Theory Only

I think that most disciples of Christ acknowledge that God calls His people to holiness.  1 Peter 1:15-16 is clear enough that we understand that God calls me to holiness.  Psalm 24:3-4 is also clear that the only one that can approach the holy throne of God is those who have clean hands and a pure heart.  Jesus blessed those who are pure in heart by saying that they would see God (Matthew 5:8).  The Bible also calls us to follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and His example was one of perfection (1 Peter 2:21-22).  Paul said wrote that the Corinthians were to follow his example as he followed the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

So in theory we know that God calls to holiness.  We know that the people of God are to flee from sin (Romans 6).  We know that we are to set our affections on Christ above (Colossians 3:1-4).  We are to strive for holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).  We read passages such as 1 Peter 2:11-12 and agree that they are good and right.

Yet theory is not practice.  To simply hold to a theory of holiness is not enough.  Strange how I have met “holiness” people who are not holy.  I have met people who ascribed to a theology of holiness yet were not living holy lives.  They looked, acted, loved, adored, and were striving for the same things as the worldly-minded church.  They wanted to sip their latte and shake their head to some “worship” music but they didn’t want to be holy.  They wanted to read their study Bible but never practice what the Bible says.  They wanted to “share their testimony” with the lost but didn’t even have the strength to exhort sinners to flee the wrath to come.  They want to have a theory of holiness in which they say that Christ is their holiness and He is their salvation without actually repenting of their sins and being holy themselves.  They talk about holiness in some circles but then they sit at their computer screen or movie screen and fill their minds with filth, compromise, and worldliness.

Oh to be holy!  Oh for a people of holiness to rise up and preach the gospel!  Oh for saints to truly be saints (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  I am so thankful for Jesus shedding His blood for my sins (Galatians 1:4).  I rejoice in Isaiah 53:11, that I am justified before God because of the work of the Lord Jesus.  Nothing can take from His work and nothing can add to His work (Galatians 1:6-9).  Truly Jesus is my salvation (John 19:30; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

However, this doesn’t negate holiness.  Holiness is still required.  Just as God called His people to holiness in the Old Testament (Leviticus 11:44-45), so He calls His people to holiness in the New Testament (1 Peter 1:15-16).  The blessing of the gospel is that holiness is now accomplished not by my keeping the laws of the Old Testament but by keeping the law of Christ (Galatians 5:24-25).  We now are empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:16-17) to be holy.  We have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20; 6:14).  We are to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).  The wages of sin remains death (Romans 6:23) and we are to flee from sin (Galatians 6:7-8).  The one who lives for their flesh will die (Romans 8:12-13).

The call then must be repent of our sins!  We must bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).  We must turn from our wicked ways (Ezekiel 18:30-31).  We must call sinners to repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31).  We must reveal to sinners the greatness of God in His giving of His Son for our sins (Romans 2:4).  We must call sinners to repent and take up their cross and follow Jesus (Luke 14:25-35).  We must call the people of God back to holiness not just in theory but in practice.  Theory is useless with the practice of holiness (1 John 2:3-6).  We must warn the saints of God to flee from sin (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and to be holy (1 John 3:6-10).

I pray to God that He would empower us to holiness (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  Oh for holiness to be preached in the power of the Holy Spirit!

Practicing Righteousness

If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
– 1 John 2:29 (NASB)

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
– 1 John 3:7 (NASB)

By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
– 1 John 3:10 (NASB)

I do believe in the doctrine of imputation.  I have read the works of some who disagree.  They hold that the Bible never says anywhere that we are “imputed with Christ’s righteousness.”  They hold that the Bible declares us to be righteous by virtue of being in Christ by faith but they hold that the Bible never says that the righteousness of Christ is ever imputed to us.  Even the passages that are appealed to for the doctrine of imputation such as 2 Corinthians 5:21 or Philippians 3:9 do not say that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us.

However, to me this is simply semantics.  While the Bible never uses the phrase “imputed with Christ’s righteousness,” the doctrine is based on not just the New Testament but the Old Testament as well.  For example, in the famous story of the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt in Exodus 12, the blood of the Passover lamb would serve as a substitute for God’s judgment against the Egyptians.  The Israelites were protected by the blood.  The blood served as a sin offering substitute by which the Israelites’ sins were imputed to the lamb and the lamb bore them on their behalf.  This looked forward to God’s perfect sacrifice of His own Lamb (John 1:29).  The Lamb of God would take away the sins of the world and would bear the sins of the people of God.  God’s Lamb would be our perfect sacrifice to take away our sins (1 Peter 1:18-19; 2:22-24).  Jesus’ blood now cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7) and His blood is our defense before a holy God.

Hebrews 9:11-22 reads:

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Jesus then is our substitute before God.  He bore our sins on the cross.  His blood alone is able to cleanse us from sin (Romans 5:9).  Jesus’ blood not only cleanses us from all sin but He is our mediator before God (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

Jesus Christ is our salvation.  He is our everything before God.  We have nothing apart from Him (John 15:5).  He is our salvation, our redemption, our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30).  Our boasting must be in Him alone (1 Corinthians 1:31)!  In Jesus we have “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:22).

Just as the Old Testament sacrifices were imputed with the sins of the Israelites, so the New Testament saint had their sins imputed upon Christ our Lord and He bore our sins.  Thus all He accomplished for our forgiveness is now imputed toward us.

This, however, should not ignore the passages that speak of practicing righteousness.  To merely claim Christ’s righteousness apart from pursuing holiness is not biblical.  Full salvation looks to Christ alone for salvation but we also look to Christ alone to sanctify us.  We are holy in Christ but are also being made holy.  Hebrews 10:14 reads:

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We look to Christ Jesus to help us not just to be forgiven of our sins but to be made holy before Him.  Jesus came to bear our sins and to give us complete victory over our sins (Matthew 1:21).  We don’t have to be slaves to sin (John 8:34-36).  Those who are baptized into Christ (Romans 6:1-4) are no longer slaves to sin but are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:5-23).  Through the Lord Jesus we are able to live a holy life (1 John 2:1-2).  We don’t have to live a life of defeat in sin.  We can be set free by His grace from sin and its domain (Titus 2:12-14).  Our hearts are cleansed by faith (Acts 15:9) and the Lord wants to continue that deep work of cleansing in us (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

My earnest prayer has been for the Lord to give disciples full victory that we have in Christ.  We don’t have to be slaves to sin.  We can be slaves of righteousness.  If we are not slaves of righteousness, John the Apostle says that we are not righteous at all.  The doctrine of Christ’s imputation should never be used as a basis for sinning.  If that is the heart of the person living in sin, they know nothing of the grace of God.  While I acknowledge that true saints of God can (and will) sin, this is not the will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 John 2:1).  May our hearts be to live a life of holiness, pleasing to the Lord (Colossians 1:9-10).

Where is the Call to Holiness?

Very few people who claim to be true Christians live holy lives.  In many ways, many live their lives just like the people of this world.  They love the things in the world and pursue the world despite the call of John the Apostle in 1 John 2:15-17.  People are content to believe that God loves them enough to save them through His Son (John 3:16) but are content to live in the world and not flee from sin that first sent the Son of God to the cross (Isaiah 53:4-6).  People want to be “His people” but do not want to be completely saved from “their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

The call of God is to holiness (Hebrews 12:14).  The Bible tells us that we are to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Paul the Apostle prayed often for believers to be holy and blameless before God (see 1 Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:6; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  Paul called the Church to holiness (Philippians 2:14-15).  Paul wanted the Church to forsake sin (1 Corinthians 15:34; 2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).  John the Beloved likewise called the Church to holiness (1 John 2:1-2).  In Romans 6, Paul the Apostle tells the disciples in Rome that Jesus not only has set us from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin!

So where is the call to holiness?  I fear that in our day we have many people who even preach against sin but live shameful lives when no one is looking.  God knows.  He sees al things even what is going on in secret (Psalm 139:7; Jeremiah 23:24).  He sees that man who preaches one thing but secretly is looking at pornography on the Internet.  He sees that woman who claims to be holy but she is gossiping about others.  God knows all things.  We cannot hide from Him and we must give an account for our lives before Him (2 Corinthians 5:10).

The power of holiness begins with the gospel.  In Galatians 2:20 Paul preaches what you and I must preach and live as well; that we died with Christ on the cross and are raised to walk in the newness of life by His power.  The power for holy living comes through faith in the resurrected Christ who lives to make intercession before God on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25).  How can the disciple of Christ fail when we have the Son of God praying at God’s right hand for us and the Holy Spirit praying for us as well (Romans 8:26-27)?  The Lord Jesus knows our struggles (Hebrews 4:14-16) and He is more than able to help us overcome sin by His grace (1 Corinthians 10:13; Titus 2:13).

What sin is more powerful than Christ?  What sin can He not rescue us from?  He is able to rescue us from all sin.  He is able to empower us to live holy lives.  He is able to deliver us from us and He is able to help us not to be hypocrites when no one else is watching.  He is able to purify our minds as we set them upon Him (Philippians 4:8-9).  He is able to purify us from all sin (1 John 1:9).

This is an ongoing struggle.  Sin is not defeated by one prayer meeting or by one experience.  Sin must be fought with all the time.  The only hope we have is to daily walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).  Daily I must look to Christ alone to help me.  I look to Him by prayer.  I look to Him in His Word.  I daily do these things.  Discipline alone is good but discipline with a focus on Christ is the true way to victory (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).  Christ has secured our salvation and He also has secured our sanctification (John 17:17-20).  He cleanses our hearts by faith (Acts 15:9).  As we look to Christ alone to save us both from the wrath of God and from present sin (1 Thessalonians 1:10), we find that He is sufficient to help us in all our struggles with sin.

What final point.  The attitude I see today among some is that we just rest in Christ and don’t worry about fighting against our sins.  They believe that they are “once saved, always saved” and thus they don’t have to battle against sin.  They reason that God only sees them in Christ (imputed righteousness) and they don’t need to be personally righteous.  This incorrect thinking has led some to fall into great sins.  The Bible calls believers to forsake sin and to pursue holiness.  No where does the Bible tell us just to rest in Christ and not fight.  In 1 Corinthians 6:18 Paul told the corrupt Corinthian church to flee immorality.  In wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:9 that his aim was to please Christ in light of the judgment seat of Christ in verse 10.  In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul wrote that we are to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. ”

Adam Clarke wrote on 2 Corinthians 7:1:

“These are things in which both body and soul must consent. But still withholding the eye, the ear, the hand, and the body in general, from sights, reports, and acts of evil, will not purify a fallen spirit; it is the grace and Spirit of Christ alone, powerfully applied for this very purpose, that can purify the conscience and the heart from all dead works. But if we do not withhold the food by which the man of sin is nourished and supported, we cannot expect God to purify our hearts. While we are striving against sin, we may expect the Spirit of God to purify us by his inspiration from all unrighteousness, that we may perfectly love and magnify our Maker. How can those expect God to purify their hearts who are continually indulging their eyes, ears, and hands in what is forbidden, and in what tends to increase and bring into action all the evil propensities of the soul?”

I ask the same.  How can we claim holiness while living in sin?  How can we expect to be holy while indulging our sinfulness all the while claiming to be in Christ by faith and resting in His work?  We deceive ourselves into thinking that God does not see us anymore now that we are in Christ.  Yet the Lord said in Revelation 2:2 to the church in Ephesus: “I know your works.”  How can this be if He only sees the work of Christ?

The reality is that God does see us.  He always see us.  For the disciple who truly loves Christ and is pursuing holiness, this is not a fearful thing (Psalm 121:4).  The knowledge that God always sees me brings both fear and such comfort that words can not describe.  God is able to deliver us from all sin.  It is in His power to do so.

My prayer is that the Church would pursue holiness.  Ephesians 5:27 says that Christ will have a bride without blemish.  He is sanctifying His bride even now.  I rejoice that the Lord is faithful to sanctify us.  I long for His touch.

Be Holy

I want to add that this post is for me but I wanted to share it with any readers who also long to be holy.

The Bible says for us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Holiness is not merely a state that we are in by virtue of the work of Christ (Hebrews 10:10) but it also is an ongoing battle that the Spirit of God helps us with (Galatians 5:16-17; Hebrews 10:14).  We are called to holiness (Hebrews 12:14) and we are called to forsake our sins (1 Corinthians 15:34).  We are called to count as dead our flesh (Romans 6:11) and to present our members unto the Lord (Romans 6:12-14).  We are called to put on the new self created in righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24).  We are called to follow the example of Christ (1 Peter 2:21-24) and to be righteous (1 John 3:10).

So be holy.  Be holy in what you say (Ephesians 4:29; James 3:10).  Be holy in what you think about (Psalm 19:14; 104:34; Romans 12:1-2; Philippians 4:8).  Be holy in what you do with your body (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).  Be holy in all your conduct (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Be holy as God is holy.

Don’t make poor excuses for your sinning.  Repent of your sins (Acts 3:19).  Don’t ignore your sins.  Don’t ignore your areas of weakness.  Repent of them and look to Christ alone to save you from your sins (1 John 1:7).  Flee sinning!  Flee the second glance at sin.  When tempted by sin, run to your Savior who alone can save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21)!  We cannot fight this battle with temptation alone.  We must depend on the Lord Jesus to save us (1 Corinthians 10:13).  He is more than able (Hebrews 7:25)!

Oh wretched man, look to Christ alone!  Focus not on your temptations, your flesh, your past failures.  Look to the victory that Jesus has already secured for His disciples (John 19:30).  Jesus is our victory.  Jesus is our crown.  Jesus is our life (Colossians 3:1-4).  Jesus is the only one who can deliver us from this sinfulness (Romans 7:25).  May we look to Him alone to save us!

Confessions of a Perfectionist

Note: This post is not intended to teach that we can abide in sin.  This is not my point.  I want to make that clear before I start.  The Bible is clear that we should forsake our sins (1 John 2:1).  Paul told the Corinthians to “stop sinning” (1 Corinthians 15:34).  In 2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5, Paul the Apostle rebukes those in the Corinthian church who have not repented of their past sinning.  In fact, the New Testament is clear that we are to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14), to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16), to be slaves of righteousness and not slaves to sin (Romans 6:1-23) and that to be slaves of sin shows we are not Christ’s (John 8:34-35).  John the Beloved wrote in 1 John 3:7 that he who practices righteousness is righteous.  It is not merely enough to claim “imputed righteousness” and go on sinning.  I don’t deny that we are righteous in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21) but I do deny that this gives us a license to abuse God’s grace and continue in a life of sin (Jude 4; cf. Hebrews 10:26-31).

Perfectionism is a dangerous thing.  I once aimed with all that was in me for perfection.  I strove to overcome sin by my power and I thought it was merely a choice of my will to overcome sin.  I paid little attention to abiding in Christ and strove in my strength to overcome sin.  And the more I strove, the more I struggled with sin.  I would overcome one sin only to find another sin had taken its place.

The true danger of perfectionism is pride.  I had pride in me.  Oh I would have claimed Christ and would have said that I was seeking to overcome sin because of Christ and His victory on the cross but I was only paying lip service to Him.  After all, what Christian would deny that Jesus was really the One that they were striving to obey?  In reality, I was nothing more than a hypocrite and a Pharisee all at the same time.  I was nothing more than a white washed tomb (Matthew 23:27-28).  Around others I could act so holy and pure but inwardly, I was tormented by my sins.  I hated my flesh.  I despised what I knew about me when none were around yet I continued to play the hypocrite and act like I was living in complete victory.

I see now the errors of my ways.  It was not seeking Christ that was a sin.  It was not seeking to overcome my sins that was a sin.  It was my faith in me, my pride in thinking that could gain the victory by the sheer power of my own will.  Yet my will is tainted by my flesh.  My will wants to honor me above Christ.  My will wants to live for the glory of me above the glory of Christ.  My will wants to exalt me and not turn others toward Christ.

I rejoice now though for the gospel.  The gospel is not about what I do to obtain His forgiveness.  The gospel is not about what I do to overcome sin.  The gospel is not about how I can now, by the power of my will, live free from sin.  The gospel in fact informs me that I am saved by God’s grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).  No doubt His grace teaches me to say no to sin (Titus 2:12) but my focus now is on Christ and Christ alone (Titus 2:13).  I know now that through the gospel, I am seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).  I know now that through Christ, though I was once dead in my sins, I am now alive in Him (Ephesians 2:1-6).  I recognize that my passion is to glorify Christ in all that I say and do and not because of my own striving, my own will power, but in light of the gospel that saves me (1 Corinthians 15:10).  I see now that Christ came into the world to save sinners (Luke 19:10) and Paul the Apostle understood that before a holy and pure God, he was sinful and lost (1 Timothy 1:15).  Our salvation is based on the Lord Jesus Christ and not on our works!  Good works flow from a redeemed life (James 2:14-26; cf. Ephesians 2:10).  The love of God grabs us and empowers us (John 14:15, 23-24).

Our part is to consistently submit to the Lordship of Christ.  This is the key to overcome sin.  It is not by making “sin lists” or by striving merely in our own power to overcome sin.  This has never worked.  The key is to focus on the Lordship of Christ, be saturated in His Word (John 17:17), and to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).  To follow the flesh only spells doom (Galatians 6:7-9; James 5:19-20).  2 Peter 2:20-22 warns us against returning to the flesh while thinking we are forgiven.  We must repent of our sins but we do this by the power of the gospel and not by merely creating resolutions.

Here then is the balance.  We adore the gospel that saves us.  We acknowledge that we are saved by the grace of God alone and that Christ is our salvation.  We rejoice in the Lord for His forgiveness and for setting us free from the power of sin (Colossians 1:13-14).  We praise God for the gospel truth that we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus alone (1 Peter 1:18-19) and not by our works (Titus 3:5-7).  We confess that without Christ, we would be lost sinners, hell-bound.  We celebrate the biblical fact that we are holy before God through Christ (Hebrews 10:10; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

This gospel truth then produces a joy in longing to serve the Lord.  I want to be holy as He is holy not because of legalism and perfectionism but because of what He has done in saving me!  I want to strive to be like Jesus and set my mind on things above and not on this world (Colossians 3:1-4) because of the work of Christ.  I rejoice that I am justified before God through faith (Romans 5:1).  I rejoice that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).  This leads me toward holiness.  This gospel leads me to want to pray, to worship, to share the gospel with the lost, to seek to be pure and blameless (Philippians 2:12-15).  I want to press on (Philippians 3:12-16).  I want to forsake my sins in the light of His forgiveness of my sins (1 John 1:9) but I do not deceive myself into thinking that I have overcome sin by my power for I cannot (1 John 1:10).

So I rejoice in Christ.  I praise the Father for the gift of His Son and that I am saved, redeemed, forgiven in Christ alone (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Yet I also long to be holy, to be pure, to be blameless but I know that I can only obtain holiness by God’s grace working in me.

The Witness of the Spirit Through Sanctification

15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

– Romans 8:15-16

The assurance of salvation is a precious gift from God.  Cults base their “salvation” upon their works or the fact that they are in God’s elected group (the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society for example).  Roman Catholics base their assurance on the church and the foundation of the Catholic church.  Since the Reformation, Protestants have historically based their assurance upon the witness of the Spirit which John Calvin asserted was the witness of the holy Scriptures and the gift of faith given by God to His elect.  Calvin writes,

For we must ever hold fast this principle, — that we do not rightly pray to God, unless we are surely persuaded in our hearts, that he is our Father, when we so call him with our lips. To this there is a corresponding part, — that our faith has no true evidence, except we call upon God. It is not then without reason that Paul, bringing us to this test, shows that it then only appears how truly any one believes, when they who have embraced the promise of grace, exercise themselves in prayers.

Since Calvin, most orthodox believers have stood with him and stated that the testimony of God’s Word (1 Corinthians 2:12) and faith are what are our basis for assurance.

However, I fear that we can make too much about knowing facts as our basis for salvation instead of the witness of the Spirit.  One cannot read Romans 8 and not notice the contrast by Paul the Apostle between the flesh and the Spirit (Romans 8:1-9, 12-13).  It is clear that Paul wants true believers to be led by the Spirit and not follow the flesh.  His warning in Romans 8:12-13 is clear:

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

His warning here is found in other places in the New Testament as well.  Notice Galatians 6:7-9:

7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Or James 5:19-20:

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

1 John 2:15-17:

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.

The warning of Romans 8:12-13 cannot be ignored.  When a believer gives in to their flesh and begins to follow the flesh, the results are deadly.  We are not to return to a life of sin when we have been redeemed by grace (2 Peter 2:20-22).  The believer is under obligation to obey Jesus as Lord since He ransomed them by His own blood (Romans 6:1-23; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  Our obligation is holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16).

With this comes the assurance of our salvation.  Dr. John MacArthur calls this, in the words of Puritan John Owen, “the mortification of the flesh.”  MacArthur writes that the believer is obligated to mortify the flesh.  We must not just hate sin.  We must seek to kill it.  Basing his words from 1 Samuel 15:32-33, we must hack Agag to pieces.  Sin must be destroyed.

The hope for the disciple of Jesus is not based on our own self-mortification.  We have no power to overcome our sins.  Our hope is the gospel.  Our hope is Christ who saves us (Matthew 1:21).  Jesus gives us the power to conquer sin (John 3:1-7).  Jesus delivers His people not just from the penalty of sin but also the power of sin.  But victory is not merely based on “reckoning” but in actual realization in our lives.  Galatians 5:16-26 is clear on this issue:

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

As we walk in the Spirit, we find He helps us slay Agag (our flesh).  The mind set on the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:8) but those in the Spirit can please God (Romans 8:9).

With this comes the assurance of our salvation.  One cannot merely hope in facts about Christ and still abide in sin.  This will not produce assurance and will only lead to despair and death.  The cure is to walk in the light (1 John 1:7).  We, in ourselves, cannot defeat sin.  We must place our faith in the Spirit of God who is working in us to help us to defeat sin but this mortification is not merely by intellectual acknowledgement of this fact but is actually allowing the Spirit to work in us to defeat sin.  Sanctification is not a monergistic work.  It is us working with the Spirit to defeat sin in our lives (Philippians 2:12-16).

This produces assurance.  Yes we rely on the gospel.  Yes our hope is in the Word.  Yes we have the direct witness of the Spirit with our spirit.  But likewise, our duty before God is to submit ourselves to Him (James 4:7-8).  Our duty is to be holy as He is holy and to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14).  Our duty is to allow the Spirit of God to convict us of sin and discipline us as His children (John 16:8-11; Hebrews 12:3-11).  Our duty is to mortify sin by the power of the Holy Spirit and this produces the assurance of our salvation.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/18/2013 at 12:09 PM

Where There is Salvation, There is Sanctification

The book of Romans is an amazing book.  We begin with Paul’s discussion of the universal nature of sin in both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 1-3:20).  Paul then turns to justification by faith in the finished work of Christ Jesus (Romans 3:21-5:21).  From justification he goes directly into discussing sanctification (Romans 6-8).

The reason for this is that salvation always produces sanctification.  Where there is not sanctification, there is no salvation.  If we are truly saved from sin, we are saved from sin (John 8:34-36).  Jesus doesn’t just wash away our sins by His own blood (Romans 3:25-26) but He also delivers His people from their sinful living (Matthew 1:21).  Jesus completely transform us so that Scripture uses phrases such as “born again” (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23) or “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  We are no longer slaves of sin but now we are slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18-22).

The point here is that one cannot claim Christ if there is no sanctification.  We cannot claim Christ and still abide in our sins (1 John 3:4-10).  The person who is in Christ is now a slave of His righteousness and the born again person desires to honor God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  The new creation in Christ longs to please God through holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16) and the new creation recognizes the promises of God given to us in Christ are there to help us be holy as He is holy (2 Corinthians 7:1).  The child of God longs to be like his God in every way (1 Corinthians 10:31).  The longing of the soul of the child of God is to honor Christ and exalt Him through holiness (Hebrews 12:14).  Holiness is the cry of their souls (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  There is an intense hatred of sin (Romans 8:23).  There is a passion for what Jesus has done for us in saving us by His grace (Romans 8:1-4).  One does not live in sin and still claim Christ (Hebrews 10:26-27).  The true child of God recognizes that the grace of God has been given to us to save us (Titus 2:11-14).

I long for holiness.  I long to be like Jesus in everything I say or do (1 John 2:3-6).  I despise sin, my flesh, and the enemy. I long to be pure and holy (Matthew 5:8).  I rejoice in the fact that I can run to the Father when I sin (1 John 1:9).  I rejoice that the blood of Jesus washes away all my sins (1 John 1:7).  I rejoice that Jesus is able to deliver His saints completely from their sins by His power (Hebrews 4:14-16).  There is no denying that we face temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13) nor that we are not perfect (James 3:2).  But the reality is that God has provided the blood of His Son to not only save us once but for all time as we trust in His grace.  The blood of Jesus is powerful enough to not just cleanse us initially from our sins but is able to sanctify us as well (Hebrews 10:10, 14).  As we war in this flesh (Galatians 5:16-17) may we trust in the grace of God, the blood of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us be holy.  This is our only hope.  Holiness will not be found in morality or in legalism but through faith in the finished work of Jesus and His Spirit in us who helps us to be holy.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/08/2013 at 9:26 AM

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