How to Become Holy

Joe Carter:

Among God’s characteristics, as he has revealed himself, none is more significant than his holiness (seeLev. 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7). “Holy” and “holiness” occur more than 900 times in Scripture, and both the Old and New Testaments speak more about his holiness than any other attribute. Because of this characteristic God is not able to tolerate our sin. As Habakkuk 1:13 says, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.”

Christ does not just save us from our sin, though, he saves us so that we might become holy (Eph. 1:3-4). And as Peter says, “just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Pet. 1:13).

“The Bible could not be any clearer,” Kevin DeYoung says, “The reason for your entire salvation, the design behind your deliverance, the purpose for which God chose you in the first place is holiness.”

Holiness is associated with separation from the ordinary or the profane, on the one hand, and connection with God or the divine, on the other. Holiness is not only being separated from sin and worldliness but also being set apart for God’s purposes.

Sanctification is the lifelong process by which we become holy. But there are five specific ways we strive to become holy.

Make Holiness Your Purpose

Of all the goals we have for our life, the most important is to pursue holiness because it is God’s goal for our life. As Oswald Chambers said,

God has only one intended destiny for mankind—holiness. His only goal is to produce saints. God is not some eternal blessing-machine for people to use, and he did not come to save us out of pity—he came to save us because he created us to be holy.

If we truly love God we will commit to making holiness the primary purpose of our life.

Don’t Resist the Holy Spirit

Sanctification is by the Holy Spirit and is part of our conversion (1 Pet. 1:2). In this form, known as definitive sanctification, the Spirit sets us apart in Christ so that we might be saved. The Spirit also works in us so that we can be obedient to Christ, a process referred to as progressive sanctification, because we are progressing toward holiness.

In this latter sanctifying role, the Spirit: (A) exposes our sin so that we may recognize and turn away from it, (B) illuminates Scripture so that we may understand its meaning, and (C) helps us to see the glory of Christ. The Spirit is always willing to do this for us, which is why we must not “resist” (Acts 7:51) or “quench” (1 Thess. 5:19) the Spirit.

Commit to Obedience

There is no holiness without obedience. As Peter hints at in verse 2, the Spirit’s sanctifying work is done so that we may be obedient to Christ. As Jerry Bridges notes, “The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 . . . obeyed by faith . . . obedience is the pathway to holiness.”

Pursue Jesus, Not Moralism

As we become holy we will naturally become more moral. But that is not the goal of growing in godliness. Our pursuit is of Jesus, not moralism. “Holiness is not ultimately about living up to a moral standard,” DeYoung says. “It’s about living in Christ and living out of our real, vital union with him.”

Expect Improvement, Not Perfection

Too often Christians don’t strive to be holy because we consider it an impossible standard. But God is not leading us to an unattainable level of perfection. Our lack of perfection should merely lead us to continually strive to meet God’s goal for us. John Calvin wrote,

As even the most perfect are always very far from coming up to the mark, we ought daily to strive more and more. And we ought to remember that we are not only told what our duty is, but that God also adds, “I am he who sanctifies you.”

Because We Are Loved

As believers we are to be holy not because we want to be loved by God but because we are already loved in Christ. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). And the best way to show that we love God is by seeking to become holy because he is holy.

Egypt: For modern-day ‘Daniel,’ God closed the mouths of savage dogs meant to tear apart imprisoned Christian

The Powerful Root of Practical Love

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.(1 John 3:14)

The Bible sometimes makes love the condition of the ongoing and final experience of future grace. It does not mean that love must precede faith in the promise. On the contrary, it means that faith in the promise must be so real that the love it produces proves the reality of the faith.

Thus love for others is a condition of future grace in the sense that it confirms that the primary condition, faith, is genuine. We could call love for others a secondary condition, which confirms the authenticity of the primary condition of faith.

Faith perceives the glory of God in the promises of future grace and embraces all that the promises reveal of what God is for us in Jesus. This spiritual apprehension and delight in God is the self-authenticating evidence that God has called us to be a beneficiary of his grace. This evidence frees us to bank on the promise as our own. And this banking on the promise empowers us to love. Which in turn confirms that our faith is real.

The world is desperate for a faith that combines two things: awestruck apprehension of unshakable divine Truth, and utterly practical, round-the-clock power to make a liberating difference in life. That is what I want too. Which is why I am a Christian.

There is a great God of grace who magnifies his own infinite self-sufficiency by fulfilling promises to helpless people who trust him. And there is a power that comes from prizing this God that leaves no nook and cranny of life untouched. It empowers us to love in the most practical ways.

What Does Your Tipping Say About Your Faith in Jesus?

As followers of Christ, we’re to be characterized by generosity, humility, and gratitude. That extends to how well we tip those who serve us at restaurants and other places. Scripture says, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25). “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives” (Psalm 37:21). I have heard many stories from restaurant servers, both believers and unbelievers, who say that they get the smallest tips from people who come to eat after leaving church on Sunday mornings. This should not be.

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Are You Really Worshipping if You Don’t Sing?

You must be holy

For he himself has said, “You must be holy because I am holy.” ( I Peter 1:16, NLT)

Bishop Neil C. Ellis, in his book Pursuing the Glory, makes a very interesting suggestion about the language of heaven, which is “Holy, Holy, Holy.” He says, “Most people do not speak the language of heaven because they do not want to live the language of heaven.” He goes on to suggest that many people don’t want to be reminded of their true identity in God, so they make the choice not to speak the language. Could it be this is why some believers have a problem with true worship? They have no problem coming to church; they just choose not to participate in the fellowship, freedom, and transformation that worship in spirit and in truth brings. We serve a holy God who has called us to holiness. That word “holiness” scares some people because it conjures up in our minds a set of religious rules. But God has called us to be like Him; He has made us a royal priesthood – a holy nation (I Peter 2:9). He has called us to holiness and called us to worship Him. May all who fear be no longer fearful, but set free to experience His power and presence found in surrendered worship. Where do you start? With prayer, and with a made up mind to give God the sincere worship He deserves.

Avoiding Complacency in Worship Leadership

Robert Coleman on Becoming More Godly

If We Love God Most, We Will Love Others Best

Jon Bloom:

The most loving thing we can do for others is love God more than we love them. For if we love God most, we will love others best.

I know this sounds like preposterous gobbledygook to an unbeliever. How can you love someone best by loving someone else most? But those who have encountered the living Christ understand what I mean. They know the depth of love and breadth of grace that flows out from them toward others when they themselves are filled with love for God and all he is for them and means to them in Jesus. And they know the comparatively shallow and narrow love they feel toward others when their affection for God is ebbing.

There’s a reason why Jesus said the second greatest commandment is like the first: if we love God with all our heart, we will love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39). It functions like faith and works; if we truly have the first, the second naturally follows.

But if God is not the love of our life, there is no way that we will truly love our neighbor as ourselves. For we will love ourselves supremely.

He First Loved Us

The reason we will love others best when we love God most is that love in its truest, purest form only comes from God, because God is love (1 John 4:7–8). Love is a fundamental part of his nature. We are only able to love him or anyone else because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). We are only able to give freely to others what we have received freely from him.

And as God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:26), we are designed to love God and others in the same way that God loves God and others. God, being the most pure, perfect, powerful, and precious entity in existence, must love himself most in order to love everything else best, since everything else is “from him and through him and to him” (Romans 11:36). If God loved something or someone else more than himself he would be violating the first commandment (Exodus 20:3) and the foremost commandment (Matthew 22:37–38). For God to love something or someone more than himself would be inappropriate, perverted, immoral. Like God, we must love him supremely in order to love everything else best.

The Horrible Result of Not Loving God Most

When we (or anything else, if that’s possible) become our supreme love instead of God, love becomes distorted and diseased. Love ends up devolving into whatever we wish for it to mean.

This is a great evil, greater than we often realize. This is the world as we know it: everyone loves in the way that is right in his own eyes. Which of course means that everyone hates in the way that is right in his own eyes. They become supreme “lovers of self” (2 Timothy 3:2) and live “in the passions of [their] flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,” since they were “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). It is not hard to understand why there is so much confusion and conflict and heartbreak and violence in the world. We live in an anarchy of love resulting in much of the horrifying things we hear in the news.

The Greatest Love Ever Shown

But God, being rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4), “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The author and perfecter of love, Love himself, stepped into our horrible evil anarchy to redeem us (Romans 5:8), his people, and give us new life (Ephesians 2:5), and transform us from children of wrath back into children of God (John 1:12) who are able to love him supremely and therefore love each other rightly — the way he has loved us.

And how has he loved us? With the greatest love there is, the love that moves one to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). But this doesn’t mean that Jesus loved us, his friends, more than his Father. It means that Jesus loved us best because he loved his Father most (John 17:26; Mark 14:36). And “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

What May Be Our Most Loving Act Today

So we see that if we love God most, we will love others best.

I find this to be a convicting and uncomfortable truth: How we love others, particularly other Christians, reveals how we love God. The apostle John puts it bluntly: “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20). Our love for each other is an indicator of the place God is holding in our hearts.

God is very good at designing things this way: our faith is revealed by our works (James 2:18), our creeds are revealed by our deeds (Luke 6:46), and our love for him is revealed by our love for others (1 John 4:20). He makes it very hard for us to fake it. And this is a great kindness (Romans 2:4).

Since the greatest and second greatest commandments are involved in these things, we know they are important to God. So perhaps the best thing we can do today is take an honest, lingering look at the way we love others, allow what we see to have its Philippians 2:12 effect on us, and ask God what he would have us do in response.

We may find that this is the most loving thing we will do for everyone else today.

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When A Christian Feels Dry: A Simple Practice

If you know life in Christ, you know languishing in Christ. We all go through dry seasons. The Christian life is never lived from mountain top to mountain top. Every saint has known lackluster days in relationship with the Lord. God doesn’t feel close. You have His peace, but are not peaceful. You know His love, but are not enjoying His love. Your spiritual life isn’t dead, but it is dull. What is the answer? What is a Christian to do? The answer lies at the very heart of our Christian faith. Even as we embarked upon the Christian faith by feeding upon Christ, so we continue in the faith by feeding upon Christ. He is the one thing necessary.

How do you do that? I believe one of the great disciplines of the Christian faith is meditation. I am not speaking of meditation as many speak of it today. It is not the mind-emptying meditation of Eastern religions or the monotonous humming meditation of mysticism. Christian meditation fills the mind, so the soul is moved. And as Christians, we seek to fill our minds with and see our souls move by the person of Christ.

How do we do this? We turn to the Scriptures and prayer. Christian meditation can be practiced with any passage in Scripture, but–for the sake of example–let’s consider Colossians 1:15-20. Begin by reading the passage slowly; but, don’t simply read it. Meditate on it! Pray over it. Seek to suck all the juice of truth from it, so that your heart will be enflamed with faith and love for Christ. Feed upon Him by faith in His Word.

Take one phrase, clause, or idea about Christ from the passage and keep turning it over and over in your thoughts. Like holding up a diamond for examination, try to see every facet of the truth contained in that passage. Like a good piece of chocolate in your mouth, keep mulling it over until you have sucked all its goodness out. Don’t give up. Keep thinking upon it until you find your mind occupied, your affections stirred, and your soul ignited with passion for Christ. It takes time, concentration, practice, and prayer, but the fruits are abundant.

For example, take the sixteenth verse, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether throne or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” He created all visible things. He created the 100 billion visible galaxies including our own Milky Way. A galaxy that alone contains 300 billion stars. He created the blade of grass you stepped on this morning and the ant that ran past your feet. He created the butterfly and the gorilla, every cloud in the sky and every particle of soil, the newborn baby and the grave. Think about all the diversity in the visible order. What diversity exists—so many colors, shapes, sizes, and purposes. Oh, for one to create this much diversity, His creativity must be exceedingly great! He created the brilliance of the rainbow in full color, the glory of the red rose, the stunning awe of the mountaintops. What beauty! If these reflect such beauty, how beautiful must He be? He created the raging sea in all its grandeur, the Lion it all its strength, the tornado with all its force. How great must His power be? And all of this is just the visible order. He also created all things invisible. Surely, more things exist in the invisible order than the visible order! He created all of them—from the legions of angels to the countless number of atoms, every soul, every demon, every spiritual reality. What a Creator! How great is He?

This exercise is endless. Truly, we could go on and on; but, if my experience is anything like yours—I would guess that your heart is starting to stir. How good it is to think upon Christ. Oh, how the soul that feeds upon Christ knows the richest delights in heaven and earth. Run to Him, dear Christian. Eat your fill of Christ and keep seeking to be more and more filled. Let it be your daily practice, your continual pursuit, and your everlasting joy.

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