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Standards of Holiness

Randy Alcorn: Grace never lowers the standards of holiness. Look at the cross. Jesus manifested His grace to us by dying for our sins, paying the ultimate price. How ugly must sin be, how great must be the Holiness of God, when Jesus said, „Father, if there is no other way…” There was no other way for Him to manifest His love as grace to us. That’s how great the holiness of God is. And I mentioned before the single attribute of God that many people come up with: ” He’s just a God of love.. Just a God of grace; there’s nothing else. Everything else must be seen in light of that.” And yet, isn’t it interesting that the angels of God in His presence, do not cry out ‘Love, Love, Love is the Lord God Almighty’. They cry out: „Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

The grace of Jesus does not lower the bar of God’s holiness. It picks us up so that we meet the bar and cross the bar, not because of us, but because of Him. 

He became sin for us, He who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Because that’s the only way we could ever enter heaven, to be as righteous as Jesus. And, it’s through His righteousness. And you see this even through the words that Jesus said, „You have heard that it was said under the law, that if a man commits adultery… I say to you that if you look at a woman with lust in your heart, you’ve committed adultery.”

Was He lowering the standard? Or, was He raising the standard? And [there are] many other examples of that same thing. Raising the standard, but by His grace transforming us into a people with the righteousness of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, that we might live up to His standards. And then when we don’t in this life, and often we don’t, then we are quick to confess and repent, and be forgiven, and come back to live the life of holiness, honoring God’s truth, not through our merit, but through the merit of Christ, to the glory of Christ.92807781

Defining Grace

Grace is often defined, and well defined, I think, as God’s unmerited favor. And the word ‘unmerited’ is key there. Of course, it’s His favor, but the fact that there’s nothing we can do do earn it, we don’t deserve it. And so, someone will say, „I asked God to forgive me, but I don’t deserve to be forgiven. Well, if you deserved to be forgiven, you wouldn’t need to be forgiven. If you deserved God’s grace, you wouldn’t need God’s grace.

And so, I think, grace is this attribute of God that He manifests to us, in the fact that why we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God extends His grace to us and grace is not just the way we are converted. Grace is to be the way we live. Day by day, I am dependent upon the grace of God to do good things in me, and good things through me.

Is there a difference between grace and mercy? Alcorn: I think mercy is something that is also an attribute of God. But, you can have mercy on a person, who perhaps is just a needy person. You do a merciful thing for them. I think grace encompasses more of- this is not just this person out there with a bad condition, that I’m having  this mercy toward. But, grace is when this person has done great harm to me and has rebelled against me, and has hated me. And now, I look at that person and I say, „I invite you to become part of my family and sit at my table. And, I will pay a huge price, through the giving of my own life, or the life of my Son, so that you can become qualified to sit at the table with Me.”And that is so astounding. And that’s why, John Newton, ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me”.

And, by the way, one time I was speaking at a conference, at a rally. A woman got up, beautiful voice, and she started singing Amazing Grace, one of my favorite songs and probably one of your favorite songs. And she started and it was great until it got to: „Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a soul like me…” I thought, here we are, revising the author’s original „wretch”, because we don’t wanna say wretch. See? Because wretch is demeaning. Yes, it is, and rightfully so. Because we’re wretches. And here’s the thing. If John Newton had just considered himself to be a sort of a morally neutral soul instead of wretch, then to him, God’s grace would not have been amazing. Well… God is kind to souls. No, God shows His grace to wretches who don’t deserve, don’t even begin to deserve what God gives them. It changes everything.

And, that’s why I think today, to many people, they can sing amazing grace, but because they don’t come to terms with the fact that they deserve hell , we all deserve hell, that we are morally wretches, rebels against God. Because, if you don’t come to terms with that, you will never believe  that God’s grace is so amazing. You will never have the depth of gratitude and thanksgiving that you should have.91523568

Book recommendation: The Grace and Truth Paradox by Randy Alcorn.

What is Truth

In Scripture, truth is always founded upon the nature of God, who He is That which is in conformity to His nature, to who He is, and that which is in conformity to what He has said, as revealed in His Word. That is truth. Jesus said, „I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by Me.” Not „a” way, „a” truth, „a” life, not one truth on the menu, and then there’s all these other truths which are equally valid. No. „THE” truth. And I think, as Jesus prayed- „Sanctify them in truth. Your Word is truth.” And here’s where I think, let me read a few verses that set this up, from John chapter 1, where it says, verse 1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And then, skipping down to verse 14 – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses. 

Well, when we think of the law, we juxtapose law and grace. So there’s the law of God and there’s the grace of God. But truth is something more than the law, because he says: For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. What an amazing thing. God incarnate, He pitched His tent among us. He became Imanuel, God with us forever, in a human body, now, in a resurrected human body. 

But, the law came, was given through Moses. And the law had all of these standards. And you can think the law is synonymous with truth. The law reflected truth, or came out of God’s truth, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. So, the truth is bigger than the law. Truth is way more encompassing, and it begins with who God is and the way God’s truth is manifested in our lives, sometimes we really misunderstand this. There are a lot of people who think that the laws and the truths and the commandments of Scripture are somehow cruel or unkind to us. Why would God lay this standard on us? But, it’s like you’re up on a mountain pass and you’re driving and it’s late at night. And there’s thick fog. This happened to me, one time, on Highway 1 in California. At night, in the fog, it’s just kind of horrific. Now, suppose you’re driving along this mountain pass, and there are guardrails, and at one point, let’s say, you can’t see where you’re going, and the next thing you know, your car hits the guard rail. You put it in park, you get out of the car, and you go and you look at your fender, which is dented. And, what do you say? „Oh, this guard rail. I can’t believe what this guardrail did to my car!” You don’t stand there and whine and complain about the guardrail. You thank God for the guardrail. Why? Because it saved your life.

God’s guardrails that are reflective of His truths, His will, His commandments, are there, not arbitrarily. They are there because God’s standards dictate the way the universe works. When you live in conformity to them, you come out good. When you don’t conform to them, you come out bad. They are there to protect us. Don’t curse the guardrail. Don’t curse God’s truth. There are too many people today  who are choosing just grace, instead of grace and truth. But, there are some people who don’t understand  that by choosing grace and minimizing truth, that they’re not only undercutting truth, but, they’re undercutting grace.91542436

Responding with Christ like Balance

In our lives, we need to… some of us are truth people. That’s just kind of- call it our natural bent. As a parent, you will see this. There’s often the truth parent and the grace parent. The truth parent is the one that says, „You get home by this time. If you don’t get home by this time, there’s gonna be heck to pay. I mean, this is the rule. Alright?” The grace parent is, „Ooh, ooh, ah, no, that’s okay. I mean, it’s not that big of a deal.” Okay, you got in trouble at school, but, no big deal. It was probably the teacher’s fault anyways.” But, the grace parent, often, in a good way, though, is very quick to forgive. The truth parent says, „Well, I’ll forgive you after  you tremble and shake and beg. And then, maybe I’ll forgive you. But, I’m still not gonna trust you.” That kind of a thing, if it’s truth only. But, if it’s grace only, I know a number of grace-only parents, „Hey, kids will be kids and what can you do?” You can be a parent; that’s what you can do, and have some standards.

But, part of being a parent is showing grace and having standards. You know, in our family, raising our daughters, we had high standards. When my daughters were going to a prom or some kind event like that, they had daddy inspections. So, they’d go and bring home a dress, they knew they had to bring home 4 or 5 of them. Because I’d say, „No, no, no…” Because here’s what the guys will think92807783

How does Grace and Truth fit in with a Biblical worldview? Randy Alcorn: We should view the world and view our daily lives, and view everything in light of grace and truth, specifically, the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. The grace and truth manifested in Christ. „The Word became flesh and manifested Himself, and we beheld His glory. Glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Not 50% grace and 50% truth, but 100% grace and 100% truth, somehow woven in together. If we view the world that way, view our family, view our neighbor, view our spouse, view children and grandchildren, and parents, we view them through the eyes of grace and truth, that is a biblical world view that honors Jesus. And it will transform the way that we live.

Recession exposes secret sin

Photo credit marywomantowoman.blogspot.com

John Piper:

He intends for this recession to expose secret sin, and so, bring us to repentance and cleansing.

Biblical exaple:

Job. The first verse of the book of Job says, „In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blamelessand upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” So, he was a good man. In the last chapter, Job 42 verse 6, it says, Job says, „Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

So, what does that mean? He was a blameless man. Check him out Satan! Job, „I’m a wicked man. (I) cover myself with dust and ashes and repent before the living God.” What does that mean? It means this: The most pure, blameless, holy saint on the planet has a sediment of sin lying quietly at the bottom of his beaker. While we look at this clean, clear water called holiness, but you bump him, just bump him and it gets cloudy. And Job got bumped big time and out of his mouth came some things he never should have said, cause they were there.

And they’re in you! And you know what brings them out? Recession! That’s what brings them out. That’s the way it works. That’s the way recessions work. That’s what they’re for.

VIDEO by Desiring God

Dialogue on holiness with John Oswalt – author of Isaiah NIV Commentary

John Oswalt talks about holiness through it’s proper understanding of the Christian life and what it is all about, an example from the trinity vs. an overemphasis on externals (i.e. a holy outward life where we judge it by counting buttons or length of hair). His most recent book ‘Called to be Holy’, 

„traces the doctrine of personal holiness through both the Old and New Testaments, showing that holy living is an overarching theme of the entire Bible. Dr. Oswalt explains the intimate connection between forgiveness and a life of holiness, and underscores the practical consequences of walking in the Spirit. The result is a well-rounded portrait of the Bible’s teaching on godly living.” (source – book description – Amazon)
Oswalt in the 2nd video:
A New Testament without an Old Testament borders on heresy. It seems to me that a lot of the demise of a Christian understanding of the necessity of ethical holiness, of living out the life of God is the result of our ignorance of the Old Testament, because the New Testament assumes the Old Testament. Often times people will say to me, „There’s the Christian Bible, that’s the New Testament, and the Jewish Bible, that’s the Old Testament. Well, we’re Christians. Yeah, you sort of need the Old Testament, just for sort of background, so you can know where the New Testament came from, but, you don’t really need it.” That is, to put it bluntly- non Christian. The Christian church, for 2,000 years has said, „No, the whole Bible is Christian. A proper understanding of the Old Testament is that it is preparatory to Christ. And, in the same way, the New Testament assumes that we know the Old Testament. What is the question of life:
***How can a sinful human being ever share the character of a holy God? If you don’t know the Old Testament, you don’t know that. Well, the Old Testament is laying these foundations: God is transcendent. He is absolutely holy. He’s beyond anything we can imagine in His essence and His character. He is just. This is a cause and effect world. He is majestic, He is glorious. Salvation is to be found in community. Righteousness is to be lived out in a society. Revelation comes through historical narrative. The other points are there: His immanence, His love, His grace, the reality of an individual relationship with God, the reality of personal righteousness, revelation through teaching- they’re there. But, they’re minor points. The New Testament just reverses that order. The New Testament says, „OK, you got the point now: God is transcendent. Let us talk about His immanence. Let us talk about God having come here. You understand about God’s absolute holiness, now let us talk about His love. And so forth… down that list, just reversing them. If you know your Old Testament, the it fits together. Then, it is awesome Good News, that the awesome Holy God, who could fry you alive by looking at you, loves you. But, if you don’t know the Old Testament, then what you’ve got is a friendly little god, who says, „Oh honey, that’s all right. It doesn’t really matter, it’s okay. A little god, who exists under my bed, to answer my prayers.
A religion that is purely individualistic, about me and my righteousness, and interestingly, a religion that’s primarily through teaching, that actually, whether this stuff happened or not, it’s not that important. In other words, all too much of modern evangelicalism. 
***God’s jealousy in the OT. (2nd video, 10 min. mark)  We need to constantly help people to understand that God’s rage, especially in the prophets is the flipside of His love.  We’ve lost a good word in English: Zeal. As you know, it’s one word in hebrew: Zealous and jealous are the same word. Unfortunately, in English, jealousy is now a petty emotion. My wife smiles at another man, and I get bent out of shape, because I’m jealous. But jealous and zealous go together. And I think of Jesus cleaning out the temple. And what did the disciples remember? „The zeal of Thy house has eaten me up.” God is so furious because He loves His people so much and is so broken over what they are doing to themselves, and so I love to say to students and to others: „You know, the most frequently quoted 2 verse passage of the Old Testament in the Old Testament is Exodus 34:6-7 – TheLord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.  This gets quoted explicitly 6 times, and it’s alluded to another 11 (times). So you say to the Hebrew, „What’s your God like?” „Oh, He’s gracious and compassionate, slow to anger…” Ha? Looks to me like He got angry a lot!” And they say, „Yeah, He should have! That’s not surprising. What’s surprising is He hasn’t.”  We need to have people understand: You can’t have His love without His rage. He is a fully impassioned person.

Dr. John N. Oswalt (PhD, Brandeis University) is Visiting Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is the author of numerous articles and several books, including the two-volume commentary on Isaiah in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series and Called to be Holy: A Biblical Perspective. Three other important books from John Oswalt are:

  1. The Bible among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? by John N. Oswalt (Jul 28, 2009)
  2. Called to Be Holy by John N. Oswalt (Jun 15, 2011)

  3. Leisure Crisis (Critical Issues Series (Wheaton, Ill.).) by John Oswalt (Jun 1987)

(Source – Amazon, Photo credit Amazon).

VIDEOS by TheHenryCenter located at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School  of Wheaton College, Deerfield, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago). For more videos (many debates) click here – http://www.henrycenter.org

Dialogue with John Oswalt – Part 1 (36 min)

Dialogue with John Oswalt – Part 2 (21 min)

Matt Chandler – Holiness Part 4 – A Holy People

See Part 1 – Holiness

See Part 2 – Holiness – The Goodness of God

See Part 3 – Holiness – The „How” Matters

Listen to the audio here – Play Download:MP3
Read the notes from the entire sermon here- http://media.thevillagechurch.net/sermons
Here’s a few paragraph excerpts from the sermon:
  • 1 Peter, chapter 2. We’re going to just walk through this phrase by phrase, so don’t panic. Me saying that probably has some of you panicking, but I promise, I don’t believe this week will go too long. Verse 9: „But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…” Now if I were you, I’d underline that, because if you are a Christian, if you are a believer in Christ, this is your identity. This is who you are. So far this has said nothing of what you do but rather who you are, so that you and I, in Christ, are a chosen race. Now I love that first one as much as I love any of them. We are a chosen race. You have not just individuals but a race of people, and it’s a race that’s built across cultures and across colors. Are you following me? There’s a new chosen race, the church of Jesus Christ, the legitimate Israel of God, the chosen ones of God. Therefore, this race is made up of all tribes, all tongues, and all nations.
  • Then he doesn’t just say royalty. He says priesthood. So we are a royal priesthood. Not only do I belong to the chosen race, but I am also, you are also, in the royal priesthood, which means we have clear and constant access to God. Everything in our lives…everything (work, play, rest)…is done in worship to God, as we are priests of God. We could go to Romans 12 to show this. We could go all over the Bible to show that as a believer in Christ, we are a royal priesthood. We are God’s chosen race, and we live in the presence of God.
  • I think really a lot of us have legitimate issues because we don’t understand this and we’ve lost our respect for the presence of God. We don’t believe our lives are playing out in front of a holy God who sees all. The Bible is saying, „No, no, no. Your whole life is a life of worship, and if you are not living a life of worship in work, in play, in rest, in your hobbies, in your marriage, in your relationships with your kids, if that’s not worship to you, then you’re out of character of who you are, because who you are is a priest, a royal priest, in the chosen race of God’s people. My whole life is a life of worship. Your whole life is a life of worship. That doesn’t mean singing, but singing is a part of worship. It just doesn’t mean you’re always singing about your marriage, singing to your kids. These are not the same words. Worship and singing are not the same words. You can worship as you sing. You can sing worshipfully toward the Lord. But when I say the word worship, I’m not talking about singing, but rather talking about the reality of a heart that’s been captivated by God. That plays itself out in our relationships. That plays itself out in our workplaces. That plays out… We are a royal priesthood.
  • Then look where he goes next. „…a holy nation.” So again, I think one of the really difficult parts about preaching the Word of God in this day and age is individualism is so rampant that we’re very quick to get away from the us to the me. In all of these components, I love it because it’s bigger. You are a chosen race. That’s bigger than just you. It’s bigger than your blackness, bigger than your whiteness, bigger than your cultural backgrounds. It’s bigger than you as an individual and what makes up you as an individual. Then you are a royal priesthood. It didn’t say you are royal priest; it says you are a royal priesthood. So he is speaking not just to an individual, although it does have individual implications, but rather to a group of people. We are a holy nation. So let me explain this in a way I think might be helpful for us. That means the believers in Jesus Christ who love Jesus Christ and go to Fellowship Church are my countrymen. The believers in Jesus Christ who love Jesus Christ and go right down the street to Crossroads Bible, they are my countrymen.
  • My job description, what I’ve been called to do as this holy nation, a part of this chosen race, as royalty, as a priest, is to (now this is it; this is my job description) declare his excellencies. Then he breaks it down. His excellencies. What part of his excellencies, because that’s vast? That he has called us out of darkness and into light. So really, if we start to get high enough up on this whole four weeks and start to really look on it, you have a holy God who has made a way in Jesus Christ to make us holy, his love being the primary motivator toward that holiness, so he considers us his chosen race. He has decreed we are royalty in Jesus Christ. He has given us direct access to him.
  • We have a relationship with God. He is not some sort of ethereal thing in the sky. It’s not a checklist. It’s not a, „Do these things so I don’t get caught.” It is: I have a relationship with God. I am free to pray. I am free to engage. I’m free to walk. I’m free to stumble. I’m free to fail. I am considered by God as part of his own possession. He would consider me his own. God cries out over me. Mine? Me? Now I don’t know how that hits you, but I know what I’m guilty of. I know what’s in my heart. I know some of my motivations are tainted. I know these things about me, and yet God sits over my life and decrees, „This one is mine. This guy is mine”? I mean, do you know how many people are outside these walls right now who have no idea, have no interest, have no desire even to know who God is, have no real yearning to know about him at all? But not you, not me. Here we are, and God has stood over our lives and put the banner of great love flowing out of his mercy, by which (this was last week, right?) he extends to us faith to believe in the grace that we might become his workmanship and walk in the good works he prepared in advance for us to do. Our job is to just make much of his excellencies, primarily that he has called us out of darkness and into light.
  • It’s the greatest news in the universe because if God is for God, if God is about you being holy in Jesus Christ so that he might display his excellencies, so that you might herald his excellencies, so you might make much of his goodness and grace, that means the commands of God, then, are not about your begrudging submission, but the commands of God are actually about you walking in the fullness of life. So when God says, „Do these things,” God is not after your begrudging submission, because God is for God. So God wants you to walk in what’s going to bring you fullness of joy, not happiness all the time, but joy, so he might be made much of.

Related links


Matt Chandler – Holiness Part 3 – The „How” Matters

See Part 1 – Holiness

See Part 2 – Holiness – The Goodness of God

Listen to the audio here- Play Download:MP3

Read the notes from the entire sermon here- http://www.thevillagechurch.net/media/sermons/transcripts

Here’s a few paragraph excerpts from the sermon:

  • So far we’ve answered some pretty big questions. We’ve looked at the holiness of God, who he is, how different he is, what really his holiness is, and then last week we looked at God’s ferocious commitment to making us holy. (See parts 1 & 2). We’ve left some pretty big questions unanswered, and the primary question is how he goes about making us holy.
  • How you understand the process by which you become more and more like Jesus, more and more holy… The more you understand that process correctly, the greater life, freedom, and love for God you’ll have, and the more you misunderstand how that takes place, the more wearying and difficult the Christian life will be to you.  In this great exchange between God and you, the only thing you bring to the table is the sin that makes your salvation necessary. You don’t have the tools or the materials with which to build a house that’s holy. You don’t have them. So if you get away from the One who can build that holy house and try to build it yourself… What the Bible is going to repeatedly tell us is you can’t even make a shack of your own abilities and own efforts. So it’s very important for us to understand how we become holy, so we might walk in the fullness of joy that God has brought for us in our adoption as sons and daughters as he makes us a holy people.
  • The very good news is that God has decreed, chosen, predetermined we would become holy and blameless in his sight. We are going to have a positional holiness before God. We are going to be seen and viewed by God as a holy people. But he still doesn’t say really how he goes about that except that he accomplishes it in Jesus somehow. Ephesians 2:1-10 is going to unpack it more fully. So in Ephesians 2 now, starting in verse 1: „And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–-among whom we all..
  • Now there are some verses and some ideas in the Bible that seem to strain this idea. They put a lot of strain on it. Let me give you an example of just one. I never want to hide from these kind of verses. I actually want to show you how they would work into the gospel. Hebrews 12, verse 14 simply says, „Strive [struggle, work] for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Here’s what you have to start to do with texts like this. There are a lot like this, even like, „…train yourself for godliness…” You can get into all these texts that seem to put a lot of effort on you in order to become the holiness the Bible just clearly said is actually gifted to you by God alone in Christ. So how do you strive toward the holiness without which no one is going to see the Lord if holiness is a gift of grace through faith? How do you strive for something that’s a free gift? I think here’s how you answer that question in light of the gospel. Let me tell you how you strive for holiness, how you train yourself for godliness, how you pursue righteousness and avoid sinfulness under the banner of the gospel. Here’s how you strive: You strive by faith through grace. If that’s confusing to you let me make it simpler: Fix your eyes on Jesus.
  • So with unveiled faces, you and I now have our eyes fixed on Jesus. We are beholding the glory of the Lord Jesus, and in our beholding of the Lord Jesus we „…are being transformed into the same image…” What’s the image? The image of Jesus, the holiness of God, so that by beholding Jesus we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. Look at how this works so we can be patient. „…from one degree of glory to another.” I love that the Bible is so honest about this. As we fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, as we see and savor Jesus, we are transformed from one degree of glory to the next.
  • So how should we fix our eyes on Jesus? Not only is he the founder of my faith, not only is he going to perfect my faith, but look at what in particular we are to look at. „…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Where are our eyes focused? Our eyes are focused on the founder and perfecter of our faith who, filled with joy, died our death and rose from the grave, showing that all of our sin has been paid for. Therefore, to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ is to pursue holiness and to avoid sin.
  • But what ends up happening to many of us is we take our eyes off of Jesus Christ and go, Okay, let me pursue Jesus Christ… I have my eyes off of him, but let me try to pursue him, and then let me try to avoid sin, and honestly, nine times out of ten we reverse those. Let me avoid sin and try to pursue him. But the Bible continually teaches it a completely different way. „Get your eyes on Jesus. Pursue Jesus. Chase after Jesus.” It’s the same thing over and over. I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this yet. I have one sermon. That’s it. One. We just come out of a different text every weekend to preach it. Because this is what we need to be reminded of over and over and over and over and over again, always. You don’t become holy by trying to become holy. You become holy by fixing your eyes on Jesus Christ, and his decree declared holiness over us because of his life, death, and resurrection. He is the founder and he is the perfecter of our faith who died our death and has risen from the grave to prove that he paid the bill in full and has victory over sin and death.
  • Well how do I fix my eyes on Jesus, Matt? How do I fix my eyes on him? How do I look, how do I gaze, how do I behold his glory? Well God has given you all sorts of things to help this. He has given you the Word of God. The Bible is there so you might see who Jesus is, what he’s like, the nature and character of God. He has given you Christian community. He has given you a place like this where we can just come together and we can make much of Jesus. We can talk about him. We can rally. We can celebrate with one another who Jesus is and what he has done. We get to sing to him and sing about him.

Related links

Matt Chandler – Holiness Part 2 – God’s Goodness

Read/Listen to Holiness Part 1 here

Holiness (2) God’s Goodness – Listen to the audio here- Play Download:MP3

Read the notes from the entire sermon here- http://www.thevillagechurch.net/media/sermons/transcripts

Here’s a few paragraph excerpts from the sermon:

  • So we said last week the topic of holiness and the idea of holiness is really fertile ground for doubt. The reason that’s true is the Bible is going to bear its weight on every area of your life. There is not any area of your life the Bible doesn’t explicitly or implicitly set a standard that God has for you over your life. The reality is when we hear or we understand or we feel the standard of God, which by the way is moral perfection, we’re always well underneath it, aren’t we? It’s a rare thing for us to ever hear what God has decreed, what God has commanded for our lives and have our response be, Nailed it! That just doesn’t happen very often. If you feel that way, most of the time you are hammering into the wrong wood.So what happens when the idea, when the topic of holiness comes up, is one of two things. Either we get this feeling we’re perpetually trying to climb this mountain and never really getting to the top and oftentimes sliding back down to where we began. So that’s where some of the doubt begins. Or we just don’t care. This feels impossible. Jesus isn’t working for me. And we bail. This idea of holiness becomes this really kind of fertile ground for paralyzing doubt to take root in our hearts.So when we talk about God’s holiness, we’re talking about his majesty. We very quickly defined that last week as an imposing grandeur. That to look upon God is to look upon something that is massive. Awe-inspiring, but at the same time imposing. So if you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon, if you’ve ever been to a real ocean (not a fake one, but a real one), and you’ve stood and you’ve been a part of some sort of natural order in which you have felt small and you’ve felt a tinge of fear…not terror; just a tinge of fear.
  • So the way I try to explain it is if you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon and you have your toes on the edge, you’ve kind of looked over. That kind of queasy feeling in your gut, that kind of shudder that goes through you, that’s awe. That’s grandeur. That’s majesty.
  • So what you see consistently happening in the Bible is the Bible’s claim that any authority on earth governmentally, kings and authorities and powers, are given by God to people. Now that creates another problem for us, doesn’t it? This goes back to understanding that God is morally perfect in all he does. Because what do you do with dictators and rulers who ultimately are cruel and butcher their people and are responsible for genocide, because the Bible doesn’t say, „I put the good kings in place”? He says he puts all kings in place and that kings as they act out their rulership are simply working the providential plan of God. So how do you reconcile that? Here’s what I do. Here’s what I would do according to the Word of God: I’m stuck inside of time. Let me be frank. I was born in 1974. I read a lot of history. I am no expert. All I know is that God is morally perfect and that somehow outside of time, those men are working for God and that even then God is morally perfect and not evil in any way. And so just a side note. It’s been a while since I’ve said this, but I want to perpetually lay it before you, because some of you don’t like it. Some of you are like, Ah, it’s a copout. Some of you want to shake your fist at the heavens, but I want to kind of explain it.
  • Everyone in this room regardless of their belief is going to bring glory to God. It’s the purpose for which you exist. Some will bring glory to God by being trophies of God’s grace. Some of you are going to bring glory to God by rebelling against God and receiving God’s just judgment on your life. So even the most hardened man who wants to shake his fist at the heavens is simply bringing glory to God’s justice. So everyone brings glory to God. Even kings and rulers who rule in an evil, wicked way are accomplishing in God’s providence the purposes of God.
  • You have a piece where there’s a positional type of holiness where God views you as holy, but you have an external type of holiness here in Romans 8 (which is why we read it) where it says God in his Godness is not only giving you a positional holiness but is conforming you to the image of his Son, Jesus, the perfect One. So God in his Godness is not only giving us a positional holiness where he sees us as holy, but he is also actively transforming us into more and more and more morally upright, holy people. So here’s the big question…How does he do that? Because that’s important. So how does he go about doing that? Well, that’s next week.

Related links

Matt Chandler – Holiness Part 1 of 4

Coming up daily Parte 2,3 and 4.

Listen to the audio here- http://my.ekklesia360.com

Click on photo for The Village Church audio sermon (54 minutes)

Read the notes from the entire sermon here- http://www.thevillagechurch.net/media/sermons/transcripts

Where you start on the point of holiness, external, moral holiness is not you at all. It’s the wrong starting point. If we’re going to talk about holiness we’ll have to start with God.

  • Here’s what I’ll tell you. I don’t believe in any way that our faith is a blind faith, and I find nowhere in Scripture that God has asked us to detach our minds from how he reveals himself to be. But here’s also where I press on you. Don’t pretend like you’re not living in a grid of faith right now. Well, no. My reality is defined by science. Science has a great deal of faith involved in it. Now if you want to talk about boiling water, no. But if you want to talk about why we’re here, where we came from, it’s… The word in science for faith is theory. That’s faith in science: theory. „We can’t prove it, but we think this is how it works.”
  • We try to fill in the gap. We begin to try to get up to God’s standard. By the way, his standard is hopelessly impossible. „Be holy, because I am. Be like me.” The rest of the Bible is going to say, „You’re not like me, but be like me.” Then we get stuck in this climb and slide, climb and slide type of existence with the Lord.
  • Not only is God, in his holiness, majestic, but he is also pure and morally perfect. Now I just created a bit of a philosophical, theological train wreck. I don’t know if you spotted it, but let’s chat some about it. If God is pure and morally perfect, what do we do about the reality that such horrific things occur? If he is all-knowing and everywhere at once and all-knowledgeable, why doesn’t he stop it? How is him not stopping it just and morally pure? I mean, that’s hard, isn’t it? Do we agree that’s hard?
  • God hasn’t painted in the words of Scripture some alternate reality we’re not experiencing. Isn’t the Bible filled with famines, loss, murder, rape, incest, death, disease? It shouldn’t surprise us! Where is this coming from? God didn’t try to hide this. What we see happening in the Scriptures and one of the reasons I’m trying to constantly drive you to the Scriptures is that God is at work in the mess in ways we can’t fathom.
  • One of the big reasons I’d love for you to read your Bible more than you do is because you’ll see how messy it is. You’ll look at guys who God says, „I love this guy,” and you go, This guy? I mean, this guy is a bum. He loves that guy? He extends grace to that guy, gives mercy to that guy? Maybe there is a shot for me. Or when the day of trouble arrives, you won’t be caught off guard as if that just arrived. I mean, it’s also been. The world is a broken place. What we know about God is that everything he does is good and holy and perfect.

Related links

R.C. Sproul (3) Holiness and Justice

Watch Part 1 – RC Sproul- The Holiness of God

Watch Part 2 – The Holiness of Christ

From the 2007 Desiring God Conference. For notes or audio file click here – http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/the-holiness

Text – Leviticus 10:1-7

The Sin of Nadab and Abihu

10 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them.  And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying,

‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
And before all the people I will be honored.’”

So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.

Moses called also to Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come forward, carry your relatives away from the front of the sanctuary to the outside of the camp.” So they came forward and carried them still in their tunics to the outside of the camp, as Moses had said. Then Moses said to Aaron and to his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “ Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, so that you will not die and that He will not become wrathful against all the congregation. But your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, shall bewail the burning which the Lord has brought about. You shall not even go out from the doorway of the tent of meeting, or you will die; for the Lord’s anointing oil is upon you.” So they did according to the word of Moses.

My notes from the introduction:

  • Charles Allen once remarked: God had only one Son and He made Him a preacher. After I had taught seminary for a while, I spent 2 years on the staff of a church and went back into education, the Ligonier Study Center and back to the seminary classroom and one night a student came to me with stars in his eyes and he said, „What was it like for you when you were just a preacher?  And I was apoplectic. I said, „What do you mean just a preacher? I said, „Don’t you understand that there is no higher calling on this planet than the pulpit ministry? And I said, „I’m not a preacher because I don’t think I have what it takes to be the shepherd of a flock. The demands are excruciating, the appreciation minimal and there’s nothing that I desire more in the latter years of my life than to try and be an encouragement to pastors, to ministers. Ten years ago, I answered the call to become the minister of preaching and teaching at St. Andrews Chapel in Florida. And I have to tell you, in all the different things that I’ve been involved in my lifetime, this has been the most fun and the greatest joy and delight. There is nothing like the opportunity of having to speak to the same people week in and week out, to preach through whole books of the Bible and to not worry about trying to impress anybody when we’re meeting again on the Lord’s day and we’re coming to the Book, to hear, not my opinions, not my agenda, not the latest pop psychology or current events, BUT TO HEAR A WORD FROM GOD.
  • Before the apostle Paul died and he wrote his final letter to his number 1 student and protege, Timothy; when he got to the end of that letter, explained to Timothy that he was about to be poured out  and he gave his last instructions- he didn’t write to Timothy: Hey Timothy, preach! He said, „TIMOTHY, PREACH THE WORD.” „Preach the Word in season and out of season. That’s what our vocation is. And, we are only as faithful as we are to that task.  (min 4:21)

Notes from DesiringGod.org:

There are a series of passages categorized as „The Hard Sayings”–those sayings that make us say, „How can God do something like this?”

In this passage, sons of Aaron indulged in a little experimentation. They came to the altar and offered unauthorized fire. God’s response was immediate, dramatic, and severe. He executed them on the spot. How do we respond to a story like this?

In the denomination I was ordained in, the P.C.U.S.S.R…er…I mean the P.C.U.S.A., they used curriculum that warned high schoolers not to take the OT literally. They used this text to show that if the stories were literal, then God must have a dark and evil side. It taught that, since we know this is not how God is, these stories must be explicable by natural events, and God didn’t do it.

It is shocking how understated the Bible is sometimes. Two of Aaron’s fall dead and no emotional reaction is recorded. You can imagine Aaron’s response–„I’ve been faithful and is this the thanks I get?” But what is significant is Moses’s reply–„Don’t you remember the commandment: „By all who come near me I will be regarded as holy. I will tolerate nothing less.”

Lots has changed since Moses and Aaron’s conversation, but not the character of God. He has never, and will never, negotiate his holiness.

Another understatement: „And Aaron held his peace.” You better believe it. What else could he do? Was he going to fight with God? Tell him he was overreacting? Ask for some latitude? Is he going to call god silly or inane? Can’t we just play a little? No–Aaron shut his mouth.

Moses has the corpses of Nadab and Abihu carried out of the camp from the tabernacle in the center of the camp. God did not just want these guys killed; he wanted them all the way away, outside the borders, in outer darkness. For heaven’s sake don’t let them lie there in the sanctuary!

Moses told Aaron to not mourn for these men. They are not worthy of being mourned.

It was the Lord who killed Nadab and Abihu. He brought down the fire. It was not a terrestrial accident but the judgment of a holy God.

Consider now the story of Uzzah. The ark of the covenant was being carried in a cart. This was not the way it was designed to be carried. It should have been on the shoulders of priests. When one of the oxen stumbled the ark looked like it was going to fall. Uzzah keeps it from tipping in the mud. God’s reaction was not, „Thank you, Uzzah!” No, God killed Uzzah instantly. Uzzah believed that mud would desecrate the ark, but mud is just dirt and water obeying God. Mud is not evil. God’s law was not meant to keep the ark pure from the earth, but from the dirty touch of a human hand. Uzzah presumed his hands were cleaner than the dirt. God said no.

Now in the New Testament. Ananias and Sapphira lie to the Holy Spirit and die without a second chance.

Sometimes it seems like God boils over in temper tantrums that are inexcusable. From our perspective, we can think the God of the Old Testament was brutal–some kind of a demiurge. Just look what warranted the death sentence in the Old Testament. But in the New Testament, God seems to have become more easy-going.

Our view is so distorted. Let’s go back to creation where the list of capital offenses was unending. Any sin was death–„The day you eat of it, you shall surely die.” The slightest sin–the tiniest infraction–the smallest peccadillo–is an act of cosmic treason. Any infraction says to God that we believe that our will trumps his and that we can do whatever we want.

We are so accustomed to grace. Like the Israelites, we need God, ask for grace, receive it, forget it, and go back to sinning–despising God’s holiness without fear of his judgment.

Now to Luke 13. Two disasters: Pilate kills worshipers and mixes the blood with the sacrifices, and the tower of Saloam falls killing 18 innocent bystanders. Question for Jesus: „What’s up with this? Where was God?” But on 9/11, God was in the same place he was in 9/10–sovereign on his throne.

Jesus did not say that these two events happened while God was asleep. Jesus did not say that God was diverted by counting the hairs on someone else’s head.

Jesus gave the same answer regarding each disaster: „You’re asking me the wrong question. If you really wanted to know about the providence of God, you would ask the real question–why didn’t the temple fall on my head? Why wasn’t it my blood.”

We are shocked by justice and presume upon grace.

I’ve been asked every conceivable theological question except, „Why did God save me?” We all harbor the idea that we deserve it. We think that heaven just wouldn’t be heaven without us. This is the greatest lie in the history of the world.

We are no longer amazed by grace and we are shocked–in total consternation–by justice.

The essence of grace is that God is not required to give it to us. If you ever feel like God owes it to you, let a light go off in your mind that reminds you that you have just mixed up grace and justice.

The hand of God holds us over the pit of hell. And you can’t give any reason for God to not drop you into that pit. That was Jesus’ message when he said that unless you repent it will be your blood mingled with the sacrifice.

If on the day of judgment I look at Jesus and he says to me, „I don’t know who you are. Please leave.”–if that happens to me–I’ll be surprised, but I also know this: I would have no ground for complaining about it. He is holy and I am not.

Our only relationship with God is by grace.

By John Piper. ©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

The Puritan View of Holiness

Also read –

Dr. Joel Beeke (via) www.hnrc.org

The Puritans wrote a great deal about how to live a sanctified life. Little of what they preached and wrote contains anything unique or strange,measured by their doctrinal heritage. What is special about the Puritan view of holiness is its fullness and balance,rather than its distinctive shape.

The Puritan classic definition of sanctification is well known;we find it in The Westminster Shorter Catechism,questions 35 and 36:

”What is Sanctification? Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace,whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness.

”What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification,adoption and sanctification? The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification,adoption and sanctification are:

  • assurance of God’s love
  • peace of conscience
  • joy in the Holy Ghost
  • increase of grace
  • and perseverance therein to the end.”

From these two questions it is obvious that sanctification in the Puritan mind encompasses all Christian living—the entire process of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. It is a process which begins at the moment of the new birth,and presses on throughout the entire life of the believer until his last breath. The Puritans wanted to see people growing up into strong assurance of God’s love,great peace of conscience,and authentic joy in the Holy Spirit. They said that the way to receive these blessings is through Spirit-worked sanctification. They advised their people:If you don’t seek sanctification,you not only dishonor God,but you also impoverish your own spiritual life.

What did they actually mean by sanctification? Here are four elements in the Puritan view.

Universal and moral renewal
First,sanctification for the Puritans is a divine work of renewal,involving a radical change of character. It springs from a regenerated heart,which is something deeper than any psychoanalyst or counselor could ever reach. God works in the heart,and out of the change of heart comes a new character.

This work of renewal is (using Puritan language) universal. This means that it touches and affects every area of the person’s entire life. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:4-5 that everything is to be sanctified—every sphere of life.

Holiness is an inward thing that must fill our heart,our core being,and it is an outward thing that must spill over into every detail of our lives. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says,“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Many Puritans preached on that text. Sanctification is to be universal.

But sanctification is also moral,said the Puritans. By this they meant that it would produce moral fruits,the very fruits we read of in Galatians 5—love,joy,peace,longsuffering,gentleness,goodness,faith,meekness,and temperance. Had you asked a Puritan—what really do these fruits mean when you combine them all together?—he would have said that they represent the moral profile of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

That is what the Spirit is doing in sanctification. He is patterning the believer after the profile of Christ. He is reproducing Christ’s qualities in the lives of His own people. God’s people are those in whom the “Christ nature” (the sum total of all that His human life was) finds new,albeit imperfect,expression. That is the Puritan concept of sanctification.

True repentance
Second,sanctification for the Puritans consists of repentance and righteousness—the two-sided activity of turning from sin to obedience. Repentance,said the Puritans,is turning from sin,and it is a lifelong activity. We must repent every day of our lives,and as we do so,we must also turn to righteousness.

Repentance,they said,is a work of faith. Without the Holy Spirit there is no repentance. The Puritan concept of repentance goes much deeper than mere remorse,or than saying,“I am sorry.” The Puritan idea of repentance certainly starts with remorse,but it goes deeper into an essential change of life. Repentance is an actual turning. It is a hating the things I loved before,and a loving the things I hated before.

Repentance involves mortification,said the Puritans,and vivification. By mortification they meant putting the sword through sin;killing sin;putting sin to death,as the apostle says in Romans 6. By vivification they meant coming alive to righteousness,and giving ourselves more and more to practice and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

A holy war
Third,Puritan sanctification is progressive,operating through conflict. The Puritans said conflict is inescapable in sanctification,because indwelling sin remains in the Christian,to his great sorrow. It engages him in great warfare and many battles. Indwelling sin works from the inside,the Puritans said,while the world exerts ungodly pressure from the outside. The devil,who plays the role of ring- leader,wants to take those outside pressures and use them along with the internal pressure to regain lost territory. So,although a person conquered by the Holy Spirit seeks to expand and gain the territory of sanctification universally in his life,the devil together with the world and the indwelling old nature,form a front-line of battle in the soul. A holy war is raging.

That is why Bunyan called his book,The Holy War. Sanctification involves conflict with myself,with my flesh,with the world,and with Satan. If a Christian is not battling with sin,the Puritans would say that person should question whether he is a Christian at all.

One Puritan painted this picture. He said that to be a Christian is to walk a narrow,straight path. On both sides of the path there are hedges. Behind those hedges Satan has all the powers of evil at his disposal. He uses his army of demons,and even our internal inconsistencies,and our proneness to fall into backsliding. He uses all these things as arrows,and every step we take along the spiritual pilgrimage he shoots through and over the hedge,aiming at our feet,our heart,our hands,and our eyes. Every step of the way is a battle.

Accepting a struggle
Thomas Watson said the way to heaven is “sweating work.” There is a battle raging,but the work of sanctification,happily,will advance. Sanctification is not stagnant. The Puritans employed Paul’s words of 2 Corinthians 3:18,that we will be changed from one glory to another if we walk in the Spirit. So the true Christian is one who accepts that there will be conflict,but at the same time rests in the truth that the ultimate victory is his. He may lose many skirmishes,but the war will be won,because he is in Christ. The Holy Spirit will lead him,and he will increasingly advance.

However,there is a snag,said the Puritans,because the Christian will often not be able to see any progress in himself. One Puritan said that a woman who dusts her furniture may think she has cleaned away all the dust,until the sunlight shines into her room revealing all the remaining dust. So the more the Sun of righteousness shines in our hearts,even though we may be growing in holiness (and others may see it),we shall see increasingly the motives of our heart.

The important question is not—”Do I view myself as growing more and more holy?” but—”When I look back in my life,say three or five years ago,does Christ mean more to me today than He did then? And do I think less of myself today than I did then? Is Christ increasing and am I decreasing? Am I growing in appreciation of Christ,and in self-depreciation?” This is the Puritan way of examining ourselves with regard to holiness.

Another Puritan way of evaluating progress in holiness is to ask how we are currently battling with temptation. If we are not battling the forces pressing in upon our flesh,we are backsliding. In order,therefore,to make progress the believer must pray at the throne of grace:“Help me to be strong today,Lord. Help me to be pure today. Help me to do righteousness today.” This is the constant desire of the Christian who is making progress in sanctification.

The inner,private person
Fourth,Puritan sanctification is imperfect though invincible. In this life it is never complete. Our reach will always exceed our grasp. Many people do not understand the Puritans at this point. They think that they are introspective,or that they lead us into legalistic bondage,and even into spiritual depression. This is not true.

The Puritans certainly had a very profound concept of sin and of righteousness,while many of their modern detractors have a dreadfully low concept of sin and righteousness. The Puritans felt the imperfection of their sanctification,precisely because they had God’s standard of righteousness before them. They did not compare themselves with their neighbor,but with God’s holy law. Righteousness for the Puritan was motivational in character. What lives inside of you is important. What you do and say reflects who you are within.

One Puritan said,what a man is in private,that is what a man really is in the sight of God. They would want us to ask ourselves:What do you think about? What motivates you? Are you really motivated by love to God? Are you motivated by Samaritanship to others,loving them,doing good to them,and laying out yourselves for their benefit and spiritual welfare? This is the heart of a Puritan righteousness. With this high concept of holiness they naturally felt deeply their imperfections. Perhaps this is nowhere more vividly expressed than in the Westminster Larger Catechism’s questions and answers on the ten commandments. Read them if you will and notice how precise they are,how they probe the heart and how they insist you must love God and your neighbor as yourself.

When,therefore,you read about how Puritans bemoaned themselves,and when you see in their diaries how they grieved over their own wretchedness,remember they are comparing themselves to the perfect God and to His holy law. They were men and women who truly felt Paul’s groaning:“I delight in the law of God after the inward man . . . O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?” They felt their need to flee to Christ every day to be washed afresh. And that is the root of all genuine holiness. Such holiness is invincible. It will never die,but will one day be perfected in and with Christ forever.

This article was adapted from an address given by Dr. Beeke at the Metropolitan Tabernacle School of Theology in 1998,and printed in Sword &Trowel.

A.W. Tozer Sermon – Unity That Brings Revival

Other A. W. Tozer articles/written sermons:


  1. Tozer – John 1:1  In the beginning was the word
  2. Tozer – Praying ‘til we pray

In Limba Romana

  1. Tozer – O Biografie
  2. Tozer – Opt lucruri care le tanjesc in Biserica
  3. Tozer – Isus Capetenia Credintei noastre
  4. Tozer – Crucea veche, crucea noua
  5. Tozer – Cum ne sustinem convingerile
  6. Tozer – Fugiti de idolatrie
  7. Tozer – Un nou val de religie
  8. Tozer – Ingerul lucrurilor obisnuite
  9. Citate despre inchinare (via) Flacara Inchinarii

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The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

I read this back in November, before I started this blog and I think it can be very useful to us.

It is a post written by Kevin DeYoung (Pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan) for the Gospel Coalition website.

The Hole in Our Holiness

Posted: 23 Nov 2010 03:55 AM PST

I have a growing concern that younger evangelicals do not take seriously the Bible’s call to personal holiness. We are too at peace with worldliness in our homes, too at ease with sin in our lives, too content with spiritual immaturity in our churches.

God’s mission in the world is to save a people and sanctify his people. Christ died “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15). We were chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4). Christ “loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her…so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

J.C. Ryle, the Bishop of Liverpool from the nineteenth century, was right: “We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world…Jesus is a complete Saviour. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, He does more–He breaks its power (1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 12:10).” My fear is that as we rightly celebrate, and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ saved us from, we will give little thought and make little effort concerning all that Christ saved us to.

The pursuit of holiness does not occupy the place in our hearts that it should. There are several reasons for the relative neglect of personal holiness.

1) It was too common in the past to equate holiness with abstaining from a few taboo practices like drinking, smoking, and dancing. In a previous generation godliness meant you didn’t do these things. Younger generations have little patience for these sorts of rules. They either don’t agree with the rules or they figure they’ve got those bases covered so there’s not much else to worry about.

2) Related to the first reason is the fear that a passion for holiness makes you some kind of weird holdover from a bygone era. As soon as you talk about swearing or movies or music or modesty or  sexual purity or self-control or just plain godliness people get nervous that others will call them legalistic, or worse, a fundamentalist.

3) We live in a culture of cool, and to be cool means you differentiate yourself from others. That has often meant pushing the boundaries with language, with entertainment, with alcohol, and with fashion. Of course, holiness is much more than these things, but in an effort to be hip many Christians have figured holiness has nothing to do with these things. They’ve willingly embraced Christian freedom, but they’ve not earnestly pursued Christian virtue.

4) Among more liberal Christians a radical pursuit of holiness is often suspect because any talk of right and wrong behaviors feels judgmental and intolerant. If we are to be “without spot or blemish” it necessitates we distinguish between what sort of attitudes, actions, and habits are pure and what sort are impure. This sort of sorting gets you in trouble with the pluralism police.

5) Among conservative Christians there is sometimes the mistaken notion that if we are truly gospel-centered we won’t talk about rules or imperatives or exhort Christians to moral exertion. To be sure, there is a rash of moralistic teaching out there, but sometimes we go to the other extreme and act as if the Bible shouldn’t advise our morals at all. We are so eager not to confuse indicatives and imperatives (a point I’ve made many times) that if we’re not careful we’ll drop the imperatives altogether. We’ve been afraid of words like diligence, effort, and obedience. We’ve downplayed verses that call us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), or command us to cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit (2 Cor. 7:1), or warn against even a hint of immorality among the saints (Eph. 5:3).

I find it telling that you can find plenty of young Christians today who are really excited about justice and serving in their communities. You can find Christians fired up about evangelism. You can find lots of Generation XYZ believers passionate about precise theology. Yes and amen to all that. But where are the Christians known for their zeal for holiness? Where is the corresponding passion for honoring Christ with Christlike obedience? We need more Christian leaders on our campuses, in our cities, in our seminaries who will say with Paul, “Look carefully then how you walk”? (Eph. 5:15).

When is the last time we took a verse like Ephesians 5:4–“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving”–when is the last time we took a verse like this and even began to try to apply this to our conversation, our joking, our movies, our you tube clips, our t.v. and commercial intake? The fact of the matter is if you read through the New Testament epistles you will find very few explicit commands that tell us to evangelize and very few explicit commands that tell us to take care of the poor in our communities, but there are dozens and dozens of verses in the New Testament that enjoin us, in one way or another, to be holy as God is holy (e.g., 1 Peter 1:13-16).

I do not wish to denigrate any of the other biblical emphases capturing the attention of younger evangelicals. But I believe God would have us be much more careful with our eyes, our ears, and our mouth. It’s not pietism, legalism, or fundamentalism to take holiness seriously. It’s the way of all those who have been called to a holy calling by a holy God.

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