15 March 2020
We must understand that God’s intention in salvation is ultimately to transform us into the likeness of Christ. While our transformation into a state of bodily Christlikeness remains future, God’s work of changing us into moral Christlikeness is already under way. The character profile of our Saviour Jesus Christ is being reproduced in us; Christ, to use the words of Apostle Paul, is being “formed” in us (Gal. 4:19).
The holy life is the Christ-life in us; it is not the fruit of our natural potential or our natural resources. The One who effects this transformation is the Holy Spirit who enables us habitually and actively to will and to work for God’s pleasure and His praise. But let us not be mistaken; it is we who work – there is intense moral effort on our part; yet we work, not self-reliantly but in dependence on Christ and in expectation of help from the Holy Spirit. The Spirit leads us to form the habits of holiness and thus changes us into Christ’s moral likeness.
Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgement, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard revealed to us in His Word. As Apostle Paul puts it, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2(a)).
Holiness begins in and with the heart; the heart refers to the centre and focus of one’s life; the source of motivation, the seat of passion and the spring of all the thought processes including the conscience. So holiness starts inside a person with a right purpose and motive to please God both by what one does and by what one avoids doing; one seeks to do good works and cuts out evil ones by the enabling of God’s Spirit. Rightly expressed by a godly brother: ‘There is no holiness without a Christ-centred, Christ-seeking, Christ-serving, Christ-adoring heart.
Holiness is not an option, but a requirement. God wants His children to live up to His standards and to glorify Him in the eyes of the watching world. Personal holiness is thus an issue for every believer without exception. This needs to be communicated in the proclaiming of the whole gospel; otherwise we are only communicating half the story. A half-truth treated as the whole truth soon becomes a whole falsehood. We must not pass over the real change of outlook and character that grace is supposed to work.Sanctification means consecration and repentance lived out in the power of the Holy Spirit, and transformation is what happens when we set ourselves to do that.
But sanctification takes place in the context of a conflict with the indwelling sin that constantly attacks us. This is a life-long conflict which involves both resistance to the attacks of sin and the counterattack of mortification, whereby we, by the power of the Holy Spirit and HIs enabling, put to death the desires of the flesh and drain the life out of this troublesome enemy.
The rule of our holiness is God’s law; it is the moral law of God set forth in the 10 commandments and summed up in Christ’s two great commandments and
manifested in the love and humility and self-giving service seen in our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The law serves, in this respect, to stimulate and encourage God’s people in the practice of righteousness; it is in this sense the family code for God’s children. Those who teach and advocate that the moral law is no more relevant to believers are teaching heresy. Though we are not under the law as a system of salvation, we are divinely directed to keep it, as the rule for our lives (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal 6:2). It is God’s will that we should be holy (1 Thess. 4:3,7; 1 Peter 1:15-16)) and without holiness of life, there is no heaven.
Sanctification is not a solitary quest and achievement; it is to be worked out and expressed in the close and demanding relationships of the christian church, primarily the local congregation and also in the family and in the wider worlds of work and social concern. Sanctification means not serving sin and being upright and virtuous, bearing fruit in every good work (Col. 1:10) and being blameless before God and men.(1 Thess. 5:23). When we claim to be holy and yet our families and friends see no improvement in our daily temper and behaviour, we do much harm to the cause of Christ.
Holiness, in practical terms, means, among other things, forming good habits, breaking bad habits, resisting temptations to sin, and controlling oneself when provoked. We must set ourselves, deliberately, to do the Christlike things in each situation we encounter. The Spirit is with us to empower us, and we know that Christlike behaviour is now in the profoundest sense natural to us as we are born again as God’s children. But still, maintaining Christlikeness under this kind of pressure is hard. Seeking to graduate in the school of transformation and holiness is undoubtedly the true christian life; as we look to Christ, in dependence on the Holy Spirit, we shall, by God’s grace be making progress in becoming more and more like our Lord Jesus Christ.