English Ministry

Standards of Living Pt. 4 - Holiness

Thursday, August 28, 2014

1 Peter 1:13-16 (NLT)  13 So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”

In these verses, God—through the inspired writing of Peter—reminds us that he is holy. And he challenges us to work hard at becoming holy so that we become more like God.

In the very beginning God created us in His image. One of the benefits of that image is the ability to attain holiness. Today I want to talk to you about “Living a Holy Life”, which is the final standard in our four-part Standards of Living series. You see, even though our holiness is attained though the shed blood of Jesus, we must maintain a standard of living that reflects that holiness.

And this we will do if our hope of gracious salvation—abundant life here on earth, leading to eternity in the glory of God, means more to us than anything else this life has to offer.

So how do we grow in holiness?  If holiness is a standard, how do we meet that standard? It is startling how simple and practical the pursuit of holiness really is.

The New Testament is full of writings that separate into three main themes and teach us the secrets of how to be holy. They are:

  1. Our Faith in God
  2. Our Love for Other People
  3. Our Likeness to Christ

Let’s look at the first theme, Our Faith in God.

Our relationship to God is always secure, yet it is never static. He wants his children to grow up to know him more and more intimately.

When my sons were young children, our conversations were much different than they are now. As much as I enjoyed every minute of the simplicity of their youth, I relish watching them mature into intelligent men.

God enjoys both aspects as well in relationship with his children. Watching us in our early days of faith fill him with sheer delight, but maturing children who will sit with him to reason together, only increase his level of joy.

Finding the time to sit with God must be an indispensible priority in our lives if we hope to become holy. When I was a young boy in Sunday School, we would sing with all of our hearts, ”Read your bible, pray everyday, and you’ll grow, grow, grow!”

What I wouldn’t have understood at three or four years of age was that we were singing about growing in holiness. Generations of Christians have discovered that the primary way to do so is to have a set time of bible reading and prayer every day. We must somehow rearrange our busy lives and priorities to allow room for time with God.

And it’s necessary that we strike the balance between scripture reading and prayer. Through scripture God speaks to us, through prayer we speak to him. While there is no doubt that God often works outside of that basic formula, for the most part this is how it works in the normal Christian life.

Let me suggest that you pray before you read, asking God to illuminate the reading of his word to your heart and circumstances. Then read slowly, meditatively, and thoughtfully.

Look for commands to follow, promises to claim, sins to avoid. Note what you are learning as you read, and you will very naturally be led into prayer. Begin by talking with God about the exact same things that he has been saying to you through his word. Don’t change the subject!

If he has spoken to about his glory, worship him, if he has spoken to you about your sin, confess it. Whatever he is saying respond.  Then thank him for his faithfulness in meeting with you and revealing his truth, and finish by praying that you and those around you may learn the lessons quickly.

God is your Father and you can come to him naturally, confidently, and boldly. He loves you. The only way to establish your faith in God is to have a deepening relationship with him where you learn about his flawless character and nature.

The second theme in living a holy life, is, Our Love for Other People.

If on my wedding day, a number of people had let me know in word or in action, that they didn’t like the woman I loved and had chosen for my own, I would have been greatly offended, hurt, and very likely would not consider them friends any longer.

And yet, this is exactly what we do to Jesus. John 3:29 (ESV) explains, that, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom.” Jesus has called the church his bride. And yet how many people have you heard making comments that suggest, “I love Jesus, but I don’t have anything good to say about the Church”.

But wouldn’t you agree that in loving someone fully, we will respect and love what they love? Holiness is indicated in the fact that we love the ones that Jesus loves, and he loves his bride, the Church. That should be enough to cause us to regularly attend.

In belonging to a local church we discover new depths of friendship and mutual sharing with all types, backgrounds, and ages.  It is likely, that as a Christian, the closest friends that you will have, often including your life partner, you will meet at church.

And we must participate. Last week, Zac spoke about our third Standard of Living: “Being an Active Participant in Ministry”. There is no clearer indicator that you are interested in becoming more like Jesus, than that you invest in your own spiritual development, and engage in the lives of other believers to help them do the same.

The Christian life is a family affair in which the children of God enjoy fellowship with their Father and with each other. But we can never think that this is all there is to it. On the contrary, every Christian should be concerned about people everywhere. It is the job of Christ’s bride to serve people in whatever way we can.

Service to mankind is an important part of “Living an Evangelistic Lifestyle”, which I talked about two weeks ago as our second Standard of Living.

Holiness is revealed in us when we involve ourselves in working for the needy and the neglected, the poor and hungry, the sick, the victims of oppression and discrimination, slaves, prisoners, orphans, refugees, and those who have fallen on hard times.

There is an enormous amount of work to be done. And let me say this, the secular world has caught on to the need to bring justice to a hurting world, but it would be to our shame if we as the Church were ever to allow ourselves to show less compassion than those who don’t know and serve Christ.

The Church of Jesus Christ has a noble record of care and justice, and we must commit to building on that legacy. That will take money. Outreach projects, which rightly begin in the local church, require funding.

And that’s why generous “Giving”—which Zac spoke about as our first Standard of Living—is an act of holy worship unto God. Holiness is seen in our financial support of what God is doing in the church and through the church.

The teaching of the Bible will not allow us to retreat from the practical responsibility of giving, when it makes statements like, do not lay up treasures on earth, or pursue purely selfish ambitions, or to be caught up in the standards of this world. We are instead set apart, we are to live lives that are holy and pleasing to God.

The final theme in living a holy life, that I want to talk to you about today, is Our Likeness to Christ. Every follower of Jesus longs to become more and more conformed to his character and behaviour.

 The Christian life is a life of righteousness. We must do everything we can to obey God’s commandments and do His will. The Holy Spirit was sent by God to help us, and he has taken up residence in us, calling our bodies his temple.

And as we submit to his authority and follow his leading, he will beat back our evil desires and cause his fruit to appear in our lives. And good fruit it is, love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

These fruit of the Spirit are wonderful, yet amazingly simple and attainable with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is not only attainable but also absolutely essential in our quest for holiness. 

If we will focus on developing them in increasing measure, we will never fall away from God, we will be useful and productive to this world and in his Kingdom, and we will receive a rich welcome into Heaven.

So there you have them, the three main secrets of spiritual development that produce a holy life: Our Love for God, Our Love for Other People, and Our Likeness to Christ. And as I’ve tried to explain, they are also the foremost responsibilities of the child of God.

This is the life of discipleship to which Jesus calls us. He died and rose again so that we would have new lives, and then he gave us his Spirit to help us live out our new lives in this world. He calls us to follow him, by pursuing holiness in everything we do, and to serve him without reservation.

--Pastor Craig Eagle