Devotion 4: “The Pursuit of Holiness”

March  27th – 31st,  2018

Dr. Allen Roberts, Pastor
Euclid Avenue Baptist Church
Bristol, Virginia

In this devotion we are going to focus upon the need and blessings of the pursuit of holiness as followers of Christ.  That opening sentence probably made you want to respond in one of two ways:  either you just thought, “Yes, this is going to be good!  I need this!” or, you may have just thrown your devotional booklet across the room as you screamed out, “Is that preacher kidding me?!  Really?!  Holiness?!”

The subject of holiness, in general, does seem to an intimidating one to many of us.  Some professing Christians might even perceive a sanctified life in Christ to be unrealistic, even impossible, to be pursued and experienced against the backdrop of our old sin nature, and the culture in which we now live.  Such a mindset will convince us that the Christian life goes no farther than the Apostle Paul’s description given in Romans 7:15.  There he wrote, “For what I am doing, I do not understand.  For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”  If you have continued to read even this far, maybe you just thought, “Now you’re talking, preacher!  Paul may have written those words, but I’m living them!”

I would say that most believers have struggled in this journey of faith much like Paul did as he penned those inspired, but brutally honest, words.  But, my desire for this devotion is to help us all think about this needed subject of holiness in a more positive light.  Let us begin with some Scriptures which reveal God’s own command for us to pursue lives of holiness.

  • Leviticus 11:44 – 45— “For I am the LORD your God.  You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy… You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
  • 1 Peter 1:15 – 16— “but as He who has called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’.”

The life for which the Lord Jesus has redeemed us is not an unrealistic one, nor an impossible one.  We need to pause and remember that what our God and Savior commands us to do in this life, He enables us to do through the grace, the power, the strength of His indwelling Spirit.

One of the most influential books I have ever read was written by Jerry Bridges, who served within the Navigators Ministry for many years.  The book is entitled, The Pursuit of Holiness.  With regard to the context of Romans 6:14, Bridges wrote these words:

Whatever your particular sin problem (or problems), the Bible does have the answer for you.  There is hope.  You and I can walk in obedience to God’s Word and live a life of holiness.  In fact,… God expects every Christian to live a holy life.  But holiness is not only expected; it is the promised birthright of every Christian.  Paul’s statement is true.  Sin shall not be our master  (p.18).

If a holy life is really our promised birthright as followers of Jesus, then the question begs to be asked:  “What does a life of holiness look like for us?”  Let us understand that a life of holiness— and the practice of spiritual disciplines such as prayer, witnessing, and reading, memorizing, meditating upon, and studying the Bible— are inseparable from one another.  Perhaps we can describe a life of holiness through a series of contrasts.  For example, we could likely agree that a life of holiness involves…

  • Conformity to the character and life of Jesus  vs.  The pursuit of a self-centered life.
  • Conformity to the will and ways of God  vs.  Imposing my will above that of God’s purposes.
  • Conformity to the absolute moral precepts of God’s Word  vs.  The emphasis of the culture and world upon individualism and moral relativism.
  • The deliberate pursuit of a life of devoted obedience to God and His Word  vs.  A life lived in compromise and disobedience towards God and His Word.

The Bible says in Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord;”  The word, “pursue,” suggests two specific thoughts:  one, that diligence and effort are required; and two, that it is a lifelong task.  Now, allow me to point out a couple of things here:

1) Our “positional holiness” in Christ is realized at the moment a person is spiritually born again, or “made alive unto God,” as Ephesians 2 teaches us.  This, of course, is all dependent upon God’s provision of redeeming, saving grace.  The aspects of regeneration, justification and reconciliation are all related to this “positional holiness.”

2) Now, let’s think of the concept of “progressive holiness.”  This is related to the aspect of our salvation in Christ which we know as sanctification; that is, of learning to live this life of faith out of our identity in the Lord Jesus.  This sanctifying grace depicts the idea of pursuing holiness in Hebrews 12:14.  You see, every Christian has a personal responsibility to fulfill in this pursuit of a holy life, and this pursuit is a process— something that will not be completely attained in this earthly life.

The idea of our “perfected holiness” will not be realized until we experience the glorification aspect of our salvation; when the curse of sin will be forever removed from us, and we shall be removed from the curse of sin for all eternity (cf. 1 John 3:2  &  Revelation 21:1 – 7).

In order to understand the relationship between God’s provision of holiness on our behalf, and our personal responsibility to pursue holiness in this life, allow me to use a farming illustration.

A farmer is responsible to prepare and nurture the land from which he seeks a harvest.  He must plant the seeds for the crops he desires.  He must protect the soil from being overrun with weeds, and the plants from any diseases.  And yet, he must also maintain a faithful dependency upon the Lord for needed sunshine and rain in order to reap a good harvest.  We could conclude, then, that farming is a joint venture between God and the farmer.  The farmer cannot do what God must do, and God will not do what the farmer should do.

Likewise, we can say just as accurately that the pursuit of holiness is a joint venture between God and the Christian.  No one can attain any degree of holiness without God working in his \ her life, but just as surely no one will experience His sanctifying grace without effort on his \ her own part.  God has made it possible for us to walk in holiness.  But He has given us the responsibility of doing the walking; He does not do that for us  (Bridges, pp.13 – 14).

What can possibly compel you and me to pursue such a life of holiness?  Let’s look at two motivations.  I am convinced that the primary motivating factor for us to pursue a life of holiness is the truth that our God and Savior first loved us (cf. 1 John 4:19).  Take time to contemplate the undeserved, unmerited, unchanging love of Almighty God that has been demonstrated towards us through His Son, Jesus.  We must conclude that there is no good reason to hold back any aspect of our lives from fulfilling the spiritual birthright of grace He has given us to live a sanctified life for His glory.

Then, second, as we grow in holiness, we will also grow in our hatred of sin.  This hatred of sin is something that is rooted in our awareness of how sin grieves the Spirit of God.  Our God is holy in the essence of His character, and He hates sin wherever He finds it.  As we begin to comprehend God’s hatred of sin, and His judgment upon it, we will be compelled to seek a life of holiness that is well-pleasing to His heart.  May each of us purpose within our hearts to pursue such a life of holiness, and experience the sanctifying grace of the Lord Jesus as we abide in Him day by day.

Scripture passages for reading and meditation:

  • Leviticus 11:44 – 45  \  1 Peter 1:13 – 16
  • Hebrews 12:14  \  1 Thessalonians 5:23 – 24
  • Romans 6:1 – 14  &  8:1 – 11
  • Psalm 15:1 – 5  &  24:1 – 10  &  29:1 – 2
  • Isaiah 6:1 – 8  \  Revelation 4:6 – 8

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