Faith in God is trust in God. Even with that faith, with that trust in God, it still requires God’s grace – His unmerited favor – for salvation to be extended to us (Ephesians 2:8). Once we have realized the incredible, awesomeness of forgiveness by God of our sins, through the blood of Jesus shed for us, we as Christians normally begin to grow in maturity in the Lord, and that growth goes down several paths: our prayer lives, our study of God’s word, our relationship with the Holy Spirit. And all those are Godly things, if you will. But, normally, we begin to struggle against our sin nature, our sin habits and customs, and against the strongholds and scar tissue, emotionally, that accompanied our conversion. And that struggle is a good thing, because, II Corinthians 7: 1, we, as Christians, are called to “. . . cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Paul also wrote in I Thessalonians 4: 7, “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.”
Peter wrote in I Peter 1: 13- 16, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” (See Leviticus 11: 44.)
Paul also wrote in Ephesians 1: 3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He (God) chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love . . . .”
This drive for maturity makes us confront our “unholiness”, or so it seems, in sharp contrast with the “holiness” of God. And many Christians, and often the Church have gotten confused and lost over the outward appearances of sinfulness, missing the critical point of God’s call to Holiness. And we Christians always find that this is so hard to accomplish – to get rid of all that filthiness of flesh and spirit. And, so, we see that many Christians find that they have such difficulty getting every spot of filthiness/sin out of themselves, and their hearts and their conduct in life that they get frustrated not only with themselves, but also with God’s mandate of “perfecting holiness”. As a result, many Christians get thwarted in their quest for sufficient “maturity” to join God in His holiness.
These Scriptures also make it clear that while God has called us to salvation – indeed, I Timothy 2: 3-4, God “. . . desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. . . .”, and while He has offered us forgiveness and eternal life in the New Jerusalem, He is more fundamentally calling all of us to something else: we are all called to be holy as Christ is holy, as God is holy. This means that God is calling all of us to be cleansed, in His sight, of all filthiness of flesh and spirit.
The Law made it clear that we could not, none of us, could ever attain that purity and blamelessness, that spotlessness, that would define holiness. No self-discipline of man is sufficient fully to accomplish that. But if we are so clearly called by God, from Old Testament to New Testament, to be holy as He is, how do we do it in our human weakness?
First, we don’t throw in the towel and say, I will just keep my sin nature, and sin habits and customs, and my strongholds and other “sin baggage” and just trust in God’s grace all the more. Paul warned us against this in Romans 6: 1 and ff.
Second, what we do is understand that God sees only one person who has walked the face of the earth as “holy”, and that person, is Jesus Christ. So, how do we become holy? The short answer is in Ephesians 1: 6-7, “ . . . of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved (Jesus). In Him we have redemption through His blood.” In other words, God is saying, “I receive them as holy, because they are in my holy son.”
But how are we “in” Jesus? Answer: We are part of His body. II Corinthians 12: 27, Paul wrote, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.” We are made bone and flesh of the body of Christ, as well as spiritually. Paul said this similarly in Romans 12: 5, “. . . so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” In John 15: 5, Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
These principles are the foundation for the critical part of God’s plan. And this is the critical part of God’s plan of holiness and His call to us to be holy: Romans 11: 16b, “. . . and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” So, only as believers, only as we have faith (Hebrews 11:1), in Christ are we actually “in” Christ, as members of His body, and with Him are holy before God. His holiness moves through the vine, to us, His branches and we share His holiness before God. No amount of human will power or self-discipline can accomplish this – only our faith to abide in Christ, continuing in John 15: 5, “. . . He who abides in Me an I in him bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing.”
God made this holiness thing clear when he appeared to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3. Read aloud all of Exodus 3: 1-6. The bush was burning because God was present in it, but it was not consumed. This is a physical picture of the reality of spiritual holiness. And it makes clear that wherever God is, in whatever place, that place is holy, and so it is with us. If we are in Christ, in faith, we are holy. When Moses was approaching that burning bush, He was about to be called into the specific eternal purpose for which he had been created, to lead Israel, through God’s deliverance, out of Egypt to the edge of the Promised Land. But, first, God had to teach Moses about the ground on which one profitably approaches God: to know that it is holy and one has to be properly prepared to be in a place of holiness. Why was Moses fearful and hiding his face? Because Moses got it, he caught the revelation of how awesome, how overwhelming, is that holy ground through which God must be approached.
Similarly, in the New Testament, Paul wrote, I Corinthians 1: 29, “. . . no flesh should glory in His presence.” So this principle was true in both Testaments. Moses was not called to deliver Israel from Egypt: he could never have accomplished that in his own strength and ability. He could accomplish the eternal purpose for which God had created him only by total reverent awe before God, by total trust and dependence in the Lord. What Moses was learning at the burning bush was an element of God’s nature that would help Moses trust God to bring God’s plan for, in and through Moses, to actually come about: that element of God’s nature is God’s holiness.
Every Christian needs to come to the burning bush and grasp the concept of God’s holiness. No plan for your life will succeed unless it is God’s plan. And you cannot accomplish God’s plan in your life in your own brain power, physical strength or emotional commitment. No, you can’t put eternal confidence in your own self, in your own flesh, because not flesh will stand or glory in His presence. God’s purposes are never accomplished by the resources you, personally, can bring to bear from your own self. God’s purposes are always accomplished by His holiness and His resources.
God was telling Moses, about his feet and shoes, that no amount of fleshly protection would protect Moses where God was sending Moses, that Moses would not survive without divine protection and divine deliverance. Not only woud there be the issues with Pharaoh and his army, and with the Egyptian people themselves (we have just recently seen how they can behave when they are unhappy), and with leading 3 million people out into the desert, with not grocery stores, no Wal*Marts, no clothing stores, not even large lakes of water for all those people and their livestock.
Yes, God had given Moses many important talents and resources, including a heart of passion, and courage, for the Israelites (remember when he killed the Egyptian soldier who had been abusing his authority) and the protection of them. Yet God was effectively saying to Moses, that all of his God-given resources and talents, and his zeal to protect the Israelites, would be worthless unless God sanctified them. And, God was saying, that to sanctify Moses and his talents, Moses was required, first, to recognize God’s holiness – His perfect character, motives, intentions, methods – as the under armor, so to speak, of God’s executory characteristics of omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. Those three are like tools for the execution, the carrying out, of his holy purposes. God was asking Moses if he was willing to lay down that sword with which he had killed the Egyptian soldier and trust instead in God’s holiness and His word.
It is possible for some to come very close to perfection, to be cleansed of most all filthiness of flesh and spirit, of all impure lusts, of all evil desires. Yet such a person might still not be holy. One could be a “great guy” or “great lady”, a loving and honorable spouse, and honest worker, yet still not holy.
We all want victory over that one last, nagging area of sin in our lives. And sometimes we get trapped into thinking that if I could just conquer that one thing then I would be holy. So, we march off with our personal sword in hand to conquer that enemy in our hearts. It won’t work. We cannot succeed in holiness while standing on the ground of our own self – righteousness. When it says, prophetically, that at Judgment God will say to some, who labored in His Name, that He never knew them, what Scripture is saying, most importantly, that those people were never on the proper ground in the proper way. Those people don’t take their shoes off, so to speak; they never quit relying on their own fleshly protections; they never fully abided in faith in Jesus Christ.
That total faith in Jesus Christ is not just about His saving power, but also about His keeping power. We are specifically called to trust His Spirit to keep us and conform us to the likeness of Jesus. In I Corinthians 1: 30-31, Paul wrote, “But of Him, you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption – that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’” God will not bless any person’s works when that person glories himself or his own works. Go only glorifies His own works, including those He works through us when we have total faith in Christ and abide in His holiness.
Now, this is also important: There are no degrees of holiness. There is only one holiness. There are degrees of maturity, but not of holiness. You can be a new Christian and still be absolutely holy in Jesus before God. Don’t measure yourself against other people. We are measured only by the standard of the holiness of Christ and whether we are in Him.
Don’t look at some Christian leader, least of all your speaker, and say that you wish you were as holy as he is. You may not have the discipline of our beloved Senior Pastor, Gene Horn, or his prayer life. You may not have had the call or the courage to evangelize in far away and dangerous places over extended decades away from home. You may believe that you make too many sinful mistakes. But those leaders, those missionaries, are no more accepted by the Father than you are, in Christ. God, the Father, loves no one more than those who are holy in His Son.
At that Judgment, the questions God will be asking are going to be simple: Will He see his Son in me? Will I be holy in Christ?
Third, you need to claim, to seize hold (“harpazo”) your holiness, which is in Christ Jesus. You need to clam your birthright as a member of the body of Christ. You need to claim ownership of the foundational, and magnificent, spiritual principal that your Father in heaven sees you as holy because you are in His Son. Continue to receive the conviction of the Holy Spirit in regards to sin, righteousness and judgment, and His guidance in the way of all truth, and continue in repentance. But never, in any shame, release your hold on your holiness. It is what saves you and keeps you as you grow in maturity to the full measure of the stature of Jesus Christ. Your holiness is the most important thing for you to gain and have in your life. With that holiness in Christ, your God-given talents and resources will be sanctified and supernaturally empowered by His call, His omniscience, His omnipresence and His omnipotence, that you might bear much fruit (John 15: 5) from God’s call to holiness in your life!
God bless you and amen+