by Mike Ratliff
But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:21-23)
Holiness is one of those subjects that everyone seems to know everything it pertains to, but no one knows how to define. What is it? If you look up “Holiness” in a dictionary, it will tell you that it means to be “Holy.” That is not a lot of help is it? What does the word “Holy” mean? One dictionary definition is, “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.” Of course, that could only be speaking of God.
A synonym for “Holiness” is “Sanctification.” If we look it up, it is defined as “the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion.” That’s close. A believer’s holiness comes as he or she matures in Christ through grace. That is where it comes from, but that does not tell us what its qualities are.
As a believer matures he or she begins to take on Christ’s very character. They become Christ-like. One of the “fruits” of salvation, a huge part of the godly treasury of the Heart, is separation from the World. What does this mean?
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12)
The Holy Spirit resides in the Spirit of each believer. His presence not only makes the Spirit of Man Holy He is also constantly at work sanctifying the believer. What’s the big deal? Why can’t we stay conformed to the world and grow in Christ? The ways of the world are the antithesis of God’s ways. God’s ways are right; the world’s ways are not.
let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:7-9)
If a believer refuses to jettison things or thoughts that are clearly “of the world,” as the Holy Spirit leads them to do so, it is nothing more than rebellion or disobedience. What happens when a believer does this? Well, they are refusing to submit to the will of God. When the Holy Spirit convicts you and me about anything our conscience, if healthy, will condemn us about it as well. If we refuse to heed God and our conscience, we are contributing to our own Hard-Heartedness. We are diminishing our treasure instead of laying it up. The treasury of our Heart is building up worldliness instead of holiness. Holiness is the quality of godliness that speaks of conformity to Christ’s character and non-conformity to the world.
Only the Spirit-led are seeking to live holy lives. The Soul-led may want to be holy, but without the power that is inherent in the Spirit-led life, they cannot do it. They try to be holy via will power, but that is doomed to failure.
If we live lives that are characterized by holiness what will we be like? We will be in a constant state of cleansing. We will be denying self by feasting on God as we fast from fleshly things and worldliness.
I used to think that self-denial was no fun, hard work and only led to boredom. That would be true if my entire fulfillment came through self-gratification. However, God has graciously granted me repentance as I feasted on Him and fasted from fleshly desires. He has changed my entire value system. My conscience is pure and cleansed. All defilement has been washed away. I pray everyday that I will be given ears to hear Him, that I will heed my conscience, that I will be Spirit-led and that the Lord will not stop leading, guiding and directing my steps. This is learning how to hear God.
Now when I slip, stumble, and blow it I know it immediately. I know I have taken my eyes off Christ and feasted on something that is defiled while I fasted from Him. Oh, how I hate that! What is the solution? The following passage is a word picture that is the “best” way to get back on track.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:7-10)
Reading a passage like this is great, but we need to apply it to our lives so we can start living Holy lives. Here is what I do and do not do: I submit to God in all humility. I confess my sin to Him. I do not work up some false tears and try to feel bad about my sin while I wallow in self-pity. That is a waste of time. However, the Lord shows me the harm my sin has caused and then I mourn and weep. When I submit to God this way, my enemy flees from me. This should tell me how I stumbled in the first place. I have left God’s presence and feasted on something the enemy used to entice me. I must reverse this so I seek God’s face. I draw near to Him. When I do that, He draws near to me. He grants me repentance. I jettison whatever He tells me to and am cleansed. He then lifts me up. This ongoing process is demolishing the strongholds in our Hearts that pull us away from God for self-gratification.
Think of this as the method or process of attaining and maintaining holiness in your life. We must have zero tolerance for worldliness in our lives. If we do not then we are not living holy lives. If we live holy lives, we have a deep treasury of goodness in our Hearts. If we are not then the treasury of our Hearts will be full of worldliness. Which honors and glorifies God?
As the Israelites prepared to cross the Jordan God came to Joshua and commanded him to listen and obey. He told him that if he wanted success he must follow a certain pattern in his life. We have already looked at these verses in the chapter “Real Power.” However, they also speak of holiness.
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:5-9)
God told Joshua that if he saturated his life with the Law, meditated on it day and night, and did not turn from following it to the right hand or the left then God would prosper Him in all that he did. That sounds like holiness and its reward to me.
The Lord will not allow us to mature and grow past certain points where we resist His conviction. I know believers who deeply desire to grow in grace, but cannot because they have some uncleanness or lack of holiness in their life. Does that mean God does not love them? No! It means they are resisting His demand to be holy. They are still His children, but they cannot go on with God in seeking the Treasure until the sin is dealt with. What was God’s demand to Joshua if he wanted to prosper and be successful in all that God led him to do? Be holy! He was called, as we are, to be a Spirit-led believer who walks by faith, not by sight. We must hear God and obey Him. We must value holiness in our lives as our Treasure.
Many believers may say, “I’m not so bad.” Or, “I’m not a big sinner; I just like to have fun now and then.” Or, “I’m not ready to give up <put some favorite worldly thing here> yet.” These types of statements reveal the presence of a serious problem. This type of attitude comes from those who compromise. They are saying,” My value system is okay as is. Holiness is not attainable anyway. People who live like that can’t be having any fun.” It is not our feelings about this that matters. What is important is God’s will. God does not compromise on holiness. Unless that is our value system as well we are in trouble. What kind of trouble? Our consciences are not functioning properly so our Hearts are hard. We cannot be Spirit-led and compromise. It is impossible. To be Spirit-led means to have a pure and clear conscience so we can be holy, humble, cleansed, and pure before our Lord.
For those who think that being saved by grace means we can live any way we want I have bad news. That is a lie. Who is the father of all lies? Satan is the father of all lies. His mission is to keep as many people as possible from living lives that glorify God. Only those who have learned to walk in the Spirit live lives that glorify God. Why?
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:5-6 KJV)
Those who “diligently seek Him” are those who please God because they walk the Walk by Faith. They are the Spirit-led.
Who lays up treasure in Heaven? The Spirit-led do that. Who builds up Goodness in the Treasury of the Heart? The Spirit-led do that. Does anyone else? No! Who lives in a way that pleases and glorifies God? The Spirit-led do that. What do the Soul-led do? They live according the flesh and are worldly. They seek fulfillment by the flesh. How can that glorify God?
Holiness is the hallmark of the Spirit-led believer. This attribute will lead to persecution. Why? The holy believer is in the World, but is not part of it. They do not conform to it in any way. The holy believer’s righteousness confronts the lost with the uncompromising message of the Gospel. It also flies in the face of Soul-led believers who resent the Spirit-led and their godly wisdom and knowledge. This can also bring persecution. Should we fear being holy then?
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)
That sounds like treasure to me. If we live uncompromising Spirit-led lives then we will be holy and our righteousness will be used by God to reveal the unrighteousness of the lost and dying World. That will lead to persecution, but it will also lay up treasure in Heaven for those who go through it. What happens to treasury of the Heart when this happens? Jesus said to rejoice and be exceedingly glad when we are persecuted for righteousness sake. The goodness in the treasury of the Heart enables the believer to go through it this way.
Do you have a different view of holiness now? We can’t try to be holy. However, if we diligently seek God, submit to His Lordship through complete obedience He will cleanse us and make us holy. We will become Spirit-led. Then we are well on our way to possessing the Treasure.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.