God Wills for His People to be Holy

by Mike Ratliff

4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:4-6 ESV)

“Holiness is the demonstration of faith working by love. It is wholly supernatural in the sense of being God’s gracious achievement within us and wholly natural in the sense of being our own true humanness, lost through sin, misconceived through ignorance and through listening too hard to current culture-but now in process of restoration through the redirecting and reintegrating energy of new creation in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Oswald Chambers called holiness “our brilliant heritage.” The phrase was well chosen. Brilliant-bright, shining, precious, glorious-is the word that fits.” From Rediscovering Holiness, p32 by J.I. Packer

I know that many may be suddenly struck by a sense of guilt or inadequacy when they read or hear that it is God’s will that His people be Holy, however, that does not change the fact that genuine Christians will be both saved eternally and are changed temporally by the working of the Holy Spirit in them. God regenerated them at salvation so they are new creations. Are they automatically in sinless perfection then? No! That is why we should not become discouraged from this walk simply because we struggle with sin. All Christians sin. That is why God gave us 1 John 1:5-10.

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 5-10 ESV)

How does this Holiness grow in us then? First, God commands that we be holy.

1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 ESV)

Since God has commanded that we be Holy, and He knows we cannot be Holy outside of His grace, He gives His Holy Spirit to us. Holiness is commanded and willed by God. Christ requires it and all the Scriptures call for it. Our sanctification is what accomplishes this. That is why it is imperative that we do not flee from our Lord’s discipline. Holiness is the goal of our redemption. It is the object of our new creation. We are still in this life in this body of flesh so that we may grow up into Christlikeness. Holiness is genuinely necessary for our final salvation. Why? It is a sign and expression of the reality of our faith and repentance. It is also the fruit of our acceptance of God’s ultimate purpose. Notice, that the one who is on this narrow way lines up their purpose with His. They do not try to conform God to themselves, but conform to Him and His purposes.

Holiness is the substance or core from which our true happiness comes. If we are conformed to our culture, we will pursue happiness within the mores of our society, however we miss genuine happiness if we do this. On the other hand, if we pursue holiness through the grace of Christ, happiness of spirit comes in such a way that we cannot adequately describe. Holiness has to do with our Hearts.

46 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings
and shall not be put to shame,
47 for I find my delight in your commandments,
which I love. (Psalm 119:46-47 ESV)

111 Your testimonies are my heritage forever,
for they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:111 ESV)

Holiness starts inside a Christian when he or she has the right purpose that seeks to express itself in right performance. Notice, it does not come from right performance, but from our Heart’s desire. It is not just about our obedience, but it is also about our motives that prompt us to be obedient to our Sovereign Lord. That is why we should be mortified if we don’t deeply desire to be Holy.

The Christian who is on the narrow way which leads to life has a motivating aim, passion, desire, longing, aspiration, goal, and drive to please God. How? They seek to please Him both by what they do and what they avoid doing. Their good works replace evil ones. If they spend themselves on seeking God’s will and doing it they will not be spending any effort or time seeking the opposite. How do we do this? How does it begin? How is it maintained? It all begins with praise, worship, and honoring and exalting God as the substance of our entire being. Evil will creep in when we neglect this. This will result in coolness with regard to them. Therefore, we must dedicate our whole waking life to keep our hearts actively responsive to God.

Holiness that is actively growing in depth and breadth in the heart of a Christian will express itself through their life in Christlikeness that Paul defined as the fruit of the Spirit.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26 ESV)

The Lord Jesus Christ is coming back. We don’t know the day or hour of His coming. We also know that we are not to be of this world. We are not to take on the world’s character or be conformed to it in any way, but we are to be Holy, set apart, and Christlike. Therefore, since we do not know when He is coming back, let us prepare for His return by committing ourselves to becoming the Holy Christians God Wills for us to be. Soli Deo Gloria!

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23 thoughts on “God Wills for His People to be Holy

  1. Magnificent. A timely message at a time when I have seen too many of us forgetting that our God is a Holy God. I was just commenting to another brother about RC Sproul’s Holiness teaching series in the 80s. I was noting that I feel as if we need to keep re-teaching that since the church seems to keep forgetting the attributes of God.


  2. John,

    Yes, all of God’s attributes have their source in His Holiness. Since we are made in the image of God we are Christlike only when we become holy. Yes, we have forgotten this. Let us proclaim this from the rooftops! Our Lord deserves nothing less than a Holy Church.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. Mike,
    Excellent post. Where is the fear of the Lord today?! God is love, and He is also just and holy and abhors sin. Many in the various churchs today act as if God just winks and laughs at their sin and says, “hey don’t worry your forgiven big fella” Where is the preaching calling us to repentance and to trust and obey our Lord. My opinion on why the emerging church and all these relevant churches are so popular is as follows, there is no wisdom in these people. Where do we get wisdom, only from God, How do we get it, well for starters Fear of the Lord is the beginning of understanding, second in God’s word. Some don’t fear the Lord, they act like He’s a drinking buddy, and they’ll read every book by every hip new emerging thinker but are they spending time in God’s word?! It’s just really really sad. All we can do is pray that the Lord wakes them up. I know before January, I was living in the pleasures of sin with no regard for my Lord and Saviour, but praise God he woke me up from my deadly slumber and I know He can wake anyone else up too. All glory, all honor, all praise, all thanksgiving, all adoration, all worship be given to God the father through Jesus Christ our Lord!!!!

    In Christ,

  4. We are very thankful for His sanctification process. Without it we wouldn’t make it….. period! He is the author and finisher of our faith, righteousness, holiness and everything that we become. He grows us up. To Him goes all the credit. He sees us through Jesus standing in front of us and once again, we wouldn’t want it any other way. We WANT to please Him in the most pleasing way with all of our being. Good article Mike. Really do like your blog site. Hope your Lords day was a blessing!

  5. Derrick,

    Amen brother. It is amazing when God wakes us up. How could we ever have been so blink? You are right at how sad it is about the wrong view of God and His command for us to be holy as He is Holy. Well, let us pray for their restoration and the courage to continue to tell the truth.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. Mike,

    I feel like you could have addressed this directly to me. The Lord knows just how discouraged I am! Satan tells us two great lies — when we stand, he says one sin is of no consequence, and when we fall, he says to stay down. I need to write down Proverbs 24:16 and tape it to my laptop.

    I am thankful for people like you who can remind us of the simple truths of the Gospel. It is a hard walk, but God walks it with us! There is no better deal than that.

    By the way, I started reading “Possessing The Treasure” (the book, not the blog) a couple nights ago. Wow. I feel like I’ve been punched in the face after those first few chapters. It’s a good thing, though — trust me.

  7. We had a great Lords day Mike. We had some friends over to fellowship with for the day that live about 70 miles (one way no less!) from us. But they are in the same boat we are in and you are in with ‘churches’. So we are going to send them your web site here. We think they will really enjoy your articles. They live 70 miles south of us so they aren’t to far from you! We are finding out that the handful of believers who have come out of the crazy so called churches think the same way and the same thing we do. Guess we all can’t be wrong huh? They are as on fire for the Lord as we are too. So you may get a ‘new’ viewer and friend soon.

  8. Hi, i just surfed in searching for interesting blogs on Spirituality, you have a cool blog. Do keep up the good work. I’ll be back even though i live far from where you live. its nice to be able to see what people from across the world thinks.

    Warm Regards from the Other Side of the Moon.

    On a related note perhaps you might find the following link interesting. Its propossing a theory and i’ll like to hear your take on the subject via comments. See ya…

    Jesus an Essenes ?


    Kerala, India

  9. just reading in guys and and want to thank you for the encouragement on this issue this has been and i praise God for the wonderful blessing this has been to me

  10. I have been musing over the subject of repentance lately. Your post is spot on. Without the consciousness of holiness as an attribute of God, there is no sense of wongdoing in many of our churches. Without the fear of God, how does anyone even begin to conceive the noyion of repentance?

    I just watched a feature on TV in which the viewers are asked, “why not start a relationship with the one who loves you?” That was all to the presentation of the Gospel. No mention of the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God, which progresses to the reason why there is even the need for a Saviour.

    People come into ‘Christianity’ this way, and its no surprising that holiness is fast becoming an endangered attribute in our assemblies.

    But holiness is firmly stamped in the message of salvation – from start to finish – and it is our God who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. To Him be all the glory.

  11. Mike:
    This is a marvelous reminder of what should separate believers from others. I am visiting a church where the pastor is teaching on personal holiness based on Titus 2: 11-15. It has most convicting and edifying. How desperately the church needs to repent and return to holy living which is the natural consequence of sound doctrine. Wendy

  12. Stephen,

    My brother, I pray that God will take you the place where His truth is all you desire and along with that you will want nothing more than to be in center of His will. I pray that you will be strong in Him by conforming to His Word by it taking over your heart and by you obeying Him in all things.

    I pray that God will take my poor words from that book and magnify them in your heart so that all you want is to know the truth and obey our Lord.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  13. Paul,

    Isn’t it heartbreaking when we see the darkness that most churches are in? This puzzled me for a long time after we left our old church how God still worked strongly in my heart and used me even though we weren’t part of any local church. I believe we (all of us) are being called out for His purpose. We don’t know everything about it yet, but we must obey our Lord.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  14. Bibby,

    I don’t know if Jesus was an Essene or not. The Essenes’ views changed over time. I suppose we will know the truth when we meet Him face to face. :-)

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  15. Yomi,

    I contend that the very thing missing from most “churches” is this very thing. They are so wrapped up in idolatry of one form or another that they have become spiritually blind. Why? God has given them over to what they really love along with a spirit of stupor that blinds them to the truth. They then continue in their rebellion thinking they are serving God. Let us pray for God to continue to call our His people into the light.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  16. What is strange Mike is that when we do come out of the organized churches because we went and know they are teaching false doctrine, at first and sometimes even now, we wonder, ‘are we really doing the right thing here?’ Or are we to tough it out in the ‘churches’ until the doors close? Because the last thing we want to do is make our Lord sad and make a wrong decision especially on something like that! We fight back and forth with that one alot. We do alot of talking to Him about it :) He knows our hearts and knows we don’t or wouldn’t intentionally do something like not go to the ‘church’. But we live in a very different time than any other time (we believe) but we still struggle with this issue from time to time.

  17. Paul,

    Yep, you described how this is for me as well. I actually love corporate worship and good sermons so I miss that, but what happens is that the “entire package” that our churches bring to th table also come with those good things and then the idolatry and all that goes with that becomes apparent. It is here we find people full of self-righteousness who believe that their religion is what God is after.

    On the flip side, those like you and I who have been brought into the light (kicking and screaming sometimes) are very keen to avoid all forms of idolatry and only want their lives to be well-pleasing to the Lord.

    Sigh…Yes it is a struggle, but I contend that my walk with my Lord is far closer and more intimate than it ever was before.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  18. Wendy, you are so fortunate to have a pastor who sees the true state of the church today.

    Mike, thank you for this post, we need to be Holy as He is Holy. I have woken up and am looking to the Lord daily and praying that He keep me awake and alert. It is a daily walk indeed. Our church is growing and doesn’t have enough room so we have two services at the same time. One in the main worship center by our pastor and one in the old building by one of our associate pastors. Yesterday we went to the old building and the pastors had traded buildings so my husband and I heard the same message by our pastor we heard two weeks ago. It doesn’t set right with me. He is talking about the two builders, one building on the sand and one building on the rock. He says not to do things out of guilt but out of love. He kept saying don’t be guilty. I believe I know what he is trying to say: Don’t do works out of guilt but out of love for the Lord. In reality, pastor never said that. He says don’t be guilty. The whole point of the builders is to MAKE SURE we are building on the foundation of Christ but that was not stressed. Once we are in Christ of course the Holy Spirit works through us for the glory of God and we do it out of love. None of this was mentioned. All I kept thinking was guilt is good. Guilt leads to sorrow. Godly sorrow leads to repentance. Repenantance leads to forgiveness. Forgiveness from the Lord is a restored relationship and joy. Only then can the Holy Spirit work through us. My spirit gets grieved alot when I go to Church. I get this sick feeling in my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, we have a wonderful loving church but the word just seems watered down. Our sunday school class is incredible though, full of mature Christians who love the Lord and His word. Between the class, coming here, listening daily to Greg Laurie and John MacArthur, reading my bible and praying I am being blessed and growing. Thank you again for the timely and needed post.

    Amen to your comment too Yomi!

    Love in Christ,

  19. We need to get these apostate churches brimming to the rafters with the Holy Spirit again. The time is close when He will return and exact His revenge on the unrepentant, the complacent, and the apologists for sin. Wake up Christians, from your slumber, and get your feet hot in the fronts of then churches for the Holy Ghost!

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