Biblical Holiness

by Mike Ratliff

21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 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 NASB)

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. It comes from there, but what are its qualities? As believers mature they begin 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?

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.  (1 Corinthians 2:12, 13 NASB)

The Holy Spirit resides in the Spirit of each believer. His presence not only makes the Spirit of the believer 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.

7 Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. 8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “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 NASB)

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? 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 believers who are led by the Spirit are seeking to live holy lives. All others may want to be holy, but without the power that is inherent in the life led by the Spirit, 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. We will not be doing or saying things to draw attention to ourselves, but instead we will be in a state of genuine humility knowing that all we have that is good is that which have in Christ according to his will and his work.

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 is in the process of changing my entire value system and remaking my conscience so that it will be pure and cleansed. He is in the process of washing away all defilement therein. I pray everyday that I will be given ears to hear Him, that I will heed my conscience which is held captive to the Word of God and  that I will be led by the Spirit 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. I hate it, but it is a good thing that I cannot get away with anything for any length of time! When we do blow it what do we do? The following passage is a word picture that is the “best” way to get back on track.

7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.  (James 4:7-10 NASB)

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.

5 “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 “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 success. 9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:5-9 NASB)

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 believers who are led by the Spirit who walk 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 led by the Spirit and compromise. It is impossible. To be led by the Spirit means to have a pure and clear conscience held captive to the Word of God 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?

5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:5-6 NASB)

Those who “seek Him” are those who please God because they walk the Walk by Faith. They are those who are led by the Spirit.

Who lays up treasure in Heaven? Those who are led by the Spirit do that. Who builds up Goodness in the Treasury of the Heart? Those who are led by the Spirit do that. Does anyone else? No! Who lives in a way that pleases and glorifies God? Those who are led by the Spirit do that. What about professing Christians who are not led by the Spirit? 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 believer who is led by the Spirit. 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 fleshly, professing believers who resent those who are led by the Spirit and their godly wisdom and knowledge. This can also bring persecution. Should we fear being holy then?

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12 NASB)

That sounds like treasure to me. If we live uncompromising lives led by the Spirit 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 led by the Spirit. Then we are well on our way to possessing the Treasure.

Soli Deo Gloria!

7 thoughts on “Biblical Holiness

  1. I am reading Kevin DeYoung’s book, The Hole in our Holiness. He does a very good job guiding between “let go and let God” and Jewish legalism. We who are born again MUST strive for holiness and by the Spirit of God we will succeed! No auto-pilot in discipleship.


  2. Dear Mike,
    My daughter is in college and a very dear friend has come under the influence of Joseph Prince. My daughter has been anguishing in her heart because her friend simply can not see the error in the hyper-grace (sin is a dirty word and we don’t need to repent or ask forgiveness). Long story short my daughter had to tell her friend she could not participate in a bible study of that nature (hurt feelings). Well, during the bible study some very unusual and disturbing things occurred that caused the friend to realize that this was not from God and admitted to being deceived and thanked my daughter for her discernment and prayer for protection over them.

    It is a hard and lonely road to stay true to our Savior. I feel the pain of it daily, but rejoice when I see the fruit in my children. Nothing of me, but of God’s amazing grace. Bless the Lord for He is good and does more than we can ever think or imagine!

    Blessings, charisse


  3. Holiness = other – what God is man is not
    Thus it leads to Sanctification and becoming conformed to His image by the Holy Spirit. it is not following rules but following God. A heart and mind change

    That is why the world hates us

    But if God be for us, who can be agaisnt us.

    Isn’t Jesus wonderful !!!!!!!!!!!!


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