Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
November 11, 2001
Recall that from the start of this series it has been pointed out that you cannot have true success if you do not have a true definition for it. Most people define success in terms of wealth, fame, power or pleasure – materialism, egoism, autonomy and hedonism. In our previous studies on this subject, we have defined true success based on God’s revelation of truth in the Bible. “A successful Christian is a person who has been saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and, as an adopted child of God who worships Him, is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting themselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness
along with serving the Lord in doing the good works He has prepared before hand.” This morning I want us to concentrate on the phrase, “faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness.”
The idea of pursuing holiness and blamelessness arises from the purpose for which God created us and saved us. Recall that the purpose of God creating you is for His own glory. Revelation 4:11
declares, “Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created.” God brought forth all of creation for the purpose of His glory. That includes man. You do not exist for yourself. You are not the center of the world. You exist only because of God’s good pleasure for His purposes. Apart from that, you are nothing and whatever you think you have or will achieve in your life has no value.
God created man in His own image to be in a personal relationship with Him and to be His steward over the earth. Adam’s disobedience broke that relationship, brought a curse on himself and the world. Man was plunged into the bondage of sin (Romans 6:16f), under Satan’s rule (Eph. 2:1-3; 2 Cor. 4:4) and subjects of the kingdom of darkness (Col. 1:13). Man’s existence because subject to futility (Ecclesiastes).
God out of His love, grace and mercy, provided a means of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ who took upon Himself the penalty of our sin. This was first and foremost to bring us back into a state of righteousness so that we can properly fulfill the purpose of our creation in having a personal relationship with God, serve Him and be a blessing to the world.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost from their sins and God’s wrath upon sin (Matt. 1:21; Luke 19:10; Romans 5:9). But salvation is not just from something, it also to something. Romans 6:18,22 tells us that salvation frees us from sin’s slavery and enslaves us to God and righteousness. God is our new
This new relationship allows us to fulfill the second purpose of our salvation as expressed in Rom. 8:29 – “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.” We are saved from sin so that we can become like Jesus. This process will not be completed in our life on this earth, but the Christian should be changing over time so that his character is more and more like that of Christ. People should be able to
see Christ living through you. We should say with Paul in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” The old Paul died and it was now Christ living through Him. The old Scott Harris died, and now it is to be Christ living through me. The old you died and now it is to be Jesus Christ living in you. His great promise us that one day we will be like Him. 1 John 3:2 states, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.”
If we are to be conformed to the image of Jesus, then we must become like Him in character. Ephesians 1:4 states this in very concrete terms – “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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” You are saved so that you will become holy and blameless before God. Again, this is the process of
sanctification. There will always be room for improvement in this life, but over time the Christian is to become less sinful and more holy and blameless.
Over the next few weeks I will go on to talk about some of the other reasons for our salvation, but this morning I want to concentrate on this purpose of being holy and blameless before God and conformed into the image of Christ We are to be a holy people in both position and practice.
What does it mean to be holy?
The Hebrew and Greek words which are translated as holy or sanctified both have the same root meaning of “separated unto.” God’s attributes, His nature and character, separate Him from what He has created. He is different from what He has created. In the Old Testament there were various buildings and utensils that were used in the worship of God were called “holy” because they were set apart from common use to special use for God’s glory. A holy person is someone who has set themselves apart from the world to glorify God.
A practical definition of personal holiness is “to be separated from the world and separated to (consecrated to) God and therefore to live a morally blameless life as defined by God’s word.” True
holiness is not a list of things to avoid, but rather a direction in life based in a personal relationship with God. I am holy not because I avoid sin but because I pursue the righteousness of God in my life. That pursuit takes me in the opposite direction of sin. I fall into sin when I do not pursue righteousness. This s an extremely important concept to understand.
Too many people, including conservative evangelical Christians, define holiness by the list of rules and standards they keep. But just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, they fail miserably to be holy because their standards are not God’s standards. Invariably, when a person makes up their list of rules and standards by which they are going to live, they have defined holiness as an outward conformity rather than an inward reality. They draw a line in the sand and say that they are holy as long as they do not cross that line. They then see how close they can walk to it without crossing it. In addition, the line is usually drawn according to their own desires and not God’s. True holiness is not concerned about the
line because it is always on the move toward God and therefore away from sin. To give a quick geographical analogy, if the line is drawn at the equator, then I never have to worry about crossing it as long as I continue heading north!
The Importance of holiness?
Why is holiness so important? We have already looked at Ephesians 1:4, which clearly states that holiness and blamelessness are a purpose of our salvation. Some might argue that this is just dealing with our positional righteousness in Jesus Christ which is given to us at salvation. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement for our sins on the Cross, we are justified and clothed with Jesus’ righteousness so that God does not judge us for what we are in ourselves, but what we are in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23-28; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2.Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9). While I believe and trust in this justification by faith for my salvation and standing before God, I do not believe that this can be separated from sanctification. To be given positional righteousness necessitates a pursuit of practical righteousness. But there are other verses to back up my point.
Hebrews 12:14 states “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification [holiness] without which no one will see the Lord.” There is an action necessary on our part in the process of our sanctification, that is, our becoming holy in life. God does not give a cosmic zap after which you will no longer sin. Instead He commands us to stop sinning and pursue righteousness. 1 Peter 1:13-16 is an example of this. “Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober [in spirit,] fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Many professing Christians seemed to live as if holiness was an option, but it is not an option. It is one the reasons that God saved us from our sins, and we cannot carry out a lot of the other purposes without it. Can you be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29) without becoming more holy? No.
But this brings up another issue in holiness. We are to become like Jesus Christ who was holy. What are the characteristics of God’s holiness?
The Holiness of God
As already mentioned, God’s very attributes separate Him from what He has created. He is different from us, the angels and everything else that exists. In both Isaiah 6 and in John 4 where we are given a glimpse of the scene in heaven, we find the Seraphim calling out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord.” He is the thrice holy God. His holiness is the over arching characteristic of all His other attributes. His love is holy. His mercy is holy. His grace is holy. His patience is holy. His judgments are holy. His justice is holy. His wrath is Holy. Even His jealousy, a word we usually think of with a negative connotation, is holy. Everything about God is holy which is why that only He can be the final standard of righteousness.
God is holy, therefore, we are to be holy. We are to become like Jesus Christ in our character. The process of this happening is referred to as sanctification. The word “sanctification” is from the same Hebrew and Greek words as “holy” and it means “to be set apart.” There are three stages of sanctification. A believer receives initial sanctification at justification. That is, they are set apart to God and made holy before God positionally in Christ. Practical sanctification is the believer’s life becoming conformed to the image of Jesus. Final sanctification is when positional and actual holiness become the same when we enter heaven. What a wonderful day that will be when we will no longer struggle against
sin and will be like Jesus!
Holiness in the life of the Believer
How is it that a believer becomes holy?
Its Origin is the Holy Spirit for He is the one that convicts us, gives us life, teaches us and sanctifies us.
First, it is Holy Spirit that convicts us of sin so that we will turn from it to God. That is the first step in becoming holy. John 16:8-11 8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
Second, it is the Holy Spirit that gives us new life so that we can pursue holiness. Romans 8:11, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.”
Third, it is the Holy Spirit that teaches us how God wants us to live. You can’t very well live in holiness if you don’t know how God wants you to live. 1 Cor. 2:12-14 “Now we have received, not the
spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might 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.] 14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
And finally, it is the Holy Spirit that sanctifies us. He changes us from what we were into what God wants us to be. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor [the] covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”
The motivation for becoming Holy is our love for God.
Jesus said in John 14:23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him.” People can claim to love Jesus, but the reality is that if they are not striving to obey Him, which is an essential element of holiness, then their claim is false.
John gave further explanation in 1 John 4:19-5:5 “We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the
one who loves God should love his brother also. 5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the [child] born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world– our faith. 5 And who is
the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
Our love for God and pursuit of holiness is a response to what He has already done for us in Jesus Christ. Our motive to keep all His commands is out of that love for Him. Again, our love for God
motivates us to obey Him. To do otherwise proves our claim false.
The quest of the believer is to become like Jesus Christ. Again we come back to Romans 8:29, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.” The religions and philosophical systems of the world seek to emulate some sinful man whether it be the founder of it or a teacher of it – Buddha, Confucius, some guru, Mohammed, etc. The result is the replication and sometimes magnification of the sins of those
men, such as was seen here in the U.S. on September 11. Mohammed advocated and practiced war to spread his false religion of a false God. The true Christian seeks to become like the only sinless man who was in fact God in human flesh. His life example is a constant correction to our sinfulness. Those who have professed to be Christians have done very evil things over the centuries, but they did so in contrast to Jesus Christ in opposition to His teachings, not because of Him.
This quest to be like Jesus changes how true Christians think and act. We desire to set aside our sinfulness and become holy. We want our lives to become marked by the characteristics of holiness. What are those characteristics and how are they developed?
Characteristics of Holiness
The foundational characteristic is a different mind. Colossians 3:2 tells the Christian, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” A holy mind is more concerned about the
things of God than the things of earth. That does not mean that a holy person does not care about life here, but it does mean they see everything from God’s perspective. John Knox is said to have cried out, “Give me Scotland or I die.” There is a lot of passion in that statement, but his goal was to reach the country with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and not for personal fame, power or wealth.
This mindset is developed as we learn God’s word and think on it and what God desires instead of our own desires or what the world seeks to fill it with. Philippians 4:8 is very direct and tells us to think
on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” This is what renews our minds so that we can resist the pressure to be conformed to this world and rather be transformed in the image of Christ (Romans 12:1,2)
A major problem that we all face is the amount of pressure we receive from the world to conform us into its image because of the flood of information and influence that comes upon us to think on the things of this world instead of that which is above. Frankly, this is a major reason that so many Christians fail to live holy lives and the church in America is so weak. Most professing Christians give
little time and effort to read and study their Bibles or books and media that come from the Christian viewpoint, instead they fill their minds with what is on the TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. Their minds are full of the things of this world which are the opposite of Philippians 4:8. You cannot and will not become Holy if you continually feed your minds with the world’s garbage. You cannot become a successful Christian on that kind of diet. Heed the Biblical commands and set your mind on things above and let it dwell on that which reflects Godliness instead of the vain lusts and philosophies of this world.
A second characteristic found in those living holy lives is a changed attitude. The world is selfish and operates out of the premise of “what is in it for me.” The successful Christian operates out of the attitude of “what is in it for God” because he understands that he was created for God’s glory and not himself. Understanding what God has done for him in Christ, there develops an all consuming love for God that Jesus said in Luke 10:27 was the great commandment – “You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” The result of this love will be an attitude of desiring holiness which “seeks first
[God’s] kingdom and righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). God wants our focus to be on His kingdom and His righteousness, so His promise is that if we do that He will take care of our needs. A lot of professing Christians need a major attitude adjustment if they are every going to become holy!
The third characteristic of those who are pursuing holiness is changed actions. They live a different kind of life than other people. They live with what Paul said in Romans 13:14 in mind, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to [its] lusts.” What they have filled their minds with and their attitude towards God results in a Godly life.
Colossians 3:5-17 is one of the many passages that lists out many of the changed actions that should mark every Christian. “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, [and] abusive speech from
your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its [evil] practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him 11 –[a renewal] in which there is no [distinction between] Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. 12 And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 And
beyond all these things [put on] love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms [and] hymns [and] spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
What currently marks your life as being holy? Are you characterized by a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, peace and thankfulness? Or are you still more like the world with characteristics such as anger, impurity, immorality, evil desires, greed, slander, abusive speech, and lying? Lists such as in Romans 1:29-32 and 1 Cor. 6:9,10 could also be added – insolence, boastful, arrogance, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful, and disobedience to parents, to name a few.
If your life is not characterized by holiness, then why not? What priority do you give to developing holiness in your life? If it is not high, then that is a large part of the problem.. What areas are you failing in? What sins have gotten into your life that you won’t let go of? You cannot be a successful Christian without holiness. Holiness is not an option for the true Christian. There are severe consequences for those continue in sin instead of pursuing holiness.
What is your view of sin? How does it compare to God’s view of sin? Sin is often misunderstood because holiness is misunderstood. People make up their own lists of acceptable and unacceptable sins and then define holiness in terms of how well they avoid the unacceptable ones. God makes no such distinctions. Remember that “just” eating a piece of fruit plunged all of mankind into sin’s bondage. Idolatry is sin whether it is bowing down to a pagan idol or nonchalantly give respect to a false God –
that includes Allah who is not the God of Bible. Blasphemy is a serious sin whether it is cursing God, making false statements about Him or taking His name in vain in casual conversation. Some draw the line at divorce, but accept adultery, fornication and lusting after others. Jesus said all were serious sins. Our society tolerates a lot of backtalk and disrespect from children. The Bible calls that sin and Proverbs 30:17 even warns, “The eye that mocks a father, And scorns a mother, The ravens of the valley will pick
it out, And the young eagles will eat it.” People want to make a distinction between “little white lies” and lying. God does not and Revelation 21:8 says that all liars will be thrown into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. People do not pursue holiness because they do not take sin seriously.
Years ago I heard an analogy of the Christian life that has stuck with me. It is like walking up a mountain road which has a sheer cliff on one side. Many people walk as close to the edge as they can and others try to dance on the guardrail. Those who pursue holiness understand the danger is real and they stick as close to the mountain as they can. What is your view of sin? Are you trying to walk on the edge or dance on the guardrail? That action alone reveals you are not pursuing holiness, for again, true holiness is not about trying to avoid any particular sin, it is about trying to bring glory to God in every aspect of your life. The danger of sin is real even for a Christian.
Dangers of Unholy Living:
Hebrews 12:4-8 warns about God’s chastisement on those who belong to Him but do not obey Him.1 Corinthians 11:30 cites some particular cases in which that chastisement included illness and even death. The only thing worse for a believer in sin who is chastised by God, is not being chastised, for that shows they are illegitimate and do not belong to God.
It is not popular to question a person’s salvation, but Paul did. In 2 Corinthians 13:5. He told them to “Test yourselves [to see] if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?” It is much better to question a person about their true relationship with Christ than to let them continue on in a false belief that they are saved.
Jesus warned in Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me on
that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'”
These people had some good theology and a lot of spectacular service, but they did not have holiness. They practice lawlessness instead of righteousness. Could there be a greater tragedy than to
think you served the Lord all your life and only find out when you are condemned by Him that you were never a true Christian? Isn’t it much better to receive the warning now while there is still time to repent and pursue holiness.
There is one other danger that sin in a professing Christian poses. They are a danger to others and must be dealt with for the good of the whole body. We will expand upon that next week when we talk about the nature of true fellowship among Christians.
A successful Christian is serious about holiness. It is part of the reason for which they were saved.They understand its importance, its characteristics and how it is developed in their lives.
I pray that the message this morning has helped you in your pursuit of holiness which make you a successful Christian and without which no one can see the Lord.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses used in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the words “holy” or “holiness” is used in the sermon. Talk with
your parents about what it means to be holy.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is the purpose of God creating you? What are some of the purposes of God saving you? Why is holiness important? In view of Ephesians 1:4 & 1 Peter 1:16, is holiness in the life a Christian an option? What does it mean to be holy? What are the characteristics of God’s holiness? How would you react if you had a glimpse of God’s holiness? What characteristics does God want developed in the Christians’ life? What is the origin of holiness in the believer’s life? What is the motive of a Christian to be holy? What is the quest of the believer? How does that quest change how a true Christian thinks and acts? What currently marks your life as being holy? What priority do you give to developing holiness in your life? Why? What areas are you failing in? What is your view of sin? Why? How does it compare to God’s view of sin? What sin(s) are keeping you from being holy? How will you correct them? What are the possible consequences to someone who does not pursue holiness? Are you in danger? Are you endangering
Sermon Notes – 11/11/2001 A.M.
Successful Christian Living, Part 7 – Holiness
“A successful Christian is a person who has been saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and, as an
adopted child of God who worships Him, is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting
themselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good
works He has prepared before hand.”
Why you were Created: Revelation 4:11
Sin’s Consequences: (Genesis 3; Romans 6:16f; Ephesians 2:1-3; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:13; Ecclesiastes)
Why you were Saved
To be remove sin and its consequences from your life (Romans 5:9) and bring you into a state of righteousness and a personal relationship with God (Romans 6)
To conform you into the Image of Christ (Romans. 8:29)
To make you holy and blameless before God (Ephesians 1:3,4)
A practical definition of personal holiness is “to be separated from the world and separated to (consecrated to) God and therefore
to live a morally blameless life as defined by God’s word.”
The Importance Holiness
Eph. 1:4; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:13-16
The Holiness of God
Isaiah 6; Revelation 4
Holiness in the life of the Believer
John 16:7-11 –
Romans 8:11 –
1 Cor. 2:12-14 –
1 Cor. 6:11 –
1 John 4:19-5:5
Characteristics of Holiness
Mind – Colossians 3:2; Philippians 4:8
Attitudes – Luke 10:27; Matthew 6:33
Actions – Romans 13:14; Colossians 3:5-17
Dangers of Unholy Living
Hebrews 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 11:30
2 Corinthians 13:5; Matthew 7:21-23
1 Corinthians 5:6