On holiness

Read it through.

Pray it in.

Live it out.

Pass it on.

The oft quoted phrase above is familiar to many.  It is a brief synopsis of the Christian life, yet how easy it becomes to neglect parts of the statement.  Unless we begin with the Bible, there is no basis for change in our life.  If our reading produces no conviction leading to the prayer of faith which desires change, there is no benefit. The work of God in our lives must then be lived out before it is passed on.  Ezra 7:10 describes the process this way.  “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.”

This is illustrated by the passage found in II Peter 1:3-8.

Read it through.  II Peter 1:3 reads as follows:  “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” In this sentence we see major themes of the scriptures described.  In reading the Bible through, we come to know our Lord, His divine power, His glory and goodness, His call to us, and His provisions for life and godliness.

Pray it in.  II Peter 1:4 relates, “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”  God’s promises are given to us, but we must accept them and live in dependence upon them.  Several years ago, I transitioned from one position in the hospital where I work to another department.  Thinking that my benefits would be transferred as well, I asked about the four thousand dollars that was in my education account.  I was told that it was mine, and that I could have used it anytime, but that it was too late now.  His words were “You left it on the table.”  The Lord has given us great and precious promises by which He desires to enrich our lives.  When I see Him face to face, I do not want to hear Him say, “This was yours, but you left it on the table.”

What are the promises referred to in II Peter 1:4?  We see some of them referred to by Paul in II Corinthians 6:16.  “As God has said; ‘I will live with them, and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”  Through promises like these, Peter says, we may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  Our response to this statement from Peter must be to pray it in.  In prayer we come to the Lord in total dependence, asking Him to do in our lives that which is impossible for us to do.  The apostle Paul further describes our response in II Corinthians 7:1, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”  It is through the prayer of repentance and faith that we are enabled daily to appropriate His promises and walk in holiness in the fear of God.

Live it out.  What would it look like to perfect holiness in the fear of God that would enable us to participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires?  A sermon by G. Campbell Morgan describes this holiness of life by the following seven statements.

  1. Holiness is not freedom from all sin as imperfection but it is freedom from the dominion of sin and from willful sinning.
  2. Holiness is not freedom from mistakes in judgment, but it is freedom from the need to exercise judgment alone.
  3. Holiness is not freedom from temptation, but it is freedom from the paralysis which necessitates failure.
  4. Holiness does not mean freedom from bodily infirmity, but it does mean freedom from all ailments which are the direct result of disobedience.
  5. Holiness does not mean freedom from conflict, but it does mean freedom from defeat.
  6. Holiness is not freedom from liability to fall, but it is freedom from the necessity of falling.
  7. Holiness is not freedom from the possibility of advance, but it is freedom from the impossibility of advance.

II Peter 1:5-7 describes living it out in this manner.  “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”  Paul uses this passage to describe living it out.  “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:14)  To press implies both effort required and resistance encountered.  Both must be experienced as we live it out.

Pass it on.  II Peter 1:8 is as follows.  “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  What we read must be prayed into our hearts, and lived out before it can be passed on.  The Lord must work in us before he can work through us.  John 1:6 states, “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.”  John was not sent with a message, He was the message.  It is the word of God, changing our lives; that when proclaimed to others, produces change in their lives as well.  It is my prayer that as these qualities are seen in your lives in increasing measure, the effectiveness and the productivity of your lives will greatly increase in Him.

In Christ, Richard Spann

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