“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14).
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pet 1:14-16).
As I began talking about goals, I wrote about Jesus’ determination to set His face to Jerusalem. The Lord knew that He needed to do the right thing, although the right thing in His case meant death on the cross. He knew what God required of Him, and the Lord made serving the Lord His highest priority.
As we think about goals, I can think of no greater goal than seeking holiness. Without holiness, we shall not see the Lord. God is holy, and His people are called to be holy.
How can we become holy as God is holy? First, we must understand the holiness He requires in our lives. Let’s think about how we come to know and understand the holiness to which He has called us.
The beginning and ending point for knowing God’s holy requirements obviously is Scripture. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17) – the Word of God trains men in righteousness and allows the man of God to be “complete, equipped for every good work.” “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Pet 1:3-4); through the will of God, I can know the holiness which God requires of me.
When going to Scripture to discover God’s holiness, here are some suggestions to follow:
- Read lists giving God’s requirements for holiness.
Several passages of Scripture list sins which will keep one out of heaven (e.g., 1 Cor 6:9-10), but many passages also give holy behavior God expects.
- “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom 12:9-19)
- “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23).
- “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Pet 1:5-7).
Examine those lists honestly and sincerely. Where do you see yourself in those lists? What qualities do you need to add to your life in order that you might live the holy life to which God has called you?
- Read how Jesus behaved.
Jesus exemplified the holiness of God. He never committed sin but always lived the holy life His Father expected (1 Pet 2:22). Jesus’ holiness should not surprise us, for “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). Notice how Jesus treated those who mistreated Him. Notice how He poured His heart out to His Father in prayer. Notice how He trusted the Father when the Father did not answer Jesus’ prayers in the way He had asked. Notice how He treated those who were the outcasts of society. As we look at Jesus, we see the holiness of God in action.
- Read the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus taught us the holiness of God. Spend time in the Sermon on the Mount to see what holiness God expects of us. The Lord says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:20). Jesus spends the rest of the Sermon explaining how our righteousness can exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Read the Sermon. See what Jesus teaches you should be.
- Read to hide the Word in your heart.
I have a little bit of a “problem” with preachers and churches urging daily Bible reading. What?!?! You might think I’ve lost my mind, but I don’t think so. You see, I fear too many Christians spend time reading the Bible without studying and absorbing Scripture; I fear that an emphasis on daily Bible reading gives people the idea that if they read so much Scripture a day, they have “punched their cards.” I want people to know and apply and live the Bible, not simply read a few chapters every day. You see, in the heat of battle, we need to know the Bible. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, the Lord replied, “It is written,” not simply because He had read Scripture but because Scripture had a place in His heart. David says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11).
Yes, spend time reading your Bible (don’t blast me for saying reading the Bible is unimportant – I’m saying you must read your Bible; that’s the only way to put it in your heart), but don’t worry so much about the amount of Scripture you read. Worry about putting that Word in your heart. Worry about living according to the teachings of Scripture. Meditate on the Word. Examine your life in light of holy writ. Prepare your heart for Satan’s wiles by putting the Word in your heart.
- Read with a mind clear of your own ideas.
I’ve been having some interesting discussions with an agnostic homosexual. He tells me that he purchased a New King James Bible, but he quickly tossed it in the trash. Why? Because it said homosexuality was wrong. This fella had a preconceived idea of what Scripture should say and discarded Scripture when the teachings of God conflicted with his morality.
We must do the exact opposite. We don’t need to attempt to make Scripture line up with our ideas; we must line up our ideas with the Word of God. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (Js 1:22-25). Be a doer of the Word. Fulfill the righteousness God expects of you!
Be holy as God is holy. Go to His Word and be holy according to the blessed teachings of our Lord. Tomorrow, we’ll think about the role of prayer in fulfilling our spiritual goals. Until tomorrow, be blessed as you walk with God!