|vol 4 no 5||March 14, 1999|
AS THOSE WHO HAVE experienced the "new birth" (1 Pet 1:3), Christians are expected to live on a higher moral plane than the ungodly citizens of the world. The life style expected of us is called "holy living".
According to Vine's Dictionary of New Testament Words, holiness (or sanctification) "signifies separation to God. It is the state predetermined by God for believers, into which in grace He calls them, and in which they begin their Christian course and so pursue it." "Believers are to be 'perfecting holiness in the fear of God' (2 Cor 7:1), i.e., bringing holiness to its predestined end, whereby they may be found 'unblamable in holiness' in the Parousia (second coming) of Christ" (Thess 3:13).
The lifestyle of holiness is not one of arrogance or one that should be chosen simply out of a desire to be different. According to the definition is an effort on our part to fit into the plan of God for our lives.
The call of Jesus to live a holy life is a call to nobility. But it is also a call to a strenuous life. Christianity is not a leisurely lifestyle designed for wimps, cowards and unmotivated sloths. It is an obstacle course designed for those who are prepared and hardened for the task. In fulfilling this holy calling we will be required to put forth an all inclusive spiritual, mental and even physical effort. Note from our text Peter's list of demands.
The KJV says: ". . . gird up the loins of your mind . . ." The imagery is of the ancient oriental who wore loose, flowing robes, so that, in order to run, fight, or apply themselves to any work, it was necessary to bind the garments close around the waist. If we are to get any serious work done in God's vineyard we must be mentally prepared to get down to business. We must have our minds in constant preparation to discharge the duties, or to endure the trials of life -- like those who were prepared for labor, for a race, or for a conflict. Let us, therefore, set our minds to the task of holiness.
The need for Christians to exercise self-control or to be of sober mind is often mentioned in the New Testament ( 1 Thess 5:6; 1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:8; 2:2,6; 1 Pet 4:7; 5:8). The word means to be free from intoxicants, but is used metaphorically in the New Testament to refer to self control, thinking soberly, and is often used in connection with watchfulness. There are many things that can intoxicate our minds and render us useless in serving God. Such things as pride, self-will, arrogance, greed, revenge, hate, slothfulness, lust, etc. We must constantly be on guard against those things which would weaken our resolve to be faithful, take our minds off the goal or convince us that there is some better or easier way. The way of spiritual self-discipline is not the way of the world, but it is the only way to make it to heaven. When Jesus said; "But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matt 7:14), I believe the few he had in mind are those who exercise enough self-control to attain holiness in God's sight.
Another requirement of holiness is a strong, complete and never failing hope. Our hope for heaven is secure and well grounded because it is based on the unchangeable nature of God. In speaking of this foundation, the writer of Hebrews says: "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (Heb 6:19). The hope is available, but not everyone has taken hold of it. Even some Christians are not firm in their hope for heaven. Thus, they are weak and susceptible to temptation. Just as the writer of the book of Hebrews appeals to God's history of keeping promises with Abraham and others as the basis for their faith, we must also be familiar with the history of God's dealings with mankind and that awareness will work toward bolstering our own hope. If it is your hope (desire, plus expectation) to live with God in heaven when this life is over, it will then be much easier for you to live holy.
Holiness requires that we obey God's commands, recognizing a need to pull away from ignorance and evil (two constant companions). Romans 12:1,2 states; " . . . offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." What patterns of living did you have to break in order to become a Christian? What patterns of living should you now break in order to attain the level of holiness that God requires of you?
Finally, God both challenges and encourages us with the reminder that he is holy, and becoming so ourselves makes us more like him. In the very beginning God created us in His image. Part of that image, I believe, is the ability to attain holiness. Even though our holiness is attained though the shed blood of Jesus, we must still live a lifestyle which reflects that holiness. And this we can do if the ultimate goal of holiness (i.e. heaven) means more to us than anything else this life has to offer.