Here’s a thinker for you …
Let’s suppose there is a couple who is living together. They’re not married, they don’t know Christ, and they aren’t following God’s plan for their lives.
Then, one of them (let’s make it the guy) gets invited to a small group or men’s ministry meeting. He hears the Gospel and trusts Jesus. Then, he returns home, goes to sleep and wakes up with his partner with whom he is certainly not serving God.
Question: Is this guy holy?
Well, YES … and NOT YET.
He’s holy because he has been joined to Christ. Just like we learned last week from Romans 6.1-11 in our lesson on “particular” holiness, those who have trusted in Jesus can say that they are holy because they’ve been joined to the death, burial and resurrection life of Jesus! Romans 5 tells us that, like a judge, God has changed our status or position. The minute we trust in Christ we’re declared righteous before God, based on Jesus and His work. But, Romans 6 tells us God has also changed our condition. Like a surgeon, God has gone into us and changed something about our moral condition.
The guy in our story has been freed from the Power of Sin. He doesn’t have to sin anymore! But … He is not yet free of the Practice of Sin. And, frankly, like the rest of us, he won’t be entirely free from the practice of sin until he’s with Jesus. He needs to grow.
This week in our study on Holiness Present we’re asking: what is my part in the pursuit of holiness? The answer(s) are a scatter-shot gathered from all over the New Testament. They’re like a kind of irreducible complexity: you can say more than what we’ll say, but I don’t think you can say less.
We’ll drill down into the first answer, reference the others and let you discuss them with your small group or family.
- Holiness Present begins at conversion and is the process in which the Christian practically separates from sin and YIELDS herself to God (Romans 6.12-14).
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions (Romans 6.12, ESV). Notice the heart-language here. The business of growing in holiness is a battle for our desires. And it’s a battle for what we want in the moment.
Imagine you’ve just settled down to watch the Packers. And then, at the opening kickoff, you remember that the kitchen is full of dirty dishes, and in the economy of your home that means you need to do the dishes. What do you want most in the moment? I bet you’d know the right thing to do and even what is best for you, but I also bet you’d actually follow your immediate desires.
Holiness is about growing strong desires for righteousness that we follow each moment. Sin doesn’t reign in us anymore. We have a new Master, and our desire to serve Him grows and overwhelms our desires for our former practices.
That’s still a struggle, isn’t it? But, the growing Christian who has been made holy in the past will make progress in the present, as he yields to God who helps him.
J.C. Ryle, in his book Holiness, writes of this struggle: Are we conscious of two principles within us, contending for the mastery? Do we feel anything of war in our inward man? Well, let us thank God for it! It is a good sign. It is strongly probable evidence of the great work of sanctification. All true saints are soldiers.
Here’s six more truths about Holiness Present, along with verses to look up. They’re all about the ways that we make progress in holiness as we aggressively put ourselves in the place to be changed by God. They’d make a great study, for individual or group study:
- Holiness Present involves the work of the Spirit who FILLS and controls the Christian (Acts 4.7-8; 13.52; Eph 5.17-19).
- Holiness Present requires active PARTICIPATION from the Christian who depends on the Spirit to change her heart (Romans 8.13-14; 12.1-2; 2 Cor 7.1; Phil 2.12-13).
- Holiness Present affects the whole PERSON: the intellect (2 Cor 10.5; Col 1.9-10), the emotions (Gal 5.22), the will (Rm 13.14) and the body (1 Cor 9.27).
- Since the Christian will not be without sin till he is in Christ’s presence (Rm 6.12-13), Holiness Present will not be COMPLETED in this life (Gal 5.17; Phil 3.20-21).
- The Spirit works through MEANS: Bible study (2 Tim 3.16), prayer (1 These 5.17), meditation on the Gospel (Phil 3.8-11) and endurance in suffering (2 Cor 1.3-4).
- The ultimate goal of Holiness Present is conformity to the IMAGE OF CHRIST (2 Cor 3.18; 1 Jn 3.2-3).
So, what is my part in the pursuit of holiness?
My part in the pursuit of holiness is to yield myself increasingly to God, becoming more like Jesus in His perfect obedience, until I’m with the Lord.
Take some time to discuss Holiness Present with someone else: Which of the seven truths above do you find to be most significant or helpful for you?
Can you point to moments or periods of time in your walk with Christ when that truth helped you?
Next week, we’ll consider where all this is going. We’ll discuss the end of holiness—Holiness Yet To Come (1 Cor 15.20-23).