Be Holy/Part 1

By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2000
Dr. Ankerberg describes three specific truths about holiness that will impact every Christian’s life.

“Be Holy”—Part One

We have been examining God’s solutions to the battles that Christians fight within, that is, their own sinful desires and habits, and the fight without—circumstances, other people, the world, and temptations.

Now I want to talk to you about three of the most important questions any Christian could ask. First: “How does God lovingly motivate every Christian to progress in holiness?” Second: “Why is daily repentance so important for all of us in living the Christian life?” And third: “Why is totally surrendering our lives to God the only way to really experience life?”

Now, you don’t hear a lot from preachers today concerning holiness, repentance and total surrender to God. It’s not because you don’t find a lot of information about these in Scripture. The Bible is loaded with information about these topics.

Most likely, the reason you don’t hear anything about these topics is that it’s not very popular to speak on holiness, repentance and surrendering to God. Sadly, the Christian church today seems to prefer hearing about success and positive feelings, getting health, wealth, freedom from care, good sex and happy families.

Take heart that if the God of the Bible calls us to holiness, true repentance and totally surrendering ourselves to Him, it must be for our good. If you belong to Him, then out of love and respect to God at least listen to what He has to say. It may change your life.

Well, let’s begin with holiness. What is it? This summer we spent two weeks away on a family vacation. My two sisters and their families, my mother, my wife Darlene, my daughter Michelle and I all got together. Every day for devotions, we told our five children, who ranged in age from eleven to nineteen, that they could pick any topic or question they wanted to talk about one day, and the next day it would be the adults’ turn to pick a topic and so on through the two weeks. One day the question came up, “What is holiness?”

Here’s how Uncle John answered this one. I put three glasses of water before them and said, “If you had been outside playing volleyball, were hot and sweaty and came in wanting a cool drink of water, which of these three glasses of water would you choose to drink from?” In one glass I had put some water that I had taken from a lagoon. It was slimy, green and dirty. It looked and smelled terrible. In the second glass, I put some grape juice and milk, then mustard, ketchup, black pepper, oregano, and castor oil. In the third glass I put crystal clear water. Which do you think they picked?

Well, obviously they all picked the glass with the pure water in it. So I took that glass and moved it over to the side and I said, “Okay, if you were choosing, you would take this glass with the clear, pure water in it. So let’s take it and make it holy—that is, let’s separate it from the two glasses with the dirty, contaminated water in it.”

This is what the word holy means. It means to separate something or someone from sin unto God. You’re actually set aside for God’s use.

Now, the doctrine of holiness is made up of three specific truths; first, our positional holiness; second, our experiential holiness, and third, our ultimate holiness.

Positional Holiness

What does Scripture teach about our positional holiness? The moment we put our faith in Jesus Christ and ask Him to forgive our sins, according to Romans chapter 4, God makes a wonderful legal declaration about us, declaring that we are justified, that is, free from the penalty of all of our sins for all eternity. He will never hold those sins against us and punish us in hell because of what we have done. He gives us total forgiveness as a gift. God can give us this gift because Jesus paid for it when He died on the cross. At that time He took our sins upon Himself and paid the penalty that we deserved.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “Christ became sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” So, God forgave us our sins and declared us justified.

But at the same time God justified us, He also gave us a new identity, a new status—a new standing before Him in holiness and righteousness. This holy standing before Him was also a gift. It means we don’t have to perform good deeds to gain God’s love and accep­tance. But here is a question for you. How righteous are we in God’s sight as we stand before Him? Well, we all know that while Jesus lived here on earth, He lived a perfect life. He never sinned once. According to the Bible, the track record of Jesus Christ, His perfect life, was imputed or credited from Jesus’ account to ours when we put our faith in Christ. God gave us this position, this standing, before Him as a gift. So we stand before Him each day as absolutely holy and righteous in our new position. How do I know this?

Hebrews 10:10 tells us that all who have put their faith in Jesus “have been made holy…once for all.” Here is our position before God. The Bible says we have already been made completely holy by God once for all. He has separated us unto Himself. We are His. We belong to Him. He has made it an unchanging fact that we will forever stand before Him as perfect, holy, and righteous. But then in the very same chapter we see the second part of holiness, our experiential holiness.

Experiential Holiness

Hebrews 10:14 says, “By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those [that’s us] who are being made holy.”

So in the same Bible verse we who are already holy are also in the process of being made holy. In brief, because God has graciously given us our new identity and status as a gift, He then asks us to start living out and enjoying our new identity and status that He has given to us.

1 Peter 1:15 tells us, “But just as God who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, ‘Be holy because I am holy.’”

Paul says something similar in 2 Timothy 1:9. Paul writes, God has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done, but because of His own purpose and grace.

Now, always remember this: Holiness starts with God’s calling us to Himself and saving us. Before you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you were convicted of your sins. That was God lovingly drawing you to Himself. As a result, you decided to put your faith in Christ, and entered into a relationship with God in which He immediately forgave you of all your sins forever, and also gave you your new status of perfect holiness.

But then, because He has done all of this for us and because we belong to Him and are fellowshipping with Him, He asks us to live like Him in every part of our life. So God first makes us holy and then He says, “Separate yourself unto me.” Just like this glass of water, you are to purify yourselves, set yourselves apart for God’s use. As you do, you will come to know God in an even more intimate way, and you will be a Christian God will use to represent Him to the world.

By the way, has anyone ever called you a saint? Well, according to Scripture, if you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you are a saint positionally. God made you one. The word saint means, “a holy one, a person who is set apart for God’s use.” Now, sainthood is not at­tained by you or me doing great works. That’s the world’s definition. Biblically, sainthood is a state into which God in grace places every believer. Then God asks His saints to cooper­ate with Him, to sanctify or separate themselves, to make themselves pure for His use, and live up to the status He has given them. Now, before you get off the track telling me how hard it is for you to live holy, let me tell you a secret. When you placed your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, God did something wonderful to you.

In Ezekiel 36:26 God said, “I will give you a new spirit and [in addition] I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

According to this verse, when we believed on Christ, God gave us a new spirit, that is, a new spiritual nature. In addition, He gave us the Holy Spirit who took up residence in our life.

Further, God says in Jeremiah 31:33, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.”

Now, here’s the secret. When you placed your faith in Christ, God gave you a new spiritual nature which inherently desires to love and obey God. As the Bible says, your new heart “is careful to keep God’s laws.” The Holy Spirit who takes up residence in your life also moves you to live purely, righteously, and to love God. You’ll never be the same again because you have been given a new nature that loves God and wants to obey Him. Now, that doesn’t mean you’ll never sin again. No.

According to Romans 6 and 7, because of your old nature still being present, even though it has lost its legal position of mastery over you when you became a Christian, you will still be tempted to sin. But if you sin now, your new nature and the Holy Spirit will bother you, will convict you, and will make you feel miserable. This struggle is described by the Apostle Paul in Romans 7 and Galatians 5.

But 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” That is, your true self, your new spiritual nature will always want to obey God—when all is said and done. That doesn’t mean you will, but you will be drawn that way by your new heart that God has given you. Romans 7 and 8 show that even Christians who have a new heart, a new spiritual nature, will be defeated if they try to live the Christian life in their own strength—their own self-effort. Victory comes when we turn to and depend on the Holy Spirit to live the way we should.

Ultimate Holiness

Then the third biblical truth concerning holiness is our ultimate holiness. While living on this earth, none of us will experience total experiential holiness. The Apostle Paul, at the end of his life, denied that he had “arrived” or was totally holy or perfect in his walk with the Lord.

In Philippians 3:12,13 he said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.”

Only when we die and go into Christ’s presence will we experience total, complete holiness in our existence. But today, God asks us to live as holy as we can so that we can draw closer to Him, to know Him better, to be more like Him, to walk with Him in everyday life.

Isn’t it exciting that God wants us to have a deep relationship with Him? But remember, we cannot walk with God in our own self effort. God makes even our walk with Him pos­sible by giving us the Holy Spirit to help us conquer the sinful desires in our life, to meet temptations, and to face the tough situations.

Read Part 2

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