|HOLINESS - OBEDIENCE - NOT VICTORY
HIS GLORY REIGNS
May 29 2009 08:00 AM
God has made provision for our holiness and He has also given us a responsibility for it. God's provision for us consists
in delivering us from the reign of sin, uniting us with Christ, and giving us the indwelling Holy Spirit to reveal sin, to
create a desire for holiness, and to strengthen us in our pursuit of holiness. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and
according to the new nature He gives, we are to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:13).
Though it is the Spirit who enables us to put to death our corruptions, yet Paul says this is our action as well. The very
same work is from one point of view the work of the Spirit, and from another the work of man.
Let's look now at our responsibility for pursuing holiness - "...but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [put to death] the
deeds of the body, ye shall live." (Romans 8:13)
It is clear from this passage that God puts responsibility for living a holy life squarely on us. We are to do something.
We are not to "stop trying and start trusting"; we are to put to death the misdeeds of the body. Over and over again in
the epistles - not only Paul's, but the other apostles' as well - we are commanded to assume our responsibility for a holy
walk. Paul exhorted, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature." (Colossians 3:5). This is
something we are told to do.
The writer of Hebrews said, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us
lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before
us..." (Hebrews 12:1). He says let us throw off the sin and let us run with perseverance. Clearly he expects us to
assume responsibility for running the Christian race. James said, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil,
and he will flee from you." (James 4:7). It is we who are to submit to God and resist the devil. This is our responsibility.
Peter said, "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace,
without spot, and blameless." (II Peter 3:14). The clause make every effort addresses itself to our wills. It is something
we must decide to do.
During a certain period in my (Jerry Bridges) Christian life, I thought that any effort on my part to live a holy life was "of
the flesh" and that "the flesh profits for nothing." I thought God would not bless any effort on my part to live the
Christian life, just as He would not bless any effort on my part to become a Christian by good works. Just as I received
Christ Jesus by faith, so I was to seek a holy life only by faith. Any effort on my part was just getting in God's way. I
misapplied the statement, "Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of
the LORD with you..." (II Chronicles 20:17), to mean that I was just to turn all over to the Lord and He would fight the sin
in my life. In fact, in the margin of the Bible I was using during that period, I wrote alongside the verse these words:
"Illustration of walking in the Spirit."
How foolish I was. I misconstrued dependence on the Holy Spirit to mean I was to make no effort, that I had no
responsibility. I mistakenly thought if I turned it all over to the Lord, He would make my choices for me and would
choose obedience over disobedience. All I needed was to look to Him for holiness. But this is not God's way. He
makes provision for our holiness, but He gives us the responsibility of using those provisions.
The Holy Spirit has been given to all Christians. We must rely on the Spirit in our putting to death the deeds of the
body. As Lloyd-Jones observes in his exposition of Romans 8:13, it is the Holy Spirit who "differentiates Christianity
from morality, from 'legalism' and false Puritanism." But our reliance on the Spirit is not intended to foster an attitude of
"I can't do it," but one of "I can do it through Him who strengthens me." The Christian should never complain of want of
ability and power. If we sin, it is because we choose to sin, not because we lack the ability to say no to temptation.
It is time for us Christians to face up to our responsibility for holiness. Too often we say we are "defeated" by this or
that sin. No, we are not defeated: we are simply disobedient! It might be good if we stopped using the terms "victory"
and "defeat" to describe our progress in holiness. Rather we should use the terms "obedience" and "disobedience."
When I say I am defeated by some sin, I am unconsciously slipping out from under my responsibility. I am saying
something outside of me has defeated me. But when I say I am disobedient, that places the responsibility for my sin
squarely on me. We may, in fact, be defeated but the reason we are defeated is because we have chosen to disobey.
We have chosen to entertain lustful thoughts, or to harbor resentment, or to shade the truth a little.
We need to brace ourselves up and to realize that we are responsible for our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We
need to reckon on the fact that we died to sin's reign, that it no longer has any dominion over us, that God has united
us with the risen Christ in all His power, and has given us the Holy Spirit to work in us. Only as we accept our
responsibility and appropriate God's provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.
The Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges, Copyright 2006, NAVPRESS.
|LIFE IN JESUS-MINISTRIES