|HOLINESS - HELP IN THE DAILY BATTLE
HIS GLORY REIGNS
May 29 2009 08:00 AM
"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto
God through Jesus Christ our Lord"
God has delivered us from the realm and reign of sin through union with Christ in His death. We were slaves to sin and
in slavery we committed sins. We developed sinful habits regardless of how "good" we were. But Jesus Christ came
into this sinful world and took our place on Calvary. He died to sin and through our union with Him we died to sin also.
Now we are freed from sin's reign; we are no longer its slaves. We are to count on this fact and resist sin so that it does
not reign in our mortal bodies.
Sin still lives within us, waging its "guerrilla warfare" through evil desires and deceiving our minds. "What good does it
do," you may ask, "to be told that the war with sin was won by Christ in His death on the cross if I am still harassed and
often defeated by sin in my heart?
To experience practical, everyday holiness, we must accept the fact that God in His infinite wisdom has seen fit to allow
this daily battle with indwelling sin. But God does not leave us to do battle alone. Just as He delivered us from the
overall reign of sin, so He has made ample provision for us to win the daily skirmishes against sin.
This brings us to the second point in Romans 6:11 that we are to count on and keep before us. We are not only dead
to sin, we also are alive to God. We have not only been delivered from the dominion of darkness, we also have been
brought into the kingdom of Christ. Paul said we have become slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18). God does not
leave us suspended in a state of neutrality. He delivers us from sin's reign into the reign of His Son.
What is the significance of being alive unto God? How does it help us in our pursuit of holiness? For one thing, it
means we are united with Christ in all His power. It is certainly true we cannot live a holy life in our own strength.
Christianity is not a do-it-yourself thing.
Notice the attitude of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:11-13. He is talking about how he has learned to be content
whatever the circumstances, whether plenty or want, whether well-fed or hungry. He says he can respond this way
through Christ, who gives him strength. How does this apply to holiness? Our reactions to circumstances are a part of
our walk of holiness. Holiness is not a series of do's and don'ts, but conformity to the character of God and obedience
to the will of God. Accepting with contentment whatever circumstances God allows for me is very much a part of a holy
But notice that Paul said he could respond in contentment because Christ gave the strength to do so. We see this
again where Paul said he prayed that the Colossians would be "Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious
power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness." (Colossians 1:11). Where does endurance and patience
come from? They come as we are strengthened with God's power.
Consider again another prayer Paul described in his letter to the Ephesians. He said he was praying for them "That he
would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man."
(Ephesians 3:16). He concluded the prayer by acknowledging that God, "...is able to do exceeding abundantly above all
that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." (Ephesians 3:20).
This is the first implication we should grasp of being "alive unto God." We are united with the One who is at work in us
to strengthen us with His mighty power. We have all known the awful sense of hopelessness caused by sin's power.
We have resolved scores of times never to give in again to a particular temptation, and yet we do. Then Satan comes
to us and says, "You might as well give up. You can never overcome that sin." It is true that in ourselves we cannot.
But we are alive to God, united to Him who will strengthen us. By reckoning on this fact - counting it to be true - we will
experience the strength we need to fight that temptation.
Only as we reckon on these twin facts - that I am dead to sin and its reign over me and that I am alive to God, united to
Him who strengthens me - can I keep sin from reigning in my mortal body.
This is not theoretical teaching, something to be placed on the library shelves of our minds and admired, but of no
practical value in the battle for holiness. To count on the fact that we are dead to sin and alive to God is something we
must do actively.
To do it we must form the habit of continually realizing that we are dead to sin and alive to God. Practically speaking,
we do this when, by faith in God's Word, we resist sin's advances and temptations. We count on the fact that we are
alive to God when by faith we look to Christ for the power we need to do the resisting. Faith, however, must always be
based on fact, and Romans 6:11 is a fact for us.
A second implication of being alive to God is that He has given us His Holy Spirit to live within us. Actually this is not a
second result, but another way of looking at our union with Christ, for His Spirit is the agent of this union. It is He who
gives spiritual life and the strength to live that life (Romans 8:9-11). It is the Spirit of God who works in us that we may
decide and act according to God's good purpose (Philippians 2:13).
Paul said, "For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not
man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit." (I Thessalonians 4:7-8). Here Paul connects the giving of
the Holy Spirit, and He is sent primarily to make us holy - to conform us to the character of God. The connection of
these two thoughts, the Holy Spirit and a holy life, is also found in other passages. For example, we are told to flee
sexual immorality because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:18-19). We are also told that we
are controlled not by our sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in us (Romans 8:9). We read, "Live by
the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (Galatians 5:16).
Why do we have the Holy Spirit living within us to strengthen us toward holiness? It is because we are alive to God. We
are now living under the reign of God, who unites us to Christ and gives us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us.
The Holy Spirit strengthens us to holiness first by enabling us to see our need of holiness. He enlightens our
understanding so that we begin to see God's standard of holiness. Then he causes us to become aware of our specific
areas of sin. One of Satan's most powerful weapons is making us spiritually blind - unable to see our sinful character.
The Bible says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search
the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings."
(Jeremiah 17:9-10). No one can understand it and expose it except the Holy Spirit.
Even Christians taking in the teaching of the Bible can be deceived about their own sins. We somehow feel that
consent to the teaching of Scripture is equivalent to obedience. We may hear a point of application in a sermon or
perhaps discover it in our own personal Bible reading or study. We say, "Yes that is true; that is something I need to act
on." But we let it drop at that point. James says when we do that, we deceive ourselves (James 1:22).
As we grow in the Christian life we face increasing danger of spiritual pride. We know the correct doctrines, the right
methods and the proper do's and don'ts. But we may not see the poverty of our own spiritual character. We may not
see our critical and unforgiving spirit, our habit of backbiting, or our tendency to judge others. We may become like the
Laodiceans of whom our Lord said, "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not
realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:17).
David was like this when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband murdered to cover his first
sin (II Samuel 12:1-13). Was he repentant and humbled over his despicable acts? Not at all. In fact, he was ready to
judge another man for a far lesser crime and to condemn him to death (verse 5). How could he do this? Because he
was spiritually blind. It was not till Nathan the prophet said to David, "You are the man!" that David was able to see the
awful heinousness of his crime.
It is the Holy Spirit's ministry to make us see that we are poverty-stricken because of our sins. He comes to us and
says, "You are the man!" Even though such a message may come from the loving, caring lips of a brother in Christ, it is
the Holy Spirit who enables us to accept it and to say as David did,"I have sinned against the Lord." The Holy Spirit
opens the inner recesses of our hearts and enables us to see the moral cesspools hidden there. This is where He
begins His ministry of making us holy.
The natural result of seeing God's standard and our sinfulness is the awakening within us of a desire to be holy. This is
also the ministry of the Holy Spirit as He works to make us holy. We are sorry for our sins with a godly sorrow that leads
to repentance (II Corinthians 7:10). We say with David, "Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from
my sin....Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Psalm 51:2,7).
Paul said, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13). Before we
can act we must will. To will means to desire and resolve. When the Holy Spirit shows us our sinfulness, He does not
do this to lead us to despair but to lead us to holiness. He does this by creating within us a hatred of our sins and a
desire for holiness.
Only one who has a strong desire to be holy will ever persevere in the painfully slow and difficult task of pursuing
holiness. There are too many failures. The habits of our old nature and the attacks of Satan are too strong for us to
persevere unless the Holy Spirit is at work in us to create a desire for holiness.
The Holy Spirit creates this desire, not only by showing us our sins, but also by showing us God's standard of holiness.
He does this through the Scriptures. As we read and study the Scriptures or hear them taught, we are captivated by the
moral beauty of God's standard of holiness. Even though His standard may seem far beyond us, we recognize and
respond to that which is "holy, righteous, and good" (Roman 7:12). Even though we fail so often, in our inner being we
"delight in God's law" (Romans 7:22).
Here then is another distinction we must make between what God does and what we must do. If the Holy Spirit uses
Scripture to show us our need and to stimulate a desire for holiness, then doesn't it follow that we must be in God's
Word on a consistent basis? Should we not go to the Word, whether to hear it preached or to do our own study, with
the prayer that the Holy Spirit would search our hearts for any sin in us? (Psalm 139:23-24).
After the Holy Spirit has enabled us to see our need and created within us a desire for holiness, there remains
something more that He must do. He must give us the spiritual strength to live a holy life. Paul said, "This I say then,
Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16). To live by the Spirit is to live both in
obedience to and dependence on the Holy Spirit. There is a balance then between our wills (expressed by obedience)
and our faith (expressed by our dependence). But at this point we are considering the aspect of our dependence on
the Holy Spirit.
No one overcomes the corruptions of his heart except by the enabling strength of the Spirit of God. Peter said that God
has given us "...exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature,
having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (II Peter 1:4). Through participation in the divine
nature we escape corruption - and this participation is through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
We express our dependence on the Holy Spirit for a holy life in two ways. The first is through a humble and
consistent intake of the Scripture. If we truly desire to live in the realm of the Spirit we must continually feed our
minds with His truth. It is hypocritical to pray for victory over our sins yet be careless in our intake of the Word of God.
It is possible, though, to be consistent in our intake of the Word of God without an attitude of dependence on the Holy
Spirit. God says, "...but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my
word." (Isaiah 66.2).
We are to come to the Word in a spirit of humility and contrition because we recognize that we are sinful, that we are
often blind to our sinfulness, and that we need the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
The second way we express our dependence on the Spirit is to pray for holiness. The apostle Paul prayed continually
for the working of God's Spirit in the lives of those to whom he was writing. He told the Ephesians that he prayed God
would "...grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man."
(Ephesians 3:16). He prayed that God would fill the Colossians "with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual
wisdom and understanding" so that they might "...be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual
understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing
in the knowledge of God." (Colossians 1:9-10)
He wrote to the Thessalonians, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and
soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Thessalonians 5:23); and, "...the
Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To
the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord
Jesus Christ with all his saints." ((I Thessalonians 3:12-13). Clearly the apostle Paul knew we depend on the Holy Spirit
for holiness, and he expressed this dependence through prayer.
As a young Christian I (Jerry Bridges) had the idea that all I had to do to live a holy life was to find out from the Bible
what God wanted me to do and go do it. Christians with maturity will smile at this naive assumption, but I see younger
Christians starting off with the same air of self-confidence. We have to learn that we are dependent upon the enabling
power of the Holy Spirit to attain any degree of holiness. Then, as we look to Him, we will see Him working in us -
revealing our sin, creating a desire for holiness, and giving us the strength to respond to Him in obedience.
The Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges, Copyright 2006, NAVPRESS.
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