How to Become Holy

Joe Carter: Among God’s characteristics, as he has revealed himself, none is more significant than his holiness (seeLev. 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7). “Holy” and “holiness” occur more than 900 times in Scripture, and both the Old and New Testaments speak more about his holiness than any other attribute. Because of this characteristic God is not able to tolerate our sin. As Habakkuk 1:13 says, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.” Christ does not just save us from our sin, though, he saves us so that we might become holy (Eph. 1:3-4). And as Peter says, “just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Pet. 1:13). “The Bible could not be any clearer,” Kevin DeYoung says, “The reason for your entire salvation, the design behind your deliverance, the purpose for which God chose you in the first place is holiness.” Holiness is associated

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The most important step to becoming more like Jesus Christ

  Mark Altrogge: How do we become more like Christ? By beholding him. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). “In what way do we behold his glory?…It’s the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory. Therefore, to behold his glory we must gaze into the gospel by faith. As we do this, the Spirit will transform us more and more into his likeness.” – Jerry Bridges, Bob Bevington, Bookends for the Christian Life We become like the One we behold in the Word. As we see him stretch out his hand in compassion to heal a leper, we see how we should be compassionate. When we see Jesus have mercy on the woman caught in adultery, we grow in mercy. As we observe Jesus resist the temptations of Satan

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Knowing the Bible Does Not Automatically Make You More Holy

D. A. Carson, “I Am the Truth,” in The God We Worship: Adoring the One Who Pursues, Redeems, and Changes His People, ed. Jonathan L. Master (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2016), 157–58: Knowledge of the Word does not sanctify us by mere education. I have now lived long enough and have belonged to enough professional biblical societies that there are not many front-rank New Testament scholars in the world whom I have not met. Some of them are very brilliant minds indeed. One chap in Germany used to conduct a postdoctoral seminar in which he wanted only a few people, the brightest of the bright. So on the first day, he offered them a test: write out the epistle to the Ephesians in Greek. Well, that got rid of a lot of the less determined, but there were still too many students for the professor’s preference, so the next class was another test: write out the epistle to the Ephesians in

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The Christian life isn’t meant to be effortless

Donald S. Whitney: When we’re born again from above by the Spirit of God, the Lord makes a “new creation” of us (2 Cor 5:17). But when he accomplishes that radical, regenerating transformation of us, he does not eliminate our minds, our bodies, our emotions, our will or anything that’s a part of what makes us human. God’s grace doesn’t eliminate any of those things, instead he gives dramatically new purposes to them. He calls us to live the Christian life with the full — though God-centered — use of our minds and judgment and everything else that is a part of our humanity. Let go and let God? However, many people will tell you that your spiritual problems stem from the fact that you are trying to live the Christian life but that God never intended you to do so. They say that just as God never intended for you to save yourself, so he does not expect you to live

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Gospel transformation

Michael Horton: The gospel transforms us in heart, mind, will, and actions precisely because it is not itself a message about our transformation. Nothing that I am or that I feel, choose, or do qualifies as Good News. On my best days, my experience of transformation is weak, but the gospel is an announcement of a certain state of affairs that exists because of something in God, not something in me; something that God has done, not something that I have done; the love in God’s heart which he has shown in his Son, not the love in my heart that I exhibit in my relationships. Precisely as the Good News of a completed, sufficient, and perfect work of God in Christ accomplished for me and outside of me in history, the gospel is ‘the power of God unto salvation’ not only at the beginning but throughout the Christian life. In fact, our sanctification is simply a lifelong process of

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Applying the truth of the gospel

Erik Raymond: Imagine for a moment that you are part of the 1st Century Philippian church. You are a first generation gospel work that was founded through the ministry of the Apostle Paul. This famously included the “earthquake prison break” followed by the conversion of many people—not the least of which the jailer! The church is young, afflicted, generous, advancing, and still plagued with imperfection. And, here we sit awaiting the reading of a letter from our beloved Apostle Paul. After some prayer and a hymn, one of our elders stands up to read the letter in our gathering. Our ears are glued to his every word as we find ourselves transfixed by this content. Then we are surprised. “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:2) Paul just called out two ladies—by name—and told them to basically “work it out”. I can almost see the pastor who was reading the letter pausing and looking at

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Yes, You Can Please Your Heanvenly Father

Kevin DeYoung: Sometimes Christians can give the impression that pleasing God is a sub-biblical motivation. “We’re totally justified,” someone might say. “We’re totally accepted. If we tell our kids to please God, we are just giving them more law. We are training them to be little moralists. We’re discipling them to think of God as a kind of Santa Claus keeping a naughty-and-nice list.” Obviously (or maybe not so obviously), that’s not how God wants us to parent, because that’s not what God is like with his children. But don’t let the potential abuse of this “pleasing God” language lead you to suppress what Scripture clearly says. One of the principal motivations for holiness is the pleasure of God. Colossians 1:10: Those who bear fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God are pleasing to God. Romans 12:1: Presenting your body as a living sacrifice pleases God. Romans 14:18: Looking out for your weaker brother pleases

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How to deal with indwelling sin

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s testimony to overcomining sexual sin. You can read the whole thing here. This is a wonderful model for dealing with any aspect of indwelling sin: What is the sin of sexual transgression? The sex? The identity? How deep was repentance to go? Meeting John Owen In these newfound struggles, a friend recommended that I read an old, seventeenth-century theologian named John Owen, in a trio of his books (now brought together under the title Overcoming Sin and Temptation). At first, I was offended to realize that what I called “who I am,” John Owen called “indwelling sin.” But I hung in there with him. Owen taught me that sin in the life of a believer manifests itself in three ways: distortion by original sin, distractionof actual day-to-day sin, and discouragement by the daily residence of indwelling sin. Eventually, the concept of indwelling sin provided a window to see how God intended to replace my shame with hope.

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The Necessity of Good Works and Obedience

  A very helpful synopsis from Bradley Green (23-24): 1. Loving or knowing God is linked with obedience (John 14:15, 21,23; 15:10; 1 John 2:3-6; 3:22, 24; 5:3; 2 John 6; Rev. 12:17; 14:12) 2. The ‘conditional’ nature of our future salvation (Rom. 11:22; 1 Cor. 15:2; Heb. 3:6, 14; 4:14) 3. Christians must ‘overcome’ if they are ultimately to be saved (Heb. 10:38-39; Rev. 2:7, 11; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7) 4. The necessity of a great righteousness (Matt. 5:20) 5. The requirement of the law being met ‘in us’ (Rom. 8:3-4) 6. God will efficaciously work ‘in’ us, moving us to obey him (Phil. 2:12-13) 7. The necessity of putting to death the old man, by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:13-14) 8. ‘Faith’ and ‘obedience/works’ used as virtual synonyms (2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17; Rev. 12:17; 14:12; cf. 6:9) 9. We are truly judged, or justified, by our works (Matt. 7:21, 25; Rom. 2:13; cf. Jas.

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Which is better: Justification or Sanctification?

. . Mark Jones: . Why do we love justification and sanctification? And do we love one more than the other? . If you’ve ever been in a position where you think you might die, your theology really begins to matter, and you learn a great deal about yourself and what you believe. . A legalistic type of Christian probably needs to be confronted with the reality that he or she will die. When that reality hits, Christ’s righteousness and God’s mercy are no longer just doctrines to live by, but truths to die by. That is why justification by faith alone is a doctrine worth dying for: people need to die believing that truth. . The Puritan (ahem), Anthony Burgess, while vigorously opposing antinomianism, nevertheless suggested that the doctrine of justification, unlike any other, inclines God’s people to increased humility and self-emptiness, “for by this we are taught even in the highest degree of our sanctification, to look out

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John Owen: What Is Sanctification?

  Sanctification is an immediate work of the Spirit of God on the souls of believers, purifying and cleansing of their natures from the pollution and uncleanness of sin, renewing in them the image of God, and thereby enabling them, from a spiritual and habitual principle of grace, to yield obedience unto God, according unto the tenor and terms of the new covenant, by virtue of the life and death of Jesus Christ. Or more briefly:—It is the universal renovation of our natures by the Holy Spirit into the image of God, through Jesus Christ. The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 3: Pneumatologia: A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 386. (HT: The Old Guys)

How Does the Holy Spirit Actually Produce Change in Us?

  A rich and wise answer from Abraham Kuyper: Dwelling in the elect, the Spirit does not slumber, nor does He keep an eternal Sabbath, in idleness shutting Himself up in their hearts; but as divine Worker He seeks from within to fill their individual persons, pouring the stream of His divine brightness through every space. But we should not imagine that every believer is instantly filled and permeated. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit finds him filled with all manner of evil and treachery. . . . His method of procedure is not with divine power to force a man as though he were a stock or block, but by the power of love and compassion so to influence and energize the impulses of the feeble will that it feels the effect, is inclined, and finally consents to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. . . . This operation is different in each person. In one it proceeds

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Three Ways Our Deeds Relate to Our Salvation

  John Piper: One effect of close attention to Scripture is that sweeping generalizations become problematic. This is notably true of the way our works (including our attitudes and words and behavior) relate to our salvation. The biblical texts relating to this issue are many and diverse, but not contradictory. If you take any one of them and treat it as the whole picture, you will almost surely lead people astray. For example, Paul rejoices that we are “justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). I take that to mean that anything we bring to Christ other than faith has no part in the ground (Christ) or the instrument (faith) of our justification. This is a glorious truth, and our life hangs on it. But if we carelessly speak of justification as having no relationship to works, or if we generalize about salvation being apart from works of the law, we lead people away from the

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Am I Getting Worse?

  Eric Costa: Christian, if you are truly growing in God’s grace, it is normal to feel worse about yourself as time progresses. This does not mean you are actually getting worse. This is biblical sanctification, and you can even be encouraged that you’re noticing this about yourself! The image above is a diagram created by Jack Miller called “the Cross Chart,” and it is one helpful way of understanding growth in the Christian life. As you grow, your estimation of God’s holiness increases, your estimation of yourself decreases, and your appreciation for the Gospel of grace expands to fill the gap. These three things are not objectively changing, but your awareness of them is. (If you leave off or distort one of those three elements of the chart, you’re in trouble.) It can be extremely discouraging to fixate on that bottom line, the decreasing estimation of oneself. Over time, God works against our self-deception, lifts our self-imposed blindness to

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Only Jesus Is Enough

Eric Costa: We don’t often live with a functional understanding of biblical justification and sanctification. We often try—usually subconsciously—to attain feelings of assurance, satisfaction, or righteousness in our sanctification. “If I can perfectly confess and repent of this sin… If I can just figure out how to change my life in this way… If I can just achieve a certain level of sanctification, then it will be enough.” We can invest a lot of hope and effort in our sanctification in order to obtain what we’re only supposed to get from our justification: that joyful sense of assurance, satisfaction, and righteousness that comes vicariously through Jesus Christ, by his grace alone. You cannot truly and perfectly diagnose your own sin, in order to feel that “enough-ness” about your confession and repentance. You cannot understand how you’re supposed to change to the degree where you will feel that “enough-ness” about your sanctification. What you can achieve will never be enough. You’re

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Sanctifying Success is the Lord’s

Jared Wison: Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Not a single one of us is a perfect repenter. And not a single one of us ever will be. I do believe we cooperate in the work of our sanctification, working out what God has worked in (Phil. 2:12-13), striving to lay hold of the holiness with which God has already laid hold of us (Phil. 3:12), holding true to what we’ve already attained (Phil. 3:16), but the power and the success of sanctification must be the Lord’s alone, if only because only he sees all we need cleansing from. It is a mistake to think that as we progress in sanctification we have less sin to address. We walk through victories, successions of freedoms, but my experience has been that the further

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A richer degree of the Holy Spirit

“All that we spiritually know of ourselves, all that we know of God and of Jesus and his Word, we owe to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. And all the real light, sanctification, strength and comfort we are made to possess on our way to glory we must ascribe to him. To be richly anointed with the Spirit is to be led into all truth, and to be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with love to God and man. . . . God has never revoked this gift. He has never removed his Spirit from the church. He is still her divine, personal and abiding Resident. . . . But for a larger degree of his reviving, anointing and sanctifying influences we do most earnestly plead. The Spirit, though the ever-blessed and abiding occupant of the church of Christ and of the individual believer, may not always be manifestly present. The prayerless, unholy and trifling walk

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How the gospel changes everything

Sam Storms: In a recent editorial for the on-line theological journal, Themelios, (“Do the Work of an Evangelist,” 39, 1, April 2014), D. A. Carson had some interesting remarks on the nature of the Christian gospel. “For some Christians, ‘the gospel’ . . . is something you preach only to unconverted people. The gospel merely tips people into the kingdom; transformation and sanctification are sustained by discipleship. Once people become Christians, then the work of life transformation begins, often buttressed by various discipleship seminars: ‘Biblical Leadership,’ ‘Learning to Pray,’ ‘What to Do with Your Money,’ ‘Christian Marriage,’ and so forth—none of which falls under ‘gospel,’ but only under post-gospel discipleship. In recent years, however, many preachers and theologians have convincingly argued that ‘gospel’/’evangel’ is the larger category under which both evangelism and discipleship fall. In the NT, gospel is not everything—it is not law, for instance—but it is a very big thing, precisely because it is the unimaginably great news

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How we overcome

D. A. Carson: How dare you approach the mercy-seat of God on the basis of what kind of day you had, as if that were the basis for our entrance into the presence of the sovereign and holy God? No wonder we cannot beat the Devil. This is works theology. It has nothing to do with grace and the exclusive sufficiency of Christ. Nothing. Do you not understand that we overcome the accuser on the ground of the blood of Christ? Nothing more, nothing less. That is how we win. It is the only way we win. This is the only ground of our acceptance before God. If you drift far from the cross, you are done. You are defeated. We overcome the accuser of our brothers and sisters, we overcome our consciences, we overcome our bad tempers, we overcome our defeats, we overcome our lusts, we overcome our fears, we overcome our pettiness on the basis of the blood

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