5 Ways to Pursue Holiness

Josh Moody: In the early 19th century, a group of evangelical ministers gathered regularly to discuss how to grow in holiness. Over the course of their meetings, the Eclectic Society included famous ministers such as John Newton and Charles Simeon. The group discussed a wide range of topics, including “What is the nature, evil, and remedy of schism?” and “What can be done at the present moment to counteract the designs of infidels against Christianity?” On June 22, 1812, the group posed the question, “What is Scripture’s view of growth in grace?” Rev. C. R. Pritchett answered, 1. It is entirely of God. 2. It arises from an intimate and vital union with Christ. 3. It is produced and carried on by the constant and immediate agency of the Holy Spirit. When was the last time we had a similar conversation about holiness? When was the last time our churches heard an exhortation to holiness akin to William Law’s Serious Call? We’ve

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No Holiness, No Heaven

How to Know If Faith Is Real or Dead Greg Morse: No one will be in heaven who did not walk in good works on earth. In other words, and in the words of Hebrews 12:14, there is a “holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Abbreviated, “no holiness, no heaven.” In directness, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26 NASB). In confession, “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love” (Westminster Confession). In commandment: “Work out [literally, produce] your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). In illustration: “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away . . . and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:2, 6). In lyric, “He leads me in paths of

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How Scripture Empowers Personal Holiness

John MacArthur: Becoming More like God Godliness, Christlikeness, and Christian spirituality all describe a Christian becoming more like God. The most powerful way to effect this change is by letting the Word of God dwell in one richly (Col. 3:16). When one embraces Scripture without reservation, it will energetically work God’s will in the believer’s life (1 Thess. 2:13). The process could be basically defined as follows: Christian spirituality involves growing to be like God in character and conduct by personally submitting to the transforming work of God’s Word and God’s Spirit. Holiness Embodies the Very Essence of Christianity Christians have been saved to be holy and to live holy lives (1 Pet. 1:14–16). What does it mean to be holy? Both the Hebrew and Greek words for “to be holy” (which appear about two thousand times in Scripture) basically mean “to be set aside for something special.” Thus, God is holy in that he sets himself apart from creation,

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J. I. Packer’s Thoughts on Holiness

A Habitual Attitude Sam Storms: There is no holiness or Christian life that does not have repentance at its core. Repentance is not merely one element in conversion, but a habitual attitude and action to which all Christians are called. It is, argues Packer, a spiritual discipline central to and inseparable from healthy holy living. But what is it? How should it be defined? What are its characteristic features? A close reading of Packer reveals that he understands repentance to entail a number of interrelated themes. The most important dimension in godly repentance is the fundamental alteration in one’s thinking with regard to what is sin and what God requires of us in terms both of our thoughts and actions. Repentance thus begins with a recognition of the multitude of ways in which our thinking and attitude and belief system are contrary to what is revealed in Scripture. We are by nature and choice misshapen and warped in the way

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Yes, You Can Please Your Heavenly 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 Scripture Empowers Personal Holiness

Adapted from Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth by John MacArthur. Becoming More like God Godliness, Christlikeness, and Christian spirituality all describe a Christian becoming more like God. The most powerful way to effect this change is by letting the Word of God dwell in one richly (Col. 3:16). When one embraces Scripture without reservation, it will energetically work God’s will in the believer’s life (1 Thess. 2:13). The process could be basically defined as follows: Christian spirituality involves growing to be like God in character and conduct by personally submitting to the transforming work of God’s Word and God’s Spirit. Holiness Embodies the Very Essence of Christianity Christians have been saved to be holy and to live holy lives (1 Pet. 1:14–16). What does it mean to be holy? Both the Hebrew and Greek words for “to be holy” (which appear about two thousand times in Scripture) basically mean “to be set aside for something special.” Thus,

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The Essential Warfare for Holiness

One of the great points the Puritans saw in Scripture is the connection between happiness and holiness. For them, to be perfectly holy would be to be perfectly happy. Pastor John, how would you articulate this connection between happiness and holiness? John Piper: My approach will be slightly different, because the more I think about Christian Hedonism, the more careful I am in phrasing this connection. Happiness is part of holiness, so that if you tried to describe what it means to be a holy person and left out happiness in God, you couldn’t do it. There is no such thing as holiness minus happiness in God. Happiness in God is the essence of holiness. God’s holiness is God’s being supremely valuable. That is his holiness. God infinitely delights in his infinite delightfulness because otherwise he would be a liar. He would be unrighteous. And so his holiness is being infinitely delightful and delighting infinitely in his infinite delightfulness. Our holiness

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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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What You Admire Is What You’re Becoming

It is one of the most fundamental dynamics of our lives: We are always becoming like what we most adore. And yet when we look at ourselves, what we adore so often fluctuates in intensity all throughout the day, and yet, in Christ, we are progressing toward maturity in him. John Piper explains how all this dynamic works together from 2 Corinthians 3:18 in a recent sermon. Here’s what he said. John Piper: This is so variable, I am tempted to say it is just incalculably variable; meaning, the morning and the mid-morning and noon and the afternoon and the night are all different. Your heart for God is different at 10:00 a.m., and noon, and 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. It is different. Your emotions are just like this. Nobody lives like this. Nobody. And from week to week and month to month and year to year — and saints are allowed to move into seasons of great darkness,

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What do we mean when we say “Christians are IN the World but not OF the world”?

  Sam Storms: I think all of you are familiar with the oft-heard statement that Christians are people who are “in”the world but not “of” the world. There isn’t a specific biblical text that says it in precisely those terms, but James 4:4 does describe followers of Jesus as people who should avoid developing a “friendship with the world.” In fact, James says that to be a “friend” of the world is to be at “enmity with God” (James 4:4b). The apostle John exhorts Christians, “do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15a). So what then does it mean to be “in” the world but not “of” it? I think the idea is that we cannot avoid or evade the fact that we live physically in this world. Our feet are planted on the soil of this earth no less so than are those of people who hate God. We are card-carrying citizens of

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2 Motivations for Pursuing Holiness

Anthony Carter: Peter gives us two truths worth remembering as motivations for our pursuit of holiness. First, we must remember from what we have been ransomed. The Bible says we have been ransomed “from the futile ways inherited from [our] forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18). Life apart from a right relationship with God is futile. “Vanity of vanities,” the Bible calls it (Eccl. 1:2). No matter how religious, lavish, or popular your life before Christ was, it was empty. How empty? The Apostle Paul called it skubalon (“rubbish, dung, sewage”): For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a

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The most important spiritual battle

Trevin Wax: The Battle That’s Bigger Than The Culture War Imagine you are tasked with writing a letter of encouragement and exhortation to Christians in distress. Your readers occupy the margins of society; they are maligned and falsely accused. Some of them face imprisonment, and a few have been martyred. The government is cracking down on any religious expression seen as subversive, and the Christians are prime targets. Meanwhile, the rest of society approves of the reigning authorities’ coercive methods of persecution. What would you say to Christians in the middle of a culture war? How would you strengthen believers in that situation? Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you… (1 Peter 2:11) Desires Waging War What strikes me about Peter’s exhortation to the suffering believers scattered throughout Asia Minor in the first century is that the apostle is so focused on the battle for holiness in the life

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Pleasure in Jesus is the root of holiness

From Michael Reeves’ latest book Rejoicing in Christ: Anyone can use the word, of course, but without Christ holiness tends to have all the charm of an ingrown toenail. For, very simply, if holiness is not first and foremost about knowing Christ, it will be about self-produced morality and religiosity. But such incurved self-dependence is quite the opposite of what pleases God, or what is actually beautiful. God is not interested in our manufactured virtue; he does not want any external obedience or morality if it does not flow from true love for him. He wants us to share his pleasure in his Son. What is the greatest commandment, after all? “Love the Lord your God” (Mt 22:36–37). That is the root of true God-likeness. Nothing is more holy than a heartfelt delight in Christ. Nothing is so powerful to transform lives. (86–87) (HT: Tony Reinke)

The necessity of a right gospel order

  Mark well the great advantages you have for the attainment of holiness by seeking it in a right gospel order. You will have the advantage of the love God manifested towards you, in forgiving your sins, receiving you into favor, and giving you the spirit of adoption, and the hope of His glory freely through Christ, to persuade and constrain you by sweet allurements to love God again, who has so dearly loved you, and to love others for His sake, and to give up yourselves to the obedience of all His commands out of hearty love to Him. You will also enjoy the help of the Spirit of God to incline you powerfully to obedience, and to strengthen you for the performance of it against all your corruptions and the temptations of Satan, so that you will have both wind and tide to forward your voyage in the practice of holiness. — Walter Marshall The Gospel Mystery of

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The essence of holiness

  You will cleanse no sin from your life that you have not first recognized as being pardoned through the cross. This is because holiness starts in the heart. The essence of holiness is not new behavior, activity, or disciplines. Holiness is new affections, new desires, and new motives that then lead to new behavior. If you don’t see your sin as completely pardoned, then your affections, desires, and motives will be wrong. You will aim to prove yourself. Your focus will be the consequences of your sin rather than hating the sin and desiring God in its place. — Tim Chester You Can Change (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2010), 28 (HT: Of First Importance)

The holiness we need awaits us in Christ

  Christ is our holiness in the same sense in which he is our righteousness. He is a complete and all-sufficient Saviour. He does not accomplish his work halfway but saves us really and completely. He does not rest until, after pronouncing his acquittal in our conscience, he has also imparted full holiness and glory to us. By his righteousness, accordingly, he does not just restore us to the state of the just who will go scot-free in the judgment of God, in order then to leave us to ourselves to reform ourselves after God’s image and to merit eternal life. But Christ has accomplished everything. He bore for us the guilt and punishment of sin, placed himself under the law to secure eternal life for us, and then arose from the grave to communicate himself to us in all his fullness for both our righteousness and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). The holiness that must completely become ours therefore fully

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