The Pursuit of Holiness

A few years ago, a movie came out called “The Pursuit of Happyness”. The premise of that movie was all about a man seeking after success and the American Dream. Will Smith’s character struggled, and fought, and sacrificed much, all to gain what the world deems as “true happiness”. As I watched that movie, it was easy to get wrapped up into this plot and into this character and exalt this man for all he was willing to do for the sake of happiness and success. After all, it didn’t come easy; he indeed had to pursue it, but  nothing got in the way of his pursuit and his dreams. It was a heart-warming, inspiring, and motivating way to give people confidence to never let anything stand in the way of their true desires. And yet as I watched, I couldn’t help think about 1 John 2:17, “The world and its desires pass away, but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

My study has brought me to Hebrews chapter 12. The lessons I’ve gleaned from this Hebrews study have been many (focusing on Christ, running for the prize, strengthening the hope of my eternal security found in the power and promise of God, walking by faith, and now pursuing after holiness).

The holiness referenced here in verse 12, “without holiness, no one will see the Lord.” is not the holiness that we receive when we’re born again into Christ. That holiness is apart from any doing on our own; Christ alone paid it all with His death on the cross. When He stated “It is accomplished” on the cross; it indeed was. God’s righteous demand for citizenship in Heaven and His wrath for the sins of mankind were satisfied once and for all, so that those who come to Christ and trust in Him as Lord and Savior will find reconciliation with God forever. And yes, apart from that holiness, we also will never see the Lord.

However, the aim of the writer of Hebrews has always been on maturing our faith, not reaffirming it. The holiness he is referring to in this chapter is practical holiness. And this isn’t a new theme in this book. He’s already stated in previous chapters, “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.”, and “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” He wants us to take the knowledge we’ve ALREADY been given, and now use it to run the race that we’re currently in. Let me see if I can explain myself further to make sense of this.

Righteousness; we couldn’t attain it on our own. Holiness; we couldn’t achieve it on our own. God knew this. So, His standard for perfection must be thrown out of the window if we don’t have Christ. Ah, but we DO have Christ. And therefore, God’s standard is wholly met. No more righteousness or holiness can be attained to satisfy God’s standard. Jesus Christ is our righteous/holy sacrifice, not our merits or doings on this earth. Those merits and doings are stained with sin; Christ is not. So it begs the question, where could practical holiness fit in the equation? If Christ is our holiness before God, why and how should a Christian live holy while on this earth? That is a very broad question I fear, but maybe I can lay it out for you the way it makes sense to me.

Because of Christ, those who trust in Him are declared holy. Are we holy? Absolutely not. But Christ is and we’re associated with Him. God’s promise is that we’ll receive the holiness of Christ and our sins will no longer be held against us. So now that we are associated with Christ, we should live like we are holy; or live like Christ. Not for the reason of gaining holiness (we have it already through Christ), but because we now have the freedom and the power to; and because holy living pleases God. Do we gain anything extra by living holy? No, we get what is promised to us through Christ; a pardon for our sins and an eternity with God forever in Paradise. So why do it? Well this question shouldn’t need an answer honestly, but I know I had to answer it in my own life.

The reason it shouldn’t need an answer is pretty simple, and it’s 2-fold; (1) we should want to, and (2) we will. Why should Christians want to live holy? It’s the only way we can bring honor, glory and thankfulness to our great God for all He’s done for us. If we’re struggling for a desire to do that, we need to search deep and see if we truly have a relationship with God through Christ. The desire to please God comes with Christ. If we don’t have a desire to please God, we don’t have Christ; plain and simple. Christ desired to please and serve God with His entire life and death on earth. To say that we have Christ and yet don’t have a desire to please and serve God is an arrogant lie.

The 2nd reason we should live holy is because we don’t have the choice not to. So many passages from God’s Word point to this truth. Good trees bear good fruit, faith without works is dead, we reap what we sow, and the passage I already referred to in Hebrews 6, “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” We HAVE come to share in Christ, not we WILL come to share in Christ. Notice the verb tense in that passage. It’s not saying that our works on earth will eventually earn us eternal life. We already know that it is found in Christ alone. But look at the rest of that verse; “IF we hold firmly till the end.” It means if we endure, if we bear fruit, if we pursue after holiness, we will have proved that we were true children of God’s through Christ. Should the opposite be the case, if we don’t endure through trials, if we don’t bear fruit and if we don’t pursue after holiness, it’s not that we had Christ’s righteousness and lost it; it’s that we never had it. I hope that makes sense. It took me a while to wrap my mind around it. But it perfectly lines up with Hebrews, and it perfectly lines up with the rest of God’s Word. Test it.

So even though we have received righteousness and holiness through Christ, we still must pursue it in our lives. In one of my earlier posts, I talked about the fastest runner in the world still having to compete in the races to receive the reward. It’s the same concept. If we don’t pursue after holiness, we were never in the race to begin with and we will never receive the reward at the end. Now, don’t confuse the facts. We will never attain perfect earthly holiness like Christ. We have a sin nature, Christ did not. But that shouldn’t stop us from going after Christ-likeness. And thanks be to God and the writer of Hebrews for highlighting the fact that once we’re saved, we’re always saved. We can never lose a relationship with God through Christ, that’s God promise and God’s oath according to Hebrews 6:16-20, Matthew 18:12-14, Romans 8:38-39 and Philippians 1:6. (look them up)

So how do we live holy lives? Get to know Christ. If we want to live like Christ, and hopefully we do for the sake of pleasing God, we must have a deep understanding of how Jesus lived while on earth. How did He love? How did He pray? How did He submit to God’s will? How did He seek the lost? How did He resist the devil? How did He endure suffering? These answers are the key to holy living. And we must search the Scriptures to find them. If we do not, we may desire holiness, we may even long for it, but we will never live the lives we were called to live. As the moon has no light of it’s own, it only reflects the glory of the sun, so we have no light of our own, we can only reflect the glory of Christ. It’s not found in rules and regulations, it’s not found in understanding doctrines and theologies, it’s not found in church attendance and song singing, it’s certainly not found in our own strength; it’s only found in Christ.

We also must HATE sin. God hates it, Christ hates it, we must follow suit. If we try to add holiness on while continuing to sin, we simply don’t understand God’s stance on sin. He punished Christ for it on the cross and He will punish forever in Hell those who choose to reject Christ as Lord and Savior. Sin must go to make room for holiness. The more sin we shed, the more room we make for holiness. And then once we shed the sins and weights that are holding us down, we must pursue holiness, it will not come after us.

As the great Charles Spurgeon so eloquently stated, “You will not gain holiness by standing still. Nobody ever grew holy without consenting, desiring, and agonizing to be holy. Sin will grow without sowing, but holiness needs cultivation. Follow it; it will not run after you. You must pursue it with determination, with eagerness, with perseverance, as a hunter pursues his prey. Run after holiness. It will often seem to run away from you, so you must pursue it, and capture it.Make it your deepest desire, because it’s God deepest desire for us (paired with walking by faith).

I am leaving you with some choice passages from God’s Word which relate so perfectly with this topic. Hopefully you’ll be able to see how they relate to what I’ve been saying.

Ephesians 1:4, “For he chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”

1 Peter 1:13-15, ” But 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.”

2 Timothy 1:8b-9, “But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who 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. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…”

Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”

2 Peter 3:11-12a, “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.”

Pursue holiness; it’s the proof of every Christian.

One Response to “The Pursuit of Holiness”

  1. Dude, SUCH a good post. Holiness is sometimes a difficult concept to grasp, but when we make simply about seeing Jesus, meeting with Him, and wanting to be LIKE Him, it makes so much more sense. Thanks for the encouragement. Let’s work on it together.

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