Holiness is the hallmark of the Spirit-led believer. This attribute will lead to persecution. Why? The holy believer is in the World, but is not part of it. They do not conform to it in any way. The holy believer’s righteousness confronts the lost with the uncompromising message of the Gospel. It also flies in the face of self-focused believers who resent the Spirit-led and their godly wisdom and knowledge.
21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:21-23 (NASB)
Holiness is one of those subjects that everyone seems to know everything it pertains to, but no one knows how to define. What is it? If you look up “Holiness” in a dictionary, it will tell you that it means to be “Holy.” That is not a lot of help is it? What does the word “Holy” mean? One dictionary definition is, “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.” Of course, that could only be speaking of God.
A synonym for “Holiness” is “Sanctification.” If we look it up, it is defined as “the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion.” That’s close. A believer’s holiness comes as he or she matures in Christ through grace. That is where it comes from, but that does not tell us what its qualities are.
As believers mature they begin to take on Christ’s very character. They become Christ-like. One of the “fruits” of salvation, a huge part of the godly treasury of the Heart, is separation from the World. What does this mean?
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 1 Corinthians 2:12 (NASB)
The Holy Spirit resides in each believer. His presence not only makes the believer spiritually Holy, He is also constantly at work sanctifying the believer. What’s the big deal? Why can’t we stay conformed to the world and grow in Christ? The ways of the world are the antithesis of God’s ways. God’s ways are right; the world’s ways are not.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:7-9 (NASB)
If a believer refuses to jettison things or thoughts that are clearly “of the world,” as the Holy Spirit leads them to do so, it is nothing more than rebellion or disobedience. What happens when a believer does this? They are refusing to submit to the will of God. When the Holy Spirit convicts you and me about anything our conscience, if healthy, will condemn us about it as well. If we refuse to heed God and our conscience, we are contributing to our own Hard-Heartedness. We are diminishing our treasure instead of laying it up. The treasury of our Heart is building up worldliness instead of holiness. Holiness is the quality of godliness that speaks of conformity to Christ’s character and non-conformity to the world.
Only the Spirit-led are seeking to live holy lives. The self-focused believer may want to be holy, but without the power that is inherent in the Spirit-led life, they cannot do it. They try to be holy via will power, but that is doomed to failure.
If we live lives that are characterized by holiness what will we be like? We will be in a constant state of cleansing. We will be denying self by feasting on God as we fast from fleshly things and worldliness.
I used to think that self-denial was no fun, hard work and only led to boredom. That would be true if my entire fulfillment came through self-gratification. However, God has graciously granted me repentance as I feasted on Him and fasted from fleshly desires. He has changed my entire value system. He made my conscience pure and cleansed. All defilement has been washed away. I pray everyday that I will be given ears to hear Him, that I will heed my conscience, that I will be Spirit-led and that the Lord will not stop leading, guiding and directing my steps. This is learning how to hear God.
Now when I slip, stumble, and blow it I know it immediately. I know I have taken my eyes off Christ and feasted on something that is defiled while I fasted from Him. Oh, how I hate that! What is the solution? The following passage is a word picture that is the “best” way to get back on track.
7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:7-10 (NASB)