The Goal is Holiness
“If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” – C.S. Lewis
Nobody’s perfect. I’m only human. I make mistakes. Everybody sins. We as a human race are probably best at making excuses for ourselves. Sometimes when people think about God or following Jesus, we shy away from the idea of holiness. I could never be holy. I'm no saint. When we become a Christian we know "the old life has gone and the new has come." Striving to live a holy life is how we prove that. God has provided everything we need in the salvation of His Son and the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Our goal as Christ-followers is holiness.
Excuses and comparisons are barriers to holiness.
Excuses give us the freedom to sweep our failures and recurring sins under the rug. People have a remarkable talent for making excuses not even sound like excuses. Sometimes we would rather point out the fact that we’re not as bad as we once were or we’re not as bad as that person or this person as an excuse for continuing to live in sin or to, at the very least, sweep our shortcomings under the rug to avoid the painful reality that the progress we think we’ve made may not be all that grand. What good is focusing on the progress of the journey toward holiness if you think holiness is unachievable? If you were practicing for a marathon and thought you would never actually be able to run it or finish it, your practice would suffer greatly and eventually you would give up.
Holiness > Progress
1 Peter 1:14-15
“So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.”
God commands us to be holy.
Both in 1 Peter above and in 2 Corinthians below, we find that God commands us to be holy. It is our standard as Christians.
2 Corinthians 7:1
“Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.”
If you’re still struggling with recurring sin (pornography, acting out, outbursts of anger, laziness, etc.), have you actually handed that over to God or are you still holding on to it? Are you truly leaning completely on God? Or are you banking on the fact that what you are doing now is not as bad as what you were doing in the past? Are you focusing on progress more than holiness? Are you focusing on the comparisons of your old life more than facing the reality of God’s standard? Only you can answer these questions but it’s good that we have the opportunity to self-examine and answer them now, rather than wait for God to answer them for us when we stand before Him.
A third example in Scripture where we are called to holiness/perfection:
“But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Holiness requires self-control.
What do our actions show? Do our actions show what’s most important is our own physical, temporary gratification? Do our actions show that we have little to no self-control? That our bodies control us?
“A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.”
Where does self-control come from? Some religions and worldly views teach that self-control comes after a certain amount of time spent meditating, that self-control is mind over body: if we just try hard enough we’ll master ourselves. Christianity teaches us that we are helpless on our own. God created us, thus He is in charge, and self-control, we learn, comes from the Holy Spirit. Remember self-control is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit; let the Holy Spirit aid you in obtaining self-control.
In 2 Peter, chapter one, Peter writes about growing in faith. (2 Peter 1:3-11)
“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
"In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
"The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.
"So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Are we really working hard to prove that we are among those God has called and chosen? We certainly should be. The words “work hard to prove”—it’s not just trying your best and getting a pat on the shoulder. No. To prove something, you need evidence. Our lives and our actions should be the evidence that proves whether or not we are among those God has called and chosen. Could you be working harder at gathering evidence and living a holy and blameless life before the Lord? Or are you more like verse 9, shortsighted and blind and have forgotten that you have been cleansed of your old sins?
Holiness focuses on the present and the future, not the past.
You can’t focus on progress without thinking about and focusing on past mistakes. Progress is simply comparing the old with the present and trying to be better than what was before. Is that what a Christian should do in regards to their sins and their walk with Christ? Is this a comparative process where we should constantly look at the past when we believe that the past has been forgiven and wiped clean? Of course not! We must be careful not to fall into the trap of comparisons, being sure to remember that our past sins are forgiven. The slate has been wiped clean. There are no past sins to compare to, no past sins to look back on in order to make the present sins seem less. They are gone. There are only today’s sins. We must focus on those and strive to be closer with God in each moment.
“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.”
2 Corinthians 5:17
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
If God has erased something, how dare we try to hold onto it! How dare we try to use that as a comparison to make our current sins seem less severe! For an extreme example, if you had been killing people and getting away with it for a long time, then you were convicted morally and decided not to kill anymore, instead you beat people within an inch of their lives, you could then focus on the past and make the comparison that beating people isn’t as bad as what you used to do so you’re making progress and then beating people within an inch of their lives doesn’t seem so bad. God does not ask for a simple regression of sins. He tells us to turn from them, to flee, to run the other direction—not to keep returning to them less and less or keep committing them in lesser form.
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
So let us focus on the present, on what God has laid before us today. Let us begin every day new and fresh, striving each day for holiness and perfection in Christ. The past is forgiven and God’s forgiveness is perfect so let us not hold on to past sins but rather focus on walking with the Lord to overcome today’s sins, striving for holiness each day. Equip and arm yourself every day through constant prayer and studying the Word of God. Remember the holy life God has called us to; let no excuses keep us from striving for this.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.