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Friday, June 1, 2012

Perfecting Holiness? - Part 2

2 Corinthians 7:1 - Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

We have considered how there are a lot of perverse selfish things in this world and when we entertain them they sinfully stain us deeply. But those stains can be cleansed from our system. How might this happen? The answer is, “perfecting holiness.”

The word “perfecting” comes from a Greek Present Tense of the verb epiteleo which conveys an ongoing process. It’s going to take a lifetime to complete the holy work God has planned for us. Epiteleo means, “to fulfill further or completely.” It means to execute a task. It means to finish something. It means to work until something is terminated. And it means performing until the end.  In other words, we are to press on and persevere in the process set before us.. And what is that endeavor we are to press on to complete? We are to press on to the end of holiness.

There is a sense in which God’s righteousness and holiness is imputed to a believer (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the standing of all believers (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:1). This is why all believers are referred to as “saints” or literally holy ones (2 Corinthians 1:1). But there is a sense in which holiness is imparted in a very practical way to believers. This is the state of believers (1 John 2:1-2; Hebrews 10:14). There is a process of sanctification or making one holy in life and conduct that God starts and continues in the person who is saved from their sin and born again spiritually. It is this later work of God in the believer that Paul is speaking about in these chapters.  Remember, when a person is born again, they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit who indwells them (John 3:5; Rom. 8:9-11). Once within the Holy Spirit starts and will bring to completion the holy work of God in us.

The word “holiness” comes from the Greek term hagiosune which means, “sacredness.” It refers to the property or quality of holiness. Something that is sacred is “dedicated or set apart for the service or worship . . . .” That which is sacred is “devoted exclusively to one service or use.” The road to God’s cleansing involves the process of becoming completely set apart for His use. The Spirit within enables us to fully surrender to God. The Spirit within helps us offer and present our lives to God as a holy sacrifice. Holiness in is essence is worship of God.

God calls all those who follow Him to live a holy life (1 Peter 1:15-16). It is God’s will that we live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). Without holiness we will not see the Lord; we won’t experience Him the way we should (Hebrews 12:14-15). Holiness involves a choice on our part to present ourselves to God for holy purposes (Romans 6:19a). How about you? Are you even interested in living a holy life? God calls every believer to holiness. Will you commit your life to God for this purpose, now?

Holiness is God’s work in us. It involves being freed from sin (Romans 6:20-22; 8:26; Philippians 2:13). The Bible says God disciplines us so that we can partake of His holiness (Hebrews 10:14). Biblical holiness is something to be learned (Ephesians 4:20-21a). It is based on the truth of Jesus (Ephesians 4:21b).The scalpel which God uses to perform His holy surgery is the word of God (Heb. 4:12).

There is something about the word of God that cleanses. Jesus told His disciples, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). Jesus sanctifies and cleanses His bride the church with the “washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26). As we take in and heed the word of God and in the power of the Spirit apply it to our lives, the result in cleansing. The Spirit washes away the old and renews us (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Biblical holiness is God’s love overflowing us. Holiness is loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31). This was an object of prayer by Paul on behalf of other believers (Romans 5:5; Eph. 3:14-21; 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13). Paul said in the last days people would be lovers of self and the things of this world. He said some would have a “form of godliness” but would deny its power” (2 Tim. 3:1-5). Isn’t that what a self-centered, self-loving, preoccupied Christian is? Who do you love supremely, yourself or God? Really, is there evidence for your claim in the way you live? “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23).

There is a holy perspective we are to have in this ongoing process of the holy life. That perspective is “in the fear of God.” The fear of God refers to a reverential awe toward God. The closer we draw to God the more clearly we will see our sin (e.g. Isaiah 6). The closer we draw to God, to Jesus, the more able to turn from sin we will be (John 15). We are to have a consciousness of God and who He is. God is holy and calls those who follow Him to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). He holds our eternal destinies in His hand. We are to work out our pursuit of holiness in reverence and awe of our Holy God (Philippians 2:12).

But there is another way of looking at the fear of the Lord. Let me illustrate. I love my wife very much. And because I love my wife so much, I would never intentionally do anything that would bring her sadness or pain. In fact, I am so in love with my wife and so serious about not doing anything that would bring her sorrow or pain that I fear doing so. In other words, I love my wife so much that I fear doing anything that would grieve her. In the same way we should love God so much that we fear doing anything that would bring Him pain over our actions. In this sense the fear of the Lord is closely connected to that holy love relationship with Him. Holiness is loving God so much that you fear doing anything that would pain Him.

 This is my prayer for myself and all of us. In light of God’s glorious promises let’s determine to avail ourselves of God’s provisions to cleanse ourselves from the filth of this world. Let’s shower off our fleshly ways in the water of God’s word. I pray we proceed in the Spirit to perfect holiness as a love gift to our awesome God. May God bring it to pass in us for His glory!

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