There is much to be said this day and age about personal holiness though few of our church leaders ever touch the topic. Our churches are often filled with people that may nod and shake hands with church members during the greeting time, but who will then speak awful slanders towards those very same people once outside the church walls. We are a people of unclean lips amongst a people of unclean lips. We don't have to go very far outside the four walls of church - down the pew, or in the mirror for that matter - to see the perverting effects of sin.
Though we are capable of identifying sin where it stands, we dare not label it out loud for that would mean we would have to separate ourselves from playing in it. Though the Spirit has enlightened us, our flesh continues to suppress the Truth in unrighteousness. We must die daily to the flesh and daily be renewed by the Spirit; moving from glory to glory, constantly renewing our minds and being washed by the water of the Word.
Our whole existence has been marked by rebellion. For most children one of the first words they learn is "NO!" Or it is at least the most used word of every toddler. When your mother said to chew with your mouth closed, you began to once again chomp like a cow when she wasn't looking. She said sit up and when her back would turn, you slouched. You wore your mother out and if you were anything like me perhaps a couple of wooden spoons too. We are told to arrive to class at a certain time and we come late. We are told to raise our hands, and we blurt out. We are told to brush our teeth, comb our hair, and wash our faces, and we just splash a little water on our cheeks. "Make sure you scrub behind your ears," your mother says, and we don't even grab the bar of soap.
For most of us, only the bare minimum was what we were willing to put forth as children. Unfortunately that rebellious attitude is coupled to our flesh and has followed us into adulthood and even into our new birth. It must be brought under the submission of Christ (Col 3:5). The Scriptures are clear that we are save by Grace and sanctified by Grace. In fact all that we are or are allowed to do is wholly by the Grace of God (Eph 2:8-10). Yet we are still personally accountable for everything we do (good or bad) even as believers (Rom 14:12).
There is a balance that the Word calls us to. God's sovereignty is always coupled with man's responsibility such as in the passage Phil 2:12-13, "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." God is the reason why we desire good and the only reason why we can do any good, yet He commands us to work at this thing called personal holiness. "Put to death therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." (Col 3:5)
I am currently reading through Jerry Bridges The Pursuit of Holiness in which he gives some guidelines to apply when questioning whether or not to partake in certain activity based on a few passages of Scripture.
- "Everything is permissible for me--but not everything is benificial" (I Cor 6:12). Question 1: Is it helpful - physically, spiritually, and mentally?
- "Everything is permissible for me--but I will not be mastered by anything" (I Cor 6:12). Question 2: Does it bring me under its power?
- "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall" (I Cor 8:13). Question 3: Does it hurt others?
- "So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (I Cor 10:31). Question 4: Does it glorify God?
May the Grace of the Lord be with you as you continue to wage war over sin.