LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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HOW IN THIS WORLD CAN I LIVE HOLY?

 

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13–16, NASB )

 

 

It is my sincere hope that this study on the topic of holiness has given you a good idea of what holiness really is and that it is definitely part of God’s plan for you in the experience of salvation.

It is sad to say that many sincere Christians deny that it is possible to live a holy life in this world. They don’t do this out of any sense of rebellion against God or out of a particular desire to continue to commit sin. The common teaching is that as long as people have bodies of flesh they will always commit sin in some way, shape or form and that the only permanent deliverance they can experience is when they lay down their bodies at death.

All too many Christians believe that they cannot help but to sin in word, thought or deed every day. Following this belief leads to two outcomes. The first is hypocrisy; that is, people professing to be Christians yet openly sinning with seemingly no sense of remorse or guilt. The second outcome is a sincere but frustrated experience where the Christian wants to live right and not sin. This person genuinely resists temptations and tries to do everything he knows to be God’s will but always seems to fall short. This person probably has a library full of books about victorious Christian living, but is disappointed that they seem to work for everyone but him. There is very little hope for the hypocrite, but there is real hope for this person and God will do everything He can to bring this person to a true understanding of holiness. It is a fact that among these sincere Christians, many are actually living holy lives even though they have been taught they can’t.

On the other side of the issue, and just to be fair, there are many people who attend holiness churches but their lives fall short of the holiness they profess. Their hypocrisy overshadows their testimony—in other words, people see through them—and they bring discredit on the very teaching of holiness. This is a shame, but it is a fact. People who are looking for the message of holiness should not be discouraged by the few hypocrites that might hang around a holiness church. Don’t look at the few hypocrites; look at those that are really living holy lives.

In our study we learned that holiness is an ethical issue. It is actual behavior that conforms to the known will of God, not just a theory. It is behavior that is the natural and logical result of the miracle of salvation in a person’s life. People can, and do, really live holy, sinless lives because the Holy Spirit of God lives in them.

 

Let us consider for a moment the nature of salvation itself. In so doing, we have to ask the question, “How can salvation NOT result in holiness of life?” The obvious answer is, “Salvation can ONLY result in holiness of life!”

 

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God . That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5–7)

 

We found that the statement “You must be born again” is better translated “You must be born from above.” The reason given by Jesus why this is necessary is that the natural birth is a birth into the flesh. People have material bodies that are adapted to live in the material world. People also are born into this world morally depraved; that is, they have a moral weakness that allows the material body (flesh or carnal, to use biblical terms) and its desires to form the moral compass of their lives. For this reason, people tend to believe that whatever they want is right and whatever gets in they way of their getting what they want is wrong. “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (discerned).” (1 Corinthians 2:14, NASB )

Jesus said that this fleshly birth is the reason people need to be born from above. Being born from above simply means that people must be born of the Spirit of God. People do not have the Holy Spirit of God living in them when they are born into this world; that is why they, as “a natural man”, do not accept or value the things of God. When people have been born of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit lives in them and they have a spiritual dimension to their lives that was completely missing before. They are now capable of understanding the things of God, whereas those things were completely foreign to them when they were living in the flesh as “natural” men.

 

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19)

 

In this passage, the Apostle Paul is addressing the Christians at Corinth , telling them that they have received the Holy Spirit from God. In the words of Jesus, they have been born from above and they have the Holy Spirit living in them. Receiving the Holy Spirit is not theoretical, not just a doctrine, it is a very real part of the new birth. It makes complete sense to say that since the Holy Spirit lives in Christians, their bodies and their lives are His temple; a place that is sacred that He controls.

 

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Romans 8:5–9

This passage plainly contrasts the Christian life with the “natural man.” The Christian life is oriented to the Holy Spirit and the “natural man” is oriented to the flesh. The Christian mind-set is to think along the lines of the Holy Spirit and to follow His leading. The “natural man” thinks along the lines of the flesh and follows it. The carnal mind Paul mentions is this “natural man.” It cannot be brought into agreement with God; that is why people have to be born from above—they need a new mind-set. Christians do not follow the moral direction of their material bodies and the mind that breeds. They follow the Holy Spirit—it cannot be otherwise.

 

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 )

 

In the saving work of salvation, God both forgives our sins and cleanses us from all sin. If we have been cleansed from all sin, how much sin can we then have? Either we are cleansed from all sin or we are not—it is impossible to be cleansed from all sin and yet have sin. Common Christian doctrine teaches that people’s sins are forgiven but they have a sinful nature that will lead them to sin again. If that is true, then we can’t be cleansed from all sin and the Bible is false!

The reality of salvation is that the presence of the Holy Spirit becomes the moral compass of the Christian that keeps their lives pointed in the direction of God’s will. The Holy Spirit will never lead us into sin. As long as we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit we do not have to sin. The problem happens when a person stops following the Holy Spirit; immediately, he starts to follow the leading of his flesh and it will not be long until he has given in to sin.

 

The Christian life is a moral mind-set that is born in us by the act of God called the new birth, or being born from above. This is a miracle that we cannot imitate; it is either real in our lives or we have not actually experienced salvation. While salvation is a miracle, we still have choices to make. The choices are to obey God’s will or to disobey God’s will. We are responsible for the choices we make and these choices have inevitable consequences for our salvation.

 

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:2)

 

This is the choice you have: to set your mind on things above or on things on the earth. If you set your mind on things on the earth, you can’t help but be carnal with a mind-set opposed to God. Way too many people call themselves Christians, yet they have their hearts set on things on the earth. These people are the hypocrites.

If you are a person born from above, your mind is set on things above; you are interested and concerned for the things of God and not the material things of this earth. If you have not settled into a consistent experience with God where holiness is the lasting result, don’t give up. Instead, put your faith in what the Bible teaches about salvation and ask God to lead you into the consistency He wants from you.

 

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31–33)

 

The Gentiles, we can say the “natural man,” goes after the things of this material world. God wants you to be different. He knows your material needs and He will see that you will have what is needful. Your place as a Christian is to put the kingdom of God first in your life and that means to allow that right relationship with God to affect your behavior: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.”

 

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)

 

The choice is yours and your choice is either (1) to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, or (2) to reject the leading of the Holy Spirit. This passage tells us that the Holy Spirit interacts with us on the intellectual level so that we can actually know and understand what He would have us to do at any given time and in every circumstance.

 

And then there is the issue of temptation. How many sincere Christians cry out that they would gladly live holy lives if it were not for this thing called temptation. It seems that they go on well for a while and then out of nowhere a temptation comes up and throws them down. This happens to good, sincere Christians, but it is not what God wants for them. By the grace of God, temptation can be handled and overcome by any person born from above.

You must understand temptation. Temptation is the external working of the spirit of evil, we’ll call him the devil, approaching you through your human, material frame and enticing you to follow some natural and normal desire in a way contrary to God’s word and will for your desire. Now look at the scripture and believe what it tells you.

 

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

 

FIRST. Temptation is common to the human condition, there is nothing abnormal about it and it is not an indication that you are not spiritually minded. Temptation is an appeal to something that is part of who you are: your desires and needs, your preferences, your personality, your prejudices, etc. God has a will for every one of these things in your life. He can make His will known to you and He can help you to live out that will.

SECOND. God is faithful (trustworthy) and there are two things you can always count on when you are tempted. (1) God knows what you are able to bear in the way of temptation; and, (2) He will never allow the spirit of evil to tempt you beyond that limit.

THREE. God always provides a way of escape, an exit, from the temptation. That does not mean avoidance of the temptation, it means going through the temptation and coming out on the other side.

FOUR. You are able to endure any temptation God permits. Why? Because the Holy Spirit lives in you and He will always lead you to obey the will of God.

 

So, how can I live holy in this world? It may seem simplistic but it is the truth as God has revealed it to us in the Bible. Just four simple points.

 

    1.      Know that you really have been born from above.

    2.      Seek and learn God’s will as revealed in His word. Read the Bible; come to services regularly; and seek the encouragement and counsel of godly people.

    3.      Obey everything you know God expects of you. And,

    4.      Follow the Holy Spirit in the time of temptation. If you are doing this, you will be ready for it and you will know what is required to endure the temptation and come out victorious.

 

Are you living a holy life? Would you like to?