For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.
-- Leviticus 11:44
Holiness comes to Christians in three stages. We encounter the Holy God through His holy word, the Bible. Then, the Holy Spirit makes us holy by regenerating our hearts ("born again"), giving us the grace that produces faith in the life, death, and resurrection in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, those saved by grace, Christians, live holy lives.
Does this mean Christians no longer sin? The practical and biblical evidence is clear that we do. But, there is a triune reason true Christians choose to live a life of holiness rather than sin willy nilly. Look at the wise words of the Apostle John:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
-- 1 John 2:1
We have faith in God the Father, who is watching over us at all times, in public and in private, with grace and mercy to be sure, but He is still watching. "Little children" love their Father, do not want to disappoint or embarrass Him, and this makes us sober-minded concerning sin.
We have faith in God the Son, and we deeply admire His righteous approach to life and death, so much so we model our lives after His life and world rather die than bring scandal and disgrace to the name of the Lord.
We have faith in God the Spirit, who lives within us. He is the "advocate" ("paraclete"), too (ref. John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7). He has the power of restraining grace, keeping us from sin. He has the power of convicting grace, showing us and warning us against sin. By grace we are saved, and by grace we keep from sinning and becoming a stumbling block.
The whole difference between sinners and saints, the latter of which confess and are forgiven, then live holy lives before a holy God, can be summed up in one word: propitiation, and propitiation is the gospel. Propitiation is not a common word in the NT, appearing only four times (ref. Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10).
He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
-- 1 John 2:2
Propitiation is an atoning sacrifice, made by one on behalf of another, that doubly imputes perfect sainthood upon the sinner, while the sinner's sins are transferred to the perfect, absolute, substitutionary saint. In other words, Jesus Christ, the only absolutely perfect saint who ever lived and never sinned, died on the cross for any and every sinner, who is made a saint by grace through faith in the perfect person and finished work of Jesus Christ. In Christ we are made holy, and for Christ we live holy lives.
So, here is the Christian life. We are made holy by our holy God who imputes His holiness to us through salvation in Christ. We live holy lives of worship and witness, ever sinning still in our mortal flesh, always forgiven by the work of Christ, aiming for holiness in every step. And when our steps on earth are done, we will be made perfectly holy, by and with the thrice holy God who gave us eternal life.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
-- Reginald Heber (1826)
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]