How about holiness???
As we grow in the relational dimension of our faith-walk, we become increasingly aware of the importance of holiness and, once we've tasted what it means to feed on Jesus, we find ourselves hungry for a deeper and more consistent sense of His Presence. At these junctures it is helpful to go back repeatedly to the wonderful truths of I Corinthians 1:28-31. Look at this passage again.
"He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God– that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
From humility to holiness …
Many a Christian writer has said it simply, "There is no shortcut to a life of holiness. As our hunger for more of Jesus grows, and as we spend more time in the Word, we must return to Romans chapter 12. For many of us, the first three verses of this apex chapter of Paul's teaching, become a helpful reminder of the supernatural manner in which the Holy Spirit transforms our thinking.
Early on in our Christian lives we are shown the truths of Romans 12:1-2 and these soon become old hat. Unfortunately, we seldom hear Romans 12:3 included in any preach or teaching of this passage. We know well the call to surrender ourselves to God. BUT! It is in verse 3, that we find a huge piece of truth that gives legs to the body of truth contained in the overall passage.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not hink of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:3)
When we unravel this verse and view it along side the I Corinthian 1 text, we begin to appreciate the inestimable value of faith.
It's true. We can really never study the subject of faith too much.Faith is the very foundation stone that is the must-have mindset that has to undergird every consideration of the Christian life and lifestyle.
As Romans 12 says, our minds need to be ever changing if we are to experience the process of supernatural transformation. It is by faith that we surrender, and it is by faith that we offer ourselves to God for His use and glory. The Romans12 passage has the unwritten assumption that the message contained can only be lived by faith.
The writer of Hebrews said it all when he reminds us in Hebrews 11:6 that "without faith it is impossible to please God". And it is this same writer who gave us the ultimate teaching on intimacy in Hebrews 12:2.
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
In order for Jesus to become our holiness, there are three truths that form the bedrock of our understanding of the intimacy paradigm.
Three paradigm essentials …
1. We MUST, by faith, completely relinquish ourselves and our
DAILY lives to our Heavenly Father.
2. We MUST fix our eyes on Jesus. AND …
3. He must become our VERY LIVES.
These truths may seem self-evident at first, but it is when we attempt to apply them, that we get stuck. It's a given that we understand: all of our righteousness is as filthy rags, but it is moving out from this partial understanding that stops us in our tracks.
Given our seeming helplessness, then … how do we live? This is the question we are addressing. Said more succintly, "How do we live a holy life?".
I am indebted to Dr. Gordon Fee and his 840 page tome on I Corinthians. He has helped me understand a little better some of the more basic intimacy truths revealed in this wonderful epistle.
Go back with me to the I Co passage above. Fee points out that we can easily miss what scripture is really telling us in verse 30. The four words wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption are very carefully chosen words. A serious study of these words reveals that this verse contains gigantic truths that apply directly to any consideration of the intimacy paradigm.
Fee explains: What Paul is saying here is that it was in the wisdom of our Heavenly Father that Jesus was
made to be our righteousness, our holiness, and our redemption.
It was in HIS WISDOM that God chose to make Jesus the means to intimate fellowship with Himself and
To unpack this statement a bit, think with me:
The message of the verses between I CO 1:18 and I CO 1:30 make it clear that it is the Christ's cross work or atonement that makes these three words so significant.
The word righteousness describes the standing we as genuine believers have before our Creator. Despite our sin and sinful natures, we are declared righteous; and, God's justice is satisfied. This is a legal declaration. Indeed! We are made positionally righteousness; but we are NOT MADE experientially so.
The word redemption describes the fact that we were redeemed or bought back into God's Family. Because of our sin and our sinful nature we were at enmity with God. BUT! Christ paid in full with His Life what we owe by our lives. We are brand-new creations !
The word holiness describes the process of sanctification: the means by which we grow spiritually. This is the most significant word of the triad when thinking about intimacy. It is this new spiritual parameter that affects our behavior – i.e. our spiritual growth.
To say that Jesus is our holiness is to state that it is His Life that emaniates from us as he becomes our very life.
It is ONLY JESUS who ever lived a holy life and it's ONLY JESUS who can live a holy life now. It is as we relinquish our entire lives and lifestyle that Jesus becomes our life. It is His Life we need.
Now, Jesus' statement in John 14:6 becomes extremely clear!!! "I am the life", is the simple, yet deeply profound answer to our How-questions. His Life must become our life.
Summarizing our thoughts above ….
When we make Jesus our total life-focus, it is possible for us to be freed from the bondage to Self. Let's put together all of what we have said.
1. When we, by faith, surrender ouf lives to God and receive Jesus as our Savior, our Heavenly Father and His Son take up residence in our hearts. Jesus becomes our redemption and our righteousness and we stand positionally righteous in His Sight. Note however! We are ONLY POSITIONALLY RIGHTEOUS. But ….. the Good News is that we have been literally released from bondage and our potential is huge.
2. Once we become positionally righteous (saved), we can begin our faith-journey and we can begin to learn how to live a life of repentance.
Because we have the indwelling Jesus living within us, we are equipped to LEARN HOW to live a holy life. He is our holiness. Because of Him we can learn how to live the Galatians 2:20 cricified life.
3. But! It is ONLY AS WE DIE TO SELF that JESUS can become our Life. It is learning how to die to Self that opens the door to a life of holiness.
4. As we learn how to progressively die to Self, we find that it is Jesus Who enables us to take our eyes off from Self.
As our growing relationship with Him matures, intimacy slowly becomes a lifestyle practice and we begin to observe that our behavior is changing.
It is always in retrospect that we realize that we are becoming "better people". It is always when focusing on Jesus that we understand why Paul used the word "mystery". We simply cannot get our minds around the truth that the Creator God lives in us. This is beyond our comprehension.
As we live the Galatians 2:20 CRUCIFIED LIFE through a growing utter dependance on Jesus, the process of growth happens. But note! That dependance only grows as our intimacy with Jesus grows.
The wonderful blessing of this sanctifying work is that we are always winners. As we confess our failures — the Holy Spirit reveals why we failed. We have lost our abiding connection. Now He lovingly points us back to Jesus as our life.
NOTE! However, the end result of this SANCTIFYING process. There has been a RENEWING OF OUR MINDS. We have slowly begun to change. The in-again/ out-again ABIDING has produced the change. The absence of His Presence causes us to come running to Jesus one more time. At these junctures, we discover that we simply cannot live life in the flesh.
More than anything else, we NEED AND WANT a more consistent intimate faith-relationship with Jesus. His free reign in our lives produces the Glory that He deserves. It is this truth that we can easily miss. He MUST become our holiness.
He is our ONLY HOPE of GLORY. We can do nothing more than exercise our God-given faith. It is the Holy Spirit who – usually gently – prompts us and makes us aware that Jesus is no longer our life.
As we learn to live more consistently in Jesus Christ, we discover a heart-warming truth. We are becoming more Christ-conscious and less self-conscious.
In light of all that we have said …
The words of Colossians 1:27 become even more profound. It is only the "Christ in us" life that will ever really satisfy.
I have come to believe Paul was estatic whenever he shared the "Exchanged LIfe" truth: i.e. the Christ in us our ONLY hope of glory.
You can almost see him as he sharpens his pencil and rushes to write down these phenomenal words recorded in Colossians !
"……. the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Yes, Paul, we understand! The extent to which we appropriate this great mystery, is the extent to which we grow in our relationship with Jesus. The wonder of a vital, day-to-day relationship with Him is almost beyond comprehension.
Now…. we need to probe how biblical holiness works. We will search the Word for these truths in our next article.
The words righteousness and holiness have been marginalized in our contemporary Christian culture. Today, the repeated focus on pragmatism and the practicals of life have so overtaken us that we have lost touch with the mystery of the Gospel. It was INDEED this mystery and its profundity that so moved the apostlePaul.
Dallas Willard, our teacher …
But note! Dallas Willard shares a bit of his own faith-walk in the sidbar article. We find him pursuing the idea of righteousness very early on in his spiritual pilgrimage.
Undoubtedly! Willard’s phenomenal impact on the Christian world at this point in time, is simply the fruit of his passion to understand and then live a life of holiness. Hearing him talk so enthusiastically about learning from Jesus as an apprentice… doesn't that sound like Mattthew 11:28-30?
As the little kid said in Sunday School, "Teacher I didn’t hear the question. But I know the answer. 'It’s Jesus!"
Like yeah, that’s it. It’s no more complicated than that. But! Oh! To live there!
In our next article we will probe what the scripture teaches about the practicals of the holy life. We need to ask questions like these, "How do I live there consistently?" Or "Is a life of consistency even possible?"
It's exciting to know that we have not been left without answers to these questions.
It's all there in the Manual. We will plunge head-long into this arena in a future article.