In Matthew 5:48 our Lord Jesus Christ says, ” Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” These are staggering words! Be perfect – is this possible? Jesus speaks of being perfect, having a single-minded holy passion, being complete. It is a tall order!
Committing to a life of holiness sets us on the path of living a disciplined life which will bring glory to God . However, there is a sense in which many Christians in our modern world have dropped the holy in an attempt to present the
acceptable face of Christianity. We have in some ways allowed ourselves to be content with a life of moral mediocrity, with which neither we nor God are in any way pleased. The one lesson about holiness that emerges from the approximately 600 references to it in the Bible, is that holiness is not optional. Holiness is an integral part of the salvation package. Almighty God wants to save us from sin in every aspect. He calls every single Christian to a holy life. Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote, “There can be no conversion without consecration.” We are all called to pursue holiness, no exceptions!
The Apostle Paul’s experience is important as we consider holiness. He sets it out and records it in his letter to the Philippians, he helps us to get to grips with some important aspects of this vitally important subject of Christian growth, or what is called in theological terms, sanctification.
In Philippians chapter three, the unmistakable imagery is that of the athletics track, and what stands out is that the life of holiness is a life of untiring effort and discipline.
In verse 12, Paul writes, “I press on.” In Greek, I pursue, I persecute. Verse 13, straining toward what is ahead. Verse 14, I press on. Self imposed discipline. A person does not become a winning athlete by listening to lectures or by watching race videos, or by reading manuals (they may do those things) however, they become successful through discipline, training and exertion.
When we consider holiness, there are two equally unsatisfactory wrong Biblical positions.
The first mistake is, I must do it all. The second mistake is, God does it all. Paul had struck the true balance earlier in Philippians 2 verses 12 and 13, where he demonstrates that the life of holiness is sometimes called a joint venture.
In Philippians 2:12, 13 he writes, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. We re involved, together with God, in the pursuit of holiness.”
Christian author John White puts it well in his book on the Christian life, which he aptly entitles, “The Fight.” He writes, “Let there be no misunderstanding. Without God’s Spirit within, our efforts are futile. No good thing could spring from our corrupt and sinful hearts, but we’ve been redeemed and we’ve been sanctified. We’ve been set apart for God’s use. Let us then agree with God in the matter. Let us assume the whole armor of God and by miraculous strength, declare war on all that is evil within and without.”
As the season of Lent draws to a close this year, I encourage each of you to take up your cross daily and follow Christ, pursuing holiness and embracing the call of Christ to be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.
Bishop Julian Mark Dobbs is the Bishop of CANA East and has oversight of the clergy and congregations in the diocese. In addition, he is the Missionary Bishop of CANA and provides leadership to CANA’s ministry throughout North America.