A Call to Holiness - Gerry A. Seale


"So brace up your minds; be sober -- circumspect [morallyalert]; set your hope wholly and unchangeably on the grace (divinefavour) that is coming to you when Jesus Christ, the Messiah, isrevealed. [Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel]. But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living. For it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy." -- 1 Peter 1:13-16 (Amplified Bible)

Introduction

The Call to Holiness is based on the reality that the God Who has called us is a holy God and we are therefore to be holy people.

The holiness of God is a central theme of Scripture and considered the primary attribute of God. The greatest demonstration of this holiness is the cross of Jesus Christ. There the dreadful judgment on sin was poured out that the holiness and justice of God might be exonerated and the grace of God might be extended.

I. A Call to Positional Holiness

The child of God begins from the position of holiness in Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 1:30 (Amplified) we read, "But it is from Him that you have your life in Christ Jesus, Whom God made our Wisdom from God, [that is, revealed to us a knowledge of the divine plan of salvation previously hidden, manifesting itself as] our Righteousness and thus making us upright and putting us in right standing with God; and our Consecration -- making us pure and holy; and our Redemption -- our ransom from eternal penalty for sin."

Again in 1 Corinthians 6:11 we read this incredible statement, "...You were washed clean [purified by a complete atonement for sin and made free from the guilt of sin]; and you were consecrated (set apart); and you were justified (pronounced righteous) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the (Holy) Spirit of our God."

According to Holy Scripture we "were washed clean,... consecrated,... justified," through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross.

The Apostle Paul declares in Ephesians 1:4, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." (New King James Bible)

Paul goes on in Ephesians 5:25-27 (Amplified) to state, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her , So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, that He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such things -- that she might be holy and faultless."

As we understand our true position in Christ -- the position of holiness -- it must change our perspectives, our attitudes, our very self-concept. Holiness is the base from which we set out to ensure a church for every people and the Gospel for every person by the year 2000.

In this position God's call comes, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." It is a powerful call, a dynamic call, an overwhelming call.

Given the standing we have before God, given the position we hold in Christ, given the reality of God's redemptive grace, we can only respond to God's call with a resounding "Yes, Lord!" as we obey with every fibre of our beings.

II. The Call to Practical Holiness

Positional holiness becomes practical holiness as we express our position with God in our day-to-day dealings with man.

Verse 14 declares, "[Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel]."

Our position of holiness changes our relationships with men -- a different way of living, a different concept of behaviour, a different perspective on ethics and justice. Paul declares, "even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but [that you are] alive to God -- living in unbroken fellowship with Him -- in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore rule as king in your mortal (perishable) bodies, to make you yield to their cravings and be subject to their lusts and evil passions" (Romans 6:11-12).

Paul gives this practical instruction: "Do not continue offering or yielding your bodily members [and faculties] to sin as instruments of wickedness. But offer and yield yourselves to God as though you have been raised from the death to life, and your bodily members to God, presenting them as implements of righteousness."

Paul is referring to our hands, feet, mouths, ears, eyes, etc. When I give my ears to listen to gossip, back-biting, and rumour, when I give my tongue to unwholesome criticism and the destruction of a brother or sister's character in someone's eyes, when I give my eyes to pornography, I am yielding these bodily members as instruments of wickedness.

The Call to Holiness is a call to take practical action from our position in holiness in Christ -- to be willful in yielding to God.

Paul expresses the same thought in Ephesians 4:22-24, "Strip yourselves of your former nature -- put off and discard your old unrenewed self -- which characterised your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; and be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind -- having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude; and put on the new nature created in God's image, in true righteousness and holiness." These are the words of choice, not chance!

Paul continues giving very practical examples: reject falsity and express the truth (v. 25), when angry do not leave a foothold for the devil (v. 26-27), do not steal but work industriously (verse 28), instead of foul language and worthless talk use only such speech that is beneficial (v. 29), replace all sinful attitudes and emotions with wholesome uplifting ones (v. 31-32).

From our position of holiness come deliberate, planned holy actions. Only as we express practical holiness can it be possible for every people to have a church and every person to hear the Gospel.

III. The Call to Powerful Holiness

Holiness is powerful and its power is evident:

1. No Foothold for the Enemy.

In John 14:30, Jesus says to the disciples at the Last Supper "I will not talk with you much more, for the prince of the world is coming. And he has no claim on Me -- he has nothing in common with Me, there is nothing in Me that belongs to him, he has no power over Me."

While it is true that Jesus was in the unique position of sinlessness as God, the Son, the most significant power of holiness is: when the Prince of this world comes he finds within us nothing in common with himself, that belongs to him, and so has no power over us. With no foothold, the enemy is defeated. There is no power in our lives that quite compares with the power of positional holiness expressed practically in the way we live. At this point we stand or fall in pursuit of our goal of the Gospel for every person.

2. Winning Others to Christ.

Speaking specifically to women who are married to non-Christian men, Peter declares, "They may be won over not by discussion but by the [godly] lives of their wives, when they observe the pure and modest way in which you conduct yourselves..." (1 Peter 3:1-2).

Practical holiness is a powerful tool in evangelism as it demonstrates the reality of the life-changing nature of a relationship with God. We draw others to Christ through the dynamic difference holiness portrays between the Christian and the non-Christian.

3. The Blessing of God.

"For You, Lord, will bless the [uncompromisingly] righteous [him who is upright and in right standing with You]; as with a shield You will surround him with good will (pleasure and favour)" states David in Psalm 5:12.

From the position of holiness comes the practical holiness which releases the power of God's blessing. This does not mean that rough times are indicative of sin. Jesus stated that in this world we will suffer persecution. Peter clearly states that we will be brought to perfection after we have suffered a little while. But in the midst of it all there is the love, joy, peace, and blessing of Almighty God.

Conclusion

Holiness is not an option -- it is fundamental to the accomplishment of our task -- the very foundation on which we stand and without which we cannot hope to succeed.

"But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living. For it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy."


-- Gerry A. Seale,<> Barbados
AD 2000 Regional Coordinator: Caribbean
Gen. Secr., Evangelical Association of the Caribbean