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“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

One Seraph to another in Isaiah 6:8

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

The four living creatures in Revelation 4:8

The thrice holy declaration of God’s otherness from these two passages of Scripture remind us that God is set apart in a way unique only to him. There is no one like him. The thrice holy declaration is also unique to God’s attributes. No other attribute (love, power, glory, justice, etc.) is designated in Scripture by stating it three times. God’s holiness is gloriously, eternally unique.

God’s holiness is moral purity, but it is more than moral purity. Jerry Bridges in his book The Joy of Fearing God, describes God’s holiness as transcendent majesty (67).

In this sense, God is so much more than we are and he is truly OTHER. God is full of holy majesty and glory in a way that we cannot fully comprehend.

Yet the wonder of our salvation is that God in his holiness reached down to man in his sinfulness. Through Christ, who is God and is the fullness of God enfleshed with holiness and love, God entered into his creation. Christ experienced God’s holy wrath and displayed God’s glorious love on the cross. Jesus is the very image of God’s holiness and love.

In a most glorious realization, God redeems us in order to make us holy. This is the part of salvation called sanctification.

Let’s take a moment to review salvation in three basic parts. (There are more aspects to salvation than these three. See the previous word of the week posts. But these three parts provide a helpful framework).

  • Salvation as justification: God declares us righteous. This is salvation in the past tense. God declared us righteous by the gracious work of Christ on the cross and through our faith in him.
  • Salvation as sanctification: God makes us holy. This is salvation in the present tense. God does save us from our sin, but being made holy is a process of God removing sin from our lives and making us into Christlikeness (Romans 8:29).
  • Salvation as glorification: God glorifies us. This is salvation in the future tense. God will give us glorified bodies and allow us to experience life as he originally intended.

We explored justification in a previous post. We will explore glorification in a future post. In this post, we are going explore salvation as sanctification.

Sanctification is an aspect of salvation that can be controversial.

Does sanctification mean that God does all the work, and we can behave any way we choose? This would be antinomianism (or anti-law).

Does sanctification mean that we can become sinlessly perfect this side of heaven? This would be perfectionism.

Let’s try to answer these questions by offering just a few observations on the doctrine of sanctification.

Sanctification has at least two aspects. First, positional sanctification is the concept that God makes us holy through the work of Christ. In essence, we are sanctified through the work of Christ (see Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 6:11). Nothing sinful will enter into God’s presence in heaven. So the work of Christ in justifying us and sanctifying us will completely cleanse our sin away.

Second, practical sanctification is how we partner with God to be holy in our character and conduct. Practical sanctification recognizes the reality that we still live in a sinful human body in a sinful world with an enemy who tempts us to sin. While we are sanctified positionally, we must partner with God to be set apart or holy in our behavior.

To answer question #1 above, sanctification does not imply that it is ok to live in sin after conversion (Romans 6:1-2). To answer question #2 move, sanctification does imply we will be perfectly holy, but not until heaven. We cannot be sinlessly perfect this side of eternity though holiness is to be our aim.

For the rest of this post, we are going to explore some practical ways that we can partner with God to be holy.

It is important to note that God expects holiness of his people.

You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.

God to the people of Israel, Leviticus 19:2

Peter quotes this passage in the New Testament and adds additional explanations in 1 Peter 1:14-16.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.

God’s holiness is the primary reason that he expects us to be holy and set apart. God has given us the Holy Spirit to indwell us and strengthen us to experience sanctification (Ephesians 5:18).

We participate in our sanctification when we do the following things:

  • Confess and repent of our sins. We cannot expect to be holy in our conduct if we tolerate sin in our lives. When Peter reflects on the command to be holy, he reminds his readers to reject their former passions. Regular confession and repentance are means of pursuing holiness in our daily lives.
  • Reject and remove temptations. God commands us to resist the devil (James 4:7) and flee temptations (2 Timothy 2:2). We cannot expect to be holy if we are inviting sin into our lives. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that we are to do whatever it takes to remove sin from us (Matthew 5:29-30). If you have a struggle with a particular sin, you must remove that temptation from your life. Here are two examples. If you struggle with drunkenness, you cannot sit in the parking lot of the ABC store. You must avoid (flee) temptation. If you struggle with pornography or lust, you cannot be awake at 1 am with your smart phone in hand. You must avoid (flee) temptation. To reject and remove temptations may mean that you act drastically (cut out TV or internet, not go to restaurants that serve alcohol, stop surfing FaceBook, etc.). But remember we are not called to be like everyone else. We are called to be holy.
  • Replace temptations with virtues and pursue righteousness. Being holy is not just about the negative (rejecting sin). It is about being set apart. In the Old Testament, priests were set apart as holy by their cleansing rituals, dress, and conduct. While we don’t have to emulate their rituals, the imagery is instructive. Replacing a temptation like wasted time on a smart phone with reading the Bible or a good book is conduct conducive of holiness. Likewise, we should pursue righteous behaviors (faith, love, peace, purity 2 Timothy 2:2). Spiritual disciplines like Bible reading, prayer, sharing the gospel, serving others, and meditating and memorizing the Bible are spiritually formative and helpful in pursuing holiness.

Here are some practical action items as you finish reading this post:

  • Thank God that he has set you apart to be holy through Christ.
  • Take a moment to confess and repent of your sins today asking God’s forgiveness and cleansing.
  • Remove a temptation from your life today.
  • Practice a spiritual discipline today (read, pray, study, memorize, share, serve).

When we pursue sanctification, we embrace the salvation that God has graciously given us.

Have you considered lately how blessed you are? On a recent trip to visit with my in-laws, I had some time to reflect.

We are blessed to be able to travel. Visiting my in-laws takes some time. They live in north Louisiana. This trip we flew, but other trips we’ve driven (14 hours in a car). In any case, I got to thinking how blessed we are to be able to make five state trek to visit family. Whether driving or flying, we are blessed to be able to travel.

We are blessed to have family. One of my wife’s constant refrains is “Appreciate the time we have.” Her dad died suddenly of a heart attack almost twenty years ago. There’s not much she wouldn’t give for another conversation with her dad. We are blessed to be able to care for my dad, to visit my wife’s family, to have two boys of our own. Family is one of God’s greatest blessings.

We are blessed to have our daily bread. Jesus taught his followers to pray in Matthew 6:11 “Give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus’ socioeconomic culture was agricultural and built on daily provisions. This was a real prayer of trust and need. God has abundantly blessed so many in our nation to not have to worry about where their daily bread will come from. Having abundant food is one of God’s blessings.

We are blessed to have health. The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for some, and many others I know are going through health crises. But just about two weeks ago I was able to get my second vaccination. And there are so many who have been vaccinated who feel a freedom and peace that’s been lacking for a year. We are so blessed in the US to have the health care opportunities that we do have. Any way you look at our situation, we are blessed.

We are blessed to have real life. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus gives us life, real and abundant. The life Jesus gives is not virtual or lived through Facebook or in a fantasy. Jesus gives us life to the full that begins at conversion and lasts forever. The life that we have through Jesus is both real and eternal.

I could list dozens if not hundreds or thousands more blessings. If you really think about it, you could list many as well. Consider your blessings, and thank God for them.

On the recent trip I referenced earlier, I got some time to read. I was able to finish a book entitled Centered: Trading Your Plans for a Life that Matters by Jason Brown. Jason played Center on the UNC Football team a number of years ago, was drafted, and played a few years in the NFL. At the height of his career, he sensed God calling him to leave football and become a farmer. He and his family now own First Fruits Farm in North Carolina where they give away nearly everything they grow to food banks and other agencies for those who are hungry. Their story is fascinating and convicting.

In one instance Jason sensed God saying to him, “I haven’t been blessing you this whole time so that my blessings could stop at you; I’ve been blessing you so that my blessings could flow through you” (p. 96, emphasis mine).

Jason and Tay’s story reminded me of this all-important truth:

God doesn’t bless us just for us; he blesses us so that we can bless others.

How has God blessed you? Has God blessed you with financial resources? Has God blessed you with gifts, talents, and abilities? Has God blessed you with health, energy, or free time? Has God blessed you with empathy, compassion, and a concern for the less fortunate?

If you’re reading this God at least blessed you with eyesight and some free time. I would like to commend four specific actions you can do to reflect on your blessings.

  1. List your blessings. Write down some of the ways God has blessed you. Journal them. Think on them. If you’d like, take the comments section below or the social media post you read this on and list some of your blessings there.
  2. Pause and thank God for your blessings. Nothing you have is totally yours. We are stewards of what God has given. Thank him for your blessings, your ability to work, your freedoms, your time, and anything else you are blessed with.
  3. Find a way today to bless someone else. Encourage someone, take someone to lunch, buy a neighbor a gift, serve at a food bank or homeless shelter. Just bless someone today.
  4. Ask God how he might want to use his blessings to you to flow through you to someone else. This is a challenge. God may ask you to sacrifice time, money, career, or something else. But when God uses you to bless someone else, you are sharing a little bit of eternity in a temporal world.

If you want to read a challenging and encouraging story about God’s call to bless others, order and read Jason Brown’s book. You will be encouraged and convicted. And I’m positive that you’ll be blessed.

Photo by Ann on Unsplash