Perfecting Holiness


Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
(2 Corinthians 7:1 NASB)



Paul is talking to people who are already followers of Jesus Christ but he is challenging them in their Christian walk. There is more to this relationship than simply accepted Jesus as their Lord. Instead, there has to be a lifetime of transformation into which every believer is called. We have the great promises of God and that he will do all that he has promised, but we must also hold up our end of the bargain. We must realize that the goal is holiness, or becoming like Christ. If that is our goal, then we ought to pattern and/or fashion our lives after the goal. If my goal is to become like Christ, I need to work at it as well. Jesus did not lead a life of defilement, so why should we? Why should we continue to do things in the flesh that Jesus would never have done. We are to stop living in sin. We are to stop making excuses for continuing to do things that Jesus would never do and we are to put on Christ. In this way we become active participants in perfecting holiness. The way this phrase reads in the Greek helps us to understand that "perfecting" is a process which is leading us toward a goal -- which is to be like Christ -- and his nature is holy love. Perfecting holiness is working toward a goal of becoming Christlike. How does this happen? It happens throughout a life time of spiritual growth and maturity and formation, but also in moments of spiritual crisis subsequent to our salvation. It is this both-and of holiness which challenges us continue in spiritual growth and maturity until the day we die. Finally Paul ends by saying, "in the fear of God." I don't believe that this is any kind of panic attack, but instead is a healthy respect for God and his nature of holy love. Respect for the fact that I ought not to be engaged in activities in which Jesus would not be engaged.



In many ways this was Paul's statement about human activity in the process of sanctification. You must be an active participant in the process -- you can't just wait around for Jesus to zap you into something. This week Dr. Diane Leclerc from Northwest Nazarene University was speaking to our pastors. She shared this illustration regarding our personal human involvement. What if we plan to run a marathon. What would it take to look like a marathon runner? Would we sit around every day eating five Big Macs a day and never going out for a run -- and then head out on Marathon Day and expect to do a good job? No, every single day we would do what it takes to become a marathon runner. We would condition ourselves mentally and physically so that we could be a marathon runner. This would affect what kind of food that we ate and how much and what type of exercise that we would do on a daily basis. Therefore, if our goal is to become like Christ -- shouldn't we also begin training ourselves for the goal. Wouldn't we practice spiritual disciplines which would work to transform us into his image? Wouldn't we spend time in the word and in prayer? Wouldn't we spend time doing things that Jesus did? Wouldn't we spend time helping the poor and the needy? Wouldn't we spend time telling others about him? This is what Paul means when he tells us to perfect holiness. He says to work on it! He wants us to work on it every single day. The problem comes when we think that the process is completed in a crisis moment alone. Yes, there is a moment of entire sanctification, but it is part of the process. According to Dr. Leclerc, John Wesley argued that if we focused too much on the moments of crisis without an emphasis on the process we would be wrong. He also argued that if we spent too much time focusing on the process without the crisis, we were wrong. There must be both and in this instance what Paul is saying encompasses both. To perfect holiness in our lives means that we must continue to grow in grace each and every single day of our lives, while at the same time realizing that we must be open to a crisis experience along the way because this is what it will take to reach the goal, to become like Christ.

May God help us to become as excited and disciplined about reaching the goal of Christlikeness as we are about the popular activities of the day. It's Saturday and for many their goal today will include being the best college football fan the world has ever seen. Tomorrow, could we put on the same energy and excitement about being the best follower of Jesus Christ the world has ever seen? This is Paul's encouragement to you and to me. Please, join me in perfecting holiness.



Lord, please forgive me for the times I have not taken seriously the process of perfecting holiness in my life. Amen.


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