It Is God’s Purpose to Make Us Holy
It is good to have something to look at when thinking about holiness. Or better, someone. It might be a fellow Christian whom you know. Or someone from the past who by grace lived a very holy life. Best of all is Jesus. For in him we have perfect holiness. And we have it displayed both in a humanity identical to our own and in the context of human life in a sinful world. Here was a holy man who lived a holy life in the midst of a very unholy world. Look at him and you see what true holiness is.
There is an obviously outward aspect to it. His words. His actions. His conformity to the law of God. The way in which he kept the Sabbath. His prayer life. His care for his disciples. His handling of all his enemies. In terms of the outward and visible, our Saviour lived a holy life, always doing those things that pleased his Father in heaven.
But his holiness was not merely outward. Mere outward holiness is the mark of a hypocrite. What Jesus was on the outside mirrored what he was in his heart. He was inwardly holy. His thoughts, his motives, his feelings – all that he loved and hated and rejoiced in – were in complete accordance with the will of God. He was holy in heart as well as holy in life. From the beginning to the end. And he was so perfectly.
Now enter Paul. He is writing his marvellous letter to the Romans and coming toward the closing part of what we know as chapter 8. Here is what he tells: ‘For those whom God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son’ (Rom. 8:29). What is he saying? He is saying that God’s predestinating purpose for those of us who are his people is to make us every bit as holy as Jesus is. It is what his love for us has planned. It is what his love for us will ultimately bring about.
Take it as an encouragement to do the following things:
To practice holiness. To conscientiously endeavour day by day to live a holy life. It is the very thing to which he has predestined us. And therefore we can be sure of his help. Our very efforts are indeed a sign of his help. God is working in us ‘to will and to act according to his good purpose’ (Phil. 2:13).
To pray for holiness. It was the prayer of Robert Murray M’Cheyne that God would make him as holy as it was possible for a saved sinner to be. We should pray for holiness as well – and with absolute confidence that such prayers are pleasing to God. They are aligning themselves with his eternal purpose. We are asking him to do the very thing on which his heart has ever been set.
To hope for holiness. It is here that the language of Romans 8 speaks most comfortingly. What a struggle we have with remaining sin! What infinite possibilities for evil still lie lurking in our hearts! Don’t you feel at times as if holiness is as far off now as it ever was? That like Paul you are a ‘wretched’ person (Rom. 7:24) because sin so often carries the day? Holiness, however, is God’s purpose for us. It is the very thing to which he has predestined us. And he will have his way. He has begun the good work in us of making us like his Son. And we can be sure – perfectly sure – that having done so he will carry it on until it is complete (Phil. 1:6).
David Campbell is pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
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