Often it is much easier for me to tell you what I don’t like about something verses telling you what I would like instead. Maybe this is the case for you too. Have you ever found yourself saying something along the lines of “I don’t know what I want for dinner, but I know I don’t want what you just said we are going to have”?
After I wrote last month’s newsletter article on the reasons I don’t observe Lent. I felt I shouldn’t leave you with just the “what I don’t do” speech about Lent, but also provide an answer to the question of “how do we pursue holiness for the glory of God?” If it is not done primarily by abstaining from things or from observing certain days, how is it done? That is the question I hope to begin to answer this month.
Notice I said “if it is not done primarily by…” I want to begin by making sure that we understand that fasting and observing certain days is not prohibited by scripture. Paul tells the church in Rome that some “esteem one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5) Paul is saying that it is ok to observe days differently. Scripture also encourages us to fast. Christ himself taught that it is good to fast and that are appropriate ways and times to fast. So, let’s be clear; abstaining and observing can be good things to do.
Now back to the question. If abstaining and observing is not the primary way that we pursue holiness, then what is? Questions about pursuing holiness usually fall under the doctrine of sanctification. Sanctification is the term we use to describe the reality of maturing in our faith, or growing in holiness, or becoming more like Christ and less like the world. The New Testament is full of teaching on how this is done. Some major sections of sanctification in the New Testament are: Romans 8, Philippians 3, Galatians 3, I Peter 1, Hebrews 12 and many more. Every one of these chapters in the Bible helps us understand and pursue what it means to grow in holiness.
One of my favorite books of all time was written to help Christians understand the process of sanctification and the role of Holy Spirit in that process. The book is called “The Holy Spirit, His Gifts and Power” by John Owen. Owen’s chapters on sanctification are simply the best, bar none. Here are a couple of wonderful quotes from his book:
“The sanctification of the Spirit is peculiarly connected with, and limited to the doctrine, truth, and grace of the gospel; for holiness is the implanting, writing, and realizing of the gospel in our souls.” page 247
“There never was, nor is, nor ever will be the least particle of holiness in the world, but what flowing from Jesus Christ, is communicated by the Spirit according to the truth and promise of the gospel.” page 248
I’ve summarized Owen’s teaching on sanctification into what I call the “4 L’s”. In order to grow in holiness we must:
Learn the Gospel
Love the Gospel
Live in light of the Gospel
Leave temptations by remembering the Gospel
See the pattern? It all has to do with the Gospel. The Good News of the work of Christ is what grows us in holiness. The Holy Spirit uses the Gospel to grow our love of Christ, which in turn grows our desire to bring glory to God in every avenue of our life. The key to growing in holiness is not abstaining from certain things or observing certain days but knowing, trusting, and resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ! It is not what we do, but what Christ has done. Seeing more of the Jesus in the gospel every day will mature us in our marriages. It will mature us in the way we fight temptation. It will conform us more and more into the image of Christ.
How do we pursue holiness for the glory of God? We learn the Gospel, Love the Gospel, Live in light of the Gospel, and Leave temptations by remembering the Gospel.