Like a coach, the author of Hebrews is trying to encourage weary believers to endure in their faith for a lifetime. But hes also trying to bring his letter to an end (13:22), so he begins listing profound truths in just a few words. And no place does he compress more truth into fewer words than in the single sentence we call verse 14. It took us two weeks to begin to unpack the meaning of pursue peace with all
and now we come to the second half of this verse which is no less significant. Here he tells us to pursue
holiness without which no one will see the Lord. And then he immediately moves on to another point, but we want to stop and yell, Wait a minute! What did you just say? Did I hear you say I must be holy or I wont go to heaven? And then many more questions start to flow fast and furiously, Whats holiness, and exactly how much do I have to have, and how will I know if Ive reached that point, and I thought you said Jesus was all I needed. Somehow in all of this the author is telling us that holiness really is important and we need it in order to be strengthened to run the race that is set before us. So today lets try to understand what holiness is and how we become holy.
What is holiness?
The word holiness can have different shades of meaning in the Bible, but what hes referring to here is the moral excellence of God. He is the One who sets the standard and everything He does is motivated by pure lovea love which is undiminished by any taint of wrong attitudes or behavior. In fact, His goodness is so complete He exudes a power that appears as light and which is so intense that if it were not restrained it would destroy all that is not holy (Heb 12:29; Rev 20:11).
In order to create sons and daughters who are truly holy and love Him, He allowed a temporary season of rebellion in the spiritual realm and on earth. At some point in the future the number of His children will be complete and He will bring this season to an end, destroying the present physical universe by simply removing all restraint to His glory. He will also separate away from Himself all rebellious spirits because spirits cannot die since they are eternal.
1 John 3:2, 3
2 Peter 3:10-15 the holiness of God will sweep the universe clean and create a new heaven and earth in which righteousness dwells (R.A. Finlayson, New Bible Dictionary, Eerdmans, 1962, p. 531).
What does human holiness look like?
By telling us to pursue
holiness the author of Hebrews is telling us we must pursue, chase after, do all in our power to accomplish the transformation of our own moral character until we too are motivated by perfect love. But what does holiness look like in a human being? Thankfully someone has actually lived a holy life so we can understand, and of course its Jesus. We can see how a holy human lives by looking at His life and character.
He did not live a life free from temptation, but repeatedly sought and obeyed the will of God even though it subjected Him to great hardship: temptation, selfless service, suffering and death.
How does God make us holy?
1) There is a change of heart
Requirements: repentance, faith in Christ, receiving the indwelling Holy Spirit
Hebrews 8:10, 11
2) Theres no condemnation
When the law has been written on a persons heart God ceases to be our judge and becomes our Father who trains us.
I will remember their sins no more
With fear gone we can regularly let the Holy Spirit convict us. We confess and repent quickly and often (1Jn 1:8-2:2)
3) Theres power which enables us to obey.
You cant be born again and not want to please Him. You cant be filled with the Spirit and not be able to do so.
Romans 7 Someone trying to be holy by their willpower
Romans 8 Someone being holy by relying on the power of the Spirit
4) Theres an ongoing process
Its not one choice or a miracle where I never again feel tempted, though there can be specific miracles where we are entirely set free from certain things. Its learning to increasingly depend on God. Its a day-by-day pursuit.
Transformed thinking (I didnt know that was wrong)
Aware of my weakness (I thought I could stop when I wanted to)
Discover His power (Wow, this really works!)
Develop a pattern of dependence (I know I cant do it alone)
- Romans 8:4-8; 12-17
5) Theres an unreachable standard
Romans 8:29; Philippians 3:12
6) Theres an urgent bottom line
1 Corinthians 6:9, 10
For example: Can I be a gossip and still be a Christian?
Not if you mean an unrepentant, defiant gossip.
Do many Christians struggle with gossip? Yes, of course.
- Do you acknowledge it to be wrong?
- Do you try to not gossip?
- Do you repent and take whatever steps are possible to repair the damage of your gossip?
7) Theres a future day of judgment
1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 4:1-5
8) Theres a heavenly Father who oversees the process
Hebrews 12:10 He disciplines us
that we may share His holiness
But we still must choose to cooperate (2Pe 1:3-11).
Am I swimming upstream or am I yielding to my passions, appetites, temper and following the culture of the world?
None of us should expect to come to a stage of maturity where there is no temptation or struggle. That blessing awaits in the next age. As Jesus own life illustrates the more we serve God the more intensely well be tempted. A huge part of maturing is recognizing that truth and learning to quickly and consistently flee to the safety of Gods power.
Holiness then is an ongoing process throughout our lives on earth. None of us attains the ultimate standard, which is Christ Himself. However, every man and woman of faith will learn to love holiness and pursue it. This is the heart that will see God (Mt 5:8).
1) Tell us about an area where God has worked holiness in your life.
2) What do you do when you feel tempted? How do you overcome the temptation?
3) As you look back on your life, can you see some major changes God has worked in you?