I preached at Korean Church of Rwanda today, August 7th. My message was titled Perfecting Holiness (2) because it was the continuation our my previous sermon based on 2 Corinthians 7:1.
Holiness is a heavy word, but it is God's mandate for His people to be holy as He is. Also we were told to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Now, perfecting holiness is even heavier word. But the scripture suggests that we pursue perfect holiness by purifying ourselves from everything that contaminates our body and spirit. (2 Corinthians 7:1)
Can we ever achieve it? The scripture says we can, but not on our own strength but on His strength. Hebrews 12:23 implies that there are "perfected spirits of righteousness." That is why Paul was so assured that the good work that the Lord started in us will bring it to completion until the Day of Christ. (Philippians 1:6) Paul himself was looking forward to the "crown of righteousness" that is bestowed upon him as he had fought the good fight, finished the race and kept his faith in his letter to Timothy. (2 Timothy 4:7,8)
How can we achieve this perfect holiness? Only through relentless repentance (1 John 1:9) and training on godlness (1 Timothy 4:7,8)
There are several types of purity.
1. Absolute purity belongs only to God Himself. There could be relative or created purity that existed with humanity before the fall and with the angels part of whom also fell out of the purity.
2. Through Jesus, we have gained access to the purity again. It is called the positional purity that comes from our restored relationship with God. But this purity is a perceived purity, not real purity.
3. Ultimately when Jesus returns to reign and to establish the new heaven and earth, we have been promised to re-gain the purity through a glorified body of Jesus.
4. Until the ultimate purity is fully restored, we are living with our efforts to gain practical purity. This is what 2 Corinthians pertain to.
We talked about what areas we should focus on in purifying ourselves.
1. Behaviors: 1 Peter 1:15 says that we should be holy in our behaviors as the Father who called us is holy. The behaviors that contaminate us include a) the behaviors that hurt others directly (robbery, theft, etc.), b) the behaviors that hurt others indirectly (pollution, tax evasion etc.) and c) the behaviors that contaminate ourselves (drug, smoking, alcohol etc.) Instead, we should focus on behaviors that edify and benefit others, such as charity, relief and development.
2. Words: While the behaviors can be somewhat controlled by our will, our tongue is uncontrollable, the scripture says. (James 3:6-12) The most obvious words that contaminate us are lies since they are in direct contrast to the truth. The second types of words that contaminate us are unwholesome talks. Ephesians 4:29 is suggesting that we should not allow any of these unwholesome talks come out of our mouths. We should also be careful about what we talk about ourselves since God also warned that He will listen to what we say and respond. We are God's precious children and we should not try to downgrade ourselves from this lofty relational position.
3. Minds/Thoughts: If the tongue was uncontrollable, our minds are impossible to control. Tongue may still be put to silence but thoughts will never be silent. Thoughts will determine the behaviors. Behaviors will form habits. Habits will affect character and character will determine the destiny. In our illustration, our destiny is holiness. Our minds contaminate our spirit and body through temptation of our old selves that spring from the sinful nature. That is why the Christianity begins with the spiritual bankruptcy as written in Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." That is why Paul emphasized that transformation begins with the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12:2 and Ephesians 4:22-24) This belongs to the spiritual reformation.
To put this in the right context, we should begin with the confession that we are the sinners and we cannot do anything to save ourselves. We can find this salvation only in Jesus Christ whom God sent to us for redemption. This renewed mind will change and renew the attitudes of our minds. This renewed mind and attitudes will positively affect our behaviors, refraining from the behaviors that contaminate our holiness instead encouraging us to do more good and constructive works. Through repeated good behaviors, we will begin to form godly habits. These godly habits will help form our godly character like that of Jesus. Through this exercise, we will attain God's holiness in our lives gradually but surely. Of course, in between, we should repent whenever we find any guilt in our lives and practice godliness even harder.
Pragmatically how do we know if I am in line with God's will? The scriptures. Hebrews 4:12 says that the scriptures are sharper than any doubled-edged sword and can pierce our souls, bodies, joints and marrows. The scriptures can even know what we are thinking in our minds. We should therefore listen to, read, study, meditate on and memorize the scriptures with diligence. Then we should go to the Lord on our knees repenting, asking for forgiveness and pledging not to repeat the same sins. This process is called "Sanctification" that leads us to God's holiness.
Brothers and sisters, we should focus more on perfecting holiness by purifying ourselves from everything that contaminates our spirits and bodies because it is God's mandate. Eventually and ultimately, we trust that we will be like Christ in His image but only after our tireless efforts, not to gain salvation, but to perfect holiness that we can achieve only through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul was praying for the saints at the Thessalonian church in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. May this prayer be your and my prayer!
"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Amen! - Jeffrey