Persevere in the Pursuit of Holiness
I like to ask a certain question when beginning a discussion of growth in Christ. Is sanctification absolutely necessary in the Christian life? I’ve often heard a very forceful retort: “No!” Can this be? I ended our last lesson with the connection between the new birth and its evidence, love expressed by following God’s commandments. If you do not have the power and purpose to live this loving life, to follow God’s commandments, you are not born again. On the other hand, if you have an overpowering desire to faithfully observe God’s law and you follow through [add emphasis], this is evidence you are indeed born of God. God ties together the new birth and observance of His laws. This is not something theoretical. For this reason, Hebrews 12:14 exhorts, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification [holiness] without which no one will see the Lord.”
The word rendered “pursue” is forceful. It is often translated “persecute” in the New Testament. We cannot lamely and weakly seek sanctification or growth in Christ. We must not give up at the first moment of resistance or discouragement. We must prosecute this endeavor as if it were a life or death matter. Paul was zealous to persecute the church before his conversion. This is a negative use of the word. On the positive side, we must pursue growth in Christ before a watching world with the same zeal.
This vigorous pursuit involves peace with others. If we are not serious about the quest for peace among ourselves, are we really taking God’s Law seriously? Is the love of God filling our hearts? This is not peace at any price. This is peace directly tied to growth in Christ as defined by Scripture. My introduction to the Reformed Presbyterian Church was a meeting where Presbytery dealt with the divorce of a pastor. The man’s wife deserted him and forsook the faith. 1 Corinthians 7:15 was implemented. “If the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.”
We must pursue peace and holiness. Holiness involves both action and attitude. This means carefully and assiduously following God’s Word. In addition, we must follow God’s Word, not grudgingly, but with joy and contentment. As we do so, God grants peace. In the case mentioned, Presbytery sought to apply Scripture patiently and graciously. There was a righteous and holy approach to the problem. There was much counsel. Compassion was obvious. Over a period of time peace, growth and joy came to this pastor. This was a vigorous pursuit of peace and holiness.
The text tells us unless a person does pursue peace and holiness, that person will not see the Lord. Such a person will not enter heaven and see the ultimate grace, love and peace of God. The pursuit of peace and sanctification is therefore absolutely essential to the Christian life.
This is the glory. God gives born again people the purpose and the power to pursue sanctification. Do you desire to grow in the faithful and joyous observance of God’s law? Do you follow through? This is perseverance. Ezekiel 36:26-27 puts it this way. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”