Four Keys to Holiness
With Jill Southern-Jones, Director of NETS
Lately, God has been speaking to us here at Pierrepont about holiness. 1 Peter 1:15 says, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” I believe one of the world’s most pressing needs is holy character. Holy character is not about our reputation or how much is on our Christian CV, but about the decisions we make when we think no one is looking. Do our decisions help pave the way for God to come and transform our lives and the lives of those around us? Are we willing to pay the price of repentance and commitment to change or are we on the road to compromise?
Character includes courage. In the Monday to Friday of life we have many decisions that require courage in our Christian life. What will stop us from being courageous? The answer is fear. We cannot be courageous and fearful at the same time. As a believer, we do not want to be one who compromises, caves in under difficult circumstances, or gives up when the going gets tough.
I was reading in Isaiah 6 where the Lord asks the life-changing question, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” The answer I gave was “I’ll go. I love to go. Send me.” But then I heard Him ask another question, “Do you know how Isaiah died?” I went back and found out that historically Isaiah was sawn in two by King Manasseh, who did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any other king. Are you willing to pay the ultimate price and go the full distance for God? Some decisions you need to make now, in advance, not the moment you’re faced with them. Then you will not be a coward when that day arrives.
2 Timothy 1:7, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power.” When we are making choices in our everyday lives we must often choose between the right thing and the convenient thing. Do you stick to biblical principles when there are challenging choices, or do you cave in for the sake of your own comfort and for others’ approvals? Are you willing to risk faith in God or crawl into some sort of shrinking shell of safety, security, or even passivity? These choices come everyday to you and me by rapid fire.
Being a Christian and owning up to sin in your daily life takes courage. Much courage is required to stay sexually pure in the sex-crazed culture we live in today. Some people are able to walk free while others seem to easily fall into sexual sin. What will keep us on holy ground? “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning,” Exodus 20:20. Your intimate relationship with Jesus needs to be such that you cannot imagine risking separation from Him by falling into gross sin.
Every one of us will face many temptations. Will we stand up and say “No” to the enemy? Scriptures says that with the Lord there is always a way of escape and there is no temptation too hard to bear. Make your mind up to be a holy courageous man or woman of God. God provides courage to face crippling fears, the courage to be holy when those around you are not, and courage to run your race to the white tape. With God’s strength we will be able to endure, push through, and finish knowing there is a crown laid up for us in glory.
What is discipline? Some definitions of discipline include: correct principles applied to our habits; subjecting ourselves to God’s laws and correction; chastisement intent to correct; and laws by which the church itself is governed. Discipline involves dying to the flesh and following the Spirit. Romans 8:13 says, “If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die.” “But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”
The following are some characteristics of an undisciplined life.
Most people who find it difficult to be successful in certain areas of their lives have a problem with discipline. This is one of the most important holy character qualities we can possess and it plays an important role in every part of our lives. It is important to know what discipline is and how to practice it.
One area of discipline is delayed gratification. According to Bill Hybels of Willow Creek, delayed gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. Can you do what needs to be done first and play later? We must learn this and practice it in our life daily. If you begin to deal with conflicts early in relationships you’ll have a longer time of pleasure ahead in friendships and marriages. Facing the tough challenges first enables you to reap the pleasure later.
Discipline is also making advanced decisions. Choices need to be made in the heart before it is time for action, and making a decision in the heat of temptation must be avoided. If God is going to trust you with a position or place of leadership in the Body of Christ, you must be able to make advanced decisions and then stick to them. Advanced decisions about your spiritual relationship with God are vital. Do you make sure to have personal interaction with the Lord Jesus, fellowship with other believers, and serve the Body of Christ through your local church? We do the things we do today because we have decided to do so previously. Also, when making important decisions, we must then change our lifestyles to support these decisions. Are you willing to go through the discomfort now for the reward later? There will be an investment stage of seeding and planting, and instant results are not always possible. We must invest in discipline and recognize that delayed gratification will be part of our lives.
Lastly, discipline is having accountability. Friends, mothers, and fathers in Christ can hold you accountable. Try to surround yourself with those who are more mature in their walk with the Lord than you. Share your advanced decisions with them and this will encourage you in your self-discipline.
The payoffs for a disciplined life are enormous. Relational discipline produces flourishing marriages, friendships and good family relationships. Physical discipline, whether diet or exercise, produces increased energy, higher concentration levels, increased self-worth, and resistance to sickness. The payoff for financial discipline is freedom from debt and the ability to have more to give to meet the needs of others. Spiritual discipline produces a fulfilled and victorious Christian life.
Holiness is separating one’s self from the world, the flesh, and the enemy’s works. Holiness involves putting off the old sinful man and putting on the new man, and this is the act of separating yourself unto the Lord. It’s a bit like pulling up the old carpet before you put new carpet down. 2 Timothy 2 says to flee from iniquity and then pursue righteousness. Holiness has two sides to the coin, and we cannot replace something that has not first been removed. The more we become aware of God’s holiness the more we see our own ungodliness in action.
Vision is the ability to be far-seeing, both in our own lives and without. Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” While there are a lot of “nuts and bolts” people doing exactly as they’re told, we believers need to be more than that. A Christian should be doing more than simply maintaining status quo, but should be looking ahead and pressing in to what God has for their future. I believe personal vision is on the endangered character quality list.
Visionaries are people who are not paralyzed by problems, but rather immediately look for solutions. They can look around and see how people are handling their problems in a bad way. A visionary is able to admit a problem, but knows there is no problem too big for God. With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. In life there are many trials, problems, and deaths of dreams and expectations. Because of these challenges, holiness is absolutely critical. We cannot allow our problems to overwhelm us no matter how big they seem. No matter what problems or adversities you face in your life, you can find a solution in God if you are willing to be a visionary.
Here are tips to developing a holy way of dealing with problems.
As well as being far-reaching, vision is the ability to see beneath the surface and beyond the obvious. Jesus showed vision when he changed Simon’s name to Peter. Perhaps those around Peter only saw his aggressiveness or impulsiveness but Jesus saw him for who He created him to be, and thus named him Peter, the Rock. Visionaries are to look for the greatness in individuals that God has put there and help to bring out those treasures. Vision is the God-given ability to catch a glimpse of what God wants to do, first in your own life and then in the lives of those around you. Holiness is not an impossible goal, and having the ability to see outside of yourself and over the mountain will help you to keep moving on in your walk with God.
This is the last teaching in a series of holiness and I want talk about endurance, and what part it plays in a holy life. In Galatians 5, endurance is listed as a fruit of the Spirit. These fruits can be viewed as qualities of Jesus Christ himself, and time and effort must be given to bear these fruits. How are you doing with endurance? Have you ever quit something and had to pay a high price for doing so? Many people live with the scars or wounds of having quit something, especially marriages or friendships, and look back and wonder why they gave up so easily. The answer is obvious. It is easier to quit than it is to endure. It is easier to walk out of argument than stay and work through the conflict. It may even seem easier to quit following Jesus Christ than to go through the painful process of daily surrender.
Be assured there is a large hidden price tag for quitting, and many have paid dearly for giving up too soon. James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures trials, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of Christ.” A lot of energy is spent trying to avoid trials when we should be thanking God for them. Trials are used to forge our character. Adversity polishes us, and endurance is a powerful weapon to have in your character arsenal.
Our carnal nature wants instant results and success. We even want overnight spiritual maturity and have a strong tendency to quit if these expectations are not met. Consistent quitting makes a person weak-willed because they are not taught to push through and endure.
Patient endurance is a quality of a good leader and is essential for a holy life. To face life’s challenges, whether in personal relationships, marriages, or work situations, stickability is key. Endurance turns vision into reality, otherwise your plans will only be a dream. The Body of Christ needs to be completer finishers, and finishing what is started is not just for the big things but for the small things as well. Our lives should not be littered with half finished projects. If there are unfinished things in your life that God has called you to do it isn’t too late to finish it. I challenge you to keep running the race and push through. Jacob wrestled with God to the point where he got his hip put out; are you that dedicated?
Here are some areas where we are likely to quit.
Endurance comes when we think we can go no further, yet we draw on God’s strength and refuse to quit. Pushing through the quitting points, even small ones, starts to build strong endurance in our lives. If you are at a personal quitting point, count the cost. Quitting is not glamorous, and in some cases you can regret quitting for the rest of your life.
I have found that the wall in front of you, the obstacle, looks like it’s made of brick and that you are going to crash right into it. My experience is that when you decide to push through that wall you find it’s not made of brick at all, it’s made of tissue paper. It’s much easier to push through than the enemy would have you believe, because he’s a liar. Every time you push through a wall, something in your spirit strengthens and you are more prepared to endure the next time.
God is bigger than any problem you and I face, and He will see us through. The solution is to find what path He wants us to go on so our life can take on a new course. Whatever your quitting point, I want to challenge you today to test God’s truth and faithfulness by saying, “God, I am going to press through and proceed with my life, my relationships, my destiny, my walk in you, and my spiritual life and growth in you. I will push through, and I’m asking you to empower me with your strength deep in my inner person. I WILL come through this quitting point to come out the other side.”
Jill Southern-Jones, Director of NETS