John Flavel – Of the Imitation of Christ in Holiness of Life, and the Necessity of it in Believers

He that saith he abided in him, ought himself also to walk, even as he walked.” 1 John 2:6

The express and principal design of the apostle, in this chapter, is to propound marks and signs, both negative and positive, for the trial and examination of men’s claims to Christ; amongst which (not to spend time about the coherence) my text is a principal one; a trial of men’s interest in Christ, by their imitation of Christ. It is supposed by some expositors, that the apostle, in laying down this mark, had a special design to overthrow the wicked doctrine of the Carpocratians, who taught (as Epiphanius relates it) that men might have as much communion with God in sin as in duty. In full opposition to which the apostle lays down this proposition, wherein he asserts the necessity of a Christ-like conversation in all that claim union with him, or interest with him. The words resolve themselves into two parts, viz.

1. A claim to Christ supposed.

2. The only way to have our claim warranted.

First, We have here a claim to Christ supposed; “if any man say he abideth in him.” Abiding in Christ is an expression denoting proper and real interest in Christ, and communion with him; for it is put in opposition to those temporary, light, and transient effects of the gospel, which are called a morning dew, or an early cloud; such a receiving of Christ as that, Mat. 13: 21. which is but a present flash, sudden and vanishing; abiding in Christ notes a solid, durable, and effectual work of the Spirit, thoroughly and everlastingly joining the soul to Christ. Now, if any man, whosoever he be (for this indefinite is equivalent to an universal term) let him never think his claim to be good and valid, except he take this course to adjust it.

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John Flavel – Of the Imitation of Christ in Holiness of Life, and the Necessity of it in Believers (Part 2)

Of the Imitation of Christ in Holiness of Life, and the necessity of it in Believers.

“He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” 1 John 11:6

These words have been resolved into their parts, and their sense opened in the former sermon: The observation was this:

That every man is bound to the imitation of Christ, under penalty of forfeiting his claim to Christ.

In prosecution of this point, we have already shown what the imitation of Christ imports, and what the imitable excellencies in the life of Christ are: It now remains that I shew you in the next place, why all that profess Christ are bound to imitate his example and then apply the whole. Now the necessity of this imitation of Christ will convincingly appear divers ways.

First, From the established order of salvation, which is fixed and unalterable: God that has appointed the end, has also established the means and order by which men shall attain the ultimate end. Now conformity to Christ is the established method in which God will bring souls to glory, Rom. 8: 29. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of his Son; that he might be the first born among many brethren.” The same God who has predestinated men to salvation, has in order thereunto, predestinated them unto conformity to Christ, and this order of heaven is never to be reversed; we may as well hope to be saved without Christ, as to be saved without conformity to Christ.

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Mark Johnston – The ‘More and More’ of Holiness

Holiness has too often been embroiled in confusion and distortion within the Christian community and, sadly, ends up being neglected rather than cultivated within the church. This is especially true in times, like our own, when the gospel becomes more ‘me-focused’ than ‘God-focused’.

Holiness is the great goal of Christ’s saving mission. According to Paul, his purpose in redemption was ‘to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good’ (Tit 2.14). The author of Hebrews urges his readers to ‘pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (He 12.14 [NRSV]. And Jesus himself states it even more bluntly with the words, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 6.48).

Holiness matters. And it matters far more than we are willing to admit. We may be quite happy to engage in argument and debate over the meaning of the concept in Scripture, but make little effort to fight the inward battles involved in the pursuit of holiness in our daily lives.

This struck me recently while reading Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Summing up the main thrust of his letter, he tells them,

Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord to do this more and more (1Th 4.1) [NIV – italics added].

He goes on from there to walk them through some of the glaring failures that were literally a blot on the landscape of the church’s witness in that town and surrounding area. Reminding them that ‘it is God’s will that you should be sanctified’ he goes on to catalogue the list of sexual sins (private as well as public) that were clearly a matter of common knowledge in their wider community. He then says, ‘For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life’ (4.7).

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John Calvin – Encouragement on the Path of Righteousness

There are two main parts to the instruction from Scripture on the Christian life that follow. The first is that a love of righteousness — to which we are not naturally prone — must be implanted and poured into our hearts. The second is that we need some model that will keep us from losing our way in our pursuit of righteousness. Scripture contains many arguments to encourage us on the path of righteousness.

To begin with, what better foundation can Scripture give for the pursuit of righteousness than to tell us we should be holy because God Himself is holy? Moreover, when we were scattered and wandering like sheep, lost in the maze of the world, God found us and gathered us to Himself. When we contemplate this relationship between ourselves and God, let us remember that holiness is the bond of our union with Him. Not, of course, because we enter into fellowship with Him by the merit of our own holiness. Rather, we first of all, cling to Him, and then, having received His holiness, we follow wherever He calls us. For it is characteristic of His glory that He has no fellowship with sin and impurity. Holiness is the goal of our calling. Therefore we must consistently set our sights upon holiness if we would rightly respond to God’s calling. To what purpose did God pull us out of the wickedness and pollution of this world—wickedness and pollution in which we were submerged—if we allow ourselves to wallow in such wickedness and pollution for the rest of our lives?

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John MacArthur – How Scripture Empowers Personal Holiness

Becoming More like God

Godliness, Christlikeness, and Christian spirituality all describe a Christian becoming more like God. The most powerful way to effect this change is by letting the Word of God dwell in one richly (Col. 3:16). When one embraces Scripture without reservation, it will energetically work God’s will in the believer’s life (1 Thess. 2:13). The process could be basically defined as follows:

Christian spirituality involves growing to be like God in character and conduct by personally submitting to the transforming work of God’s Word and God’s Spirit.

Holiness Embodies the Very Essence of Christianity

Christians have been saved to be holy and to live holy lives (1 Pet. 1:14–16). What does it mean to be holy? Both the Hebrew and Greek words for “to be holy” (which appear about two thousand times in Scripture) basically mean “to be set aside for something special.” Thus, God is holy in that he sets himself apart from creation, humanity, and all pagan gods by the fact of his deity and sinlessness. That’s why the angels sing of God, “Holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8), and why Scripture declares him to be holy (Ps. 99:9; Isa. 43:15).

Thus, the idea of holiness takes on a spiritual meaning among the people of God based on the holy character of God. For instance, the high priest of God had inscribed across his headpiece “Holy to the Lord” (Ex. 39:30). The high priest was especially set apart by God to intercede on behalf of a sinful nation to a holy God for the forgiveness of their transgressions.

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Horatius Bonar – God’s Way of Holiness

1. The New Life

It is to a new life that God is calling us; not to some new steps in life, some new habits or ways or motives or prospects, but to a new life.

For the production of this new life the eternal Son of God took flesh, died, was buried, and rose again. It was not life producing life, a lower life rising into a higher, but life rooting itself in its opposite, life wrought out of death, by the death of “the Prince of life.” Of the new creation, as of the old, He is the author.

For the working out of this, the Holy Spirit came down in power, entering men’s souls and dwelling there, that out of the old He might bring forth the new.

That which God calls new must be so indeed. For the Bible means what it says, as being, of all books, not only the most true in thought, but the most accurate in speech. Great then and authentic must be that “new thing in the earth” which God “creates,” to which He calls us, and which He brings about by such stupendous means and at such a cost. Most hateful also must that old life of ours be to Him, when, in order to abolish it, He delivers up His Son; and most dear must we be in His sight when, in order to rescue us from the old life, and make us partakers of the new, He brings forth all the divine resources of love and power and wisdom, to meet the exigencies of a case which would otherwise have been wholly desperate.

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Josh Hussung – I Just Caught My Kid Looking at Pornography

kid-looking-at-pornography

It’s a day that you prayed wouldn’t come. You discover that the search history on your computer or phone shows that it has. Your child has been searching for internet pornography. Sadly, this is somewhat of a right of passage for many parents today, and Christians are not immune.

A highly sexualized culture, combined with the expanse of technology, leaves our families vulnerable in a way that is unprecedented. While we can (and should) take every step in our power to prevent our children from gaining access to porn, we ought to prepare ourselves for the possibility of them seeking it out.

Get the conversation started

The best way you can help this conversation go smoothly is to already be in conversation with your child about pornography. They need to understand what the Bible says about sexuality and the dangers of pornography. They need to know how pornography is oppressive to women (and men), that it contributes to world-wide sex slavery, and that it communicates untruths about sex that can potentially destroy us.

Our children need to understand that sex is not something to be ashamed of, but that God made it for a particular context—marriage between a man and a woman. Pornography rips it from that context and turns it into something base and evil.

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Jeff Robinson – Some Reasons Personal Holiness has been Neglected in American Churches

holiness

“Good works, performed in obedience to God’s commandments, are these: the fruits and evidences of a true and living faith. By these believers express and show their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that having their fruit unto holiness they may have the end eternal life.” — Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, Chapter 16, Paragraph 2

One of the most frightening verses in the entire Bible is Hebrews 12:14, particularly the final phrase: “…and pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” Yet, like Aragorn’s dramatic words to Frodo Baggins in their encounter at the Prancing Pony in The Fellowship of the Ring, I don’t think we’re frightened enough.

The author’s words are an imperative, and the holiness he is commanding is not the spotless righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer at conversion. Rather, he is speaking of purity of life. Essentially, the writer is telling his audience to pursue Christ-likeness, for without ongoing transformation into the image of Christ, a sinner has no rightful claim on the grace of God. In real life, this means we can go to church, read our Bibles daily, pray regularly, and yet, if we are not being transformed so that our lives reflect Christ’s, as Spurgeon put it, we may prove to be unconverted at last and go to hell on a feather bed.

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Tom Hawkes – Holiness is Our Goal

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You shall be holy, for I am holy.

Recently Dr. Ed Welch, a man for whose ministry I have great respect and have benefited from immensely, wrote a blog post entitled, “https://www.ccef.org/resources/blog/holiness-not-goal” I wish to respectfully, and carefully, disagree. I wish to disagree, not so much with the sentiment of his article, to which I can say a hardy amen, but to the title and some of what I think are misunderstandings about holiness, which this article unfortunately propagates.

But first let me express my agreement with a core sentiment of his article. He invites his readers to consider holiness as “progressive nearness” to God. This is an excellent understanding of holiness. Holiness is rightly seen as a relational category and to the extent that Dr. Welch intends to clarify that truth, more power to him. Holiness is in large part a heart that turns to God and away from the world, the flesh and the devil. A mind that delights in the beauty of God. A soul that runs toward the Father’s love, not away from it.

Similarly, his caution against thinking of Christian faith as simply the to-do-lists of Scripture is abundantly correct and helpful. Christ did not call us to a mere external obedience to the Law. Indeed, the Law was never meant to be a list of external to-dos. Jesus made that clear when he declared in his summary that the Law was to be fulfilled by our love for God and neighbor, relational categories.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37-39 ESV)

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Joseph Franks – Hide No Longer

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There are times when it is profitable to hide. Joseph ran from the adulterous wife of Potiphar. Elijah ran from the Ahab and Jezebel who sought his head. Paul taught his readers to flee from the devil and his temptations, and David taught his students to hide God’s Word in their hearts. Even Jesus told parables for the purpose of revealing truth to some while hiding it from others.

Then there are times when it is horrible to hide. We do wrong and harm ourselves when we hide ourselves from the scriptures, from the God of grace, and from our brothers and sisters. Yes, we are harmed when we do so, but oh how blessed we are when we open God’s Word and see our sin, then in humble repentance we run towards Jesus and towards his people.

And here is some really good news, even though we hide, God is the one who calls, seeks, finds, encourages, and commands men and women to repent.

Consider his gracious pursuance of the wicked first couple:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:6-9)

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