Kingdom Values (5)
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7.1
The logical corollary
The work of renewalengages that process of confession, repentance, and penance by which, as Paul put it, we “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.”
We will be inclined toward renewal once seeking the Kingdom, to which God daily calls us, is firmly in place in our conscience. We won’t have much incentive to embrace renewal as a value unless we’re actively seeking to follow our calling to the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit.
Hearing and seeking God’s calling must be the top priorities in our conscience; renewal follows as a logical corollary of seeking the Kingdom to help keep us on the path of our calling to the Kingdom.
But renewal can only function as a Kingdom value against a background that allows us to know when our work of renewal is on target. And that background is what Paul refers to as holiness. When renewal is a working value in our souls and lives, and we are being cleansed in spirit and body of all defilements and every Kingdom-deterring thought, affection, word, or deed, then we’ll be in position to be “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
So we need to understand what holiness is and what it should look like in our lives.
God is at work in everyone who believes in Him to bring holiness to completion. We won’t achieve complete holiness in this life. That awaits the day when, as we see Jesus face to face, we are actually, fully, and uniquely made holy like He is holy (1 Jn. 3.1-3). If this is what we hope for, then we’ll want to add to the values that define our conscience and direct our lives in the holiness that characterizes the Kingdom of the Holy Spirit.
But what is holiness? Holiness is both the reflection of God and His character and the refraction of that glorious image into the world through our lives. As we are becoming holy, the character of God becomes visible in us, and the work of God is expressed through us in uniquely personal ways.
God is holy; but God shows His holiness to the world through those who are being cleansed of all filthiness of spirit and body, and who are working to bring holiness to completion in the fear of God. God is holy. Christ is holy. The Law of God is holy. The standards of holiness, in other words, are readily available. The question is whether we will so value holiness as to embrace those standards, focus on them earnestly, and work toward achieving them in every aspect of our lives.
Paul’s counsel is that the pursuit of holiness must take place within the proper framework, and that framework is the fear of God. If holiness is to be a working value in our consciences, then the fear of God must be a settled affection in our hearts.
Why should we fear God? Well, because He’s God – holy, good, true, righteous, loving, merciful, all-powerful, and hating evil – and we are not. We need to remember that, in a very real sense, we have no business seeking to be in the presence of God, or to know Him in His glory. Apart from Jesus Christ, that way is the way to complete annihilation.
Yet because of Jesus we can seek the Kingdom and glory of God, Who is calling us to these. Even so, along the way we may find ourselves in need of renewal, of being cleansed from sin and filthiness. God loves us more than we love ourselves, and in order to help us along the way toward His Kingdom and glory, He will from time to time lead us through some difficult places, and subject us to some unpleasant conditions which we’d just as soon avoid (Heb. 12.3-11).
So we should fear the Lord simply because of what He’s capable of when it comes to sinners like you and me. We do not want to come under His discipline and displeasure, and so, in fear of being subjected to that, we work hard at perfecting holiness. The fear of God is the backdrop against which holiness flourishes.
A vision of holiness
But that means we must have a clear vision of what holiness looks like in a human life, and here we can do no better than to study Jesus and follow Him in the path of obedience to God’s commandments (1 Jn. 2.1-6).
The more we read, meditate, and understand the Law of God, and all His holy Word, the more He will form us into the holiness or righteousness He desires for us (Ps. 1). And the more we study and meditate on Jesus, as we see Him in the gospels and contemplate Him risen and exalted in glory (Col. 3.1-3), the clearer will be our understanding of the standard of holiness which must inform our thoughts, shape our affections, and come to expression in our words and deeds.
Value holiness! Take seriously the apostle’s command to perfect holiness in the fear of God. Let every work of renewal which God accomplishes in your soul and life be but one more brick in the temple of holiness God is building you to be. Every increase in holiness – God’s work in us toward which we earnestly strive and constantly labor – will bring us that much close to realizing God’s calling for our lives.
1. How would you define holiness? How does one grow in holiness?
2. What is the fear of God, and why should we fear Him? How does fearing God relate to increasing in holiness?
3. How can setting holiness as a default value in your conscience help when you are confronted by temptation?
Next steps: Do you agree that Christians should cultivate fear of the Lord? Why or why not? How would you counsel a new believer to “bring holiness to completion in the fear of God”? Talk with a fellow believer about this.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.