Keeper of 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 renewal is that process by which we “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit”, as Paul puts it. We won’t have much incentive to embrace renewal as a value unless we’re actively seeking the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit to which God is calling us. Hearing and seeking God’s calling are the top priorities in our conscience; renewal follows day by day as a result of our journeying toward the Kingdom and overcoming obstacles along the way.
But renewal must be undertaken against a backdrop and within a framework that allows us to know when our work of renewal is on target. And that background is what Paul refers to as holiness, the holiness that comes from being immersed in the holy and righteous and good Law of God (Rom. 7.12). When renewal is a working value in our conscience and life, and we are being cleansed in soul and body of all filthiness and every Kingdom-deterring thought, affection, word, or deed, then we’ll be in position to perfect holiness, as Paul instructs.
So we need to understand what holiness is, and what it should look like in our lives. Perfecting holiness is the fourth key value to lock into our conscience if we are to have strong souls and press on in Christlikeness.
God is at work in everyone who believes to perfect holiness. We won’t achieve complete holiness in this life. That awaits the day when, as we see Jesus face to face, we are finally, fully, and uniquely made holy, made like Him (1 Jn. 3.1-3). If this is what we hope for, then we’ll want to add holiness to the values that define our conscience and life.
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. God is holy; but God shows His holiness to the world through those who are being cleansed of all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and who are working to perfect holiness 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 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 conscience, then the fear of God must be a settled affection – as we have seen, the primary affection – in our heart.
Why should we fear God? Well, because He’s God – holy, good, true, righteous, loving, merciful, all-powerful, and hating evil. 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 remiss in the work of renewal, of cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. God loves us more than we love ourselves, and 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 with reverent awe simply because of what He’s capable of doing when it comes to sinners like you and me. We do not want to know His discipline and displeasure, and so, in fear of being subjected to that, we work hard at perfecting holiness. And when we must know it, by His good pleasure, we know it to be His love, beckoning us to return to the path of holiness through confession of sin and repentance.
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, 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 bring holiness to perfection. Let every work of renewal which God accomplishes in your soul and life be but one more brick in the edifice of holiness God is building you to be. Every increase of holiness – God’s work in us toward which we earnestly strive and constantly labor – will bring us that much closer to realizing God’s calling for us.
1. Why is fearing God linked to growing in holiness?
2. Perfecting holiness suggest having certain kinds of goals for our walk with the Lord. How can we nurture a healthy fear of God?
3. How can believers help one another in this value of perfecting holiness?
Next steps - Transformation: Do you agree that Christians should cultivate fear of the Lord? Why or why not? How would you counsel a new believer to “perfect holiness in the fear of God”?
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.