The Pursuit of Holiness – Chapters 2 & 3

“But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’.” (1 Pet. 1:15-16)

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14)

Chapter 2

I have been studying through Exodus and the life of Moses most mornings with the children. Just this week we read about how God revealed himself to Moses, appearing as a burning bush. As Moses answered God’s call to him and moved toward the burning bush, God asked him to remove his sandals because the place he was standing was holy ground. Moses not only removed his sandals, he also hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. (Ex. 3) Nearly every instance in the Bible where God reveals himself to men results in a similar response.

Why? Because God is perfectly holy, and we are so unworthy to be in his presence. I don’t think there is anything on earth that we can really compare this to. If God appeared to us as He did to Moses, we would fall on our faces in fear and awe too. And yet, I believe there is also great comfort and assurance in the holiness of God.

God always knows what is right and we can trust that he will consistently do only that which is good. We can take comfort in the fact that we are always treated with fairness even when we may feel like our circumstances are unfair.

Do you ever complain against God, and consequently, question his holiness?

I certainly wondered at God’s judgment last summer when I gave birth to a baby while my husband was away on business. We knew that God could change the circumstances and provide a way for us to be together during that time, because He had done it before. Just over a year earlier, our daughter was born less than 2 days before my husband had to leave. Through the first set of circumstances we were assured of God’s love and care for us when He provided in the way that we wanted, and the second time around God proved that He loved and cared for us even when we didn’t get what we prayed for. He provided abundant grace even when we grumbled against Him and questioned His holiness in our hearts.

Something that stood out toward the beginning of the chapter was the idea of “cultural holiness.” We adapt to the patterns of behavior around us and define holiness based on what other Christians are doing. As the Church follows more and more in the patterns of the world, our standard of holiness diminishes.

Are you setting your standards for holiness based on what other people are doing or on what God calls you to do?

For example, do you evaluate the appropriateness of a movie by whether or not your pastor takes his family to see it? I think in order to know God’s standards for holiness, we must be saturated with the word of God. We are called to be holy as God is holy, therefore, we must know God’s character which he reveals to us primarily through scripture.

When we can stand (or fall on our faces) in awe of God’s holiness, I believe we also develop a stronger intolerance for sin. Bridges says “Frequent contemplation on the holiness of God and His consequent hatred of sin is a strong deterrence against trifling with sin.”

Charles Spurgeon has a way of writing that leaves me in awe of God every time I read his work and his classic devotional, Morning and Evening, is a frequent addition to my Bible reading. In the entry for Nov. 2nd (E), he writes:

“An awakened heart trembles at the audacity of sin, and stands alarmed at the contemplation of its punishment. How monstrous a thing rebellion is! How direful a doom is prepared for the ungodly! My soul, never laugh at sin’s follies lest you come to smile at sin itself. It is your enemy, and your Lord’s enemy—view it with extreme dislike, for only in this way can you confirm the possession of holiness, without which no one can see the Lord.”

Chapter 3

The Spurgeon quote provides a fitting connection into the next chapter. He says, “an awakened heart trembles at the audacity of sin.”

Can you say that you are so passionate for the holiness of God that you are alarmed by sin?

Bridges says,

“If there is not, then, at least a yearning in our hearts to live a holy life pleasing to God, we need to seriously question whether or not our faith is genuine…the Holy Spirit who creates within us saving faith also creates within us a desire for holiness.”

That yearning may start out small, but should be growing as our faith grows. As we become closer to the Lord, we should see Him as more holy and ourselves as more sinful. Not that He becomes more holy or that we become more sinful, but that we recognize the magnitude of separation between our Holy God and our sinful selves.

I have known some older men and women that have been pursuing the Lord for many years. They live very godly lives and it would be difficult to find many sins in their lives by observing them outwardly. Yet, when asked, they readily admit a multitude of sinful attitudes and display genuine humility and gratefulness to God for His mercy. They are acutely aware of sin that would be considered “insignificant” by most people because they have such a strong reverence for the Lord and his holiness. As God reveals His greatness to us, we should be growing in humility and awareness of our depravity. That is why Moses and others who experienced the glory of God, fell down and worshiped Him.

A short list of questions at the end of the chapter is helpful in evaluating evidence of holiness in our lives.

“1) Is there evidence of practical holiness in my life?

2) Do I desire and strive after holiness?

3) Do I grieve over my lack of [holiness] and earnestly seek the help of God to be holy?”

I think my answer to these is “yes,”  but I can see the need for growth in all of these areas as well. I would like to be more consistent in prayer, and be intentional about asking God daily to reveal sin in my heart and to help me to view my sin the way that He does.

I would love to hear some of the ways God is challenging you to be more intentional in your pursuit of holiness , as well as some practical ways that help you to contemplate God’s holiness and view sin as your enemy. Please feel free to add any other thoughts as well!

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4 Responses to The Pursuit of Holiness – Chapters 2 & 3

  1. Pingback: oneradianthome » The Pursuit of Holiness - Chapters 5 & 6

  2. Tiana says:

    I definitely struggle with grumbling against God and therefore accusing Him of being unfair. Ever since we moved to SD I have been faced with my own discontentment and have been struggling with it. When my husband had to leave recently, for work, it became very apparent how complaining I can be in my heart (and subsequently, in my speech). That being said, I love that God is Holy! I agree completely with the author when he states that, “It is His holiness more than any other attribute that makes Him worthy of our praise.” Amen! Without holiness, He would be absolutely terrifying (not that He isn’t in a sense, but I think you know what I mean).
    I liked that he spent a good bit of the chapter discussing God’s hate for sin…I need to be reminded of that.
    I like how the 3rd chapter explained the benefits of holiness (aside from obedience). It is so comforting when we fail, to be able to look back and see how we have grown in holiness over the years. Even though we don’t take credit for the progress, there is progress, which helps us answer Satan’s lie that we couldn’t possibly belong to God and have sinned so terribly.
    Lately, the Lord has pressed me to be more diligent in prayer and communion with Him. I know that I cannot grow in holiness without these 2 things. I am lazy, and I make excuses, but I need to be spending more time, more often doing these things.

    • Sara says:

      I have been discontent here as well. It’s easy to blame the circumstances of lives for our sin (who would blame us?), but the discontent was already there. I remember Pastor Paul telling a story about how he got mad when a certain child left his bike in the driveway. He said “I did not sin BECAUSE he left his bike out. The bike in the driveway was just the circumstance for the sin, and the anger was already in my heart.”
      I’m not discontent because of our circumstances here (though I like to blame it on that), but because there is discontent in my heart.
      Thanks for sharing!