Holiness is our goal as Christians. And we know that it does not come easy. It doesn’t come fast either. There’s no such thing as instant holiness. We are by nature sinful and disobedient. We are bent on sinning. Our rebirth in Christ by the Spirit is only the beginning of our long journey to sanctification.
Our conversion from sin to sanctification, that is, our repentant and faithful life in and by the Spirit is a continuing one until the end. We do not stop pursuing holiness (cf. Heb. 12:14). It is for life. Since our old sinful nature is wired on doing the wrong things, we need to train ourselves to holy living and obedience. We thank the Lord for giving us the power to obey Him and the desire to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in [us], both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13).
To will and to work out our holiness is our goal. And indeed it is God’s gracious work in us and through us. On our own, depending on our strength and willpower, we cannot level up in the pursuit of holiness. Training ourselves to holiness takes all the grace of God and discipline on our part. The grace of God does not eliminate our role and responsibility in living the Christ-like life. In fact it enables us to live godly lives.
Without the grace of God, we are not only hopeless in saving ourselves from our sin, we are also helpless in seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness as servants and children of God without God’s grace. That’s the reason why Jesus came. In His coming, we receive from God “grace upon grace.” God has poured out His grace upon us in sending His Son as the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29; 36). “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-17).
And it is the same grace that Paul was talking about when he said, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, TRAINING US TO RENOUNCE UNGODLINESS AND WORLDLY PASSIONS, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:12-14, emphasis added).
In our study of Jerry Bridges’ “The Pursuit of Holiness,” we were all the more made aware of our desperate need of God’s grace in developing habits of holiness. Since we need to train ourselves to holy living, we are constantly dependent upon God and His resources to sustain us in this quest. One principle that Bridges teaches in developing and reinforcing the habit of holiness in the believer’s life is the principle of “frequent repetition.”
He writes, “Another definition of a habit is a ‘behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition.’ This is the principle underlying the fact that the more we sin the more we are inclined to sin. But the converse is also true. The more we say no to sin, the more we are inclined to say no.
“Therefore, in dependence on the Holy Spirit, we must systematically work at acquiring the habit of saying no to the sins that so easily entangles us. We all know what these sins are– the sins to which we are particularly vulnerable. We begin by concentrating on saying no to these. Then God will lead us on to work on other sins which may not even be aware of at this time. The more we succeed in saying no to our sinful desires, the easier it becomes to say no” (“The Pursuit of Holiness” [NavPress, 2006], 133).
We hope you enjoyed this post from the “Pearls of the Orient” blog series by Rev. Vic Bernales. Rev. Bernales is an ordained minister in the Pearl of the Orient Covenant Reformed Church. He pastors the Davao Covenant Reformed Church in Davao City, Philippines. He earned his Master of Divinity at Mid-America Reformed Seminary at Dyer, Indiana, U.S.A.