holiness1

Editors note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what prayer is and how they can improve their prayer lives.

Believers are called to holy living. This is the clear teaching of the Bible.

As we continue our series on holiness we want to consider the question, “How then does the believer cultivate holiness?”

We will look at seven different ways. Today we will discuss the first two:

First, know and love Scripture.

Scripture is God’s primary road to holiness and to spiritual growth—with the Spirit as Master Teacher blessing the reading and searching of God’s Word. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). And Peter advised, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).

If you would not remain spiritually ignorant and impoverished, read through the Bible at least annually. Even more importantly, memorize the Scriptures (Ps. 119:11), search (John 5:39) and mediate upon them (Ps. 1:2), live and love them (Ps. 119; 19:10). Compare Scripture with Scripture; take time to study the Word.

Consider the words of Proverbs 2:1-5:

My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.

In this passage we find the principles of serious personal Bible study: teachability (receiving God’s words), obedience (storing God’s commandments), discipline (applying the heart), dependence (crying for knowledge), and perseverance (searching for hidden treasure).

Do not expect growth in holiness if you spend little time alone with God and do not take His word seriously. When you are plagued with a heart prone to be tempted away from holiness let Scripture teach you how to live a holy life in an unholy world.

Second, consider yourself dead to sin and alive in Christ.

If you are a Christian, you already are. Claim that. Regard yourself as dead to the dominion of sin and as alive to God in Christ (Rom. 6:11).

“To realize this,” writes Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “takes away from us that old sense of hopelessness which we have known and felt because of the terrible power of sin. I can say to myself that not only am I no longer under the dominion of sin, but I am under the dominion of another power that nothing can frustrate.”1

This is not implying that because sin no longer reigns over us as believers we have license to forgo our duty to fight against sin. Jerry Bridges rightly admonishes us, “To confuse the potential for resisting sin (which God provided) with the responsibility for resisting (which is ours) is to court disaster in our pursuit of holiness.”2

Westminster’s Shorter Catechism balances God’s gift and our responsibility when stating, “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and to live unto righteousness”.3

Seek to cultivate a growing hatred of sin as sin, for that is the kind of hatred against sin that God possesses. Recognize that God is worthy of obedience not only as the Judge, but especially as a loving Father. Say with Joseph in temptation “He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9).

The person who considers himself or herself dead to sin also looks for heart-idols. Pray for strength to uproot them and cast them out.

1 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 6—The New Man (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1972) , 144).
2 Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1978), 60.
3 Question 35.