We live in a world of quick and easy. We have “instant” coffee to “instant” insurance. We want a quick and easy fix for everything. But you can be sure that holiness is neither quick or easy. Ask any Christian, and they’ll attest to that fact. How then are we to pursue holiness?
We can be sure that holiness is God’s will for our lives (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Holiness is an active act of pursuit. We are urged to pursue holiness without which we can’t see God (Hebrews 12:14). If we are saved why then are we urged in this manner?
Though we are declared righteous through Christ’s atonement when we are saved, there’s no doubt that sin remains in our lives. This dichotomy of being sinful and righteous or as Luther called it “simul Justus et Peccator” exists within us till the day we die. When we are saved Christ’s righteousness is imputed, or counted as, ours. But it’s not infused in us. That is why we need to pursue holiness.
A Violent Pursuit of Holiness:
The pursuit of kingdom of God in the bible is always spoken of in active terms, like a race (2 Timothy 4:7, Hebrews 12:1) , like boxing (1 Corinthians 9:26). Our natural state does not automatically drift towards holiness, rather the opposite.
There’s an invisible war going on between our flesh and the Holy Spirit who lives in us (Galatians 5:17). The flesh is totally contrary to the will of God, and we would be too, if it were not for the power of the Holy Spirit within us.
Jesus call for a violent pursuit of holiness. Like a commando who will complete his mission at all costs, we are called to sacrifice everything for the ultimate prize.
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
(Matthew 5:29-30 ESV)
What is it that holds us back? Is there anything in our lives that hinders us from pursuing Christ? Let us remove them from our lives (Hebrews 12:1). Sometimes we are reluctant even to get rid of the non-essential things in our lives when they rob us of our holiness and intimacy with Christ, but the bible goes a step further and calls us to get rid of even essential things (hands, eyes) when they come in the way of our holiness. While it might be that Jesus was employing hyperbole, it also shows the importance he placed on holiness and the pursuit of it.
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.
(Matthew 11:12 ESV)
I am not for a moment saying that we earn our holiness or that we can be holy apart from the enabling grace of God (Philippians 2:13). Rather we push forward, knowing that God’s grace will pull us through. Its like the faith the sower has. He knows that he cannot make anything grow, but he sows knowing that the ground will accomplish its purpose as he does his work of sowing. Therefore, let us pursue holiness with a single-minded determination and not count the cost.