In being abundantly kind to us, who do not deserve it, God receives great pleasure. In a number of places the Bible says, God delights to show mercy. The more we are convinced of this, the greater will be our confidence and our joy & security. Are we convinced then, that we are saved by God’s purpose and works, and not by our purpose and works. If we are, it will affect our approach to evangelism. It will motivate us to preach the gospel and to share it, wherever we are,– whenever we can. All this is effected by our understanding, that God’s purpose is to glorify His grace.
But that is the teaching. There is nothing in us whatsoever, that is worth anything to God. That is what amazed Abraham, when he found himself praying to the Lord for Sodom – it amazed him that God would even hear him – “I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord.”
What value do you put upon dust and ashes? But Abraham sets the tone for every believer. This is what every believer ought to know. God does not hear us, because we are worth hearing, He hears us for the sake of His Son, in Whom we believe. We have no contribution – it is all about God – focused upon Christ – it is about us, only in as far as we will be to the praise of His glorious grace. “By grace are you saved, thru faith, and this …!” That essentially was the essence of our 1st talk.
“God who is rich in mercy… when we were dead, in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” Though we only touched on it briefly because of the heat, we saw that grace comes to us when we were dead in trespasses. We were spiritually dead, and we were not alarmed at that. We were rushing headlong into eternal destruction and we were not alarmed at the everlasting torment awaiting us. But grace came to us and made us alive. In most cases, our first experience is alarm. We feel our need – we hear the gospel preached, we hear Christ is our only hope and we embrace Him by faith. Grace brings a change, and this is our focus today. How grace changes us. Read again our text – Eph.1:3-4.
Paul said, “I am what I am by the grace of God.” Grace made the difference. Here we are told the purpose for which God chose us in His grace – was that “we should be holy & without blame.” The Bible says, “Without holiness no one shall see the Lord.” Heb.12:14.
Holiness is therefore very important to us. And it can only be to our benefit to ask this of ourselves, “Have we experienced this change that the grace of God brings? Are you holy?” Are you becoming more holy?
The wise man tells us, “There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Eccles. iii. 4, 7); but there is no time, no day, in which a person ought not to be holy. Is that so with you? This question concerns us regardless of our rank in life. Some are rich, and some are poor,—some learned and some unlearned. Are you holy?
A person may go to great lengths, and yet never reach true holiness.
I think we can do with a lot more knowledge & learning, but that is not what holiness is. Balaam had knowledge, but he was twisted, and went to hell. Holiness is not profession to be a Christian. Judas Iscariot had that, so did Demas. Holiness is not working hard and doing many things,— Herod had that.
Holiness is not zeal in certain matters in religion,— Jehu had that, yet he proved to be a reprobate. Holiness is not morality and respectability — the rich young ruler had that;
Holiness is not attending church and hearing sermons, — the Jews in Ezekiel’s time had that, but God did not have their hearts. Holiness is not keeping company with godly people, — Joab and Gehazi and Alexander the Coppersmith had that, yet they were lost. None of these were holy. A person may have all these things and yet never see the Lord.
And I think any answer probably comes short of all that ought to be said. But I will try to say a few words which I hope will help us gain some understanding. I have been helped by a great work by JC Ryle – read it.
Holiness is the habit of being of the same mind with God. As far as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is agreeing with God’s judgment,— hating what He hates,— loving what He loves,— and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He chose us, that we should be holy, and the person who most agrees with God, is the most holy. This is why the angels are called “holy angels.”
, and to keep every known commandment of God. A holy person will have a mind, decidedly bent towards God,— a hearty desire to do His will,— a greater fear of displeasing God than of displeasing their family or neighbours or the world. A holy person will say as Paul said, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom.7: 22). It is interesting that he said that, in the midst of a passage where he bewailed his sinfulness. He therefore hated sin, and loved righteousness. David said, “I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way.” (Psalm 119:128.)
In Psalm 1 we are told – “blessed is the man who walks not …!. Just think about that – he loves God’s Word.
To have the mind that was in Him, and to be conformed to His image. It will be their aim to bear with and forgive others, even as Christ forgave us,—to be unselfish, even as Christ pleased not Himself,—to walk in love, even as Christ loved us,— to be lowly-minded and humble, even as Christ made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself. He will remember that Christ was a faithful witness for the truth,—that He came not to do His own will,— that it was His food and drink to do His Father’s will,—that He would stoop to any work in order to minister to others,— that He was meek and patient under undeserved insults,— that He thought more of godly men & women than of kings & important religious people. He shunned religious tradition that twisted God’s word.
He was full of love and compassion to sinners,— He was bold and uncompromising in denouncing sin,— He did not seek the praise of men, — He went about doing good, He was separate from worldly people,— He was always instant in prayer,— He would not let His nearest family stand in His way of doing what was right before God.
These are things a holy person will try to remember. This is what will shape their course in life. It was not for nothing that John said, “He that says he abides in Christ ought himself also to walk, even as He walked.” (1 John ii. 6.) It was not for nothing that Peter said, “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow His steps.” (1 Peter. ii. 21.) We would save ourselves much pain & sin, if we asked ourselves more often, “What would Christ have said and done?”
It is the greatest misery of a holy person to find sin in their mind & heart & actions. Don’t ever point to David’s sins & Peter’s lies & swearing, and say, they sinned, but they were saved, unless you also point to the way they broke their heart & wept and repented of their sins.
It is the distinction of a holy person that they are not at peace with indwelling sin. They cannot rest until they have conquered a sinful habit. They hate it, mourn over it, and long to be free of it.
Holiness has a beginning, when grace finds us. God begins His work to make us more like Christ, and it goes on all through this life. The work is never finished until we depart. We are all at different stages. The Bible says, “We must never despise the day of small things.” And holiness in the very best of us, is always an imperfect work.
The gold will always be tarnished. (My wife lost a diamond from her engagement ring,— returned bright & gleaming, but not straight). We will always have our spots & blemishes & wrinkles. The light will never shine without some clouds, until we reach the heavenly Jerusalem. The flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. The just man falls.
But still, for all this, the heart’s desire and prayer of all true Christians is to be holy. If that is not the case, they have deceived themselves. John Owen, “I do not understand how a man can be a true believer unto whom sin is not the greatest burden, sorrow, and trouble.”
Holiness cannot save us. It cannot put away sin,— cover iniquities,— pay our debt to God? I hope, from this pulpit, you will never hear anything as twisted as to suggest holiness can save us. Holiness cannot save us. Our righteousness’s are as filthy rags, in the light of God’s holy law. Christ is our righteousness, and nothing else. By grace are we saved, through faith, and faith puts on Christ as our only righteousness. Why then is holiness so important? Why does the Apostle say, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord?” Let me give you a few reasons.
The Lord Jesus said, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. v.20.) “Be perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. v.48.) Paul tells the Thessalonians, “This is the will of God, even your holiness.” (1 Thess. iv. 3.) Our text says, “He chose us, that we should be holy.” And Peter says, “He who has called you is holy, so be holy in all manner of conversation. Because it is written, Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter i. 15, 16.)
Paul writes 2 Cor. v.15. – Christ died that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them” To Titus, “He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all inquity, and purify unto Himself a special people, zealous of good works.” (Titus ii. 14.) In short, to talk of men being saved from the guilt of sin, without being at the same time saved from its dominion in their hearts, is to contradict the witness of all Scripture. Are believers said to be elect?—it is “through sanctification of the Spirit.” Are they predestined?—it is “to be conformed to the image of God’s Son.” Are they chosen? it is “that they may be holy.” Are they called?—it is “with a holy calling.” Are they afflicted?—it is that they may be “partakers of holiness.” Jesus is a complete Saviour. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, He does more,—He breaks its power.
The apostle James warns us there is such a thing as dead faith,— it goes no further than a person’s lips, and has no influence on their character. True faith will always have fruits,— it will sanctify,—it works by love,— it overcomes the world,— it purifies the heart.
Jesus said, “If ye love Me keep my commandments.” “He that hath my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves Me.” ” If a man love Me he will keep my saying.” “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.” It is to our own detriment to neglect our Lord’s words.
William Gurnall, “say not that you have royal blood in your veins, and are born of God, except you earnestly prove your pedigree by daring to be holy.”
There is a close connection between sin and sorrow, – between holiness and happiness – between well-being and our well-doing. Our justification is not by works,— our calling and election is not by works,— but it is vain for anyone to suppose that they can have an assurance of their calling, if they do not strive to live a holy life.
When the disciples forsook the Lord and fled, they escaped danger, but they were miserable and sad: when they confessed they were Christians, they were cast into prison and beaten, but “They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41.)
We sing “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory & grace.” It is also is a holy place. The Lord is a Holy & Glorious Person. The angels are holy. Holiness is written on everything in heaven. The book of Revelation says expressly, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful.”
So friends, I can only stand before you, and ask this of every one of us – how shall we ever enter heaven, if we die unholy? Death makes no change in a person’s character. “Where the tree falls, there it lies.” The grave makes no alteration. Our Lord said, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”
“God chose us, in order that we should be holy.” It is not whether you attend church, or have been baptized, or receive the Lord’s Supper,— or whether you are called a Christian; — It is simply this. Are you holy, or are you not? It is not whether you approve of holiness in others, — or talk of holy things, and have holy books at home, — or even hope to be holy some day, — Are you holy this very day?
I make no apology if it seems I am overdoing this, because the text says, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” This is the word of God: “Without holiness …!
If at this very moment, you are you considering your ways, and searching your hearts, and crying to God for mercy & help, that through Christ your Saviour, He would help you be holy – then may God hear your prayer – I have done nothing else since I began this message. May the God of mercy be with us. Amen.