The shrill ring of the telephone shattered the stillness of the beautiful, crisp Colorado morning. On the other end was one of those utterly impossible individuals God seems to have sprinkled around here on earth to test the grace and patience of His children.
He was in top form that morning—arrogant, impatient, demanding. I hung up the phone seething inside with anger, resentment, and perhaps even hatred. Grabbing my jacket, I walked out into the cold air to try to regain my composure. The quietness of my soul, so carefully cultivated in my “quiet time” with God that morning, had been ripped into shreds and replaced with a volatile, steaming emotional volcano.
As my emotions subsided, my anger turned to utter discouragement. It was only 8:30 in the morning and my day was ruined. Not only was I discouraged, I was confused. Only two hours before, I had read Paul’s emphatic declaration, “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” But despite this nice-sounding promise of victory over sin, there I was locked in the vise-like grip of anger and resentment.
“Does the Bible really have any answers for real life?” I asked myself that morning. With all my heart I desired to live an obedient, holy life; yet there I was utterly defeated by one phone call.
Perhaps this incident has a familiar ring to you. The circumstances probably differed, but your reaction was similar. Perhaps your problem was anger with your children, or a temper at work, or an immoral habit you can’t overcome, or maybe several “besetting sins” that dog you day in and day out.
Whatever your particular sin problem (or problems), the Bible does have the answer for you. There is hope. You and I can walk in obedience to God’s Word and live a life of holiness. In fact, as we will see in the next chapter, God expects every Christian to live a holy life. But holiness is not only expected; it is the promised birthright of every Christian. Paul’s statement is true. Sin shall not be our master.
The concept of holiness may seem a bit archaic to our current generation. To some minds the very word holiness brings images of bunned hair, long skirts, and black stockings. To others the idea is associated with a repugnant “holier than thou” attitude. Yet holiness is very much a scriptural idea. The word holy in various forms occurs more than 600 times in the Bible. One entire book, Leviticus, is devoted to the subject, and the idea of holiness is woven elsewhere throughout the fabric of Scripture. More important, God specifically commands us to be holy (see Leviticus 11:44).
The idea of exactly how to be holy has suffered from many false concepts. In some circles, holiness is equated with a series of specific prohibitions—usually in such areas as smoking, drinking, and dancing. The list of prohibitions varies depending on the group. When we follow this approach to holiness, we are in danger of becoming like the Pharisees with their endless lists of trivial do’s and don’ts, and their self-righteous attitude. For others, holiness means a particular style of dress and mannerisms. And for still others, it means unattainable perfection, an idea that fosters either delusion or discouragement about one’s sin.
All of these ideas, while accurate to some degree, miss the true concept. To be holy is to be morally blameless.1It is to be separated from sin and, therefore, consecrated to God. The word signifies “separation to God, and the conduct befitting those so separated.”2
Bridges, Jerry. 1978. The Pursuit of Holiness. Colorado Springs: Navpress.
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