The Pursuit of Holiness Book Club Week 4
Friends, I think these two chapters are the crux of the book. We have explored our understanding of holiness, and how the Bible says that God plays a part in our salvation, and how we have a certain responsibility to live holy lives as part of our salvation. We’re not supposed to lean too heavily on the side of thinking that God took care of our salvation and His grace will cover us so that we can go out and live as we please. Conversely, we’re not supposed to lean too far on the side of doing good works, if they’re in an effort to earn salvation or get into “good graces” with God. There’s a balance.
Here’s the deal: sin is sin and God hates it all. Even our attempts at being “good” are still tainted and unacceptable. Jesus came to earth to live a perfectly sinless life, to then have our sins put on Him and to die, to atone for our sins. Then He rose from the dead to live again with God, conquering sin, death and the grave. When we ask Jesus into our hearts and to forgive our sins and live in us, we are made new and righteous in God’s eyes. Jesus set us free from the bondage of sin. It no longer reigns in our souls. (This is the first part of our salvation.)
“For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that
the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should
no longer be slaves to sin because anyone
who has died has been freed from sin.”
But it doesn’t stop there. Just because our sins are forgiven and we are dead to sin doesn’t mean we will automatically live holy lives or have victory over sin. It doesn’t mean no more struggles with sin or temptations. We slip back into old habits and even struggle with new ones. So we have a part to play. We need to be proactive and reactive in the right ways to live a holy life as God has commanded.
God has made provision for us to live holy, by delivering us from sin and by giving us His Holy Spirit to live within us. However, we still have our sin nature that is always tugging us toward evil. There are sinful habits. There is the rest of the world, trying to influence and persuade us to sin. There is our enemy, Satan. This is the battle within ourselves.
“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit,
and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.
They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”
Sin cannot reign in our souls anymore, but it can still reign in our mortal bodies. That’s why we need to stay on guard. Here’s a couple quotes from the book, (ch.5):
“We can now stand up to sin and say no to it. Before we had no choice; now we have one. When we sin as Christians, we do not sin as slaves, but as individuals with the freedom of choice. We sin because we choose to sin.
So we see that God has made provision for our holiness. Through Christ He has delivered us from sin’s reign so that we now can resist sin. But the responsibility for resisting is ours. God does not do that for us. To confuse the potential for resisting (which God provided) with the responsibility for resisting (which is ours) is to court disaster in our pursuit of holiness.”
If you’re journaling, study Romans 6:1-12 and Colossians 1:13. In your own words, what does it mean to have died to sin?
Why, if we died to sin, do we still sin?
“No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually]
practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life,
the divine sperm, remains permanently within him];
and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God.”
1 John 3:9 (AMP)
Though we are still bent toward sin, the Holy Spirit within us works to straighten us back up (upright) to holiness. God, through the Holy Spirit, shows believers the sin within themselves. This is what distinguishes us from unbelievers who continue on content in their darkness and sin. The work of the Holy Spirit is to cause us to desire holiness and to nudge us toward it. He will show us sin within ourselves; He will show us temptations and give warnings; and He will put the longing to listen to and obey God in our hearts. In fact, He will do a transforming work in our hearts to align our will up with God’s will.
To better equip us to be on guard and fight the battle within ourselves, Jerry points out three key areas.
1. The seat of indwelling sin is the heart. (The heart incudes our minds, emotions, conscience, and will.) Our hearts are deceitful and unsearchable unto ourselves. We need God to search our hearts every day. By prayer we ask Him to search us and by His Word we are exposed. We shouldn’t try to search our own hearts because the enemy can use our introspection as a tool toward discouragement and deception to focus on secondary issues, not the root.
“The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joins and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
2. Indwelling sin works largely through our desires. Jerry points out, “The next time you face one of your typical temptations, watch for the struggle between your desires and your reason. If you give in to temptation, it will be because desire has overcome reason in the struggle to influence your will. It is our own evil desires that lead us into temptation. We may think we merely respond to outward temptations that are presented to us. But the truth is, our evil desires are constantly searching out temptations to satisfy their insatiable lusts.” Jerry uses a quote by John Owen that boils down to telling us that the way to deny sin is that we must make our desire for glorifying God, not the lusts of our bodies.
3. Indwelling sin tends to deceive our understanding or reasoning. So Satan’s great strategy is to deceive our minds, which is carried out little by little, in such small degrees, it is usually undetectable by us. The process goes like this: we are drawn away from guard duty on our hearts because of overconfidence ~ we come to think we are beyond a certain temptation; and, we’re drawn away from obedience by abuse of grace ~ dwelling on the compassion and mercy of God after sinning vs. God’s holiness and hatred of sin, and questioning God’s Word.
We need to be on guard first of all. Then we need to deal swiftly and firmly with the first hint of indwelling sin. Don’t let temptation get a foothold. Our fight against sin within will never end while we’re on this earth. Jerry says, “The heart is unsearchable, our evil desires are insatiable, and our reason is constantly in danger of being deceived.”
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Don’t get discouraged. The next lesson is on chapters 7 & 8, where we will look at help in the battle and how we need to focus on obedience over victory.
For your journal:
Look up these verses and write what each teaches about our hearts and sin: Jeremiah 17:9-10; Mark 7:21-23; Romans 7:18
Look up these verses and explain the nature of our desires and why we need to watch them closely: Ephesians 4:20-22; Titus 3:3; James 1:14-15
As those who have died to sin, what is our responsibility with regard to sin now?