Growing in Holiness

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We are almost two months into the New Year. Many people have a New Year’s resolution that they begin, and by this time, have given up at least one of them. Everyone talks about how to make New Year’s resolutions more lasting and effective.

The problem with these resolutions is that we make them in hopes that we can do them ourselves. We rely on sheer will to make these things happen. People try to name them other things like goals or even talk about behavior modification.

I’ve read a number of self-help books and blogs that claim to have the silver bullet, the magic pill to make these things we want to change in ourselves happen. I try to talk about projects I want to accomplish in a year rather than changing myself.

The thing is that we can’t change ourselves. It’s difficult because it’s practically impossible. A more effective approach is to allow someone else to help us change. We need that outside influence to push us. But even then, it is ultimately up to us to change.

What if we didn’t have to rely on our own willpower to make ourselves better? And what do we mean by “better”? Is it what we want for ourselves? God has a whole different plan in mind for each of us. He doesn’t want to make us “better” compared to others.

This plan involves making us holy instead of better. He wants to make us like Jesus, his Son. He wants to make us good enough to be part of his family. The movement we follow Jesus, he declares us part of God’s family and holy.

But that’s only the first step. There are many steps to the process of becoming holy, exactly what God wanted when he made each of us. We can’t accomplish his plan on our own. He gives us his Spirit to lead us and teach us how to be like Jesus.

Sanctification is a process that God takes each of us through to make us more like him. It is the plan he has to make us holy. The Bible teaches us that only a holy person can be in the presence of a holy God. To make us compatible with God’s presence, we must go through this process.

We don’t get there all at once. The Holy Spirit works in us to make us holy. It’s not a goal we accomplish on our own. We can’t pat ourselves on the back for every step that we take. He is the Leader and we must obey what he says.

The Holy Spirit guides us by speaking to our hearts through the Bible as we read it, and through his voice. We listen to him and he tells us the issues he wants to deal with in our character. He is working the Fruit of the Spirit into our character.

Resolutions work on the outside of a person. We try to change ourselves and we fail. Even when we succeed, we could easily relapse. But when the Holy Spirit works our character, he changes it so that our actions follow. He works from the inside out.

Every Christian is on a different part of the path to holiness. There are people just starting out who just net Jesus and are starting to listen to the Holy Spirit for the first time. But then there are people who have been Christians for 30 years and the Holy Spirit is working on completely different character traits.

All these Christians in all these different places on the path of holiness gather together. We can help each other to a point, but the Holy Spirit must do his work. He is called the “Holy” Spirit for reason. He is the one who knows exactly where God wants us to be.

We grow in godliness and holiness one step at a time. That’s why it’s called a process. Each one of us want to get to the end of the road. But if we skip to the end, we will miss all of the little things the Holy Spirit does in us through each step.

Getting comfortable with the process and where we are requires obedience. We can’t push younger Christians too far too fast. The Holy Spirit is working in them like he’s working in us. God has made the process to work through time.

So there’s this really cool promise that God gives us in Romans 8. It all starts with communicating with the Holy Spirit through prayer. And he helps us to ask God for things that are within his will (Romans 8:26-27).

He can see what’s in our hearts and he communicates that with God. This is where Paul says that God works all things together for our good. Because we love God, and he loves us, he is working our situation out for good.

We must be careful not to think that this is our good. It is for his good that he works things out. That means we can go through trials and suffering to get there. He is not working to make us happy were good in our own eyes. He is working to make us holy and blameless before him.

And that’s when we get to the really good part. We like to quote the part of Romans 8:28 that says he is working all things for our good. But there’s more to that verse. It tells us that it’s for his purpose that he does all this.

And then he tells us the goal of the “good” he’s working us toward. These verses have been talked over and over for centuries. He foreknew us through salvation and predestined us to go through the process of becoming more like Jesus, conformed to him.

That foreknowledge is gained through creating us and calling us to himself. He foreknows us through the relationship we develop with him from salvation onward. And then he predestines us into this plan.

Predestine sounds like a big scary word that means we don’t have a choice. But that’s not what the context of these verses tells us. Predestine means that we seek Jesus and seek to become like him, and God guarantees, determines, that we will become like his Son.

He is saying that the efforts of the Holy Spirit and our obedience through the process will lead us to a guaranteed conclusion, that we are conformed to his Son Jesus Christ. We won’t come out of the process looking like anyone else. That is the amazing promise!

You see, God created every human being and placed his image upon us (Genesis 1:26-27). But because of sin, that image is marred and we don’t live up to the whole and complete person he made us to be. It’s only through this process of sanctification that we are finally formed in his image once again.

The image of Christ is placed on us and it restores God’s image in us as we go through this process. Through this process that he determines in us, many changes happen. He calls us to serve him and it’s through that service that we become great.

As he calls us into service, the process continues to justification. That’s another giant theological word that means that he makes us righteous in his sight. We put on the righteousness of Jesus (Romans 13:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9). Isaiah tells us that our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 54:6). So we take that off, our own attempts at becoming righteous, and put on the righteousness of Christ.

This process of conforming us to Christ, calling us to himself in service, putting on his righteousness, it leads to glorification. This is when we finally reach that perfect standard that God has created for us. We become fully when he made us to be. But this doesn’t happen on earth. The process happens now but the conclusion happens in heaven.

So this is the process, the road that God chose, for every person who follows Jesus. He has determined that we will succeed. Remember that when you stumble and fall as you walk with Jesus. God has determined that you will get back up, ask for forgiveness, and walk the path again.

We don’t have to worry about giving up on the process. God has infused it with his power to see it come to completion. All we have to do is obey the Holy Spirit when he speaks to us. Step where he tells us to step. Do what he tells us to do. And it will lead to glorification.

In the movie Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi trains Ralph to learn karate. But it all starts with what he thinks are menial chores. He feels like Mr. Miyagi’s personal slave. When he complains, Mr. Miyagi shows him that all along he was practicing karate moves as if it were second nature to him.

The Holy Spirit may tell us to do something we don’t understand. We don’t see God’s larger plan that he’s predestine for us. But when we follow the Holy Spirit we will begin to see that he has been training us for holiness all along.

Don’t balk at the process when it gets hard. Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and be obedient to see success. We have a hard time with obedience and trusting God with all the power. But when we do this, we will find ourselves becoming more like him day by day.

Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). He knows what he’s doing and he’s been doing it for millennia. Leave a comment and tell me how you are doing in the process that God has designed just for you.

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