Reclaiming Holiness: Part 2

Article by: Bridgehaven Team

Counselors Reflect on Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp
A Series to Care for the Care Takers of God’s People

In the previous post I introduced the subject of holiness and contended that Dr. Paul Tripp’s central theme of his book Dangerous Calling was a call to living a holy life before God and what that entails.  I went on to state in a general sense that holiness and legalism are two very different things and to highlight some of the common misconceptions about both.  I pointed out three areas that stood out regarding holiness that we will now unpack.  These are not meant to be exhaustive explanations and there are certainly more contrasts that can be added to the list. 

Holiness requires the right motivation

Remember holiness and legalism is contrary to each other.  Legalism creates insecurity where our confidence in our standing before God in Christ swings back and forth based upon what we do.  Holiness always and consistently starts with an assurance of Christ’s work on our behalf and then ends with our obedience and good works.  We are never perfect in our obedience meaning that our motives for what we do are not always found in our rest of what Christ has done.  But we can be consistent where the predominant source of our actions is rooted in Christ’s finished work on the cross.  One of the things that holiness consistently provides is freedom; a freedom that provides stability and peace that doesn’t beat itself up when mistakes are made and attempts failed while at the very same time motivating enough to grow, learn and improve on shortcomings without one’s identity being shaken to the core.  Holiness does not produce neurotic Christians, always questioning their salvation and security in Christ, but it does produce serious Christians who don’t play games with God and show their gratitude for God’s grace in how they live.  Legalism says “I have to . . . (do this or that)” while holiness says “I get to . . . (do this or that).  This is an important distinction because prior to Christ we had no choice but to sin.  Jesus said that whoevers sins is a slave to sin.  But when the Son sets you free you are truly free indeed. Prior to Christ’s death and resurrection we didn’t have the power of His Spirit living and abiding on the inside of us to help us live the righteous life that God requires.  But after his advent the freedom we have in Christ is the freedom to actually choose righteousness, purity, Christ-likeness, not just in our behavior but with our hearts.  The desire to live a holy life before God is one that understands this fundamental truth that although a believer does and will sin, they have the power and possibility to choose not to.  We have a choice not to just want the right thing but the ability to carry it out.  This is the good news. 

Holiness requires a whole person response

In addition, when we say God is holy we are not just saying God does “holy” or right things but that holiness comprises the entirety of his being, His thoughts, motives, will, emotions, as well as his actions.  The apostle Peter writes “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”  When Peter uses the term “conduct” he always had in mind a person’s demeanor, comportment, values, as well as their actions. This is why we cannot just base our righteousness on our actions alone.  Our intentions, attitudes, and what the Bible refers to as the “heart” must always be considered.  Remember the first and greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”  Somehow many of us have narrowed this to mean if I love the Lord with my strength (actions) that my heart, soul, and mind are included and I need not worry about them.   Loving God is whole person surrender and a whole person endeavor and cannot be compartmentalized. 

Holiness requires faith more than feeling

Finally, let’s also address the misnomer and subsequent fear that arises from thinking that we shouldn’t do something if our hearts aren’t always in the right place before we do it.  Yes, we should strive to have the right feelings toward God and others when we act as much as we can, but it is also just as significant that when those feelings are absent that we draw on something deeper and more stable: the obedience that comes from faith.  Maturity (i.e. holiness) is primarily a matter of faith (obedience) more than feeling.  We must remember that as believers we are born again and are a new creation.  That our deepest desires and affections are to please God and obey Him out of faith in what He’s done for us in Christ and a deep trust we have in His ability to care and provide for us.  So sometimes our emotions and feelings are in line with this truth and sometimes it’s not.  Maturity is being able to do the right things even when there are no “warm fuzzies” associated.  We have a hard time believing that our obedience can produce in us the right feelings when done consistently; that we can lead our hearts and feelings versus always allowing them to rule and dictate what we do.  We allow them to speak much louder and have more weight in our decisions than we should.  We must learn to operate from the reality of a new creation than out of our old nature.

So where do we go from here as it relates holiness?  Here is where our good friend and gospel writer John will help us land this plane and provide what I believe according to Scripture is the key to living holy enabling us to apply the things we discussed above. And I’ll give some final thoughts in the next post.


535826: Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral MinistryDangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry By Paul David Tripp / Crossway Books & Bibles