What is it to be holy in the 21st century? Pt 3

This is our third study in response to a request from one of our readers to set forth the Bible’s teaching on HOLINESS.

Let me quote again the Shorter Catechism’s definition of Sanctification or HOLINESS, for I am using its statement as the basis of this study.

Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”

In our third study we will concentrate upon the fact that:


This is a very important TRUTH.

Let me begin by commending to you a sermon I preached many years ago on the subject of ‘Imitating God.’

It is found on the main page of ’The Burning Bush’ and study number 57 of my series of studies entitled: “Unsearchable riches of Christ in Ephesians.” Here is a link to that sermon: “Imitating God, Pt 1”


Paul said: “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise,” 2 Corinthians 10:12. Dr John Gill said of these words: “They only consulted themselves, and measured and compared themselves with themselves; which was acting just such a foolish part, as if a dwarf was to measure himself not with any kind of measure, or with another person, but with himself; only surveys himself, and his own dimensions, and fancies himself a giant.”

It is easy to set up a rule, born of what we think is right and measuring ourselves by that rule, form a very high but very wrong notion of ourselves.

We are to measure ourselves against the revelation of the Lord, given us in the Bible. He is the rule of perfect holiness.

1. It is not until we get to glory that we will reach perfection of holiness. John the apostle said: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure,” 1 John 3:2-3. Here is the time in which we have attained to a true and full likeness to Christ.

2. Furthermore, until then, having this joyful hope we must seek to purify ourselves, even as Christ is pure. Our waiting for glory is to be spent seeking to  purify ourselves, “even as he is pure.” The word ‘purifieth’ means to undertake whatever is necessary to remove impurities from our being. It is the hope of being like Christ in heaven that ought to motivate us to strive after a conformity to Him here on earth. He is the true measure of what ‘holiness’ is. He is rightly called “the Holy One of God,” as even the devils acknowledged, Mark 1:24.

All too many Christians pay no heed to this exhortation found in Romans 12:2. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” The renewed mind of the Christian is in accord with the thinking and mind of Christ. “ Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 2:5. Proof of our being born again of the Spirit of God, is our constant and earnest seeking to be like the Saviour. If our ‘mind is renewed’ by the power and grace of God, then we will NOT think as the world thinks but rather as God thinks.

The Lord said to the sinners in the days of Isaiah the prophet, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts,” Isaiah 55:8-9. That distinction should ever be seen, at least to a measure, in the Christian here on earth.

3. Of course, if we do bear a likeness to Christ, we will share in His reproach. If we think like Him, we will speak and act like Him and long to be with Him. That in turn will cause us to be looked upon by the world as He was looked upon. “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach,” Hebrews 13:13.

To be so targeted and abused is a wonderful privilege, though it may not feel like it as it is happening! The great apostle Paul said: “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus,” Galatians 6:17. He had many scars to wear as ‘campaign medals’ in his service for the Saviour.

None has ever stood with and for Christ but have been treated as He was treated, to at least some degree. Slander, misrepresentation, false accusations, calumny — all have been heaped upon the faithful Christian. There were those Hebrew Christians who had suffered such reproach.

“But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him” Hebrews 10:32-38.

Sadly, there are those who draw back from following holiness because of the price that is imposed upon them. “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,” John 12:42-43.

Where are those men today? In the light of Roman 10:9 — “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” — we fear they are in hell. If that is so, how they must rue that fateful decision when they turned their back on Christ for fear of man.

Truly, “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe,” Proverbs 29:25.

Let not such a snare hinder you, Christian, from openly and unashamedly following and obeying the Word of Christ and walking uprightly to His pleasing!

4. It is the privilege of the Christian to be different from the world. Moses said: “For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth,” Exodus 33:16. This is of course true of the Jewish nation but it is also true of every truly converted Christian.

I recall hearing the story of a rich man who wished to hire a new coach driver. He set a test for the applicants for the post. Having hitched a team of horses to his coach, he required each applicant to drive the coach on a mountain road with a very deep chasm on one side of the narrow road. One driver, confident of his skill and wishing to show it off, drove at speed as close to the edge of the chasm as he could. He did not get the post, rather it was given to another who drove with care as far away from the edge of the chasm as he could!

The lesson is obvious. “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, ABSTAIN from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul,” 1 Peter 2:11.

Separation unto Christ keeps from that which will endanger us, those things which ‘war against the soul’.

5. We must use the Word of God to judge that which is of the world and that which is of God. Only the Bible will give you an honest, forthright and truthful assessment of just what the world is. Consider these words: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever,” 1 John 2:15-17.

The spirit and essence of the world is not of God. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:4-5. The grace of God sets us against the world. By Him we ‘overcome’, that is, get the victory over and conquer the world and its ways.

It is an enemy to be resisted. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.  Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” James 4:4-7. Refusing the world and its ways is here equated with ‘resisting the devil’. The opposite inference is to be noted. If we are friendly toward the world then we are enemies of God.

How little many know of the offensiveness their lifestyle (is) in the eyes of God, despite their profession of faith in Christ! Should not this drive us to Christ’s side and away from the world and its corruptions!

We will leave our study there until the next time.

Sincerely in Christ’s name,

Ivan Foster
11th December 2023