"Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1).
For many of us, the word "holiness" invokes memories of absurd rules that seemed to make no sense. Also, some of us remember people that were mean, miserable and determined to enforce those rules.
Fueled by some of the bankrupt experiences of our past, many have ceased to talk about holiness in fear of being labeled legalistic. In turn, a generation is missing out on our call to holiness.
Paul, writing to the Christians in Corinth, was filled with passion to see the believers in this incredibly sinful city embrace the call to holiness. In this episode of the Jason Daughdrill Podcast on the Charisma Podcast Network, I believe 2 Corinthians 7:1 offers some insight into how we live out the promise of holiness.
Holiness Is Relational: Embrace God's Love
This call to holiness is within the context of God's promise, "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people." This was a foundational promise of God given in such places as Leviticus 26:12, Jeremiah 32:38 and Ezekiel 37:27. It shows that relationship with God is the foundation for holiness.
William Greathouse, a Nazarene scholar, authored a book titled Love Made Perfect. The incredibly simplistic summary of this book is that holiness is when we walk in perfect love. If I love God, I won't sin against God. If I love people, I won't sin against people. If I love myself, I won't sin against myself. This paradigm for living is found in Jesus' great commandment. The great commandment, upon which all the law and the prophets rested, was to love God with all you are and to love others as you love yourself.
With that said, you don't live for God's love; you live from it! Paul unpacks this as we receive the promise first and then live in response to it. Far too many of us try to earn the promise. That's religion. Religion kills. God desires relationship, and from that relationship, you are transformed.
Holiness Is Intentional: Develop a Plan to Overcome Sin
"Let us cleanse ourselves." This is not something that happens by accident. There is an imperative for intentionality. The motivating factor remains love, and the actions will vary depending on where we are in life and which struggles we may be enduring. For years as a teen, I struggled with lust (as many boys do). I kept praying for God to take away the struggle, but it was an endless cycle of frustration, disappointment and shame.
I didn't get free from lust because I felt bad enough. I was set free from lust because I made bold, spirit-empowered and strategic moves to position myself for victory. I moved the computer out of my bedroom, I was intentional to find someone I trusted to hold me accountable, and I disciplined my eyes to starve the appetites in my flesh.
What do you struggle with? Ask God to give you bold and audacious steps to take in order to see freedom. God is gracious enough to show you the way and then give you the power to do it.
Holiness Is 'Affectual': Let Your Heart Tremble
The transformation of our affections is at the center of our Pentecostal heritage and theology. Paul instructs the Corinthians to "perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord." I believe the fear of the Lord is our eyes being opened to the reality of who God is in such a way that shifts our hearts to live in response to that revelation.
It is a sobering moment when you catch a glimpse of the vastness and greatness of God. Jesus warned us not to fear him who can kill your body, but to fear God who can kill your body and then cast you into hell.
While it is easy to write this off as "turn or burn" theology; the reality is that we must have a heart that is aware to the consequences of sin.
—Receive the love of God in such a way that you reproduce it.
—Allow love to compel you, and the Spirit to reveal to you, the intentional steps you need to take to overcome sin in your life.
—Be incredibly alert to what's at stake and why your victory matters.
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