Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (NKJV)
In our Foundations series, we’re looking at the basic fundamentals of Christian living. Obviously, as a new believer, these are critical truths that need to be taught and instilled as we disciple our new Brothers and Sisters. If you are a mature Christian, then it is never a waste of time to inventory your own walk to make sure that the fundamentals have not been neglected over time or lessened in importance. Let’s review what we’ve covered so far:
- Obedience – in my opinion, obedience is the fundamental trait of Christianity. Find out what God says, and do it. It is the mortar that holds everything together. Were this simple truth emphasized and practiced in Christianity today, the vast majority of the problems, shallowness and silliness that we see going on, would simply vanish. Obedience is also the source of many benefits: security, assurrance, fellowship and blessing. 1st John is a great book to read to discover this truth. (1John 2.3; James 1.25; 1John 3.22; Deuteronomy 13.4; 1Samuel 15.22)
- Discipline – Desire equals discipline. Discipline is the self control to make choices, despite feelings, to gain that which we desire the most. We renew our minds daily in God’s Word and in prayer to make God’s desires our desires. Then we make the willful choice to do whatever it takes to achieve those Godly desires regardless of our feelings, emotions or what our flesh is wanting. (Romans 2.12; Matthew 5.6; Matthew 16.24)
- Cross Carrying – We live in a time where Christianity has become very comfortable and very casual, something that is foreign to Scripture. True Christianity is at odds with how the worlds lives, so we must expect ridicule, persecution and opposition. We are not talking about obnoxious Christianity that seeks personal attention. We are talking about holy living, love and truthfulness about sin. These things will convict and anger the world around us. Casual Christianity feels good and costs little – and you get what you pay for. True Christianity comes at great cost – the sacrifice of our life for His, taking up our cross and following Christ. (Matt 16.24)
It is unfortunate that the word “holy” has taken on a different meaning for most people, Christians included, that smacks of legalistic rigidness, intolerance of others and almost a fringe kind of religious kookiness. When some people hear about “holy living” they think of monks in robes living in a temple humming all day or quaint pilgrim-like people who believe electricity is of the Devil.
That’s a shame. Given the blatant worldly state of “average” Christianity today, we have done a very poor job teaching and discipling about holiness. This is puzzling given that living a holy life is the primary essence of living the Christian life.
So what is holiness? How do you be “holy”? Simple… it’s being like Christ. It’s changing anything in your life that is not pleasing to God. It’s submitting all your decisions and plans to God’s direction. It’s walking like Christ, talking like Christ, looking like Christ and becoming like Christ.
It’s a shame that the marketing monster got a hold of the phrase “what would Jesus do?” and wore it out, because it is a great question to ask yourself all day long, over and over. Better yet, ask yourself “what DID Jesus do?” then open your Bible and find out. Ask God in prayer for wisdom (James 1.5) and He will tell you what Jesus will do.
Being holy is simply living, talking, acting, choosing, speaking and serving the way God would have you to. It is the conscience, willful and purposeful choice to surrender every single aspect of your life to God’s direction and will. Do what God says to do. Change what God says to change. Think about what God would have you do every second of every day.
Live like Christ. Act like Christ.
Talk like Christ. Serve Christ.
That is what a holy life is
on a practical, every day level.
The Bible has volumes to say about holiness. The book of James is a very practical book about living the Christian life. 1st John is a great book for principles of living a holy life. The Gospels are full of Jesus teaching on how to live holy. Let’s look quickly at one passage from the Apostle Paul that gives some very practical, basic and easy to understand direction about living a holy life:
- Romans 12:9-21 Let love be without hypocrisy.
Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t say one thing, then do another. Don’t claim to be a Christian and not live like one.
- Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.
Hate sin. Turn from anything that is not Godly. Don’t just have a negative disposition about sin – HATE IT. Get your mind and heart to a point where wickedness repulses you and disgusts you. (sin, not the sinner; we are to love people, but hate the sin). Actively embrace, seek out and hold on to what is good and Godly.
- Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
Love people; serve them. Place others over yourself in importance. Give up your rights to be first, to be recognized and to be esteemed. Holds others in esteem over yourself, submitting your will and desires to theirs.
- not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
Never give up. Don’t be lazy with your Christianity. Be enthusiastic and serious about serving God.
- rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;
Be joyful that you have hope of eternal life. When facing the trials of this life, be patient, because you know that God is in control and will never forsake you. Be in constant communication with God (prayer).
- distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
Give, give, give and give some more. If you believe that God owns it all, and will give you all you need, then you can NOT give more away than God can supply.
- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
When you are mistreated, no matter how severely, remember Jesus words to those who crucified Him, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
- Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another.
Learn to relate to others, empathize with them. Honestly care about other people’s lives. Stop your own life long enough to sincerely care about someone else’s. When is the last time you simply had joy for the sake of someone else’s joy? When is the last time you cried with someone because of THEIR sadness?
- Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.
Don’t consider yourself to be above others. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, not hob-knob with the elite and proud. When you really think you have become wise, stop and read the Bible for a while and see how much of your wisdom is from God, or from your own mind. Never return evil for evil, but kindness and blessing. Even Hitler could be nice to those who were nice to him. Christians alone have the power in Christ to love those who mistreat them. Do good in all things to the very best of your ability.
- If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Do your best to be at peace with everyone. Sometimes they won’t allow peace, but you can have peace even if you know that you have done everything God would have you to do to obtain peace. Don’t seek revenge; that is God’s territory. He will right every wrong and settle every injustice in His own time. If someone is your enemy, do good to him so that God will be glorified. Always overcome evil with good. God will give you the strength to do so, and by this you will demonstrate Godliness to a wicked world.
Those are very practical ways to be holy. Living a holy life is a foundation of the Christian life. Could you imagine a professional of any other type who did not live a life that was in accordance with his profession? What would you think of a doctor who did not live his life according to his oath as a physician? What about a pro football player who was overweight, never worked out and didn’t study his playbook? What would you think of a soldier who didn’t train, have courage and be loyal to his country?
What about a Christian who doesn’t live like a Christian or doesn’t learn about how to be a better Christian? Or doesn’t have courage, loyalty and commitment to God?
Holiness is not religion. Holiness is not for the “super-Christian”. Holiness is not some weird concept that only nuts embrace. Holiness is a foundational requirement of Christianity and simply means that in all ways, at all times, we are willing to change our lives in any necessary way to become more like Christ.
Lord God, Help us to be a holy people. Help us to understand what holiness is, and to be able to teach others about this basic principle. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application: Holiness is a foundational part of Christianity. Holiness is not religion. Holiness is not for the “super-Christian”. Holiness is not some weird concept that only nuts embrace. Holiness is a basic requirement of Christianity and simply means that in all ways, at all times, we are willing to change our lives in any necessary way to become more like Christ.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?