Take Time to Be Holy

It is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pe 1:16)

The Old Hymn implores us:

 Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.

But this call to Holiness is lost on most Christians today.

We’re afraid of coming across as “Holier-than-Thou,” a genuine concern, to be fair. We don’t want our pursuit of holiness to be seen as self-righteousness, or to become a hindrance to others hearing and believing in the Gospel. Our holiness should not be reduced to judgmentalism, nor should it be a call to works-righteousness.

But that doesn’t mean that we should call off the pursuit altogether.

We are called to be Holy. When we are born again from above, our regeneration is through the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit. We are reminded in 1 Peter 1:15–16, “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.” We know that Jesus said that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, we will never see the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:20). We know that God’s design for our lives is that we would be sanctified (1 Thess 4:3), that God calls us to holiness (1 Thess 4:7), and that God has chosen us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless (Eph 1:4).

So how then do we pursue holiness without becoming sanctimonious? How do we steer clear of the trap of self-righteousness, while still seeking holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14)?

As I’ve been reading J.C. Ryle’s book, Holiness, I thought I’d share highlights on the pursuit of holiness (and encourage you to find a copy of the book and read it for yourself).

First: a reminder of what holiness isn’t.

It is not knowledge—Balaam had that; nor great profession—Judas Iscariot  had that; nor doing many things—Herod had that; nor zeal for certain matters in religion—Jehu had that; nor morality and outward respectability of conduct—the young ruler had that; nor taking pleasure in hearing preachers—the Jews in Ezekiel’s time had that; nor keeping company with godly people—Joab and Gehazi and Demas had that. Yet none of these were holy! These things alone are not holiness. A man may have any one of them and yet never see the Lord.

So what is holiness? Ryle organizes his teaching with these bullet points:

  • Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture.
  • A holy man will endeavor to shun every known sin and to keep every known commandment.
  • A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • A holy man will follow after meekness, longsuffering, gentleness, patience, kind tempers, government of his tongue.
  • A holy man will follow after temperance and self–denial.
  • A holy man will follow after charity and brotherly kindness.
  • A holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence  towards others.
  • A holy man will follow after purity of heart. 
  • A holy man will follow after the fear of God.
  • A holy man will follow after humility.
  • A holy man will follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations in life.
  • Last, but not least, a holy man will follow after spiritual–mindedness.

What we must remember, however, is that holiness is not that which saves us. We are saved by grace “through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). This keeps us from any self-righteous, judgmental, condescending, sanctimonious attitude, knowing that our salvation and holiness is the work of another.

God is the One who saves the sinner through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, and it is the righteousness of Christ that produces holiness within us. He is the root, our holiness is the fruit. Ryle states, “Holiness comes from Christ. It is the result of vital union with Him. It is the fruit of being a living branch of the true Vine.”

One might amend Ryle’s statement to say, “It is the necessary result of vital union with Christ.” If you are united with Christ through faith, you will, you must, produce a harvest of righteousness. If there is no fruit, are you even connected to the root?

Christian, pursue holiness. Cling to Christ, the righteous one, that you may grow in righteousness. Seek the kingdom of God now, so that you’ll know it when you see it. Remember, we must be saints on earth if ever we mean to be saints in heaven.


All quotes taken from: Ryle, J. C. Holiness: It’s Nature, Hinderances, Difficulties and Roots. electronic ed. based on the Evangelical Press reprinting, with new forward, 1995. Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1999. Print.

Measured Growth

If you’ve been in a house long enough with growing children, chances are you’ve got a door frame somewhere with pencil marks measuring their growth. It’s amazing to see how they grow over time. I’ll admit, about the time my youngest started to catch up to me in height, I just decided to stop measuring, I didn’t what to admit defeat.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some way we could measure our growth in the Lord? What would it be like if we could have a record of measurements on a wall in our home, showing our development in faith, good works, prayer, and love.

Or maybe it wouldn’t.

For some, there would be no sign of growth, or long periods where no change took place whatsoever, or maybe even a few steps were lost.

God’s word calls us to sanctification, to a life of holiness, growing into the likeness of Christ, of maturing in our faith and leaving behind the passions of the world.

1 Th 4:3–5  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God…

1 Pe 1:15  but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,

Eph 4:13  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

Heb 10:14  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

God has justified and redeemed us as His people in Jesus Christ, so that we may grow in holiness, in sanctification, in Christlikeness. This is, as the Westminster Larger Catechism tells us, “a work of God’s grace, whereby those whom God has, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of His Spirit, applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole person after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin and rise unto newness of life.

Let me condense that: Sanctification is the work of God, where those chosen by God to be holy are, by the Holy Spirit, renewed in the image of God.

The Holy Spirit, vitally uniting us to Christ, applies Jesus’ death and resurrection to our lives, and works grace upon grace within our lives, so that we:

  • Continue to repent of our sin
  • Learn trust in Christ for salvation more and more
  • Develop a love for the Word of God and find in it our only rule for life and faith
  • Grow in our love for the Church, for the fellowship of those who have been justified and sanctified by God in Jesus Christ
  • Stand ready to say and show the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ to those around us.

The Westminster Confession reminds us that this work of God sanctifying us is imperfect in this life, for there will abide in us some remnant of corruption. And so we are to be at war, the spirit against the flesh, always putting to death the old man wishing, and being renewed in the new life day by day according to God’s Word.

In reading through J.C. Ryle’s, Holiness (get a free copy here), I am encouraged by, and challenged in, his bullet points on the Nature of Sanctification. I’d like to share them here as food for thought, hopefully encouraging you in your life of growth in God’s grace.

  1. Sanctification is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith gives to a Christian. The branch that bears no fruit is no living branch of the vine.
  2. Sanctification is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration. He that is born again and made a new creature receives a new nature and a new principle and always lives a new life.
  3. Sanctification is the only certain evidence of that indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is essential to salvation.
  4. Sanctification is the only sure mark of God’s election. He that boasts of being one of God’s elect, while he is willfully and habitually living in sin, is only deceiving himself and talking wicked blasphemy
  5. Sanctification is a reality that will always be seen.
  6. Sanctification is a reality for which every believer is responsible. A man who professes to be a true Christian, while he sits still, content with a very low degree of sanctification (if indeed he has any at all), and coolly tells you he “can do nothing,” is a very pitiable sight and a very ignorant man.
  7. Sanctification is a thing which admits of growth and degrees. A man may climb from one step to another in holiness and be far more sanctified at one period of his life than another. More pardoned and more justified than he is when he first believes he cannot be, though he may feel it more. More sanctified he certainly may be, because every grace in his new character may be strengthened, enlarged  and deepened.
  8. Sanctification depends greatly on a diligent use of scriptural means. The “means of grace” are such as Bible reading, private prayer, and regularly worshipping God in Church, wherein one hears the Word taught and participates in the Lord’s Supper.
  9. Sanctification is a thing which does not prevent a man having a great deal of inward spiritual conflict.
  10. Sanctification is a thing which cannot justify a man, and yet it pleases God.
  11. Sanctification is a thing which will be found absolutely necessary as a witness to our character in the great Day of Judgment.
  12. Sanctification, in the last place, is absolutely necessary in order to train and prepare us for heaven. Most men hope to go to heaven when they die; but few, it may be feared, take the trouble to consider whether they would enjoy heaven if they got there. We must be saints before we die if we are to be saints afterwards in glory.

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Th 5:23).


Quotes from: Ryle, J. C. Holiness: It’s Nature, Hinderances, Difficulties and Roots. electronic ed. based on the Evangelical Press reprinting, with new forward, 1995. Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1999. Print.