Holiness not included

Holy-Spirit fire“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV).

Here’s a little word study about that fruit description.

Fruit means produce, as from a fruit tree; also the result of efforts, such as fruit of your labor.

Those nine character attributes show up and begin to develop as the result of having God’s Spirit dwell inside of you. By the way – these aren’t ordinary human traits, they are supernatural. God’s love. God’s joy. God’s peace, etc., etc.

Love, joy, peace – those familiar words have the usual meanings. Longsuffering means being patient with circumstances, remaining the same and keeping the same attitude no matter what happens around you. Goodness means integrity, honesty, morality. Meekness means mildness, gentleness; also controlled strength, as a horse that has been tamed and bridled. Temperance means self-control; similar to controlled strength in some ways.

All of these describe God’s character, which will become our character as the Holy Spirit lives in us, leads us, teaches us, co-labors with us in various assignments.

Notice what isn’t in that list? Holiness. Why is that? God is holy, it’s certainly part of his character. He tells us, “Be ye holy.” So why is it missing from this list?

The word for holiness has two meanings:

The first is a status, the second is an action. And in order to be the first one, you need to do the second one. It isn’t something that grows like fruit. It either is, or it is not. It’s an action of your will, a choice that begins with choosing to say Yes to Jesus as Savior and Lord.

2 Cor. 7:1 says, ” Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

“Cleanse” simply means to make clean, such as bathing, washing our hands, or scrubbing dirty pots and pans. Our flesh and our spirit need a bath. But we must cleanse ourselves? I always thought God did that – you know, he catches the fish (us), then he cleans them.

And he does, with his Word. Jesus told the disciples that they were clean, by the words he had spoken to them. Also see Ephesians 5:26. This looks like a contradiction… keep reading.

“Perfecting” means accomplishing or completing, as finishing a job.

2 Cor. 6:16-18 specifies what the promises from 7:1 are: “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” Those are spectacular promises!

“Walk in them” is interesting language. Literally it means walk around inside of them. I like that. “My people” means a people group of the same tribe, origin, culture, and language. “Receive you” means favor you, show favor to you.

II Peter 1:3 says, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:” Okay, now that we have faith in him, the knowledge of Jesus contains everything we need to live successfully.

He goes on to say that we should add some things to our faith – the very same things mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. All of those attributes are found in the knowledge of Jesus, and all are able to grow and mature.

However – and this is a big however – this knowledge isn’t dropped into our brains automatically when we are born again. It takes studying, appropriating, and practice. Like muscles, these attributes will grow with use.

We are co-laborers with Christ. Note, that word includes labor. Work. He doesn’t do all the work to produce character in us, or holiness in us. We have to do some of the work ourselves. He won’t force us to do our part.

And that explains a lot, doesn’t it.

Perfect yet? No? Join the crowd.

“Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet!”
BePatientGirl

My friend Allyn Sawyer once created and gave me a framed cross-stitch of this. I love it! It’s so true.

Before we consider being “finished,” i.e. perfect, we need to think about sanctification.

That’s an odd English word, not one we use every day at home, on the job, or in conversation with friends. It comes from the word sanctify, another odd word.

Simply put, it means to set something apart for one use. I’ve written about that before.  https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/bush-burning-holy/

In the Bible that word means set apart for God’s use; consecrated to God; holy. The word saints means sanctified ones. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:2), he addressed them as those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.

Being set apart for God’s use means God gets to use us. We get to cooperate. Simple.

I once read a book by a minister who taught that sanctification is a second work of grace that makes a Christian sinlessly perfect, an event that can happen in an instant. I have no idea what event had happened to him — every Christian I know continually strives to be sinless; I don’t know any who would say they’ve achieved that goal!

Being set apart for one particular use is quite understandable to me, however. It’s like a large silver spoon I keep in my kitchen drawer, it’s only for serving food. (Not for digging in the flower bed!) It’s an ongoing separation: as long as I serve food, that spoon will be set apart for that use.

Whatever else it is, sanctification is an ongoing process — an improvement process.

We learn, and grow, and mature. We get better at hearing God’s voice and being led by his Spirit. Better at understanding the scriptures. Better at exercising faith, in praying, or in sharing a testimony with friends. Even better moms, dads, friends.

Better at becoming perfect, as Jesus and the Holy Spirit go to work on us. Like sanctification, perfection is an ongoing process.

FlipWilsonGeraldine“The devil made me do it” was a hilarious skit by comedian Flip Wilson years ago; you may remember it.

“Wilson’s characters included Reverend Leroy, materialistic pastor of the ‘Church of What’s Happening Now,’ and his most popular character, Geraldine Jones, whose line ‘The devil made me do it became a national catchphrase.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip_Wilson)

I remember seeing Flip do that sketch on the Ed Sullivan Show. So very funny, people adopted that phrase wholesale to excuse their bad behavior. Nothing is ever their fault! Although Flip died in 1998, the attitude lingers on.

Today there are books on the market that say many (if not all) of a Christian’s imperfections, sinful habits and weaknesses are caused by the devil — by persistent demon influences, or emotional scars from past sin or abuse done to us by evil people. Some authors offer personal deliverance or “how-to” advice on self-deliverance, for a fee (cost of the book or conference).

While I don’t believe everything in that book is wrong, I have a problem with some of it. Where in the gospels did Jesus teach those things? Jesus performed countless healings and deliverances. He showed them how, then sent the disciples out to do likewise — and they did.

We’d all like to be perfect, free from all hang-ups in a flash when we’re born again, never to sin again, but it seldom works out like that. The gospels and the epistles give us many admonitions, good things to learn and practice, because we are born again as baby believers, not as mature Christians.

We have to grow up.

BeautyForAshesSometimes it involves seeking help from mature Christians who know more than we do about overcoming certain struggles. The book “Beauty for Ashes” by Joyce Meyer helped me a lot some years ago. (http://www.joycemeyer.org)

I discovered that the growing-up process isn’t automatic – it involves work. Dependence on the Holy Spirit, time and patience; trial and error, too.

Consider these verses: (NIV unless indicated)

  • Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
  • Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:6)
  • Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Phil. 2:12-13)
  • Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher (perfecter) of our faith… (Heb. 12:2 KJV)

Also:

  • His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
    For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.
    For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 1:3-8)
  • He (Christ) is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. (Col. 1:28)
  • If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Gal. 5:8, 25)
  • The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23) (Fruit doesn’t appear instantly; it grows.)

Does that mean we have it made now?

Obviously not, because so much of Galatians chapter 5 is admonishing believers what not to do. Even the apostle Paul struggled with this. (See Rom. 7:15-25.)

But the Holy Spirit enables us to “just say no” to the wrong things and “yes” to the right things. It takes cooperation with him, obedience to God’s word, and practice! “Practice makes perfect” eventually, if we don’t give up along the way.

(Updated; originally published May 16, 2014)