12 January 2014

Actively Seeking Holiness

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:1–3)
Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The holiness of which the New Testament speaks and the holy life, the life of sanctification which John talks of, is not so much something which we receive as a gift—it is rather something which we work out. Now here again I think this correction is needed. How often is the holiness doctrine presented in that form. We are told that as you have received your justification by faith as a gift, so you must now receive this gift of sanctification and holiness as a gift. So people get the idea that this life of holiness is something which comes to you perhaps in a meeting or a convention. You suddenly get it; you went to the meeting without it and then suddenly you got it.

But surely this is a denial of this very teaching which John is holding before us. No; the position is rather this—not that it suddenly comes to me and I receive some special or exceptional blessing; the position, rather is that I am reminded of the doctrine, I am reminded that I am a child of God, I am told of the inheritance that awaits me. I have been given a glimpse of the vision of the glory that awaits me beyond death and the grave, and having seen it I am told, 'Now then, in the light of that, proceed to work this out, purify yourselves even as he is pure.' It is not a gift received but something which I must work out and put into practice. Consider how the Apostle Paul puts the same thing in Philippians 2:12–13: 'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do. . . .' And because of that you work it out. It is not some mystical experience that suddenly comes to us, but the outworking of the doctrine and the truth which we claim to believe. . . .

. . . We ought to be filled with a yearning and a longing to live this glorious, wondrous, life that Christ has made possible for us by His death and resurrection. Should not we all be animated by a desire to please Him if we really believe He came from heaven to earth? If we really believe that He suffered the agony of the cross and shed His holy blood that we might be redeemed and rescued, if we really believe that and love Him, should not our greatest desire be to please Him?

That is the reason for holy living, that is the New Testament appeal for holiness; it is an appeal to our sense of honor, to our sense of love and gratitude. But if you want a final appeal, let me appeal to you in terms of the time element. 'He that hath this hope in him,' those who believe they are going to see Him and be like Him and be with Him, purify themselves even as He is pure, and they feel there is not a moment to be lost. Oh, the unworthiness that is in me! Not only the sins I have committed and still commit, but the evil nature, the unworthiness in me, all these things which I have to mortify. There is so much to be done, and time is uncertain. We do not have a moment to spare or to waste. We may find ourselves with Him, facing Him, at any moment.

– Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John, (Crossway: 2002), 300, 304–305.

Further Reading
Witnessing to a Blank Stare
Salvation Is a Work of God
So You Call Yourself a Christian?


  1. And things are even worse today. The charismatic heresies of the "second blessings" remain and are as strong as ever with many succumbing to the lies, but even worse now is the idea that we have "freedom" in Christ to do anything we please. Things of the world consume our time, our mind, our heart with little or no regard for the things of Christ. Many are satisfied with a few hours a week at church and that is the end of their "obligation" to God. Sin is to repented of by the other guy, for I now have a new found freedom in Christ and sin is no longer a problem for me (or some such nonsense as that). In fact, some false teachers are so brazen as to teach that repentance is no longer necessary and that one may "ooze" into the kingdom because they were always a good person and never openly rebelled against the Gospel or God. Sin must be dealt with on God's level, not ours. If one claims to be "saved" and retains a heart that is unconcerned with his day to day sin problem that one has deceived himself and lays claim to something that he does not have. Repentance will be a life long friend to those that are truly saved and is the route we must all take to personal holiness. Heb. 12:15. Luke 9:23.


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