Call to Holiness
The woman seemed so wise. “God is working in me,” she said, “I don’t
have to do anything, because the Scripture says, ‘it is God who works in you
both to will and to do for His good pleasure.’ I don’t even have to motivate
myself. That’s God’s job, that’s what it says.” (Phil. 2:13)
I nodded and took it all in. She seemed so wise. So I decided that it was up to
God, too. And fell flat on my face.
Years later, I realize I made at least four mistakes. One, I did not look up
that Scripture myself and see what the whole passage said. Second, I did not
look up other Scriptures that talked about the Christian walk and compare that
passage with other Scripture. Three, I didn’t even reflect and ask myself how
I had made spiritual progress so far. Was it by sitting around and waiting for
God to move me? It wasn’t. Four, I didn’t ask what the fruit of that
woman’s lifestyle was. Was she a godly woman, walking in the power and
anointing of the Holy Spirit? She wasn’t.
So, I emulated the lifestyle of someone who wasn’t even living for God. And I
fell flat on my face.
Yes, God is working in each of us to will and do for His pleasure. But when I
did finally read this passage for myself, I saw that the verse before it says,
“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” Philippians 2:12.
It’s a two-way street. God works in us, this is true. But we also need to take
that which He has instructed us and walk it out. He will not do it for us. We
have to choose.
“Choose you this day whom you will serve,” Joshua said. He was speaking to
Israel, and telling them to choose between God or the false gods their fathers
had served. “But as for me and my house,” he asserts, “we will serve the
Lord,” Joshua 24:15.
Choose…a godly life is a choice, no less today than it was in Joshua’s time.
How we live our life is entirely up to us. God never takes our will away from
us. He never forces us to do anything, even if it is for our good, or the good
of others. The choice is always ours: God never violates the human will.
When we first heard the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, we each had a choice
whether to accept Christ or not. This gift of salvation was free to each of us,
because Jesus Christ paid a terrible price for it:
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that
not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should
None of us could ever clean ourselves up:
Proverbs 20:9 Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my
We were all lost, and dead and in sin:
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death…
But now Jesus Christ has offered each of us this gift of salvation.
John 10:10(b) I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it
Salvation must be chosen. It is a free gift, because Jesus Christ paid for it on
Sanctification must be chosen as well, from day to day. But it is not free. It
will cost you everything.
Sanctification is the process by which we allow God to correct us and form His
character in us. This is an ongoing, day to day process. It will not be complete
until we see Christ, Phil. 1:6.
When we were first saved, God justified each of us:
1 Cor. 6:11(b) But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were
justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
But the process does not stop there. What God worked for us legally, He now
desires to work into us in actuality. He wants us to be holy:
1 Peter 1:15-17 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all
your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” And if you
call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s
work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear….
This is a choice each of us must make, a choice we make not one time only, but
Luke 9:23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me,
let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
If we have a choice, then let us be aware of it! What are the choices--and what
are their consequences?
CHOICE ONE: LIVE FOR YOURSELF
When God called us, we were dead in sin. This is what God called us out of:
Ephesians 4:31 bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor…evil speaking…malice.
Col. 3:5, 8, 9 fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and
covetousness, which is idolatry…anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy
language out of your mouth…[lying] to one another
1 Peter 2:1 …malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all evil speaking”
And here we can all say, “Oh me,” because I believe that all of us can see
ourselves at least somewhere in these lists.
Yet, the characteristics in these lists are the very things we need to choose
to take off and lay aside! Reading these passages carefully, both Paul and
Peter admonish us:
Eph. 4:22, 25 ..put off …the old man….putting away lying…let
all…evil speaking be put away from you….
Colossians 3:5, 8 …put to death your members which are on the earth:
fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is
idolatry….But now you yourselves are to put off all of these: anger,
wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.
1 Peter 2:1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy,
envy, and all evil speaking…
In other words, you are not saved out of a life-style of greed and
covetousness, or hypocrisy and lies automatically. Each of us needs to
choose to see these horrible tendencies in ourselves, and lay them aside. When
we enter into these sins, we need to confess, to repent completely and turn from
them. We need to be clean by recognizing our sin and asking God to cleanse us
Nor does this happen automatically:
1 John 1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is
not in us.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our
sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
CHOICE TWO: LIVE FOR GOD
Both Paul and Peter tell us to not just take off an ungodly lifestyle and lay it
aside, but also to put on the new man in Christ. Paraphrasing the U.S. Army’s
slogan, “Be all you can be!” we have a greater exhortation:
Be all you can be in Christ!
This is a choice. Look at what God calls us to:
Ephesians 4:22-24, that you put off…the old man…and be renewed in the
spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according
to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:29, 32 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is
good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers….And
be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in
Christ forgave you.
Colossians 3:10 …put on the new man, who is renewed in knowledge, according
to the image of Him who created him
Colossians 3:12-15 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on
tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one
another, and forgiving one another. If anyone has a complaint against another;
even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things,
put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule
in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body, and be thankful.
This choice--to take off the old man, and put on Christ, culminates in a
lifestyle that is both godly and forgiving, both strong and believing, both
joyous and forceful. Here is a passage from Romans that describes such a
Romans 12:9-21 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to
what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in
honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in
spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing
steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to
hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with
those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one
another. 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. 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.
This is a picture of a godly life. Whom do we wish to serve? Whom do we wish to
Inevitably, there are consequences to whatever lifestyle we choose. Inevitably,
our actions sow seeds and bear fruit. Some of that fruit is evident in those
around us; some is evident in our own lives. Our lifestyle does make a
difference, for ill or for good.
There is a warning in Scripture which is also an encouragement:
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows,
that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap
corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting
life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall
reap if we do not lose heart.
This admonition is for both the believer and the unbeliever, for both the man
who chooses God above all else, and for the believer who only lives
half-heartedly for Christ. Inevitably, these lives will have an effect on those
around them, and on themselves.
The believer who does not go on with God and lives an ungodly lifestyle gives
Satan a legal hold on him, to bind him and keep him in torment. This man was set
free by the Lord Jesus Christ. But now instead he has chosen a lifestyle of sin,
and is in bondage to that:
Romans 6:16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to
obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to
death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
This man is increasingly drawn into Satan’s grasp, and while he has not lost
his salvation, he will not have the victory in Christ he could have had. Worse,
those around him will be effected.
On the other hand, here is the person who goes on with God:
Romans 6:13-14 And do not present your members as instruments of
unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the
dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall
not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
What is the fruit of these two lifestyles?
On the one hand, death:
Romans 6:21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now
ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
On the other hand, life:
Romans 6:22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves
to God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.
What of the Christian who falls in between these two? This person will never
have the power and victory he or she could have had. Instead, he will serve
Satan, even though he belongs to Christ. To the extent that a person puts to
death the deeds of the flesh and lives for Christ, to that extent they will have
power over sin and death and victory in Christ. Here is our hope: That daily
we can walk more closely with Christ, and daily put to death more of the old man
we once were.
“Choose this day whom you will serve,” Joshua said. We choose
everyday. Together these large and small battles, and great and little victories
will result in consequences for eternity.
So, does a Christian who lives for themselves go to hell? I don’t believe so.
I believe that the blood of Christ which justified this person upon their
salvation continues to justify them. Legally, they are clean. They will go to
heaven. But I believe that in heaven they will have deep regrets.
There are several eternal rewards offered for those who sell out to Jesus Christ
and live for Him from day to day. Jesus spoke of these when He said that there
will be a day of judgment. He also gave several promises for those who lost
everything to gain Him--houses, lands, authority. I am listing those rewards at
the end of this teaching for those who want to look these passages up and study
them. But I want to dwell on two of the rewards which I believe are by far the
For those who live for Christ, taking up their cross daily and following Him,
one of the best rewards is that their lives will influence those around them:
1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them,
for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
In other words, Paul was telling Timothy that if he continued living for God, he
would save both himself and those around him. Salvation in this passage for
Timothy is that ongoing salvation of sanctification. I believe that salvation
for those who heard Timothy was both initial salvation and that ongoing process
of being sanctified as well. I believe also that this passage applies to every
believer today. Continue in God’s Word! Take heed and continue in it, because
inevitably your life will make a difference to those around you.
But the best reward, I believe, is found in this passage:
Matthew 25:21 His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful
Someday we will see our heavenly Father. With all my heart, I want to hear Him
say to me, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” It is my heart’s
I have included a section titled “Rewards in Heaven” in appendix A. I
developed these notes as part of a longer series on heaven, and found that it
blessed the women in my Bible Study. I hope it blesses you, too.
Copyright November 2007