Holes in a gas tank, can’t allow that. Holes in a boat, disastrous. Holes in a waterbed, yikes!
How about holes in holiness? Obviously, there are no holes in God’s holiness. Everything he thinks, says, does is perfect, pristine, impeccable, immaculate. It’s heavenly holiness to the highest degree.
How about us? Holes in boats, gas tanks, waterbeds—we want them fixed asap. But holes in our holiness? Maybe we can get by with a few holes here and there, we think.
In his letters to 1st century Christians, Paul says a lot about holiness. And about holes (see, for example, Gal 5:19-21; Eph 4:25-31; 5:3-7; Col 3:3-10).
Might holiness be required for Christ-followers, actually an ultimatum? No holes allowed in holiness?! Paul explains: God saved us through Jesus’ death in order to present us holy, without blemish and free from accusation (Col 1:22). It was Paul’s goal to present everyone perfect in Christ (Col 1:28).
So . . . Jesus not only solves the problem of the consequences of our sin, he fixes the holes. For many Christians, the focus is the good news of what Jesus saved us from—condemnation now and forever. We’re pretty happy with this version of the news, and we’re content to stop at that. But shouldn’t there be an equal focus on what Jesus saved us to—holiness now and forever? No holes! As Michael Horton noted, “Grace is too amazing to save us from sin’s guilt, only to leave us under its cruel tyranny.”
Frankly, we’re not sure what to do about personal holiness. We can’t really be holy, can we? Maybe we’re at least supposed to do everything in our power to be free from sin. Holiness is apparently more than a goal. It’s an expectation.
Kevin DeYoung, in his book, The Hole in Our Holiness (2012), asks whether holiness is actually the chief aim of our redemption, and what’s more, even required evidence of eternal life (p. 11). If the intent is for us to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29), can there be holes?
The gospel is essentially about two things: what Jesus did and what we do. Both entail sacrifice. He willingly sacrificed everything on our behalf. In response, we present ourselves as living sacrifices, willing to become anything on his behalf, holy and pleasing to God (Rom 12:1-2).
This much is certain: godliness, holiness, perfection, is the fruit of our union with Christ. Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you . . . if you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:4, 10).
Life Application Questions
Anticipating each disciple’s need for spiritual provision Scripture explains that each disciple is “…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience…” (Colossians 1:11). We celebrate God’s provision!
Endurance and patience come from God flowing like a river through the Spirit. Divine strength enables all creation to find meaning and purpose through Christ. Without God’s spiritual resources we are left to our own limited abilities (John 7:37-39).
Disciples since the time of Christ have found it to be so; and if someday believers are among those who travel to distant moons or galaxies, the constant truth shall remain: among all travelers in the universe God’s people chart trajectories requiring endurance and patience. We celebrate God’s provision!
Consider your life in comparison to cataclysmic changes occurring in the world’s communities. Recently there was massive flooding in North America for portions of Mississippi. States of the western United States were literally turning the sky red with fire as lives were lost, forests burned and buildings destroyed.
Fires likewise are raging in the nation of Greece. Revolution-like events have occurred in Afghanistan. Syria remains in turmoil. South Sudan and Myanmar suffer profound political turmoil. Venezuela continues experiencing wild inflation. Haiti has widespread devastation because of another earthquake followed by a fierce tropical storm.
If you are a disciple of Jesus, living in any of these or any of the other myriad places where turmoil is the coin of life, how might your need for patient endurance be amplified? Simply put: food and clean water are very spiritual matters.
How do you celebrate God’s provision of spiritual strength?
Among the challenges you face as a disciple, which of them require strong habits of patient endurance?
Are there circumstances that currently diminish your spiritual tenacity?
Are you pursuing lifetime tasks that require specialized endurance or training?
Is there an example of a real, flesh and blood, non-apostolic person in the Bible who is a fruit-bearing Christian? I’m from Missouri – show me, plainly, please. The Scripture text tells us that the Colossians were bearing the fruit of the gospel: faith, hope, and love. They were praised by Paul who was thanking God for their faith in Christ Jesus and love for all God’s people – the faith and love that sprint from the hope stored up for you in heaven…in the same way the gospel is bearing fruit…just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it.
In contrast, Nervous Nellie, who vacillates between faith and fear, has a difficult time bearing the spiritual fruit of love, as she loses sight of the hope and foundation of her faith – Jesus.
So how might she live out “fruit-bearing?" By abiding. By abiding in the faith of the gospel that Jesus saves. By dwelling on His love and truth – the grace He has shown her personally.
Peter speaks to a process - beginning with faith and ending with love - of a fruitful Christian life (2 Peter 1:5-8). That faith is fundamental is also supported in Hebrews 11:6, And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Dr. Roy L. Laurin says in his commentary, “Faith is a fundamental fact of the Christian life. It is the foundation of character and the beginning of virtue…when faith is in Him there is a sufficient and lasting basis for life…the basis of such faith will be secure and certain” (Colossians, pp. 33-34).
Our fruitfulness begins with faith in the gospel of Jesus and from there it flourishes into moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. These qualities render you neither useless nor unfruitful (2 Peter 1:5-8). jlh
Life Application Question
God sent His Son to earth to set people free to serve Him with joy and bear fruit. This freedom has been warped, dissected and many attempts have been made to explain and live in the freedom of grace. The mental pictures evoked by the word freedom come in many shapes and sizes. What do you picture in your mind when you hear the word, freedom? I always pictured the movie, Braveheart and William Wallace leading the charge shouting, “Freedom”. But my picture of freedom has shifted to a tiny white-haired Grandma doing her freedom dance. This Grandma and her husband were characterized by ministry. They served faithfully. The husband was critical and harsh. Their children felt the sting of harsh punishments and unrealistic expectations. The wife subjugated herself under her husband’s iron fist. The legalistic lifestyle sucked the joy out of her existence. Then, one day, after 70 years of marriage, the husband passed away. The granddaughter slipped into the house to console Grandma. She found Grandma standing on the kitchen chair, pumping her fist in the air, chanting, “I’m free, I’m free, free at last.” Do you have a freedom dance? God’s freedom dance for the believer does not look like the law. The authority of the law bound those who were not Christ-followers, just as legalism has gripped the lives of some of Christ’s followers.
In Romans 6, Paul told us how to stop doing bad things. In Romans 7, Paul tells us how not to do good things. You were not justified by keeping the law and you cannot be sanctified by keeping the law. Legalism is the belief that I can become holy and please God by obeying laws. It judges the outward and not the inward. In what ways have you observed Christ-followers imposing rules on themselves or others? When we lived “…in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us…” (Romans 7: 5) When we trusted Christ, we died to the law just as we died to the flesh. The law did not die, we died. What does it look like to live like you are not under the law?
Grandma’s freedom dance reflected the intense boundaries that held her spirit captive in her marriage to a man caught in the trap of living under the rules (legalism). “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit…” (Romans 7:6) The motivation and dynamic of our lives does not come from the law; it comes from God’s grace. The Holy Spirit energizes us (Romans 7:6). Under the law, no enablement was given. But under grace, “…You are a letter from Christ…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
(2 Corinthians 3:3) Relationships, health issues, work, heartbreak, and disappointment all have boundaries that can hem us in on every side; but our spirit can be free in Christ.
Freedom results in fruit-bearing. How can the release from living under the law determine fruit-bearing in your life? “…you died to the law through the body of Christ that you might belong to another, to Him, who was raised from the dead, in order, that we might bear fruit for God.” (Romans 7:4) Celebrate the freedom that we have in Christ. “It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.”
(Galatians 5:1) How will you celebrate your freedom day? “I’m free, I’m free, free at last.”
John 15:16; 18-27
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
We've been chosen to be on Jesus' team in the game of life. Our study for four Sundays in John 15 includes some of the rules of the game.
Wherever we go, whatever we do, we must show the world our team colors. White = righteousness and purity, evidenced by the display of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Green = personal growth by a strong connection with the vine and reproduction by recruiting more team members (Jesus followers).
How do you show the world the fruit of the Spirit in your life?
Like most games, living for Jesus (which is more than a game, of course) will be hard. Our opponents are strong and devious; some of their plays include hatred, persecution, and ridicule. We shouldn’t be discouraged by this if we recall the words of Jesus: “Keep in mind that (the world) hated me first (vs. 18).” “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me” (vv. 20-21).
What kind of opposition have you faced? How did you handle it?
The game is long and there may be times when you'll want to sit on the sidelines. Don't give in to that temptation. It’s a comfort to know that our coach (the Holy Spirit) will be with us during the entire game. Listen to the coach, as he calls new plays and enables you to carry the ball a while longer. He will show us how to play, help us when we seem to be losing, and he will bring in other team members to play beside us, just when we're thinking "Game Over!"
Recall a time when God sent just the right person (people) to help you get through a hard time in your life.
Remember, we are on the winning team. Look around you at other team members who are enduring greater difficulties and persevering. Take courage. In the very next chapter of John Jesus told his team, í have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (16:33).
Rule #1: Abide in Christ! Only a strong connection to the vine and dependence upon the Holy Spirit will enable you to withstand the opposition that's ahead. jbd & gmd