“Holiness is consecrated closeness to God.”
– J.I Packer in Packer on the Christian Life by Sam Storms
The final entry in SEND’s doctrinal statement reads:
We believe that the presence of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit in the believer will result in a life of holiness and a walk of obedience to the will of God.
In this series of blog posts on our Statement of Faith, we have been asking how do these statements that we hold, hold us in our thinking, affections and will, and in our actions.
1. How does this statement hold our thinking?
This life of holiness and walk of obedience is rooted in the presence of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, hence the quote from Packer that “holiness is consecrated closeness to God.” Holiness and obedience are not the means to Christ’s presence but the result of Christ’s presence in the believer. This is not a second blessing either. All believers enjoy Christ’s presence by the Spirit (Romans 8:9-11). There is a new principle at work in the believer. Jonathan Edwards call this a “new inner relish” (See Dane Ortlund, A New Inner Relish: Christian Motivation in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards, Christian Focus, 2008).
Our salvation is not just about going to heaven when we die. God is at work in us, changing us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). It is a process. We are “being renewed” (Colossians 3:10). But we are also active in this process. Philippians 2:12 & 13 teaches us that we cultivate our salvation precisely because “God is at work within us both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” God is at work in our will and our action, motivating and energizing us.
So we will expect that a believer (ourselves and our converts) will grow in a life of holiness and a walk of obedience to the will of God. If there is no evidence of growth, then there is a need for self examination (2 Corinthians 13:5).
Packer expands his definition of holiness:
In relation to God, holiness takes the form of a single-minded passion to please by love and loyalty, devotion and praise. In relation to sin, it takes the form of a resistance movement, a discipline of not gratifying the desires of the flesh, but of putting to death the deeds of the body (Galatians 5:16; Romans 8:13). Holiness is, in a word, God-taught, Spirit-wrought Christ-likeness, the sum and substance of committed discipleship, the demonstration of faith working by love, the responsive outflow in righteousness of supernatural life from the hearts of those who are born again. (Ortlund, Packer on the Christian Life, 64, 65)
2. How does this statement hold our affections and will?
The focal point of the statement is the presence of Christ by the Spirit in the believer. The glory of the person and work of Jesus Christ captures our affections and directs our will. This is all the work of the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior (Titus 3:4-8). As we gaze on the glory of Christ, we are motivated to a life of holiness and obedience. Our disciplined focus on the person and work of Christ is empowered and motivated by the Spirit.
Dane Ortlund writes on our motivation:
The conclusion, then, is yes, motivate yourself by viewing the great price God paid on Calvary and obey the Lord out of joyful gratitude – yes, motivate yourself by seeing the overwhelming victory won for you which has changed your fundamental identity, making you a son or a daughter of God – yes, motivate yourself by pursuing your greatest joy in the promises of God! May we never belittle such glorious truths. But we must do all these things in the God-honoring knowledge that if that motivation successfully prevents sin or fuels righteousness, this is attributable only to the active mercy of God. God’s grace is wholly responsible, since ‘holiness, both in principle and fruit, is from God.’ (A New Inner Relish, 95)
God must change us from the inside out. Conversion is not mental assent to a new creed – though the mind is of course active! Rather, it is the divine granting of a new love for God such that holiness appears beautiful instead of ugly, while sin becomes repulsive instead of attractive. As we saw in both Edwards and C. S. Lewis, immoral people don’t want to obey, so they don’t; moral people don’t want to obey, but they do; Christians want to obey. (A New Inner Relish, 173)
3. How does this statement hold our actions?
In our lifestyle and our teaching we must keep faith and works together. After all,
we believe that the presence of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit in the believer will result in a life of holiness and a walk of obedience to the will of God.
We will keep it clear that the presence of Christ by the Holy Spirit is the cause and the life of holiness, and obedience is the result.
Packer writes :
So the substance of our holiness is the active expression of our knowledge of the grace that separated us sinners to God through Christ our savior and is now transforming us into Christ’s image. (Packer on the Christian Life, 65)
To understand more fully what this life of holiness involves, I encourage you to explore the Crossway book series “Theologians on the Christian Life.” Currently there are 12 volumes covering theologians from Augustine to Packer.