Preparing for Heaven

Building the Eternal Phase of Your Life

Pursue Holiness and Righteousness Together

by Dick Wulf | Course Three

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Since God is transforming us into the image of Jesus, clearly stated in Rom 8:29, we are to pursue holiness and righteousness. This is a life-long pursuit that needs to be done with the help of others. Furthermore, in addition to pursuing holiness and righteousness individually, we are to do so in the Christian groups we belong to, especially our Christian friendships, Christian families, and Christian marriages.

The Greek word for “holy” used extensively in the New Testament refers to our obligation to God to glorify Him with moral behavior. In other words, holiness is to set ourselves aside for God and live the way God wants us to in order to honor Him.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Eph 4:24, “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” It is each of our responsibility to pursue Christlikeness, which boils down to holiness and righteousness.

Throughout Scripture, believers are told not to do evil, not to sin. Col 3:1-10 is one of the most specific passages.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

We are to put to death sins that are alive inside of ourselves and purify our spirits. We can prayerfully start with those horrible things mentioned in Colossians 3. It may seem that we need to struggle to kill off a particular sin, but starting with a firm decision in the power of God may be sufficient.

I discovered the power of a decision from an otherwise misguided source. A secular organization sent me a promotional cassette tape many years ago telling how to quickly eliminate things from my life. I listened to the tape and in a very ridiculing, humorous way did what they suggested. Three days later found that the very specific thing I used in what I thought was an absolutely over-simplified and ridiculous exercise was surprisingly gone. I went on to use the method on things I had been anxious about for up to 60 years, and at least 90 % of those worries have not been back now for over 18 years. I have applied the method of decision-making to letting go of sinful attitudes as well as to bring into my life biblical obedience with satisfying success. Strange as it might seem, the problem I have had is that the method works so well that I forget it. Only when really bothered by something do I remember it again and put it to use. Here is my recommendation to you.

First, ask yourself, “With the power of the Holy Spirit, can I let go of . . . (and name the particular sin you want gone). Then make a definite decision, “yes”, meaning that you believe it is possible to let go of that particular sin. This works. When I was first listening and going along with this instruction, I said that I could let go of the thing I wanted gone with ridicule and laughter. I did not really believe it could work. That was late on a Monday night. Three days later, on Thursday morning I became aware that the thing was gone and had been since that Monday night. It had worked and I didn’t even believe in it!

Second, ask yourself, “Will I let go of it?”, naming the specific thing you want to let go of. That first time I when responded, I was thinking it was quite funny, and that something so simple could not work. But, even though I was ridiculing this method, I was sincere in my desire about what I wanted gone in my life. And, it worked! All that is important in this second step is that you really do want the specific thing gone.

The third and last step in this decision-making process is to ask yourself, “When do I want this thing gone?” Your answer should be, “Now.”

Here is an example if it was coveting that you wanted gone from your life. This decision-making method uses three words, “Could I?”, “Would I?”, and “When?” Or “Can I?”, “Will I?”, and “When?”

“Could I stop coveting what others have? Can I stop wanting what others have?” “Yes.” “Would I stop coveting what others have? Will I stop wanting what others have?” “Yes.” “When do I want to do this?” “Now.”

The Bible does not always say that we need to struggle to obey Scripture. It often just tells us to make a decision. The first part of Phil 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything.” The Apostle Paul in Philippians 4 does not instruct us to struggle to let go of anxiety, but to know that Jesus is by our side and decide to not be anxious about the troubles in our lives.
So, we can begin picking one sin at a time after another to put to death by making one decision after another. We can pursue holiness and righteousness in this way.

Seeing that the method worked, I ordered the set of cassette tapes. The material was too extreme and in some ways counter to biblical truth, but I did learn one more valuable thing, and that was that the same method of letting go of things could be used to bring things into my life. This too can be quite valuable, so here is an example of that.

“Can I invite peace into my life about this issue? Could I do this?” “Yes.” “Will I invite peace into my life about this issue? Would I do this?” “Yes.”

“When will I invite peace into my life about this issue?” “Now.”

Individually, we need to have faith that the power of God in our lives can purify us and that we can pursue holiness and righteousness. If we work on our individual purity, then we will bring that holiness and righteousness into the Christian groups we belong to and be surprised that holiness and righteousness is often completely achieved at times by our Christian friendships, Christian families, Christian marriages, and even Christian small groups.

In fact, the command to be holy is given to Christians together, not to single Christians. Each believer is to pursue holiness, but because of inherent sin cannot go as far into holiness as can a small group of believers. A Christian friendship group, a Christian family, and a Christian marriage can be sinful and not do what God wants them to do. But, they also can obey and do what the Lord says to be done.

For example, during a small group Bible study I was leading many years ago a deacon in our church confessed that he had been unable to pray for a couple of weeks and was plagued by lack of faith. But the group did what God said to do in such a situation. Therefore, while each and every group member probably had sinful thoughts during the meeting, the group as a whole was holy and righteous. It did what God asked it to do. Individuals are infected with sin, groups of Christians, apart from its members are not.

Remember that God called the nation of Israel to be holy, not just individual citizens. Lev 19:1-2 records this: “The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.’” Remember also that the Apostle Peter in his first letter was speaking to all the church when he wrote in 1 Peter 1:15, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.”

Unfortunately, the individualized faith of today’s Christianity steers our understanding of holiness to individual piety. We can be on shaky ground if we limit the holiness we pursue to personal devotional practices, church attendance, and individual relationship with God.
Before we talk more about the increased possibility that holiness can be more completely attained in Christian friendships, families and marriages, let’s look at how pursuing holiness and righteousness now will affect our lives later in heaven.

In heaven we each will be holy and set apart for God without sin interfering. And, we each will act only righteously. However, we will not become God, infinite in holiness and righteousness. None of us in heaven will ever be as holy and righteous as our Savior. But, we will want to keep on acquiring more and more of His nature.

If God is conforming us into the image of His Son Jesus, what makes us think that such a transformation will be complete upon our death? Romans 8:29 says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, . . .” No deadline is stated, and we know that no one is completely like Jesus when they die.

It seems almost certain that we will continue to grow into more holiness and righteousness after we get to heaven. We won’t have unrighteousness, but there will be more and more righteousness to be acquired. First, we are perfected by the covering of Christ and are admitted to God’s kingdom. Then, after we have become Christians, we begin to actually become more and more like Jesus in holiness and righteousness – starting before death and then continuing after death in heaven.

Pursuing holiness and righteousness now, this side of death, will accelerate our pursuit of holiness and righteousness when we get to heaven. Let’s be empowered by our previous commitment to holiness and righteousness and take off running in pursuit of more holiness and righteousness when we get to heaven. All to more glorify God.

Every time in this life before death that we stop thinking some long-standing unrighteous thought, judging another, or ending some other sinful behavior, it feels very, very good. Here and now, it is freeing and it is joyful. This same satisfaction will continue in heaven where holiness and righteousness can be pursued unhindered by sin.

Because we learned to seek holiness and righteousness together with other Christians before heaven, we will continue the habit in heaven. It won’t be to overcome sin, but it will be growth from one level of holiness and righteousness to a higher level. Like climbing a mountain, it will be great to reach new heights of Christlikeness in holiness and righteousness.

Here is a little more about how Christian groups can pursue and achieve holiness and righteousness.

What is impossible for individual believers now because of sinful natures, is possible for groups of believers because those groups are not inherently sinful; only their members are. So, let’s look at a couple of examples to see how holiness is much more possible by a Christian friendship group than each friend in the group, much more possible by a Christian family even though family members will sin, much more possible by a Christian marriage than by either the husband or the wife.

Suppose a husband and wife are unjustifiably angry with each other. The angry husband and wife are not holy. Can the marriage be holy? Well, not automatically or God would not have had to command holiness. But, if the marriage of the two spouses together does what God asks, the marriage is holy while the husband and wife are not. So, if the husband and wife submit to God, make their marriage more important than other things, work together to solve problems, see that truth is spoken in love, assure that self-denying agape love predominates and eventually wins out, seek and give forgiveness – then the marriage has operated perfectly. The marriage is in this sense a separate entity with the possibility of being obedient, and thus at that time and place holy and righteous.

A Christian friendship group of three having a meal in a restaurant can get very close to holiness, much more so than any of the three friends in their individual thoughts and actions during that lunchtime. One friend expresses that he hates his supervisor at work. His holiness just crashed. But the other two friends implement various Togethers and help the first to see his boss and the situation with more understanding. They point out that the boss’s ability to be fair is hindered because he is unable to act righteously because he does not know God and is caught up in the dog-eat-dog culture outside of Christianity. They examine their friend’s understanding of his faith and encourage him to let the Holy Spirit help him react to the situation like Jesus would, using an attitude similar to that of Jesus when He was being crucified. They help the struggling friend to forgive his supervisor’s offensive behavior.

Even though the two faithful friends who helped probably did not do a perfect job, and may have even struggled themselves with sinful thoughts, the friendship as a whole did what the Lord would have it do. The friendship was holy even though the parts making up the friendship, the individuals, were much less perfect and holy.

To make holiness and perfection more likely in our Christian friendship groups, our Christian families, and our Christian marriages, we still need to be developing individual perfection and holiness. But the end goal is holiness and perfection as a group. Our friendship groups, families and marriages are to be dedicated to God and to doing what He has commanded when Christians get together. As such, holiness and perfection are possible. All three groups can do what God wants them to do in the situations they face and give to Him holiness and righteousness.