By Mike and Julie McGhghy
ASR RUMBLINGS – DECEMBER 2019
In this fourth and final article regarding holiness, and in the spirit of thankfulness and celebration of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we will unwrap a gift given to us by Dr. David K. Bernard in his book, Practical Holiness: A Second Look. No, Dr. Bernard did not write the book thinking of his message, as a gift to the readers, but to me this message was a life-changing gift.
Remember that our goal is to live the Acts 2:38 message that we wear on our back patches when we ride, but to live it at all times, not just when we ride. Living the message means living holy. In the prior articles we discussed holiness involving both the inner man and the outer man and how that looks in our lives. The gift we will unwrap today is the message we find in Romans 6, 7, and 8, but we will first start with a review of our sinful nature.
We know from both the Old and New Testaments that all human beings have sinned (I Kings 8:46; II Chronicles 6:36), all human beings inherit the sin of Adam (Psalms 51:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 5:12), and the penalty of sin is death, but forgiveness is available through Christ (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 15:22). Even after receiving forgiveness through the experience of the New Birth, our sin/carnal nature struggles against the Spirit. Galatians 5:17. We must all wage against our sinful nature, even after we experience the New Birth.
The sinful nature consists of a compulsion to commit sinful acts, not just a capacity to sin. If we let the sinful nature lead us it will always cause us to sin. Paul taught that neither the law of God nor the law of the mind, that is neither God’s moral law nor the good intentions of the human mind, imparts power to overcome the principle of sin that drives humans to sin. Most of us are familiar with Romans 7:14-25, where Paul describes a struggle between the carnal nature and our desire to walk holy. Verse 15 states, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” Many people accept this as a description of the norm for Christian living, a constant battle with the desire to sin. Many, including myself in times past, justify ourselves saying something like, “Hey, if Paul struggled with sin, of course I am going to struggle.”
But here is the gift: Romans 7 does not describe the norm for Christian living! It describes a good-intentioned person trying to overcome sin without the power of the Spirit. Paul concludes Romans 7 by thanking God that through Jesus Christ we can serve the law of God in our minds, overcoming the law of sin in our flesh.
To find the norm for Christian living, we must look at Romans 6 and 8. Romans 6:6 and 11 tell us that we are dead to sin and we are to consider ourselves as such. Romans 8 describes life in the Spirit, where there is no condemnation (verse 1) and we are more than conquerors through Christ (verses 37-39). Yes, the principle of sin remains in the born-again believer, but the born-again believer can overcome the principle of sin through the power of the Spirit!
Holiness starts at salvation. Without salvation, we will constantly live in the struggle Paul describes in Romans 7. Once we experience the New Birth (repentance, baptism in Jesus Name, and receiving the Holy Ghost), we embark on the process of daily submission to the leadership and control of the Holy Spirit. We must follow holiness in order to see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14. The New Birth has no eternal value unless we walk by faith and live after the new nature of the Spirit, allowing God to complete the work of salvation that began at the New Birth.
Following holiness requires personal effort. It is our responsibility to reverently and watchfully implement holiness in our lives. But we need not be overwhelmed by this! God is the One who works in us, giving us the desire and the power to live righteously. Philippians 2:12-13. Below is a three-fold approach to overcoming sin that is revealed in Romans 6 and shared by Dr. Bernard in his book:
1. Know who we are and what has happened to us. Know that when we were born again, we died to sin. Know, therefore that sin has no power over us.
2. Reckon this to be so. Think on that knowledge and act as if we died to sin and sin has no power over us.
3. Yield to God. Replace sinful habits with an active performance of God’s will as revealed by His Word and His Spirit.
God will consider us holy if we live a repented life, have faith in Christ, live according to the knowledge of His Word, and strive to become progressively more like Christ. Ephesians 4:13. He expects us to grow continually in grace and knowledge (Mark 4:26-29; 2 Peter 3:18) and to bear more and more spiritual fruit (John 15:1-8). If we do not become progressively more holy and Christ-like in thought, attitude, conduct, and lifestyle, something is wrong.