Today, we will begin looking at the last of the three truths that must be believed in order to experience the Higher Christian Life. These truths speak of the character of God and our need to let Him both make us holy and, as hard as it sometimes seems, keep us holy in His sight. Remember, Jude 24 states, “He is able to keep you from stumbling”— so His ability is not in question. And 1 Corinthians 1:30 further reveals that Jesus “became for us… sanctification.” So He is what He desires us to be. Seems simple enough. But how does knowing what He can do (keep us from stumbling) and knowing what we have done (our sin and failure) reconcile with each other? And how do these two statements about Christ relate to the importance of our dependence on Him?
Before we address this question, let’s begin with a quick review of what we already know (hopefully) about the three key truths and the Higher Christian Life.
One, you must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness. You must settle it in your mind, once and for all, that “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). And this is especially true of Him being able to “keep you from stumbling” (Jude 24). Yes, even you.
Two, you must remove from your mind all doubt and fear that He is not willing to keep you from stumbling. Of course He is willing. That’s what a good God does. He will not command you to “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16) and then give you no means to obey His command.
And three, you must learn to commit yourself, in total dependence, to the Lord for safekeeping. It is His job to “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and not yours. His job. And He is not only willing to bring you across the finish line, but He is also able to carry you across the line if necessary. So we must learn to trust Him to finish what He began in us, for His glory, no matter how we feel at the moment. Remember, whatever the need, He can. And even better, He will.
Now once that is settled in our mind, if we don’t stay focused on Him alone, the drudgery of the everlasting treadmill begins.
Let me explain.
It’s His Job to Both Make and Keep You Holy
You and I both know that fellowship with God is something that can quickly fade away. It is not something that maintains itself. A simple sin, an impure thought, jealously, anger, lust, pride, you name it, and soon we have grieved the Holy Spirit and inadvertently landed on square 87 in the spiritual Chutes & Ladders game and now find ourselves sliding almost back to the beginning. “How did that happen? I was so close! Now I’ve got to start all over.”
So what do we do? We try harder. But harder at what? Unfortunately, since we assume our intimacy with the Lord, the Higher Christian Life, was somehow obtained by our own efforts to live holy and, now that we find ourselves back on square 24, we naturally commit to working and trying harder to recapture the fellowship we lost. So we pray more. We read our Bible more. We commit ourselves to witness more, love more, worship more, give more. We get on the treadmill of works hoping to somehow earn renewed fellowship with Him, or revived holiness in us until we find ourselves exhausted and frustrated and close to despair. No matter how hard we try, no matter how many spiritually good things we add to our life, we cannot obtain by our works something that is only given to us by faith. And here is where we often fail.
We only received salvation when we realized there was nothing we could do to atone for our own sins. We tried and failed. So we tried again, only harder, to fail once again, only harder. Eventually, we quit trying and finally gave up. Hence, we surrendered to Christ, accepted and received His sacrifice for our sins, and received, as a gift of grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and eternal life. And this was appropriated to us, not by works, no matter how good they may seem, but by faith.
The Higher Christian Life is received the same way.
When we come to a fuller understanding of Him and experience the Higher Christian Life, we will find our prayer life will increase exponentially. Scripture will become for us, “living and active” (Heb. 4:12), maybe for the first time. And we will have a natural desire to tell others about the wonder of this life with Christ we are now experiencing. But these are all manifestations of an inward change by the Spirit and not tasks or requirements we must do in the flesh to earn His acceptance. His love and acceptance are given to us by faith, as a gift.
So just like salvation, when we come to the realization we cannot live a holy life on our own and surrender in total dependence to Him by allowing Him to live His holy life through us, then He becomes for us, by experience, “wisdom from God— and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, (why) as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:30-31). We glory in Him and not in our own accomplishments that we falsely believe somehow earn the acceptance of God.
Everything is given to us by grace and is received by faith. Salvation, yes. But also sanctification.
So today, when you pray or study Scripture, don’t do it out of duty or the desire to earn something from Him, but allow the Spirit to compel you to do it out of love. Let the spiritual good things in your life not be for the purpose of earning God’s love, but as an outflow of His love. As a response to His love. Or, as Romans 12:1 says, as your “reasonable service” in response to the “mercies of God.”
Next time we will look at Matthew 14 and see this third truth played out for us in living color in the account of Jesus and the weary disciples doing what they had always done, in their own strength, on the sea.