Holiness Is A Choice
By Dot Bowen
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? Romans 6:1 (NIV)
Years ago, I read a book entitled Grace Gone Wild by Robert Jeffress in which the issue of Christians using God’s grace as an excuse to sin. Have you ever said, It’s better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission? This may make us laugh, but the principle decreases our sense of holiness. Dan DeHaan—a respected author, conference speaker, and leader once said, “Lower our sense of holiness, and our sense of sin is lowered.” Can you imagine what he would say about our perspective of sin today? I confess I occasionally catch myself laughing at a television program before realizing I’m laughing at sin. Howard and I have both lost our parents, but I often think how shocked they would be with what is shown on television today. What once offended us now causes laughter. Do you believe God has lowered His standard of sin simply because we’ve lowered our awareness of sin? Do you think Jesus laughs at sin when He looks at His nail scarred hands? Then why as followers of Christ do we?
I almost feel pressured not to be such a “goody two-shoes” as I write this. Trust me, I’m not a goody two-shoes! I’m just aware that holiness is God’s chief attribute, and His desire is to develop His holiness within me. The concept of holiness is mentioned 900 times in the Bible—and it’s not just in the Old Testament. In 1 Peter 1:14-16, Peter explains, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” In 2 Corinthians 7:1, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
Holiness means to cut off or to separate. The Israelites were circumcised as an outward symbol of being cut off from all other religions. As followers of Christ, we are called to live separately from the world, which means our thoughts and devotion should differ from what the world thinks and what the world loves.
I often need to step back and ask if I represent Christ’s mind more than I represent the world. Jesus prayed about this very thing. He knew He wasn’t able to take us out of this world, so He prayed the world wouldn’t be in us. Ironically, before going to the cross to die for our sin, Jesus prayed we wouldn’t allow the sin of the world to be in us. No one understood the pain of sin more than Jesus when our sin was placed on Him at the cross.
Why did Jesus care so much about sin? Why didn’t He share our mentality about sin? We don’t treat as a big deal because we know we can ask for forgiveness! But sin puts in bondage. Because of God’s great love, He encourages us to be set apart so we are able to live in freedom rather than slaves to sin. I memorized Romans 6 during a very dark time in my life when sin brought pain and bondage, and it was the first time I realized God provided the power for me to choose not to sin. Sin may be fun for a time, but it always leads to bondage. What we once thought we could control begins to control us. I didn’t realize God asked me to live a life set apart for my benefit. He desires for me to live free from sin, not bound by sin. God not only commands us to choose to live holy lives, He provides His power to choose holiness. If we are bound by sin, it’s because we choose it.
- Read Romans 6 in several translations like The Message, the NIV, and the ESV.
- What does Romans 6:1 mean to you?
- Have you ever known someone to say or felt yourself, It doesn’t matter how you live as long as you ask for forgiveness?
- Reflect and meditate on Romans 6:11-17.
- What habit or situation do you refuse to give up or change because you have not considered it a “big sin?”
- Have you ever considered that the very thing you believe you have control over has the potential of controlling you (anger, over-eating, negative influences like friends, movies or social media)?
- Are you willing to trust God and take an intentional step away from the temptation of being controlled by anything or anyone other than the control of the Holy Spirit?
- If you are a follower of Jesus, you have the power within you to walk away from anything that is keeping you from being and God’s best. What will you choose?