“The implication of the call to sexual purity is costly, [but] we believe the grace of God is sufficient for such a calling.” —Church of the Nazarene 2017-2021 Manual, ¶31.
Michelangelo, the master artist, was a teacher with lofty goals. He corrected the work of his students by sketching the scene a pupil was trying to portray. His skillful work was placed beside that of the learner. This special touch was a standard and an example of fine art principles. The student could follow the pattern and please the master.
Our Heavenly Father has used this method to teach His children a holy standard. When God said, ‘‘Be holy, because I am holy” (Lev. 11:44), He put His will for humanity within reach. He issued the law and the sacrificial system as a ‘‘schoolmaster” (Gal. 3:24). Obedience and consecration were required from Moses and the chosen people of Israel.
In time, God produced the image of His holiness on a canvas of human flesh. The perfect life of His only begotten Son entered our faulty mural as a babe.
Jesus’ obedience and devotion to the Father revealed, in complete likeness, the holy life He expects from redeemed humanity.
With His own touch, the Heavenly Father gave a perfect example to live among us. Truly God and truly man, Jesus was sent to put holy living within the grasp of every believer. He always did the will of the Father. He poured out His life as a sacrifice for our sins. Through faith in Him we may receive divine forgiveness and cleansing.
All our efforts to meet God’s holy standard fail without faith in Him. If any of Michelangelo’s pupils shunned his model, they missed what they should have learned. If we ignore the example of Christ, we wrongly assume that God’s standard of holy living is too high.
But holiness is within our grasp when faith claims the transforming power of Jesus’ shed blood. We receive divine strength to live a holy life. We cannot reform ourselves. The bent to sinning is too great; the selfish bias is too overwhelming. We must plead Christ’s blood applied to our lives to be made holy.
The cross of Jesus calls us to seek forgiveness and cleansing for our sins. If we confess, He is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse us from all evil (1 John 1:9). This is holy living begun. As we repent, our faith that God forgives banks on His faithfulness. Christ proves God’s triumph over sin and death. Despite all evil powers, Jesus died a holy sacrifice and arose from the dead. Because He lives, we receive new life through His Spirit.
Though Jesus died for our sins, He Himself was sinless. His perfect offering for sin makes it both needless and shameful for His followers to continue sinning. After His resurrection and ascension, He poured out the promised Holy Spirit on His followers. They received Him in a mighty, cleansing baptism.
The cross of Jesus calls believers to total consecration. Christ “suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood” (Heb. 13:12). Only as we “walk in the light, as he is in the light,” do we have fellowship with one another, “and the blood of Jesus . . . purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
The Spirit of Christ purges and fills every consecrated heart with love for God and humanity. His Spirit enables us to obey God daily despite the tempting pressure to join the selfish revolt of this depraved world. Only He can make us holy without and within.
Christ has overcome Satan’s power in the world, not only for Himself but for all believers. Through His cleansing, indwelling Spirit we can live a holy life here and now. We ought not try to hide our sins as one might sweep dirt under a rug. Nor should we suppose Christ’s “robe of righteousness” covers our inner evil disposition. God has not lowered His holy standard to compromise with our wicked surroundings. Rather, He lifts us in love to engage His holiness, to respond in love with every aspect of our humanity.
Too often we measure our lives with standards set by other people, with the rules of the church, or according to selfish goals. Such self-righteousness is as a soiled line in our lives, marking where we shun God’s holy will. The purity of heart and life that God wants has no “high water” mark, showing the limits of devotion.
The total commitment God demands of His people is what Christ, our example, provides.
There should be no mistake as to what the Father expects from us, His children. Jesus’ atoning sacrifice reconciles us, and the gift of His Spirit empowers us to do the Father’s will. We must by faith seek unto His holy standard. The law of perfect love fulfills all other divine precepts.
Only the Master can approve the likeness of a faithful pupil compared to His perfect model. “Students” are unqualified to judge how well others are following the standard given. But Christ’s Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are His children. We know whether we have confessed all sins to be covered by His blood. We know when we have surrendered our all to Him. We know to what extent we have followed the Master in obedience.
God’s standard for holy living is high. But it is within reach of our faith, through the Lord Jesus Christ. By faith, we are made strong in weakness. By faith, our feeble attempts to conform to His image are transformed when we submit to His holy work in our lives. We display God’s holiness as we follow the example the Master has given us.
Ivan A. Beals (1927-1997) was an office editor of the Herald of Holiness.
Originally published in the Herald of Holiness, October 15, 1984.