Message from the publisher:
Useful To The Master
By Rich Carmicheal
"If a man cleanses himself...he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work" (2 Tim. 2:21).
Holiness is essential to our relationship with the Lord and our usefulness for His service. If we want to see Him work more powerfully in and through our lives, we must pursue holiness. In this message, I invite you to consider what the Bible teaches regarding the importance of holiness, the nature of holiness, and the means to grow in holiness.
The Importance of Holiness
God’s Word places great emphasis upon the importance of holiness in our lives. The Lord has chosen us to be holy (Eph. 1:4), calls us to be holy, and commands us to live a holy life (1 Thess. 4:7; 1 Pet. 1:16). If we choose not to be holy, we are rejecting Him and His Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 4:8). On the other hand, as we embrace holiness, we are able to enter into the holy Presence of the Lord (Psa. 15:1-5; 24:3-7). Through holiness we worship the Lord (Rom. 12:1), we show reverence for Him (2 Cor. 7:1), bring glory to Him (2 Thess. 1:10) and share in His glory (2 Thess. 2:13-14). Holiness enables us to serve Him (Heb. 9:14) and equips us to become "useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work" (2 Tim. 2:21). God’s will is that we be holy and He is pleased when we live holy lives (1 Thess. 4:1-3). He considers the inner beauty of holy women to be of great worth (1 Pet. 3:4-5) and He seeks men who will lift up holy hands in prayer (1 Tim. 2:8). The result of holiness is eternal life (Rom. 6:22). We are to make every effort to be holy, for "without holiness, no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14).
The importance of holiness can also be measured by the great price the Lord paid to make us holy: "But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do…For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Pet. 1:15-19). We dare not despise this precious gift for "How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Heb.10:29).
The Nature of Holiness
Holiness is both something the Lord gives us and something He continues to develop in us as we walk with Him. On the one hand, "we have been made holy" and on the other hand "we are being made holy" (Heb. 10:10, 14). To be holy means to be pure, clean, without sin, radiant, and "without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Eph. 5:26-27). To be holy also means to be chosen, set apart and consecrated by the Lord for His purposes and to become a dwelling place for His Presence.
Holiness is both an inward and outward matter and is to permeate every part of our being: "May God…sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless…" (1 Thess. 5:23). It is also to permeate everything that we do: "...be holy in all you do…" (1 Pet. 1:15). Holiness is the state of being and doing that which pleases the Lord.
Our greatest example of the nature of holiness is the Lord. Holiness is His very essence: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty" (Rev. 4:8). His holiness is majestic (Ex. 15:11) and full of splendor (Psa. 96:9). His Spirit is the Holy Spirit. Jesus is "holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens" (Heb. 7:26). We are called to be holy because the Lord is holy. We are "created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph. 4:24). To grow in holiness, therefore, is to become more like Him, taking on His nature and His character. As we are sanctified through Christ’s blood, through the Word, and through the Holy Spirit, we become vessels in which the Lord dwells and through which He can reveal His glory to others.
The third chapter of Colossians provides one of several pictures of what holiness looks like in everyday life. As God’s holy people (v.12) we rid ourselves of whatever belongs to our earthly nature such as sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and deception (vv. 5-9), and we clothe ourselves with such godly characteristics as compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, peace and thanksgiving (vv. 12-16).
Ephesians 4:22-5:10 provides a very similar description of holiness. As those who are created to be like God in holiness (4:24), we are to put off our old self, put off falsehood, not sin in our anger, not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, not grieve the Holy Spirit, and get rid of bitterness, as well as rage, anger, slander, malice, sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking and idolatry. Instead, we are to put on the new self, speak truthfully to others, share with others, build others up according to their needs, be kind, compassionate, forgiving, thankful, full of love, and eager for the things that please the Lord. As this passage and the passage from Colossians illustrate, holiness is the transformation that takes place as we separate ourselves from sinful passions and actions and as we take on godly desires and actions.
Although holiness is marked by the absence of sin, it does not mean isolation from the sinful world around us. In fact, Jesus’ prayer to His Father reveals that we are sanctified in order to make an impact for Him in the world: "Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world" (John 17:17-18). Jesus is our perfect example in this. He was set apart as the Father’s very own and sent into the world (John 10:36). He remained absolutely holy, and yet actively sought to interact with sinners and minister to their needs. He allowed His holy life to touch others and to draw others to His Father. Likewise, the Lord desires that the holiness in our lives impact the lives of those around us.
The Means to Deeper Holiness
Holiness is the work of the Lord. We are made holy through the sanctifying work of His Spirit (2 Thess. 2:13), through the blood of Jesus (Heb. 9:13-14), through the truth of His Word (John 17:17), through His strength (1 Thess. 3:13) and by His purpose and grace (2 Tim. 1:9). Jesus is the one "who makes men holy" (Heb. 2:11) and He is our "righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30).
Holiness, therefore, is always rooted in our relationship with the Lord. If we should ever pursue the outward appearance of holiness without an active relationship with the Lord, the result will be legalism, hypocrisy and a form of godliness without power. It is vital, therefore, that we cultivate our relationship with the Lord. As we draw near to Him and yield our lives to Him, He is gracious to share His holiness with us (Heb. 12:9-10). He allows us to reflect His glory as He transforms us "into His likeness with ever-increasing glory" (2 Cor. 3:18).
As we grow in our love and devotion to the Lord, we will also grow in our desire to forsake sin and anything else that threatens to separate us from Him. We will seek to "…purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God" (2 Cor. 7:1). We will "make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him" (2 Pet. 3:14). We will "make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy" for we know that without holiness, we will not see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).
Friends, let us turn from sin and embrace the Lord and His holiness.