Clarifying The Way To Holiness

by | Nov 28, 2023 | Articles, Spiritual Reflections

I’ve been seeing a lot of things more clearly than ever lately and this is a part of my musings. All is grace.
It was many years ago, before I was a Christian. I had been living up in the Ruahine Mountain Ranges of NZ working as a government employed deer culler and it had been some weeks since I had seen another human. It was a rainy day and I walked out to the end of a road where it had been determined that I would be met by my boss who would drive me back to the base we worked out of. But I hadn’t counted the days right and was a day late, and he wasn’t there.
I went to a nearby house to ask if I could use their phone to call him and when I knocked on the door the farmers wife – who lived a very isolated life as all did in those areas in those days – opened the door. I was suddenly struck with the incredible reality of her face and her eyes as she looked at me and said ‘hullo’!
Our eyes being the window of our souls, I found in that instant, is a truth. I guess the fairly long time I had been alone in silence and solitude without any human contact accentuated this. I could see who she was in her heart as I locked onto her eyes.
The amazing reality of a human soul.
The experience struck me dumb. I suddenly felt embarrassed as I couldn’t talk and respond with my own ‘hullo’ and I walked out into the rain again on her back lawn and started to make some noises with my mouth and get ready to speak again before I turned back to her and said, ‘hullo’ and asked if I could use her telephone. I made my call and left. I guess that the longer period of time that had passed since I had seen any human being accentuated the reality of what a human is. And the sudden shock of seeing another who is alive like me hit me more deeply.
Some time later I left that job and started shooting deer still in the hills that I love and carrying the carcasses out of the bush on my back to sell to an exporter. The work suited me better as I could have some social life although I was not very suited to that at that time. But during that time I took a labouring job on a commercial building site in Palmerston North for two weeks and made a friend. Laurie Murray was the first Christian I had met who really knew the Lord and I could see the reality of that in his eyes. I could see that he knew God as a real person in his life. I was very drawn to him. But the two weeks went by and I was back in the bush carrying deer out over very rough and high terrain. I never forgot Laurie’s eyes.
(Even a Hindu priest in Fiji told me once, “you can see who someone really is by looking into their eyes!”)
A few years later Denise and I married and for the next two years I had a job shooting rabbits on 90,000 acres of farmland from the edge of the mountains to the Manawatu river. It was a good reintroduction to a more normal life now I was married. My foreman who spent a day hunting with me once every two weeks was a Christian and through knowing him I gave my life to the Lord to follow Him all of the rest of my life. We began going to a church in the city of Palmerston North but I kept at a distance from the people there as there was a cultural gap between them and me. City dwellers and a wilderness guy.
My salvation experience was very real as Jesus had come into my car when I was driving home one night and although I couldn’t see Him I knew He was in the back seat of my car waiting for me to commit myself to Him. I gave the rest of my life to Him inviting Him into my life and heart to lead me the rest of my life. Without comment He was gone. The next morning in a field as I was starting to work with my rabbit hunting dogs – my best friends at the time – Jesus came into my heart and Oh the change that made in an instant. I knew I was a new person. I knew the old ways were going to change. I knew He loved me and had a purpose for my life. I was a new person with a new life ahead. I knew that the reality of God being in my heart now was able to be seen in my eyes too.
Now 52 years later God being in my life and heart is more real than ever. Also over the years He has continuously changed me in this kind of way. It started that day in that field and He is still working in me for that purpose. To transform me to be like Him in all ways.
This is what I want to talk about here. The ways that God changes us, that God works on our lives after we given our lives to Him. The way He works in us to redeem our humanity to what it would have been had Adam and Eve never sinned. How this happens in our everyday life with Him.
It was not long after we began to go to the city church: which was a church in revival and had many people in it who were walking with God in great reality; a church that was growing with new converts very fast.
It became am extremely influential body of people in the Body of Christ of the time in the 1970’s.
However it wasn’t long before I began to hear people speaking from a perspective they must have brought from an earlier era before revival had hit this church about what God requires of us. We must change to become like Jesus by making good decisions, disciplining ourselves and changing ourselves through personal determination. I was told that this is how we show we love the Lord.
These were the back bone of the scriptures that were used. This is what loving God, we were told, meant.
Jn 14:15“If you love Me, keep My commandments.
Jn 14:21He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me
Jn 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
The emphasis was on obedience to the commands of God and the example of Jesus and we must change into obedient to God people. Also we must become good servants of God. Learn to hear what He wanted of us and then do it. If we did this well He would be pleased with us. We had to please God. I remember being asked, “Jesus gave His life for you, (which was unarguable) so now what are you going to do for Him? The strong inference was, that to please Him I must be obedient to everything. The commands of God in the Bible had to be followed with a sacrificial dying to all of my own desires. This is of course is the purpose of God but how we begin a walk to accomplish that is critical. Are we going to do it by self effort of determination, my self using all of my human abilities to live a righteous life, by self generated faith and believing and human ways to be zealous and love God and my neighbour. Is that the requirement of God. Or is there another way?
The trouble for me with this was that the ones who told us these things mostly didn’t have Christlikeness in their eyes! I had seen that you can see who someone really is at heart, in their eyes. Oh, some did have a wonderful reality of God in their eyes and that was where it was confusing because some of them also preached that we must live self disciplined lives to he holy. But mostly the ones who told us this; at least as I saw it, was that I couldn’t see in their eyes a reality of having the changing effect of God in their souls and hearts .
But anyway the weight of opinion overwhelmed and I tried to make myself be a loving disciple of Jesus by being obedient, holy and righteous: and I was a dismal failure. But I had met the Lord in a real way and was totally committed to following Him all of my life. And so I have continued faithfully following the Lord and believing in His love for me against the logical, bible coherent and reasonable critics that have judged me lacking..
But slowly over the years I realised that I couldn’t make myself be what was presented as the good and mature christian. I would make all of the promises to God to do better, to die to my self life harder, to be crucified with Christ by faith with more positivity, etc. But it never stuck.
Now I know why. It is not God’s way to change us to be like Him.
By our human effort in any arena of Christian life whether it be as babes in Christ, as young men in Christ who know the word of God, as those who are called to ministry office or places of influence amongst the Body of Christ. The human effort of self discipline, positive thinking, developing of new habits or any way in which we judge ourselves and attempt to right what we see as wrong in ourselves, or sacrificially obey the words, commands and principles we see in the Bible is simply the Old Testament way of trying to please God. It is not New Testament Christianity.
It is the ways of judging the fruit in someone’s life by looking at their behaviour. Not their heart! David was said to be a man after God’s own heart yet as we look at David’s soul, even in his later life, he still sinned on occasion. But oh how he repented and surrendered to God. And God gave him more and more grace and his songs are now the backbone of the Bible.
This self made rightness before God is the path of the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus day in which Jesus said to them as recorded in Matthew and Luke:
Matt 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside ….!
We had become people who, “ search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life Jesus said ; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. (Jn 5:39 and 40)
You see there is no Life of God in obeying the scriptures. It’s all human hard work. Jesus is the Word of God that gives the Life of God to us. The letter of the Bible points us to God and what is available there in His presence. Obedience to the letter of the Bible alone is religion. Life, given to the disciples came out of the realities of Jesus’ direct interaction with them as He imparted Life to them. They became like Him by being with Him.
The Bible tells us what is available it doesn’t give to us what it talks about. Only connection and interaction with the Lord can do that
The Bible is highly important but we must not make a God out of it. It is the testimony and teaching of those who had the substance of God activated and working within them, through them and out of them.
There is one verse that has been very important to me over my life of walking with God. It is a watchman over our walks with God to define to us how God works in us to perfect us. It is one verse that stands out amongst all the others that we are to set our sails on as we pass through this life and the thing we call Christianity. It is the foundation of our prayers when we fail, our confidence in the face of our critics and our confidence before God as we speak to the crowds. It is the last word on how we are to walk into the changes towards holiness, Christlikeness, maturity as a Christian and God’s pleasure of intimacy with us.
This all important scripture is:
2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
I have made this the gravel of the road before me. I have made this the only path to greater righteousness and holiness before me. I have rejected the path of obedience to the words of the Bible and followed it’s other words. Surrender, repentance, faith, reliance on what He has done and will do IN me and gifts of His grace as the only way to transformation into Christlikeness – which is my whole desire. You see I love Him with all of my heart, soul, mind and body and anything other than direct interaction with Him, not the coldness of obedience to words written by holy and wonderful others or judgements of the self disciplined Pharisee types, will suffice me. I need to get it from God for myself. And so do you! Our lives may be, no will be judged by the legalists, the graceless, those who have devoted their lives to obedience to the words of scripture and have invested their hope in that their obedience pleases God and is proof of their love for Him. But our recompense is the Life of God within us working in a slower, but oh so much more real way producing the Glory of God in our faces as was seen in Jesus face and our eyes and our bodies. (Please read 2 Cor 3;18 to 4:6.)
Let me take the first verse of the above, 2 Cor 3:18.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
This is the way of God’s hand on our lives to redeem our personalities
This is the way of God to deliver us from all fallen ness into holiness.
This is the ‘Way’ of Christian life from ordained from the Cross until it’s fulfilment.
Let’s take the verse a bit at a time.
First: But we all with unveiled face’ –
Let me just jump back a verse or two and copy it here for this is what this is referring to:
2 Cor 3:4-6 For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
This is saying that for non born again people, when they read the Old Testament, can’t see really because the veil that Moses had to wear because his face shone too brightly when he gave it to them, has become transferred to the hearers and anyone who hears the Old Testament has a veil over their faces.
The issue today is that when we read the New Testament with the Old Testament perspective and expectation we also have a veil over our faces. The OT was the way of obedience to the written word but the new is the way of the Love of God for us and our Loving Him back with that same Love imparted to us.
This is why Paul writes: “but we all with unveiled faces”. We need to read the NT with the desire to see beyond the veil at the true working of God to place His Life in us directly from His working powerfully in us!
“Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord”.-
Paul here is saying that Christian life is the desire to see the Lord with our own eyes. With the eyes of our hearts. To see where the Bible is pointing and turn to look that way, to Him. When we do we will see Him. But we will see Him as in a mirror even yet. There is another day coming when we will see Him as we see each other but this is not that day. However our seeing Him with the eyes of our hearts, and sometimes in visions of our physical eyes but still lacking a greater dimension that is reserved for that greater day, is the crux of our walking with God.
Are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory”
This is a work that is not done by us. No self discipline or self effort of any kind can perform this transformation and it is extremely arrogant to think that it can. God alone has the capacity to transform us into the image of Jesus. Every other effort to better ourselves is the path of self righteousness and is condemned by Jesus. This is why I have chosen a path away from that OT type centring around obedience to the words of the Bible. Oh don’t get me wrong. Romans 7 tells us the the scriptures are holy and righteous and good. But Jesus alone is the Word of God. Even the written words of the Bible tell us there is a difference here between the written words of scripture and Jesus Himself.
John writes in the first words of His gospel. “In the beginning was the Word and the word was with God and the word was God”! The Bible was not in the beginning and it was not God! Jesus alone is the Word of God in the reality of God’s perspective.
So obedience to the written word cannot change us any more today than it had the power to do in the written OT. Acts 13:39 says that the NT justifies us from all the things the OT can’t justify us of. It makes us like God in our hearts!
So the change in us as we walk with God face to face changes us not focussed on right behaviour but into the glory of God and from levels of glory to greater levels of glory on and on. Not the caricature of humanly engineered ideas of moral and behavioural changes made in human ideas of what a christian should be.
“Even as by the Spirit of the Lord”.
This says it all. We must get used to the fact that we are being lead through life by a ghost. A real person who to us is encountered mystically. A reaching out from our side as humans to a person we cannot see, touch, feel or hear. But he reaches out to our hearts and spirits and makes Himself known to us there. Impatience, lack of belief, discouragement, unworthiness and the like can render people unable to have the faith to contact God in these ways. But God is spirit and his communication with us, pointed to continuously in the Bible, is a spirit to Spirit thing and is our only way of contact. And those who have found that, shine with the Glory of the Lord in time as the level of Glory goes up from glory to glory, until finally and wonderfully God is seen in our faces, heard in our voices, encountered in our works, in part, as it was in Jesus in full. He was the image of God, the exact representation of the invisible God. When we look at Jesus we see exactly what God is like. For us God our Father is seen first in almost imperceptible ways in us but increasing ways as His work to perfect us builds day by day.
But we are on the same path. The Christian life has this great promise attached for all of those who reach out for it. It is “Christ in you the hope of Glory”. (Col 1:27) The greatest blessing is not to get a new car or make a leap forward in the desirables of this world. The greatest blessing is to be like Jesus in heart and soul. It is what the Spirit of God is totally focussed on in your life. *(Romans 8:28 and 29)
Then for my finale to this exposé of the way that God has ordained for the redemption or our humanity, the maturing of hearts and souls, the perfecting of the saints to the image of Christ, I want to add this last and inarguable revelation to seal it. It is:
1 Jn 3:2 and 3
2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
These verses firstly state that ‘now’ we are the children. This is the basic identity that we are to focus on now in this life as Christian’s. We walk as Jesus walked in this life because our lives are now ‘in’ Christ and we walk out our time here on earth united as one with Him. He is our life. We don’t walk ‘with’ Him, we live ‘in’ Him, and He in us.
Then the verse goes on to say that we do not know what we shall be. It has not been revealed to us yet in fullness. There is more to know that is unavailable yet. This exposes the flaw that there is anything we can do to forward our maturing into the people God wants us to be because we don’t know realistically what the end product is to be. It is more than just becoming good moral people who live our lives out in disciplined good behaviour according to any laws of right being. What we are to be has not been revealed yet!
But, the verse goes on to say, there is something we do know for sure. That is that when He is revealed to us we shall be like Him for we shall ‘see’ Him for all that He is. This seeing Him as He is is not only the final way we are transformed into His likeness but is also the way of transformation all along the way. It is always revelation of God (the revealing of God) to our spirits and hearts that transforms us. Nothing else can do it. When ever we ‘see’ God with the eyes of our hearts our hearts are refashioned, redeemed, saved and saturated with His nature and being. Oh how wonderful this is. By the grace of God we are enabled to see God and we are never the same again. This is the transforming agency and power given to us by the Holy Spirit that makes us holy as God is holy. And this verse is the incredible promise and directive for us all as Christians.
Then finally in verse three we see the cap on the verse. The sealant that guarantees the process. “Everyone who has this hope in Him (the Lord) purifies”. There is no purification of our fallen natures except through hope in this work of God to reveal Himself to us thereby transforming ourselves into the same image as Himself.
The hope of God doing this for us gives us purity along the whole path of our walks in this life with God as Christian’s.
So amazing. So wonderful. So gracious to us who have never been able to fix ourselves. So Loving and understanding of our being but clay. So extraordinary to take us to where we cannot even imagine we are going in the development of our over the horizon destiny as God’s sons and daughters. With my eyes I will see the God!!!!
The OT way, obedience to command, obedience to principle, choosing better habits, determining to act better and copy what others do and even say, will never produce this life. Glory has to be given by glory. It is the product of the Love God gives to us in the form of grace and the Love we respond back to Him with as we love Him with all of our hearts and minds souls and strength.
My friend pursue to know God not please Him. He is already pleased with you! Pursue to understand who He is. Pursue to hear, touch and see Him as Job did. “Now my eye seeth thee”. Pursue to rest in His Love. Enjoy Loving Him back. Cease from your own ways to make yourself worthy. You are worthy because the lamb who was offered for you in ransom of your life was pure and spotless. Your desire to ‘see’ Him makes you worthy. That alone makes you worthy.
Pursue Him because He is there to be found. And you will discover God is your real and Loving father.
I bless you on your path to Him.

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