What comes to your mind when you think of holiness? What do you think of when you think of putting away sin and instead putting on love, joy, peace, patience, and so on?
When we think of things like holiness or the fruit of the Spirit, we shouldn’t think of some cheesy Sunday School illustration (Love is an apple, joy is a banana, peace is a watermelon). Worse yet, we shouldn’t think of as a dour, unattractive calling—a kind of ‘eat-your-brussel-sprouts religion.’ Instead we should think of something awesome, something beautiful—Mt. Everest or a glorious starry night. The fruit of the Spirit is sanctification, or becoming holy, and that is nothing short of a miracle. It is an amazing thing that we who were once dead in our sins, were once alienated from the life of God, can now—by the power of God and his gospel—change and grow in holiness.
Hebrews 12:10—“For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.”
When we grow in holiness, we are not just growing in abstract character qualities, we are becoming more like Him. We are sharing His holiness. This is the God in whose beauty of holiness is so glorious that the four living creatures cry out continually, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8). True self-control and patience in your life is evidence of spiritual DNA of your Heavenly Father.
Romans 8:30—“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Where’s sanctification in this chain? Why didn’t Paul say, “Those whom he justified he also sanctified, and those whom he sanctified he also glorified?” One reason is because Paul believes glorification includes sanctification. We shouldn’t think of salvation as essentially receiving justification now and later receiving true change of our desires when Christ returns. No, God has designed that that awesome day when we are glorified begins in its essence at the moment you first believe, grows incrementally throughout your life, and then is completed when Christ returns.
2 Corinthians 3:18—“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
The process of becoming like Christ, of going from one degree of glory to another, is happening for believers now! How this should change the way we view holiness! It’s not something that’s just a duty, it’s not something dour, it is a beautiful, glorious miracle. How much would our fight against sin and for holiness increase if we realized what an attractive, glorious thing we are called to!
Jonathan Edwards sums up the beauty of holiness very well: “We drink in strange notions of holiness from our childhood, as if it were a melancholy, morose, sour, and unpleasant thing; but there is nothing in it but what is sweet and ravishingly lovely. ‘Tis the highest beauty and amiableness, vastly above all other beauties. ‘Tis a divine beauty, makes the soul heavenly and far purer than anything here on earth….’Tis of a sweet, pleasant, charming, lovely, amiable, delightful, serene, calm, and still nature. ‘Tis almost too high a beauty for any creatures to be adorned with; it makes the soul a little, sweet, and delightful image of the blessed Jehovah.”