Either/Or or Both/And
While reading in the book of Hebrews today I came across a passage that captivated me. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). The first part is fairly obvious. We have to make a focused effort to live in peace with others. It is not our natural bent to get along with everyone, and there are those around us who are difficult. However, those of us who are seriously theological might wonder about the second half of this verse. Why should I have to strive for holiness. Hebrews 10:10 tells us we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Once for all! If that is the reality of the believer then why do we have to strive for holiness?
When we surrender our lives to Christ and trust in His once for all sacrifice for sin we are declared righteous in God's sight. We exchange our filthy rags of human self-righteousness for the glorious salvation that Christ provides (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23-26; 6:22-23). What a glorious and comforting truth for the one who has placed one's faith and trust in Christ! However, even though we are declared righteous in God's sight we still have the issue of indwelling sin. Our inner person has been renewed by the Spirit of God. God deals with us in love and mercy. We can be assured that we will ALWAYS be perfectly loved by God because the Father views us through the lens of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. The daily reality for us is that we struggle with the Romans 7 experience. We have been redeemed and want to serve God, but sinful desires flood our minds at times. Anger and frustration can dim our view of Christ and His marvelous provision of grace. The late evangelist Rolfe Barnard once declared that Christians are the happiest, most miserable people on earth. Happy that they are saved and going to heaven, and miserable that they are not doing a better job of living for Jesus.
Many people today speak of a cheap grace in which God loves us and because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross He will wink at our sin and not be concerned with our sinful failings. Such an attitude grossly minimizes God's holiness. Many unbelievers are unimpressed with a declaration of salvation that cannot give a believer victory over sin. Why should someone receive our testimony when we live in the same manner as unbelievers? I know that in past years some followers of Christ preached legalism with emphasizes rule keeping. Legalism will lead to self-righteousness and is a gross offense in God's sight.
I know that often today there are still those who write off a believer who stumbles into sin and fails. We are admonished in scripture to have mercy and to lift up stumbling brothers and sisters. All is not lost when Christians fail. (Galatians 6:1-2; Hebrews 12:15) However, we must be diligent to mortify our flesh, to put to death wicked desires and tendencies (Colossians 3:5-11; Job 31:11). It is imperative that we be proactive in resisting sin. We must put healthy habits into our lives and refuse to give sin the upper hand in our daily living.
On the other hand, we must do more than simply resist. A negative emphasize will frustrate us. We must remind ourselves of the daily promises of the gospel and strengthen ourselves in the grace of God (Hebrews 13:8). Drink deeply from the well of grace. Recall what Christ did for you on the cross. Look to Jesus daily (Hebrews 12:1-3)! Grace and holiness are not exclusive. They are not either/or. They are both/and.