One of the great joys of teaching and preaching the Bible is the prolonged exposure to a specific biblical text in order to understand it and then communicate it faithfully. The days spent in a single passage of Scripture reveal my own need to be changed—transformed by God’s Word. Such was the case as I had the privilege to feast upon 2 Peter 1:5–11 for this past Sunday’s sermon. I was continually challenged to make my life’s aspiration to be toward holiness, rather than happiness.
Especially in these uncertain days, I have found an interesting mix of emotions as I sort through the ever-changing landscape of our world. However you parse the current situation, there is the potential for fear to pervade. In all of this, I have found 2 Peter reorienting because it makes clear that our ultimate goal in life, to seek holiness in anticipation of Christ’s return, remains the same regardless of our circumstances.
As I had opportunity to ponder this, I recalled the 19th century English pastor J. C. Ryle’s classic work Holiness, which I commended to you on Sunday. Let me commend it to you again and invite you to read several relevant portions with me.
“Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find his mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment—loving what he loves—and measuring everything in this world by the standard of his Word. He who most entirely agrees with God, he is the most holy man.” (p. 48)
“When days of darkness come upon us, let us not count it a strange thing. Rather let us remember that lessons are learned on such days which would never have been learned in sunshine. Let us say to ourselves, ‘this also is for my profit, that I may be a partaker of God’s holiness. It is sent in love. I am in God’s best school. Correction is instruction. This is meant to make me grow.’” (p. 133)
“There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have, and think they have enough—a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and is worth nothing. I am not speaking of religion of this kind. But if you really are in earnest about your soul—if your religion is something more than a mere fashionable Sunday cloak—if you are determined to live by the Bible—if you are resolved to be a New Testament Christian, then, I repeat, you will soon find you must carry a cross.—You must endure hard things, you must suffer on behalf of your soul, as Moses did, or you cannot be saved.” (pp. 192–93)
So, let me encourage you to take up this classic work which has been such a rich encouragement to believers in the pursuit of holiness since it was first published in 1877. Ryle’s style is always engaging and his heart for believers to be rooted in the Bible pervades this book. I am confident you will be blessed and exhorted toward the high calling of Christlikeness.