What Matters is Holiness (1 Corinthians 7:17-24)


Corinth, Greece

Perhaps it is part of being human that causes us to swing from one extreme to another.  It is that reality that brings me to this text and to this message.  In the past several weeks, we have been considering God’s instructions for the Christian family in Ephesians 5-6.  However, the reality is that not everyone is going to get married, and the danger in a series on the family is to give the impression – even if it is not explicitly said – that to be unmarried is to be a second-class citizen in the kingdom of God.  I don’t want to give that impression because the Bible certainly doesn’t teach that.  So I want us to consider for a few moments together Paul’s words to the Corinthians concerning marriage and celibacy.  What we are going to see is that they are both celebrated here in this chapter, and he gives us the reasons why we should join him in doing so.

Another reason why I think this message is important stems from the reality that there are several wrong ideas about marriage that tend to diminish and distract; that is to say, that diminish a person’s value and distract them from God’s purpose for their life.

One idea is that to be unmarried is to be an unfulfilled person.  Now I realize that for a lot of people in our culture marriage is actually a bad thing.  It rubs against the radical individualism that is constantly preached to us.  Singleness is equated with freedom and marriage with imprisonment. I think it was Mark Twain who said that marriage is like flies on a screen door: those on the outside want in and those on the inside want out.  Well, a lot of people today don’t even want in.  That’s a problem.  Unfortunately, I think that the church in some ways has reacted against this unhealthy and sinful rejection of marriage in such a way as to make some folks think that if you’re above a certain age and still unmarried, well, then something must be wrong with you.  I want to say emphatically: the Bible doesn’t teach that. The Bible celebrates marriage, yes.  And it also celebrates celibacy.

But of course then what do we do with Genesis 2:18?  If it was not good for Adam to be alone, can it be good for us?  I think the answer to this is that there weren’t any other humans at that time.  This is not to be understood that we have to be married to have companionship, but that a human can only have true companionship with another human, not with a dog or a cat.  Adam needed Eve to have this companionship.  Now I do think that marriage is the God-ordained institution by which many of us find our closest companions, and I do think that this is part of what is intended here.  However, the Bible also has plenty of examples of people who lived fulfilled lives and who knew the joys of friendship and companionship, quite apart from marriage.  Paul is such an example.  And I am so thankful for the example of a woman like the twentieth-century missionary to India, Amy Carmichael, who was never married and yet who certainly lived a very full and fruitful life.

In fact, Paul makes it very clear in 1 Cor. 7 that celibacy is both “good” (ver. 1) and a “gift” (ver. 7).  Note in particular verse 7: “For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.”  Paul is saying that he wishes that everyone was like he was – single and celibate – not because he wanted to spread misery around, but because in his experience it was the best way to maximize a life free from the cares of the world for the sake of the gospel (see ver. 29-35).  And then note what he says next : “every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.”  He is saying that not every man can be like Paul and the reason is that God has not gifted everyone the same way.  The implication is that both marriage and celibacy are gifts from God.  God does not give bad gifts: “The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth not sorrow to it” (Prov. 10:22).  Celibacy is a good gift from a good God.

I want to come back to this in a bit, but for right now I just want to register the objection against the false view that you have to be married to be truly happy or to lead a fulfilled and satisfied life.  The Bible does not teach that, and if you are single you shouldn’t think that your life is on hold until you are.

At this point, however, I think we need to again counter with this necessary caution: it is possible to stay single for the wrong reasons, too.  It seems to me that there are a lot of young people, especially young men, in our day who can get married and who should get married but who choose not to be because they are off “finding themselves” before they get saddled with a spouse.  The reality is that they are putting it off because they don’t want the responsibility.  And that’s wrong.  I want to say, especially to the young men here, that you need to banish that kind of mindset.  If God intends for you to get married, if that’s his gift for you, you should seek it sooner rather than later.  Don’t avoid the responsibility.  Embrace maturity, pursue it, and seek it.  Learn to be independent.  Get married and start a family.  The Bible says that the man who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord (Prov. 18:22).  If God intends you to get married don’t waste your youth spending it on yourself; spend it with a wife and family.  (Besides, the older you get, the harder raising children can be!  Do it while you are young!)

Another false idea (on the other side of the spectrum) is that you are more holy if you are celibate, and that to be married is to be essentially an unspiritual person.  In the early church and through the medieval period, celibacy was seen to be the ideal.  Monasteries existed for people who wanted to truly seek God, and this was always done in the context of celibacy.  Even the fourth century bishop Augustine thought that the desires for the marriage bed were polluted even when had in the context of marriage.  Hence, one of the reason I am thankful for the Protestant Reformation is that it corrected this false way of thinking.  Martin Luther, who was once a monk, married Katharina von Bora who had been a nun.  It was a scandal of the times!  Roland Bainton famously wrote that Luther married “to please his father, to spite the pope and the devil, and to seal his witness before martyrdom.”   When he was about to be married, he invited a friend to the wedding, saying, “You must come to my wedding.  I have made the angels laugh and the devils weep.”   Well, I am thankful he did that.  A good marriage does, I think, make the angels laugh and the devils weep.  You are not unspiritual if you pursue a marriage and Paul’s words in this chapter do not contradict that.  In fact, if you do not have the gift of celibacy, then it would be unspiritual not to pursue it.  Marriage is to be held in honor by all (Heb. 13:4).  It is better to marry than to burn (1 Cor. 7:9).

So we don’t want to say, on the one hand, that to be married is necessary for a fulfilled life.  But neither do we want to say, on the other hand, that to be celibate is necessary for a faithful life.  Marriage is God’s gift for some, and celibacy is God’s gift for some, and you can be both fulfilled and faithful either way.

The General Principle

Both these false ideas, however, can be dealt with in one fell swoop by the principle that Paul lays out in the text before us here in 1 Cor. 7:17-24.  As we look at these verses together, the main point that I want to drive home here today is that your circumstance, as it regards marriage, whether you are single or married, should not determine your sense of God’s love for you as a Christian or your ability to be content in his will for your life, whatever that looks like at the present time.  At the same time, I think the principles we are looking at here are widely applicable.  So, it may be that you are thinking, “If only I was married, then I could really serve God.”  But the principles we are going to be looking at broadly applicable.  So this is for anyone who is saying, “If only I was in better circumstances (whatever those circumstances might be), then I could really serve God.”  

Now the context of 1 Cor. 7 deals specifically with one’s marriage status, but the way Paul develops his argument shows that we can apply this more broadly too.  In verses 10-16, we see that apparently some in the Corinthian church were wanting to change their marital status because they thought they could serve God better if their marital status changed.  You see, although these were Christians, their spouse had remained a pagan, and they felt that this made them “unsanctified” and “unspiritual.”  So they wanted to get a divorce, and they had asked Paul about this.  Paul says no, and in this paragraph he grounds his instructions as regards marriage and divorce in a general principle: Stay as you were when you were called.   What Paul means by “calling” is our regeneration and conversion to Christ.  The application to marriage to an unbeliever is obvious: if you were married to an unbeliever when God saved you, stay married.”  But evidently for Paul, the principle, “Stay as you were when you were called,” applies in general to all social conditions.

That this is the general principle and the main point of the passage is clear.  Paul repeats it three times (17, 20, 24).  He begins with the rule (17) which he then illustrates (18), which he then grounds with a theological reason (19).  He follows the same pattern in verses 20-23: rule (20), illustrated (21), theological reason (22-23).  Paul then bookends the paragraph with a third statement of the general principle (24).

How Paul applies and illustrates this is interesting, isn’t it?  First, he illustrates it by reference to circumcision/uncircumcision, which really did have religious significance, and Paul says something that would have shocked every orthodox Jew (19).  And then he illustrates the principle by reference to slavery (21), which was the lowest rung on the social ladder.  In either case, the apostle argues that what ultimately matters is not one’s social status, but whether or not one is committed to Christ.  

Now before we go on, it’s important to see that what Paul is arguing for in this text is not that one can never change his or her social conditions (21), but that our relationship to Christ transcends such conditions as to make them essentially irrelevant.  Therefore, we don’t need to change our social status if our reason for doing so is that we think we will be closer to God.  It is in this context that Paul is saying, “Stay as you were when you were called.”

So what I want to do this morning is to focus on the theological reason for the rule, especially as it is given in verses 19 and 22-23.  For Paul, one’s social status, one marital status, one’s external circumstances don’t carry the meaning and significance and value that the world places on them.  What matters, rather, is holiness.  Paul would have defined success and fulfillment differently than many of us.  A successful person in God’s eyes, according to the apostle, is not someone who climbs the social ladder or who has a wonderfully fulfilling marriage, but one who draws near to God, regardless of their external circumstances.

So my advice to a single person who wants to get married, or even to a married person who is less than pleased with their spouse, is this: focus on pleasing God wherever you are.  If God is who the Bible says that he is, a Spirit who is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth,  then the idea that we can finally find fulfillment in this world apart from God is idiotic and a dead end.  And, on the other hand, the idea that we would only be able to please God more or enjoy him better if our circumstances changed also betrays a very anemic view of God.  It’s not that these things don’t matter at all – for Paul says that if you are a slave and you can gain your freedom that you should do it (21) – but rather that they pale in comparison as to be almost meaningless in light of our relationship to Christ and participation in his kingdom.  Paul is arguing here, I think, that if God is God and we are related to him through Christ our Savior, then the most important thing that ought to capture the affections of our heart and the attention of our thoughts is pleasing God: in other words, the keeping of the commandments of God.  

This is so counter-cultural, so unexpected, so different from the way we think, that I thinks it’s necessary to remind you, or perhaps to show you, why this is absolutely right, and to meditate with you on why keeping God’s commandments, or holiness if you will, is the only path to contentment and fulfillment and joy.  People in our day wouldn’t even begin to imagine saying to someone who is struggling with a deep discontentment with their lives (whether with their marital status or with something else) that the solution to that is not to stay anxious about it but to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (cf. Mt. 6:33).  But this is exactly what our Lord does, and this is what Paul does.

Let me therefore give you four reasons why it is holiness, not our external condition, that should capture our imagination and affections.  We need to see that holiness is what ultimately matters, and how this can help us navigate either disappointment or uncertainty when it comes to our circumstances.

Holiness matters more because it is the badge of belonging to God

I know that that statement can be misunderstood, so let me begin by dismissing the false implication that holiness is the basis of belonging to God.  Note that I didn’t say that.  I said that it is the badge of belonging to God.  We are not saved on the basis of good works, no matter how good those works are.  By grace we are saved through faith in Christ, and salvation from first to last is the gift of God.  Nothing is of works lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:8-9).  However, we are created by that same grace unto good works, so that those who think a person can live in sin and still have hope for heaven is deceived and the truth of God is not in him (Eph. 2:10).  

That holiness is the badge of belonging to God is abundantly testified to in Scripture.  Consider the following passages.  “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).  “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).  “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother” (1 John 3:6-10).  Each of these passages prove that those who belong to God through Christ are changed people who pursue holiness not worldliness.  The one who is born again is a new creation, the old has passed, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).

By the way, by holiness I do not mean sinless perfection (cf. 1 John 1:8, 10).  But I do mean that the heart has been changed, there is faith and repentance, and a different course of life.  The apostle Paul sums up nicely what it means to be converted in his speech to King Agrippa.  He says that Christ sent him to the Gentiles “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18).

Now let me ask you this: what do you think could give us more satisfaction and meaning and purpose and value than belonging to God?  Do you really think that belonging to another human being is going to make everything right?  You are marrying a sinner, and you are one, too.  And this sinner is going to get under your skin at some point.  Or do you think that by getting a particular job, you are finally going to be able to do something with your life and make it meaningful?  When I think of guys like Alexander the Great who wept when he couldn’t conquer anyone else, or Winston Churchill who in the last years of his life felt that he been a failure, I don’t think you’re going to find a ladder tall enough to give you the meaning that you crave.

On the other hand, to be owned by God, to, as the apostle Paul put it to the Galatians, to know God and to be known by him (Gal. 4:9), what could be better than that?  Consider the fact that God has taken you and changed you and placed his name upon you, and holiness testifies to that, what could be better than that?  As John Newton put it in one of his hymns:

Savior, if of Zion’s city, 
I through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity, 
I will glory in thy name!
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure, 
all his boast is pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure, 
none but Zion’s children know.

Now, think of holiness, the keeping of God’s commandments, the pursuit of his will, the acknowledgment of his way, to be this badge of belonging to God.  Why would you not display this badge more openly, more correctly, more brightly?  Why not give yourself more fully and completely to his kingdom, a kingdom that will endure when every other empire has faded into the dust, when every other human endeavor has been forgotten and receded into the mists of fading memory?  What matters but the keeping of the commandments of God?  Brother and sister, don’t let your circumstances rob of you of rejoicing in this glorious mission that you are on in Christ.

Holiness matters more because it enlarges our capacity to enjoy God and see his glory.

We were made to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.   The best thing for God to do for you, then, is not to maximize your comfort in this life if that dulls your appetite for God.  The best thing for God to do for us is to maximize our ability to enjoy him.  But of course God is holy, and we are sinful, which means that I am only going to be able to enjoy God insofar as I am being sanctified and made like God in my character.  It’s why our Lord said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8).  

The Bible makes it very clear that God promises his fellowship and blessing to those who are holy.  The apostle John writes, for instance, “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:4-9).  

Or here is the way the Psalmist put it: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O [God of] Jacob” (Ps. 24:3-6).

On the other hand, sin blinds us to the glory of God and paralyzes us from being able to enjoy him.  John the apostle says that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).  But not everyone saw him as glorious; in fact, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (10-11).  And the reason for this is that they loved darkness rather than the light (Jn. 3:18-21).  Nadab and Abihu saw God, we are told, on Mount Sinai, and yet these very guys are the ones who shortly thereafter offered strange fire in the tabernacle and died for it.  Apparently, they did not appreciate the glory and greatness of the God they were privileged to see.  That’s what sin does to us: it makes us blind to the glory of God and deadens our taste to the sweetness of his fellowship.

In fact, one could say that holiness is the enjoyment of God since holiness is love (Mt. 22:37-39; 1 Jn. 5:3).  Obviously, the more we love him, the more we will enjoy him.  But we cannot love him apart from becoming more holy.

What this all means is this: God made you for himself, so that it is in seeing his glory and enjoying his fellowship that we are truly satisfied.  No earthly relationship was meant to replace God; they are all meant to portray and point us to and picture our relationship with God.  Holiness, not our external circumstances, not the person we are married to (or not married to), not our job or anything else, is what enlarges our capacity to enjoy the very One for whom we were made.  Holiness matters more because holiness enlarges our capacity to enjoy God and see his glory.

Holiness matters more because it gives us certainty and assurance.

Our Lord once put these intriguing words to a crowd in the temple at Jerusalem: “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (Jn. 7:16-17).  In other words, how do you know that the gospel is true, that Jesus is God’s Son, that forgiveness of sins is attainable, that heaven is real, and so on?  Our Lord says that it is by obeying Gods’ will.  This makes sense, because if sin blinds us to the glory of God, it blinds us to its truth.  And holiness opens our eyes to the reality and truthfulness of God’s word.  If you do God’s will, you will know whether it is true or not.

This also applies, I think, to assurance of personal salvation.  A lot of people associate assurance of salvation with an intellectual belief in “once saved always saved.”   For many, this belief is merely theoretical and doesn’t affect one’s life.  But Jesus is saying more than that.  He is talking about assurance and confidence and certainty.  You can have it, our Lord says, but you cannot have it apart 

Now our culture denies that you have such an assurance, because it denies the possibility of an immediate experience of God.  But such an experience is given to those who draw near to him through Christ.  Again, we are not saved by works, but the faith by which we are saved is an obedient faith (cf. Rom. 1:5).  Hence, the experience of God is granted to those who are holy.  It is possible, and God’s people have experienced it again and again.  If you experience God directly as you trust in him and obey his word, you are going to inevitably become stronger in your faith.  Holiness leads to assurance.

Assurance is not so much a function of theological knowledge (though it’s not less than that) as it is of our walk with God.  According to the apostle Paul, assurance is the gift of the Holy Spirit who witnesses to the spirits of those who walk with him (cf. Rom. 8:14-16).

How does this relate to how we think about our circumstances?  Well, in some sense I am just saying the same thing several times over, aren’t I?  And the answer to that question is to ask another question: what could be more thrilling than to know that the God of heaven is for me, is my friend, loves me, and in fact delights in me?  What could be more freeing than that?  For us to be seeking that kind of affirmation in our work or in another human relationship is a sad substitute.  It’s not of course that our work doesn’t mean anything – of course it does, especially when it is done for the glory of God.  It’s not that our human and earthly relationship are meaningless – of course they are tremendously important!  God himself gives them to us, as we noted at the beginning of this message.  But what I am saying is that we must not take things that are incomparably trivial when put next to God and then put them in his place.  That doesn’t make any sense really.  Instead, let’s put ourselves in a place where God experientially grants us the assurance of his love for us, but you can’t to that apart from holiness.

Holiness matters more because holiness enlarges our usefulness in the kingdom of God.

It’s worth noting that God did not speak to Isaiah or send him out in his service until he had been purified (cf. Isa. 6:1-8).  Now certainly the purification there points us to the forgiveness of sins freely bestowed upon us by faith in Jesus Christ.  But it surely also points us to the purifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We are not ready to say, “Here am I, send me,” until we have been made holy.  This explains Paul’s words to Timothy, when he says, “If a man … purge himself from these [dishonorable, unholy things], he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21).  It is as we purge ourselves of the dishonorable and unclean thoughts and affections and words and actions that we are fitted for God’s use and God’s fellowship.  

I know that there are a lot of things in this world that it would be exciting to be a part of.  To be a part of the Apollo program that ended up sending men to the moon: that’s significant (esp. considering it was only 66 years previously that the Wright brothers had their first flight!).  To be a part of the invasion of Normandy in World War 2 on June 6, 1944: that’s significant, and to have been a part of that tremendously meaningful and a good reason to be proud (in a good sense).  

But everything pales in comparison to the advance of the kingdom of God in history.  A friend of mine and I were talking the other day and thinking about the Berlin Wall.  Even to have taken one chunk out of that would have been to make a very important contribution to the advance of freedom in this world.  But what about the kingdom of God?  Like the names listed in Nehemiah 3 of the men and women who rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem the city of God, there are no unimportant people in the kingdom of God.  If you just place one brick in the wall of God’s kingdom, that is something the value of which will outlast all the accomplishments of the greatest politicians and warriors and thinkers and social workers in this world.  

However, we are not fitted to do this apart from keeping the commandments of God.  As M’Cheyne put it, “A holy man is an awful weapon in the hand of God.”  If you want to really count for something, give yourself to holiness.  Pursue the knowledge of God with all your might.  Kill the sin in your life.  Mortify the flesh.  To use an expression of John Owen: put your foot upon the neck of your lusts.

So are you frustrated with your lot in life?  Do you feel like you’re just waiting for life to begin?  Do you feel like life is on hold because things aren’t the way you want them to be?  Well, what does Paul have to say?  Stay in the situation in which you were called.  Not that you can’t change it if the opportunity presents itself.  But that whether you can change it or not is not the most important thing, and you need to know that.  Rather, what’s most important is the keeping of the commandments of God.

How do I grow in holiness?

Hopefully all this had provoked in you the following question: if this is so important, how do I pursue it?  So let me end with a few words to help you along in this direction.

First, we begin with faith in Christ.  To have faith in Christ means that we trust in him as our Lord and Savior.  To trust in him as Lord means that we have confidence in his wisdom and goodness and justice to rule us; to trust in him as Savior means that we have confidence in him to deliver us fully from our sins – from their power, penalty, and (one day) presence.  We begin here, rather than in confidence in ourselves.  We rely upon him for grace and rest in the fact that our acceptance with God is not something we work our way up to but something that we have by virtue of the fact that we are united to him by faith.

This resting in Christ by faith, far from making people easy with their sins, actually does the opposite.  Paul talks about the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5) and tells the Galatians that faith works by love (Gal. 5:6).  Without him we can do nothing, but united to him we can produce much fruit (Jn. 15:1-8).

So we begin, not be looking to ourselves, but by looking to the mercy of God in Christ and to his faithfulness.  

But then, as we look to Christ for acceptance with God and for grace to obey, then we work with all our might to obey the Lord and kill the sin in our lives.  It’s important we do it in that order.  We work from not to acceptance with God.  We need to remember that justification before God and acceptance with him through Christ happens immediately and irrevocably when we first believe.  But we also need to understand that sanctification of life doesn’t happen apart from a lot of work on our part.  

For example, Paul exhorts the Roman believers: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:13).  Note two very important things here: we mortify the deeds of the body and we do it through the Spirit.  If you cut out either of those things, you will short-circuit the work of sanctification in your life.  

Or consider Paul’s words to the Philippians, one of the most important I can think of in this respect: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).  We are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, which I take to mean, “with all earnestness and singlemindedness.”  But we are to do so, recognizing that it is God who works in us.  It’s not our effort plus God’s effort: it’s our effort endued by the power of God, so that we are working, and God is working all at once.  We rely upon him!

What this means is that we put ourselves fully under God’s commands.  And obedience that picks and chooses is not obedience, is it?  We are Christ’s slaves; we are not our own (1 Cor. 7:22-23).  And it means that we learn to hate our sins, to abhor that which is evil (Rom. 12:9).  To use another quote from John Owen, “Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts.”  


What is your aim in life?  Is it to gain better social standing or to grasp at a relationship that seems to evade you?  More money?  More respect?  In the end, according to Paul, none of those things matter.  What matters is holiness.  Which means, according to the Scriptures, what matters is faith in Christ.  Have you committed your life to him?  If you do so, you may not obtain earthly gain – in fact, you may lose much earthly gain, but you will gain the greatest treasure of all, eternal life.  I close with the words of our Lord: “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mk. 8:34-38).


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