By Benjamin H. Liles
"Then the LORD said to me, 'Arise, proceed on your journey ahead of the people, that they may go in and possess the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.' Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD'S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?" (Deuteronomy 10:11-13, New American Standard).
As I start this I have to admit I was looking at the verse of the day which Peter says, "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For is these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:5-8, New King James).
So, what does it mean to live in holiness and purity? How do we get there from being sinners and in the hands of an angry God, as Jonathan Edwards so put it, to having this maturity as brothers in arms preserving the gospel and advancing it in Christlike love? I think it comes down to this one thing only: we hate sin for what it is: sinful. We hate it as much if not more than God hates it. And notice throughout the Bible that God doesn't expressly desire men to remain in that sinful condition, but to admit it and to start walking in God's way?
Here I turn to God's pronouncement on Ezekiel's life, which ought to be the believer's life as well: "The word of the LORD came to me: 'Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: "The word of the Lord came to me: 'Son of man, speak to your people and tell them: Suppose I bring the sword against a land, and the people of that land select a man from among them, appointing him as their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows his trumpet to warn the people. Then, if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet but ignores the warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but ignored the warning, his blood is on his own hands. If he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. However, if the watchman sees the sword coming but doesn’t blow the trumpet, so that the people aren’t warned, and the sword comes and takes away their lives, then they have been taken away because of their iniquity, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood'" (Ezekiel 33:1-6, Holman Christian Standard).
Here's where I want to go with this, God doesn't want any person to perish. A lot of people who claim they know God, even though they claim they are atheistic know nothing about Him. They sit there and say they had once walked with God, but how can that be when they so strongly support the idea there is no God and He cannot be known? Maybe it's because they harbor sin in their life and they love their own sins far more than they fear this holy and living God who desires to set men free from the bondage of sin and death rather than simply handing them over to their own sinful nature and desire. Peter says this, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some understand slownesss, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be dissolved in the fire, and the earth and its works will not be found. Since everything will be dissolved in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to conduct yourselves in holiness and godliness"(2 Peter 3:9-11, Berean Study).
So, let's break this down. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some understand slowness. Since Christ came and took upon himself the burden of the cross as the Father's hand shown him the cross to bear all of man's sin, we have been through two thousand years of the world's history without much of a blink of the eye. But then I think about what Peter previously states too: "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand year are like a day" (2 Peter 3:8). Guys, we must understand God and His ways here. If He is being purposefully slow as Peter is saying, then there's a reason for it. Don't think for one minute you can run all over the place living a sinful life and then "BAM" live for Him. It doesn't work that way.
God is that patient with us, caring, nurturing, working on us and our hearts so that we can come to know and see Him as He is: holy. And just what does He promise here in His holiness? "But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written: 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.' If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth" (1 Peter 1:15-17, New American Standard). Overall, I honestly see Peter saying this: "Beloved, be like the One whom you claim to be a part of. Live in reverential fear. Put off the sinful life and live a holy and pleasing life in Him. You don't know when He will return, so live your lives in such a manner that He is pleased."
Peter says more, though. "[He] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish." Get this idea in to your head, God is like the fireman who races to your burning house and he patiently waits, at first, to see if you will come out of the burning structure. When you don't He dons the appropriate gear and comes in after you. This burning structure you are in is the life of sin. Would you want to reside in a place that is coming apart at the seams, in all seriousness? No, I don't think so. But what does God do? He races in after you, pulling you out to safety, pulling you out of the fire to be safe and secure. Notice this here: "Not wanting anyone to perish." Sin causes people to perish. So, how ought we to live when He comes after us to save us from sin and death? Holy and pleasing, pure lives from the stain and effects of sin and death.
The author of Proverbs writes, "The Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline" (Proverbs 1:7, New Living Translation). If we go back to the burning house equation I gave then it would stand that the fool would break free from the One who saves him for what's going up in flames. This man who runs back toward the burning inferno of hell, the sinfulness and filth of it to be consumed in fire has no fear of God. He, as the proverbs author says, is but a fool. "Fools despise wisdom and instruction."
I wonder how it is we come to saving grace of God at work in our lives. Is it because of capable ministers who evangelize the lost, sowing seeds of God's love amongst the people? I partially think so. I also think that the saving grace of God is already at work in our hearts and lives. How are we able to come fully to the knowledge of Christ who gave Himself for our sins so we are made alive in the Father God's eyes? It comes down to the fact we get so tired of living in the filthiness of sin, seeing the structure of our lives coming down as a burning house and we desire to no loner reside in it. So, it's not like we rush headlong without seeing where we're going. We're in His arms being carried out into a newness of life where all of Heaven rejoices in our salvation.
Friend, I don't want you to miss this point: you are reading this because you see your life in such disarray and you wonder to yourself, "How can I?" Let me put it to your frankly, God doesn't require much out of you except to accept His gift of grace, but at the same time realizing how truly sorry you are for the life you once lived. Jesus didn't come as the Pharisees wanted Him to. He didn't come to justify the actions of the Pharisees. He didn't even rejoice in the way the Pharisees lived. No, rather He came and served those who were bound under the law, being mistreated and cast off from Jewish society. He came and called the lost, not those who thought they were safe.
You are where you're at now because you have been bought at a huge price. It's the price Jesus paid at the cross. He came so you could have life and have it to the fullest. He ran into the house that was burning and pulled you out of it so you would no longer have to live within the dwelling place that was coming apart due to fire and filth. Sin is both the fire and filth. Jesus rescued us from that, and due to it we can now therefore live life knowing God saved us in His merciful kindness and grace. I pray this helps you to see the Father's love toward you. Find other believers who show the Father's love through Jesus Christ. Get plugged in and learn more about how much God loves you so that you too can be part of His glory and magnificence to this world that is perishing. I pray all of this in the name of Jesus over you. Amen.