“Holiness” is a huge theme in the Scriptures. Why is that so? Because “without holiness, no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) It is terribly unfortunate that many professing Christians live as if this were not so. They believe they have secured their “ticket to heaven” because they prayed to receive Jesus. What they don’t realize is that the genuineness of that experience is proved over the long-haul. Those who are truly “in Christ” will live a life of faith that ultimately results in holiness.
Just to clarify, I am not referring to “works righteousness.” Our acceptance before God is totally reliant on “faith” in Jesus Christ and His sufficiency. I can think of no passage that describes this better than Ephesians 2:8-10. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
We are saved by faith, not by works. However, God created us to reflect His Son in the way that we live, which means that Christian’s are called to live in holiness and righteousness and to do “good works.” But faith in God’s amazing grace is the engine that makes such a life possible.
70 years ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer exposed the fallacy of “cheap grace” in his important book, The Cost of Discipleship. Unfortunately, “cheap grace” is still predominant in Christian circles to this day. In the words of Bonhoeffer,
“cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” It is a gospel that says, “Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.”
In other words, this kind of grace demands nothing of a person. A person can be a “Christian” without any transformation in their behavior. Bonhoeffer goes on to contrast cheap grace with “costly grace” and shows the crucial place of discipleship in the life of every believer. Not surprisingly, this book has gone on to be a classic in the field of discipleship.
Make no mistake about it – holiness will cost you dearly. It demands that you deny yourself and let go of all the worldly things that consume you. But it will be the result of following Jesus and being empowered by His grace. The great reward of all the faithful will be the joy of “seeing the Lord” and entering into His rest.
Jesus gives a solemn warning in Matthew 7:21-23. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
May we heed these words.