We must not lose sight of the goal. There are far too many opportunities to drift off the straight and narrow path into a life of vanity. But, this life is not about us. It is not about me. It is not about filling your resume with unique life experiences. And, it is definitely not about an abundance of possessions, nor is it about health and well-being. For the non Christian, yes, life is about these things. But for the Christian, whose mind and heart has been opened to the reality of eternity, it must not be. That leaves us with one question - what is our goal?
The concise answer is to glorify God; but, a more detailed answer may be needed. God seeks to make a people who are holy and blameless before Him in order to be presented to Christ as a bride, undefiled and pure, to experience His presence and glory, unhindered in intimacy, for eternity. God, in His infinite wisdom and knowledge, has always known how He would accomplish such a desire. It is a magnificent display of His glory. His decrees – which bring about this plan – have always been present to His knowledge, though not yet present in existence. Each of us finds ourselves in a moment in time where God’s eternal knowledge and decrees are being painted out on the canvas of creation just as He has known them to be forever. What is contained in such a plan? Certainly, the only book which provides the details is the Bible. Nonetheless, I will try to encapsulate a few details in this article with the hope that it drives you to search the depths of scripture to further illuminate the plan for realizing this goal - the goal of holiness.
The plan contains many events in time. Though, two come to mind as especially important in our personal holiness and blamelessness. The first, being the ultimate and infinite display of God’s glory and majesty, is Christ’s death on the cross. Again, the knowledge and decree of this event was always present to God’s mind, even before He created the universe. But, to us, it took place in the timeline of creation’s existence two-thousand years ago. What God did with Christ’s death on the cross was save a people from their sin in order to start the process of purification. He bought their life with His blood. All people are born into this world as enemies of God. A wicked enemy cannot experience the riches of God’s glory. One needs to be righteous for such an experience. Thus, in God’s wisdom and according to His plan, He took the sins off of the people He foreknew, the people He predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ, and placed them on Christ to be punished. God the Father poured out His wrath on God the Son to justly punish those sins. Resultantly, God gives those sinners, whose sins were punished on Christ, faith, as the channel by which Christ’s righteousness is accredited to their life. That righteousness becomes a cloak or blanket which covers the sinner. God the Father chooses to see that cloak of righteousness instead of the wickedness that still lies inside. Therefore, Christ’s life of perfection is now possessed, as a gift, by the Christian.
The second event solves the problem of internal wickedness. We Christians are outwardly holy, but God desires to make us inwardly holy, actually holy. How will He do this? First, he gives us his Holy Spirit. The very name of God the Holy Spirit implies His role, making the believer holy. Our first salvation is a salvation from the wrath of God, called justification. To be justified is to be legally righteous. Our second salvation is a salvation from our corrupted fleshly bodies which desire sin. The first salvation is a single moment. It is a work done entirely by God with no aid from the will of man. The second salvation is progressive. The progress is called sanctification, and the completion is called glorification. The completion of our second salvation is hindered by our fleshly bodies; therefore, completion only comes at the resurrection when God gives us a new, incorruptible body. The resurrection is the second climatic event in God's sovereign plan to make us pure. Sanctification is a co-working of us and the Holy Spirit. Remember justification is entirely a work of God. Finally, we come full circle.
Therefore, do not lose sight of the goal. As a Christian, you are working out this internal purification so that you can be presented to Christ as holy and blameless. Your life is a life of killing sin and pursuing holiness. It is not a life to get ensnared by the pursuits of the world. All that matters is being conformed to the image of Christ. God’s will for you is that you be like Christ. Holy. God will purify you according to His good pleasure. Your purification is realized through active obedience. Nothing puts gas on that process quite like suffering and trials. If God desires your sanctification, He will put you through great pain and suffering. The obedience of a Christian within suffering is tremendously cleansing. God decreeing such purging of fleshly desires in pain, will not spare you from it. So do not lose focus. Rejoice in your suffering.
You may ask, if sanctification cannot be completed on earth and God will complete the work at the resurrection and, furthermore, sanctification requires suffering, why labor in holiness? Why not wait for God’s final purging? One simple answer is the reward. Those who labor in holy living and persevere through suffering will receive abundant rewards in heaven. There are many other answers as well. For instance, holy living produces fullness of joy. A life lacking obedience is a life lacking joy, regardless of suffering and pain. Nonetheless, all are full in heaven, but not all have the same capacity in heaven.
Some people in heaven will be like shot glasses filled to the brim, while others will be like mugs filled to the brim. All will experience fullness in God, but one’s fullness will be greater. The one who has the greatest capacity in heaven is directly proportional to the one who lived the holiest, suffering rich life on earth. Therefore, do not shy away from such a life, and do not lose sight of the goal. Holiness.