Many either think that holiness is unattainable, or that they have to achieve it in their own strength, but neither of these perspectives are biblical. The Holy Spirit Himself empowers us to live a holy life when we ask for His help and draw on His strength and power.
It is the call to enjoy God. Everyone seeks to be satisfied, either by God or by other means. Legitimate and eternal pleasures are available to us, and they are found in God. The psalms overflow with the certainty that God is the source of our satisfaction and delight. “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:11) “My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land . . . Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You . . . My soul shall be satisfied . . .” (Ps. 63: 1–5) “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
Therefore, the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.” (Ps. 36:7–9)
We will not successfully resist the temptation of hollow, fleeting pleasures if we live in a “fascination vacuum.” We must be preoccupied with a superior fascination. A spiritually bored believer is vulnerable to Satan when he comes knocking at their door—that is why pornography is running rampant in the Body of Christ.
But my point is not to give a list of other preoccupations; rather, to say that the reason that so many believers are addicted to fleshly pleasures is because they live in a spiritual vacuum. They have settled down and become content to live in spiritual boredom. I urge you not to be content to live this way. The key to successfully resisting temptation is not just loving Jesus in a vague, general way and hoping to avoid sin. We need something that really grips us spiritually. We need to live fascinated! Fascinated with God.
I am not talking about going to Bible school, going on a missions trip, or being on an outreach team. We need something far more gripping than that: in the secret place of our lives we need to know and experience more of Jesus. We do well to ponder the words of the psalmist: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:3–4). The call to holiness is a call to enjoy God. Holiness is not a call to miss out on fun. Yes, we are missing out some sinful activities, but our heart is not missing out.
Those activities will never satisfy you, nor will they refresh you or deeply connect you to other people. They will keep you broken, isolated, and disconnected. Many of you will have heard of John Piper and know of his writings.
To my mind, he is one of the most influential voices in the Body of Christ in this hour. In his book Future Grace: Its Purifying Power Piper writes that “sin is what we do when our hearts are not satisfied with God.” On enjoying God, he has this to say: “To enjoy him we must know him. Seeing is savoring. If he remains a blurry, vague fog, we may be intrigued for a season. But we will not be stunned with joy, as when the fog clears and you find yourself on the brink of some vast precipice” (Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist). Alongside the fact that you will find your own happiness and fulfillment in obeying and pleasing God, it is true to say that “God is most glorified when you are most satisfied in Him” (Desiring God, Piper). So we see that the battle for holiness is actually the battle to be preoccupied with the right things, the right Person. Holiness is not just about doing the right things.
First, it is about what, or whom, we are preoccupied with—what captures the attention of our hearts and minds; then our behavior flows out of a heart that is captivated by the beauty of Jesus.
As we find enjoyment in God, we find that we have an increasing desire for our lives to be pleasing to Him in every way–in our relationships and speech, the way we use our money and time, in our thought life, in our commitment to live God’s way—in holiness. And so with Paul we pray continually that we might “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).