We want to continue looking at the life of Jesus as the perfect example God has given us on earth, demonstrating how God wanted man to live. In this study we want to look at His holiness and His purity.
God is holy and He tells us, ‘‘Because I am holy, be holy yourself.’’ But for us, who are human beings, created with a free will, holiness can come only through overcoming temptation; through saying no to temptation. We are not inherently holy. When we are born, we are inherently sinful. In fact, even when Adam was created, he was not inherently holy, he was inherently innocent. He had to choose God and say no to temptation in order to be holy. Now, in the same way, today, to be holy, we have to be tempted. In fact, this is one purpose of temptation. Temptation is not meant to lead us into sin; quite the opposite. It is meant to lead us to holiness.
Holiness is like being spiritually healthy and strong. Why do people go to a gymnasium and do exercise there, with bars and weights, and subject their muscle to resistance with springs and various things like that? Why is all that equipment lying around the gymnasium for? It is not easy to lift those weights and do exercise with all those springs and various things. In fact, it is a strain. Then why do people go through that strain? They are even willing to pay money to go through that strain!
You know why? – Because they want a physically fit body. They know that a physically fit body can only come if every muscle in the body is subjected to strain and resistance. So, all that equipment in the gymnasium is meant for subjecting different muscles in the body to resistance. Now a person, whose muscle is not subjected to resistance, will just be a fat, flabby man. When doctors advice a fat, flabby man to get rid of his fat, they suggest exercise, or in other words, subject your muscles to some resistance. It is exactly the same principle spiritually.
We have to be subjected to resistance. We have to have somebody resisting us. And we have to resist in return and overcome in order to be spiritually fit, muscular and strong. In other words, become holy. That is why the Bible says, ‘‘Consider it all joy when you encounter various types of temptations’’ (Js. 1:2). Now that is not the common understanding of how to face temptations. Most people think, ‘Oh boy, temptation, I wish I would never face it.’ It is like a fat man saying, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do any exercise, it is such a labour, such a problem.’ What is the result? He never becomes muscular. If a Christian would say, ‘I don’t want to face trails, I don’t want to face any temptations,’ he will never be a spiritually muscular, healthy Christian. That is impossible.
Holiness can come only if you are willing to say no to temptation. So what does James says you should do? Consider it all joy. Like the fat man going into the gymnasium and considering it all joy when he finds these various bits of equipment around him, and he begins to exercise. Gradually the fat melts away from his body and he comes out later, in a year or so, a healthy, strong muscular man. Wasn’t that good? Shouldn’t he consider it all joy when he subjects his muscles to resistance? It is exactly the same thing what James says here. Because people have not understood it, they think that avoiding temptation, and avoiding trial is the best way. It is not the best way.
Now the amazing thing is that, even for someone like Jesus, who is sinless, had to be tempted. That is quite a mystery. Why did He have to be tempted? In Matthew 4, we read that the devil came to Him and tempted Him. Three of the temptations are mentioned there. And in Hebrews 4:15 we are told that He was tempted in every respect like us but He didn’t sin even once. It is amazing that Jesus Christ, the perfect sinless Son of God, was also subject to temptation in every area. The Bible says in Hebrews 6:20 that Jesus is our forerunner. Forerunner means somebody who has run the race in front of us and has shown us the path in which to follow. So, as One who has gone in front of us, He says to us today, ‘‘Follow Me.’’
The Bible says in Hebrews 12:1-2, ‘‘Let us look into Him who ran this race in front and let us run the race behind Him.’’ Again we read, ‘‘Consider Him who faced such contradiction of sinners against Himself, who resisted sin unto blood’’ (Heb. 12:3-4) Jesus endured every temptation that can ever come to any human being. He was tempted in every point as we are and He overcame in the power of the Holy Spirit, as a man. If He had faced temptation as God, there would be nothing great about it. In fact, the Bible says that God can’t be tempted (Js. 1:13).
So Jesus had to give up that privilege, when He walked on earth as a man, in order to be tempted, in order to be an example for us. If He overcame temptation in the power of God, and He, as God, tells us – human beings to somehow overcome, when we are not God, it would be like a father driving a motorcar at 80 miles per hour (mph), and telling his little son to run after him on the road, ‘Follow me.’ Isn’t that ridiculous? – A father driving in a car at 80mph and telling his son to run after him? Then how can Jesus say, ‘Follow me,’ if He encountered temptation as God? In fact, in any case, as I said earlier, God cannot be tempted.
The fact is that Jesus encountered temptation as a man and overcame in the power of the Holy Spirit. And that is the same power He offers us. That is what gives us hope when we face temptation. The devil would like to rob you of that hope, by trying to tell you, ‘No, you can’t overcome temptation. You will always be defeated.’ But you tell him, ‘How did Jesus overcome?’ He might say, ‘Oh, He overcame as God.’ Is that what the Bible says? No. He overcame Satan by quoting the word of God to Him. You can overcome Satan in the same way. The Bible asks you to take the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God, and you can drive the devil away too, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus prayed, sought for help, and overcame.
Suppose today we have to face some temptation, which Jesus never faced, we could say to Him, ‘Well, Lord you don’t understand what I am facing.’ But we can never say that because He does understand. The Bible says He can sympathise with our struggle, with our weakness (Heb. 4:15). The one thing that Jesus demonstrated though His life on earth was that with the power of the Holy Spirit, as a man, we can obey every commandment of God. If we don’t do it, it is because we are not wholehearted as He was. That is why the Bible says, ‘‘Anyone, who says, he abides in Christ must walk as He walked’’ (1 Jn. 2:6). Is that possible? If it is not possible there would be no such command in scripture.
The living Bible says, ‘‘Anyone who calls themselves a Christian should live as Christ did.’’ Is that really true? Jesus Christ’s life was a demonstration of how we are to live. Now, we may not be able to say that we are walking like Christ. In fact, I have never met anyone on earth who walks like Jesus Christ, neither would you have. But if we make that our goal and, if we have faith, we should press on to that perfection where we say, ‘Lord I want to walk like You.’ Then from one degree of glory to another, the Holy Spirit will conform us to Christ’s likeness.
Paul said he hadn’t attained it himself, but he was pressing on. He says, “I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’’ He wanted to live like Jesus lived. He made that his goal and, little by little, he approached it. But a person, who has no goal, is never going to get anywhere near there. It is like climbing a mountain. If you don’t have the top of the mountain as your goal, what is going to happen? You are just going to be at ground level, even after 25 years. But if you keep the top of the mountain as your goal, every year will find you higher and higher and higher and higher, and little more and little more and little more like Christ. This is Christian growth. How did Jesus overcome? When He faced temptation and He felt the pull of it, He resisted it in the power of the Holy Spirit; He died to Himself and He overcame. That is why the Bible says, ‘‘Arm yourself with the same mind’’ (1 Pet. 4:1-2).
Now there could be a misunderstanding here because some of us don’t understand what is the essence of sin. The essence of all sin is doing your own will. Now, if that is the essence is sin, then what is the essence of holiness? Denying your own will and doing the will of God. That is holiness. We read what Jesus said in John 6:38, ‘‘I came from heaven not to do My own will,’’ i.e. not to sin, ‘‘but to do the will of God, the will of Him who sent Me.’’ That is holiness. In the Garden of Gethsemane He said, ‘‘Not as I will Father, but as Though will.’’ Jesus offered up His human will as a perpetual sacrifice. He said, ‘‘I never want to do My will.’’ That is what is meant by Jesus never sinned. He never did His own will. Human nature is just the opposite. We see that in a little child; a child wants to do his own will. That stubbornness is sin.
Jesus warned His disciple in the Garden of Gethsemane. He said, ‘‘Pray, your flesh is weak. Your spirit may be willing to live a holy life but your flesh is weak.’’ That is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit to deny our will and to do the will for God.
Make that your goal dear friend. Believe today that it is possible for you to live a holy life; to climb higher and higher up this mountain of becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.
This is part of the Basic Christian Teachings Series, a set of 72 short messages presented by Zac Poonen. You can download the audio mp3 files or listen to Basic Christian Teachings by clicking here.