2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”
7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
Consecration occurs when we separate or dedicate ourselves to God in holiness. But too often the basis and motivation for this consecration is not sustaining. Why? Because it is not rooted in grace.
You will not grow spiritually until you are convinced of your neediness. You will not sustain your dedication to Christ until you see that you cannot sustain your dedication to Christ.
Paul is issuing a call to holiness in this passage. But too often Christians express this call to holiness as a guilt trip. “Christ died for you, the least you could do is try to be holy.” Often we try to let the “love motive” move us towards deeper levels of consecration, rather than the “faith motive.” The “love motive” seeks holiness based on our love for God. The “faith motive” seeks holiness based on God’s love for us.
Paul loves the Corinthians so much, and God loves us so much, that he’s not afraid to tell us what we need. Holiness is what we need. Holiness is real life.
So over the next three days let’s move through the verses above backwards as we try to understand what true consecration can and should look like.
Completing Your Holiness
Consecration is a dedication to holiness. We were made for holiness. Our union with Christ both demands and empowers it. 2 Corinthians 7:1 exhorts us to cleanse ourselves and bring holiness to completion in the fear of God.
If life is about being transformed into the image of Christ, and it is, then it must include growth in holiness, right? Christ won’t allow you to not be holy. He will allow you to be crushed under any unequal yoke until you take up his. Your holiness is non-negotiable and inevitable. The Holy One lives in you for goodness sake.
And so the command: cleanse yourself of every defilement, body and spirit.
Please I beg you to understand that you can only consecrate to God what has already been consecrated by God. You can only cleanse what has already been cleansed. Only what has already been set apart by God can be set apart by you.
Hebrews 10:10. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Jesus Christ stood up for us. He got down in the dirt for us. He fought for us. He argued before the judge on our behalf. He offered himself for us. We simply cannot do this ourselves. Self cleansing, self justification, “standing up for ourselves” before a holy judge will never work. To attempt to do so is not real consecration.
We got a glimpse of this a few days ago when Serena Williams lost the US Open tennis championship. Partly because she was outplayed. But also because she lost it over a bad call. And who can blame her? Who among us wouldn’t fight the way she did? Think about the nature of tennis. In almost every other sport you have a coach on the field with you. Standing up for you. Arguing for you. Getting ejected for you. But in tennis, it’s all on you alone to fight the battle. You alone before the judge. And this rarely leads to holiness.
But we have one that has bought our holiness at great price. Therefore, cleansing yourself and completing your holiness is not a self improvement project. It is a grace project.
How does cleansing come? How does holiness come? By sinning and receiving grace, sinning and receiving grace, sinning and receiving grace. Each time becoming more and more reliant on Christ until one day he alone satisfies, and the sin no longer grips your heart.
“To live is Christ” calls for your holiness. But it also hands you completed holiness, and total cleansing by your union with Christ.
Are you consecrated (dedicated, set apart) to holiness? On what basis? How does your union with Christ allow your motivation for holiness to be grace and faith, rather than “I have to love God more and be good?”