1) The Necessity of Perseverance for Salvation
First, (according to Hebrews 12:14) there is a holiness without which we will not see the Lord. There are professing Christians who live such disobedient lives that they will hear Jesus say (according to Matthew 7:23), “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.” There are church-attending people who believe that they are saved because they prayed to receive Jesus once, not realizing that the proof of the genuineness of that prayer is perseverance. As Jesus said in Matthew 24:13, “He who endures to the end will be saved.” Paul says to professing believers, “If you live according to the flesh you will die (Romans 8:13). I do not want you to come to Bethlehem for 10 or 20 or 30 years and then spend eternity in hell because you never learned to fight the fight of faith and persevere in holiness. That is the first reason I am preaching this series.
2) The Wrong Way to Pursue Holiness
The second reason is that there is a way to pursue holiness that backfires and leads to death. What a tragedy, if I could persuade you from Scripture that there is a holiness without which we will not see the Lord, only to have you start fighting for it in a way that is denounced in Scripture and doomed to failure! Romans 9:31 says, “Israel, even though she pursued the law of righteousness, did not attain that law. Why? Because she did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works.” Which it isn’t!! Practical, daily righteousness is attained when the law is pursued by faith not by works. “Works” is the warfare of righteousness unempowered by faith in the satisfying, liberating promises of God. So the second reason I am preaching this series is that I am so concerned that we learn to fight for holiness by faith and not by works.
3) God’s Glory in Our Perseverance
The third reason for the series is that I want God to be glorified in our pursuit of holiness and righteousness and love. But God is not glorified in our pursuit unless we are empowered by faith in his promises. And so unless we learn how to fight the fight of faith, we may achieve remarkable religious and moral heights, but not for God’s glory. He is glorified when he is trusted (Romans 4:20). He is glorified when the power to be holy comes from our delight in his promises. Since this is Reformation Sunday, it’s fitting that we let Martin Luther speak on this great truth:
Faith honors him whom it trusts with the most reverent and highest regard since it considers him truthful and trustworthy. There is no other honor equal to the estimate of truthfulness and righteousness with which we honor him whom we trust . . . When the soul firmly trusts God’s promises, it regards him as truthful and righteous, and whatever else should be ascribed to God. The very highest worship of God is this, that we ascribe to him truthfulness, righteousness, and whatever else should be ascribed to one who is trusted. (Freedom of a Christian, in Dillenberger collection, p. 52)
And so our great desire in this series is that we learn how to live for God’s honor, and that means living by faith in God’s promises, and that means battling unbelief in all the different ways it rears its head in our hearts, including covetousness.