As we return to our study of the life of Christ as depicted in the Gospel of Matthew, I think it’s helpful for us to also review some of the ways by which the gospel imperatives that we find in this document can and should be applied to our lives. To say that the Christian life is difficult is to not say enough. It is, in fact, impossible. The bar that God sets for His people is holiness, which is precisely what Jesus said at the end of Matthew 5 in verse 48 - "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." That’s the goal and to say it’s not attainable in this life and walk away from God’s Word with a shrug is to dismiss God as if He had just said something totally absurd and ridiculous. No, Jesus meant (and still means) exactly what He said. I would agree that sinless perfection is not within our grasp in this current “body of death,” as Paul puts it, but for God’s people to strive toward this very goal is very doable in the power and filling of His Spirit within us. Our justification is meant to compel us to greater and more Christ-like heights in the process of our sanctification (note the root word “sanctify” or “make holy”). Christians often quote Ephesians 2:8-9 but seldom speak of verse 10; "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." The Apostle Paul has no problem juxtaposing God’s work of regeneration/justification (vss. 8-9) along side of sanctification (vs. 10). We’ve been born again by Christ’s Spirit to glorify God in “good works,” which the Father ordained us to do long ago.
We are neither to be antinomians (against the Law) or licentious (reckless and wicked in our behavior). We are to pursue holiness experientially precisely because we have experienced it by imputation (the holiness/perfection of Christ applied to our lives as if we really have “measured up.”) As some would say, “Gospel indicatives should and must always lead us to gospel imperatives.” Thus, we pursue daily holiness through the normal means of grace that God has given to us such as spending time in His Word and prayer, gathering with His people in worship and fellowship, personally participating in worship and the means of grace wherein our faith is strengthened and we have a clear opportunity to repent of anything God’s Spirit brings to mind as we await the elements of the Lord’s Table, and on and on the list goes. This business of our sanctification is not a passive “let go and let God” kind of thing but an active kind of thing wherein we “cling to, trust in and develop” a greater and greater resemblance of Jesus by looking to the Spirit to enable us to do that very thing. As progress in your sanctification is made you have only God to thank since He is the one who “works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” All glory and honor is His alone for all our increasing likeness to Christ because, apart from Him we can do nothing. (See Ephesians 1:9-2:10) So, I commend to you Al Baker’s most recent article entitled “The Way to Gospel Holiness” and may God’s Spirit impress these truths upon your heart and mind as you “grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”