Summary: Encouragement to recognize the battle grounds of personal holiness.
Inside Out- The Battle for Personal Holiness
Today we will continue our look at holiness, which, as we established last week, is very near and dear to the heart of God, and should, therefore, be near and dear to us as well.
Before we get into today’s specific area of holiness, allow me to briefly review what we covered last week.
First, we saw that holiness, according to author Jerry Bridges, refers to being morally blameless. And while that may seem like an unreachable ideal, God commands it and expects it, nonetheless, as we saw from the Scriptures we looked at to that effect.
We also looked at the fact that we pursue holiness not only because Scripture commands it, but more importantly, because God Himself is holy. And we are to reflect that holiness in our lives.
But we concluded by noting that GOD makes us holy, and as we allow Him to work in our lives, He enables us to reflect that work in our everyday living.
Today we look at where that work begins. My purpose this morning is to identify, first of all, the battle GROUND of holiness, and then the battle PLAN of holiness. This should dovetail nicely into our next two times together when we discuss holiness in our actions, and holiness in our speech.
But now, let’s turn our attention to today’s topic.
II. The Battle Ground
A. The Heart.
I had originally intended to focus on our thought life, but as I began to work on this message, I became convinced that the issue goes much deeper than just our thought life, though it certainly includes it.
It starts in the heart. YOUR heart. And our mind – our thought life – and yes, everything else is a reflection of our heart.
Turn with me to Mark 7:21-23
21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man `unclean.’"
You see? It doesn’t get much clearer than that. But Paul adds another dimension when he describes the struggle for holiness in our hearts in Romans chapter 7, starting in verse 14. Please turn with me there.
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Let me take a moment to smash a real popular misconception: that if it feels right, it must be okay.
WRONG! Listen to Jeremiah 17:9-10.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."
The current trend in our society to live lives that our parents and grandparents would find shocking is based on the question, “How can something that feels so right be so wrong?"”
The error comes from the fact that this the wrong question entirely. It misses the point that we make decisions based on objective standards of right and wrong, not fickle emotions.
Folks, we are foolish to think that our feelings and emotions are reliable guides to distinguish wrong from right. Our emotions are about as stable as a leaf blowing in the wind. A number of things affect our emotions, such as a bad day at the office, illness, hormonal changes, or news that your mother-in-law is coming to stay for the holidays – all of them – Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Labor Day – all of them.