Striving for Holiness
It has often been said that the Christian life is a journey, and there is certainly truth in that. It begins at a point in time when one comes to saving faith in Christ Jesus (although some people cannot tell when that was, nor is it necessary), but then continues like a grain of mustard seed growing in the grace of the Lord. Here, we have four short passages that have the theme of holiness about them.
First, our Lord warns us to remain diligent in our struggle against the flesh. Let us say that a believer finally, through the work of the Holy Spirit, of course, gets the upper hand on some besetting sin. The temptation goes away, and so he thinks that he has finally got that one under his belt. So what does he do? He lets his guard down. Before he knows what has happened, he is ensnared again and is in deeper than he was before. We must never consider ourselves as having conquered sin, even one we haven’t committed for a long time. The human heart is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) and completely untrustworthy. An alcoholic will tell you he is an alcoholic even if he hasn’t had a drop in thirty years. That is wise. On this side of eternity, we are still sinners. Remain vigilant, for our Adversary is always on the prowl (1 Peter 5:8).
At this point, a woman lifts her voice in praise of our Savior – by referring to his mother. (That’s really sweet when you think about it.) Now Jesus doesn’t rebuke her, but he does bat away flattering words about himself or his mother to the far more important matter of obeying the word of God. It is vain to praise Jesus without obeying him, for to obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22).
We have heard Jesus speak about Jonah before, only showing that our Lord, as any teacher, would sometimes repeat himself. Here, he is probably in Judea, whereas in Matthew 12 he was in Galilee. The emphasis here is on repentance. Even the pagans of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, and even the queen of Sheba traveled miles to hear Solomon. How much more is required of God’s people when visited by the Lord.
And so it is holiness to which we are called. It is holiness that purifies hearts and minds, eyes and ears, so that we may see, hear, and think rightly. But if our hearts are saturated with the flesh and the world, so shall everything be that we think, see, and hear. So above all, guard your heart for holiness.