Affirming Our Commitments (2 Corinthians 1:24)

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When one studies the Old Testament it becomes quite apparent that whenever God’s people experienced a reformation they subsequently affirmed their covenant with God as well as with one another. And without exception there were three strands to this covenantal affirmation: a renewed commitment to holiness, a renewed commitment to help one another in fulfilling the covenant (they stood together), and a renewal of happiness as a joyful celebration always accompanied these affirmations. Basically it was a covenantal commitment to be holy, to be helpful and thus to be happy.

This is where BBC is as a church. In light of some wonderful reformations in recent years, we have come to the point where we are preparing to affirm our covenant that together we will strive to be holy for God, to be helpful under God and to thus be happy in God. And thus, the next portion of our church covenant, which we have considered in recent studies, reads:

We will rejoice at each other’s happiness and endeavour with tenderness and sympathy to bear one another’s burdens and sorrows.

We will seek, by Divine aid, to live carefully in the world, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts and remembering that, as we have been voluntarily buried by baptism and raised again from the symbolic grave, so there is on us a special obligation now to lead a new and holy life.

Let us examine these aspects of the covenant under the three commitments mentioned above.

A Commitment to Happiness

The Bible is a thick book, which contains a lot of words. One could be excused for assuming that the Christian life is complex and that it involves a lot of rules. Sadly, many have caricatured Christianity in this very way. Many think of it in terms such as “kill-joy,” “boring,” or even “puritanical” (showing as much ignorance about the Puritans as about Christianity!).

I would submit that, on the basis of what the Bible actually teaches, Christianity is in fact the happiest religion on earth. In fact, the message of Scripture is that you indeed can be happy. Even more, God desires for us to be happy. And thus those who know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour have all the reasons and resources to be happy.

Even amongst believers this often seems like a heretical statement. In fact, pastor and author John Piper landed himself in some hot water years ago when he published a sermon entitled, “The Happiness of God: Foundation for Christian Hedonism.” Some make the argument that the sensational term “Christian hedonism” should have been avoided, but the fact remains that Piper hit on a very important issue; namely, that God wants His children to be happy. The ultimate reason for this is that our happiness reflects on the goodness of God. To use Piper’s well known comment, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

The fact of the matter is that the Bible makes it abundantly clear that God does want us to be happy. He is “the blessed [happy] God” (1 Timothy 1:11; see 2 Corinthians 11:31) who desires to make us happy. This is precisely what Paul says in Ephesians 1:3: God has “blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” And Peter tells us that God’s desire and determination is that His children “inherit a blessing,” that they “inherit happiness” (1 Peter 3:9). This happiness consists of being fulfilled and joyful; it speaks of an abundant life (see John 10:10).

In a very real sense this is what our covenant affirmation is all about. Our happiness in life depends supremely upon grace inspired and joyful obedience to Christ. And this obedience is exercised in covenant community with other believers in the local church. Thus as individually we grow happy in God we will consequently be so corporately as well. Thus, our covenant affirmation is about us committing to work together to be happy!

In the 2006 film The Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith plays the part of real-life character Chris Gardner who experiences the epitome of the rags to riches dream. Gardner was both a homeless and relentless man who was determined to achieve the dream of financial success, a dream which he indeed achieved. He became a successful stock broker who eventually established his own firm and then sold it for millions of dollars. At least in the eyes of a money-obsessed American culture, he had secured the happiness that he so tenaciously pursued.

I must admit that I was touched by the movie, and even somewhat motivated–at least until I did some Internet research on Mr. Gardner. It turns out that he had abandoned his girlfriend, the mother of his son, and that in fact he seems to have been a very self-absorbed individual whose major concern was that of pursuing his own happiness.

My point in sharing this is to highlight the fact that, for believers, our pursuit of happiness is not to be like that of the world. That is, our definition of happiness is radically different in that we use the word “blessed” to describe this pursuit. We desire to experience God’s blessings upon our life, His gift of wellbeing and we desire this for others as well.

An example of this is Paul’s words to the Corinthians as recorded in 2 Corinthians 1:24: “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.” Paul had experienced some difficulties with this church and has had to write some hard words to them. He explained that in fact the reason that he had delayed his visit was due to his concern that his presence would only result in more heartache for them. Thus he had attempted to sort out the problems by letters. Had he come to them it would not have been a friendly visit. On the contrary, it would have caused both him and them much pain.

But in relating this he didn’t want them to get the wrong impression. He didn’t mean to imply that he desired to be overbearing and controlling. No, in fact even if he had to be stern with them it would have only been motivated by his concern that they experience joy in Christ. He wanted to be a “helper of [their] joy.” He knew that they stood in the Lord, by faith, and that ultimately they did not answer to him (Romans 14:4, 12). But because he loved them he was committed to their joy. In other words, he was committed to the pursuit of their true and full happiness.

The Corinthian believers had experienced the rags of sin and then the unfathomable riches of salvation through the gospel of God. Paul’s concern was that they continue in this Christ-centred pursuit of blessedness (that is, happiness).

And thus it must be for us as local churches. We must be committed to a corporate pursuit of happiness and not be content with leaving any behind.

A Commitment to Helpfulness

In many ways we have been considering this commitment for our past few studies, but now we must highlight it in a specific way. Our covenant says, “We will rejoice at each other’s happiness and endeavour with tenderness and sympathy to bear each other’s burdens and sorrows.” In a very real sense we are hereby committing to pursue the happiness of others, in whatever season of life in which they find themselves and in whatever providences they are experiencing.

The Scriptures point to this attitude when they tell us to “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15). We are exhorted in Galatians 6:2 to “bear … one another’s burdens.” We are further told that when one member suffers that we all suffer together, simply by virtue of the fact that we are all members of the Body and are thus connected (1 Corinthians 12:26). We are committed to one another because we are connected to one another. Let me take some time to practically flesh this out.

Happy in Happiness

First, we are to help one another to stay happy in God in times of happiness. Joy is the state of mind in which we can say that all is well because all is well with my soul. But more than this, it is the state of mind that says that all is well because I am satisfied with Jesus. Since He is wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, and since He is the Ruler over all, and the Head of all principalities and powers, and since He is the Head over all things to the church, and since through Him we have been delivered from the wrath to come, and since He is the sinless, spotless Lamb of God who has paid the ransom price for our sins, and since He ever lives to make intercession for me, and since through Him we know that God is for us, we are satisfied! We have all that we need. And thus our pursuit of happiness is not tied to the pursuit of a particular career, or to a bigger bank balance, or to more meaningful relationships, or to better health, or to any other thing. Instead, our pursuit of happiness is tied to pursuing joy in Christ; to the pursuit of seeing and savouring and serving Christ.

But let’s be transparent: This is not always our pursuit. Sometimes good things become our pursuit. The Lord in His kindness may bless our lives in numerous ways, and soon thereafter we find ourselves not doing very well in surviving those blessings. That is, oftentimes we are tempted to find our joy in the blessings rather than in the One who blessed us. And thus we need others to come alongside us and to biblically rejoice with us in our “happiness.” We need the help of others to have a God-centred rejoicing in these blessings. We need to be reminded that it is the Lord who has blessed us with a child, or a this marriage, or with a job promotion, or with a good doctor’s report, or with a good report card at school, or with the growth of the church, or with the unction upon the preaching, or with a thousand other things!

You see, if we will continue to pursue happiness in Christ we need to keep our eyes on Him, and sometimes the opportunities to rejoice in the Lord can be turned into temptations to boast in ourselves, or in others, or in things.

If we will be committed to helping the happiness of others then we need to honestly, sincerely and thus biblically rejoice with one another in their providential blessings.

Consider another side to this: It is quite possible, when a member is blessed and has cause for happiness, that a spirit of jealousy can overtake those of us who are spectators to that happiness.

For example, let us suppose that two church members are both unemployed and are both fervently pursuing work. Eventually, one man secures employment while the other remains unemployed. What is the duty of the one who will once again end the month without a paycheque? He is to rejoice at his brother’s happiness. If he does not, the relationship may become strained as the employed brother feels bad for being the recipient of God’s kind providence. The unemployed brother may also begin to avoid his former beleaguered compatriot, and soon a subtle schism may be found in the Body. Perhaps cynicism will begin to take over the heart of the jealous brother. Things may go from bad to worse in their relationship and, yes, the overall health of the Body may soon be negatively affected.

Dear people, the local church is a family and families are to rejoice together. They are to support one another when a kind providence shines upon them. It can be very painful to feel as though no one cares that you have been blessed. A sense of not being loved is the very real perception when others refuse to enter into our joy. As the Father rejoices at the goodness that has been experienced by His child upon repentance and faith (Luke 15:10) so we should endeavour to lay aside prideful jealousy and be happy for those amongst us who have experienced some happiness by the good hand of God.

At this point I need to raise some sensitive issues. In a church as diverse as ours, this type of commitment will often be put to the test. I think of the situation in which a wife is given the blessing of conception and another is not. It is very understandable that the woman who considers herself to be barren may feel sad upon hearing the news. We must be sensitive to this. But at the same time this is a wonderful opportunity for her to pursue happiness in Christ. As she comes alongside and rejoices with the pregnant woman she is being selfless and by this biblical exercise she will increasingly find herself casting her care more and more upon Christ. In a profound way she will be able to find more and more satisfaction in Christ. I do not suggest that her pain will abate; what I am saying is that by this biblical response of taking up her cross and following Christ she will become fruitful in her relationship with Him. If however she chooses to behave jealously the net result will be a cutting off of relationships and thus not only will she not be helping others to pursue happiness but she herself will stop this personal pursuit as well.

The same could be applied to the situation regarding those who are providentially blessed with marriage and those whom God chooses to bless by withholding marriage. Jealousy is never a good thing; it is always destructive and rejoicing is the antidote to this. Thus in this scenario, as the single person celebrates the wedding of their fellow church member they are committing themselves to both pursuing the happiness of their new married couple as well as their own happiness.

Of course the key in all of this is love. If we love one another then we will rejoice when others experience the smile of providence, and we will seek to come alongside them rejoicing and reminding them of the goodness of God. By doing so we are protecting them from creating any idols. For idols are no help to our pursuit of happiness.

Happy in Heartache

Second, we are to help one another to stay happy in God in times of heartache. The Word calls upon us to bear one another’s burdens and thus we are affirming as fellow church members to do so “with tenderness and sympathy.” This is vital if we will help others in their pursuit of happiness.

God in His wisdom has so ordered our lives that we experience both joy and sorrow: birth and death, sickness and health, poverty and wealth, success and failure. Both sides of the emotional pendulum are under the loving and purposeful control of God and thus both are opportunities for us to pursuit true happiness. But we need help in this, perhaps especially in the area of our burdens and sorrows. And this is where the commitment of the Body is vital to our corporate pursuit of happiness. We need to take seriously our Christ-centred responsibility to come alongside hurting comrades and help them to pursue the blessedness that comes from joyful submission to the will of God.

It is no doubt a truism that the Christian’s pursuit of happiness (blessedness) is often a rocky road. Things can seem to be going so well and then some heartache rears its ugly head and we are tempted to lose our focus upon the Lord. We are tempted to forget what true blessedness is and the opportunity that sorrows and even sufferings offer for our devotional development. This is why we need one another to come alongside of us and “with tenderness and sympathy” to help us “bear our burdens and sorrows.” If we do not receive this kind of help then it is very likely that we will experience a wobble in our pursuit of happiness. And the same is true for those whom we refuse to help bear their burdens.

Again, the Christian life is no easy pilgrimage. As Job said, “man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). Being a child of God does not mean that all will always be easy. Because we live in a sin-saturated, sin-cursed world, we experience exposure to the same diseases and death and discouraging setbacks as our unbelieving neighbours. But it is precisely because we are God’s children that we can (and must) pursue the blessed happiness that can be ours in the face of such difficulties. Can a believer do this alone? Perhaps. After all, one who has been born again has become the dwelling place of God and thus power is available. I think of the missionary John Paton who spent a night in the top of a tree as he sought to hide from the cannibals who were searching for a midnight snack! He testified to the fact that he had never enjoyed such a wonderful experience of fellowship with Christ as during that long, dark and dangerous night. There were no other believers on that New Hebrides Island and so he had no one to bear that particular burden with him. Nevertheless, he was able to maintain his focus. So yes, I suppose that believers can do well even when others are not there to come alongside and help them. But then again, let’s also consider all the believers back in Scotland who were committed to bearing up John Paton in prayer. Were they not in a very real way with tenderness and sympathy bearing his burdens? No doubt.

But leaving this aside let me deal with the general principle that when believers are going through a hard time they indeed need the Body to come alongside and to help them to keep on the pursuit of a Christ-centred happiness.

I have not yet received the heart-wrenching phone call that my mother, father, brother or sister has died. I have never been called to the bedside of my wife or child to say my final goodbyes on this earth. I can only imagine the sorrow that fills the heart; yes even the believer’s heart. I read the strangled cries of Mary and Martha, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:21, 32) and I can understand something, at a distance, of the heartache of losing a loved one. I suppose that at such times there is the temptation to assume that meaningful living will come to an end and that happiness will never again be experienced. There is no doubt a sense of hopelessness that may pervade the later weeks, and the dark shadows of a frowning providence seem to echo the fears of a hurting heart that “God is not on my side.” Perhaps a doubting heart is tempted to question the reality of one’s faith. Again, I have never personally gone through this. But I have sought on numerous occasions to come alongside those who have, with tenderness and sympathy to help them to bear their burdens and sorrows. And I have found that by doing so I have helped others to get back into the race and to pursue the ultimate happiness, that which is found in Christ. And to my shame, I must also confess that there have been times in which I have failed to do this.

We have the mandate to weep with those who weep and to do so in such a way that our fellow believers will keep pursuing the blessedness that is their birthright in Christ. How are we doing? How will we do?

For us to meaningfully be the church to one another for the glory of God we must be committed to dying to selfishness and to reaching out to those who are experiencing the providential sorrows of life. In a very real sense, when one of our members suffers not only do we all suffer but we are also all being challenged to grow in Christ, to pursue our happiness in Christ.

I have experienced the painful task of informing others that their loved one has died. One Saturday night I received three phone calls within the space of a few minutes informing me that four young adults (all of whom had been attending our church) had just been killed in a motor car accident. One of the passengers, a church member, was seriously injured but alive and being treated in hospital. It fell to me to go to the home of one of the victims and to inform his parents that he was dead. Words cannot express the sickness that I felt.

What could I do for them in their time of grief? It was not the time for a sermon, or for a glib quote of Romans 8:28. No, it was time for silent sympathy. I had a responsibility to help shoulder the burden of the sorrowing. In the weeks that followed that horrific tragedy, I sought to be there for the wounded and hurting. And, thank the Lord, so did our church. The net result was that the majority of those affected kept pursuing happiness in Christ. And they are doing so today.

At such times believers need the support of the church in a profound way. And yet often it is at this time of greatest need that many are tempted to remove, rather than to offer their shoulder. It is not that we don’t care; rather it is usually due to the fact that we feel insufficient for such a task. We may tend to think, “What can I do for them? What on earth will I say? I have no experience with this; maybe I will only be in the way? What if they ask a question that I can’t answer? What if they actually want to be alone?”

I understand these concerns. Many a time on my way to sit with the bereaved, the sorrowing and the frightened I have cried out to God, “Please give me the right words to say. Help me to be a help. I am not sufficient for this.” And God always answers, sometimes by helping me to simply sit with them and to keep my mouth shut.

There is something powerful that is communicated, even from the silent presence of a fellow believer. Let us be committed to being a channel of blessing, a channel of happiness.

Practically, let me say that we should make the effort to attend funeral services in which church members grieve the loss of a loved one. I understand that we are not always able to do so. We have to use wisdom in making such decisions. But having given this disclaimer I must ask, do you ever attended funeral services to support fellow church members? I understand that many feel very uncomfortable in doing so because of a fear of not knowing what to say. Nevertheless we should with tenderness and sympathy come alongside and let our brother or sister know that we love them and that we are thus standing alongside them. When a church member is undergoing heartache the primary concern is not whether we are comfortable but rather the comforting of the burdened.

Let us be committed to communicating our concern for the burdened with the goal of helping the sorrowful to keep their eyes on Christ. Let us be alert to their tendency to withdraw from the fellowship. Let us lovingly come alongside of them to give them a word in due season.

Let us guard against the temptation to selfishness and self-preservation, which seeks to avoid getting involved in heartache, and rather let us lovingly make the pursuit of happiness our corporate concern. When you get involved in shouldering the burdens of others you will soon find that not only are they being helped in their pursuit of happiness but so are you. Christian character is developed as we reach out to lend a shoulder to the ones who are weary. In fact, perhaps we are never more like our Saviour than when we are doing so (see Matthew 11:28-30).

Before moving on let me make one more pertinent application. This matter of shouldering the sorrows and burdens of others also includes those heartaches which accompany relational, spiritual, and moral failures.

For example, how should we respond to those who have experienced divorce or domestic heartache? Those on the receiving end of this relational breakdown are hurting people and thus the church needs to come alongside and to treat them with compassion rather than as those who should be shunned. We would do well to lend a helping hand rather than casting condemning stones. Let us seek to be understanding and sympathetic as we commit ourselves to helping those who, in spite of their best efforts, have been at the receiving end of relational heartache. The pursuit of happiness is not reserved merely for those who experience matrimonial bliss and a fully harmonious home life.

When a believer falls morally or doctrinally we are to come alongside them tenderly and sympathetically. We need to strengthen the hands that hang down and be a brace for the knees that are weak (Hebrews 12:12-13). Those who have fallen and yet are repentant are saying that they want to pursue happiness. Let us hear their cry and help them! We must bear in mind that to the degree that we all pursue and experience happiness (blessedness) in Christ, to an even greater degree the whole experiences the same.

A Commitment to Holiness

In a very real sense the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of holiness are two sides of the same coin. True happiness can only be found within the confines of obedience to God. This is why the psalmist declared that those who delight in the law of the Lord and meditate in it day and night are “blessed” or “happy” (see Psalm 1:1-3). Thus as we pursue holiness we will also be pursuing happiness.

Much is often made of the fact that believers are not to be pursuing happiness but rather that happiness is something we stumble upon in our ultimate pursuit of holiness. I believe that this is wrongheaded. Again, God does want us to be happy in Him and thus happiness is not a wrong goal. I think that the reason we are uncomfortable with the teaching that we are to pursue happiness is because we tend to equate happiness with frivolity. But the Bible describes true happiness (blessedness) primarily in moral rather than emotional terms. We are blessed (happy) as we live devoted to obeying God and we are burdened and unhappy (unblessed) when we disobey Him.

For example, look at the life of the apostle Paul. As you read his history in the New Testament you never see him frivolous; in fact there is no indication of him laughing (though I suspect he did). And yet as you study the record of his life it is very obvious that this man who pursued Christ was blessed abundantly. His life was full and he died a very happy man. He lived without resentments because he was in love with his Saviour and responded to every situation as one who was receiving a lot more good than he believed that he deserved. There is no indication that he was bitter or unforgiving toward those who mistreated him. In fact, the opposite was true. He thus slept well as he could testify that he was content in all situations. For him, life was a win-win situation, for to him to live was Christ and to die was gain. Yes, Paul was a happy, blessed man indeed.

But how does one explain this? After all, the Scriptures also reveal that Paul had a very hard life. He was rejected by his own nation, he suffered physical persecution, he was often burdened with the cares of the failures of believers, and he spent a good amount of time incarcerated and thus hindered from fulfilling his plans. How could a man who experienced such difficulties be so happy? Simply because he pursued holiness. He pursued, by divine aid, a life of overcoming sin.

You see, sin causes heartache. One cannot be truly happy, enjoying the blessings of communion with God, when the guilt of sin is tearing at one’s heart. You cannot enjoy fellowship with God when your conscience is plagued by guilt. Sin separates us from God and thus sin must be dealt with in order for us to be happy in Christ.

We thank God that through justification we are freed from the condemnation of sin and its attendant guilt. Because of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ we who have been born again are justified completely. We are delivered from the wrath to come and we will never be under God’s condemnation. That should make us happy indeed! But there is even more.

Not only are we freed from the penalty of sin but we are also freed from the power of sin. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). This good news is the root of our pursuit of happiness. To be able to overcome sin, to overcome that which attempts to defeat us makes us blessed indeed. We are able to both pursue holiness and to experience holiness as well–in this life!

It is a truism that no believer will achieve sinless perfection; that is, none will experientially perfectly holy on this side of the grave. Nevertheless we are encouraged in Scripture to make progress, here and now, toward that which will be fully granted to us on that final day (see Romans 8:18-25). We who make up the New Testament church are commanded, in Old Testament language, to “be holy, for I am holy” (see 1 Peter 1:15, 16; Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7). As Peter quotes these words from Leviticus we are being reminded that when the Lord Jesus came to earth that He came, not to abolish the law but rather to fulfil the law. He came to create a new priesthood; one which would have the law written on their hearts and thus one that would be passionate to obey the Lord God (see Hebrews 8). Peter is reminding his readers in this new covenant era that we are to be pursuing holiness. We need this reminder and we need the help of one another in this personal and corporate pursuit.

It is this pursuit of holiness that drives us to corporately affirm our commitment. We are affirming that we will take seriously the biblical truth that we can overcome sin. The Scriptures are not ambiguous concerning this matter as they clearly teach that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). We who make up the membership of BBC are under joyful obligation to pursue our happiness in the pursuit of holiness as we pursue Christ.

Holiness is practical. There are duties that we must perform, activities and attitudes to avoid, and our covenant draws our attention to these.

First, we are to “live carefully in the world.” This means that we are to be aware. We are to be alert to the evil and to the evil one, who aims to keep us from living the Christ-saturated, Spirit-directed, Father-focused transformed life which is our birthright. We must be under no delusions concerning the dangers that we face as we seek to live for Christ.

Sadly sometimes, either by naivety or arrogance, we assume that we are stronger than we are only to find that in fact we were not able to handle the temptation. Thus we need the help of one another to remind us to be careful, to take heed that while we may be standing today, we may in fact fall tomorrow. Individually we must take responsibility for ourselves. We must be committed to living circumspectly, because we want to honour Christ, but also because we want to help our church to pursue holiness. Sin in the Body affects us all and thus we must be careful that we consider the happiness and thus holiness of the whole.

Therefore, let us affirm that we ourselves will be alert and that we will lovingly alert one another as well.

Second, we are “to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.” This phrase is lifted directly from Titus 2:11-14:

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

(Titus 2:11-14)

Paul is here exhorting Titus regarding his responsibility as an elder (and the pastor-teacher) to instruct the congregation of their privilege and their power to live a holy life. It is a wonderful chapter that clearly exhorts the entire church (older men and women, younger men and women) to pursue holiness. The key concept is that of “adorning the gospel” (v.9). Believers are to so live that the gospel looks good because it does produce the ultimate good because it is the greatest good and it produces true happiness!

Paul’s basis for this exhortation for the church to pursue holiness is the doctrine of the gospel (v.1). He makes it very clear that there is a lifestyle which accords to the gospel message. In other words, those who have been converted are indeed under special obligation now to lead a new and holy life. The gospel not only changes our final destination (from hell to heaven) but it also changes our temporal motivation (from sin to holiness). Hence we reject that which is irreverent and we resist that which is irrelevant.

In our pursuit of holiness we have a growing abhorrence of that which does not honour God. We want to deny it any place in our lives and thus we are careful to avoid actions, associations and attitudes which dishonour the character of God. We delight to live in such a way that others see that God matters; He has weight. And we need help in this. Let us encourage one another to so live that we are corporately rejecting and resisting that which does not give due reverence to Christ. We know that one day He will return and will receive all the glory and honour that is His due. But in the meantime we want others to know that we know how worthy He is.

In our pursuit of holiness we also have an accompanying aversion to the passing passions of this world. We see the fleeting fashions for what they are: mere folly. The “worldly lusts” of which Paul speaks are those fleshly desires that drive our world, such as the striving for prestige, power and position. The result is a whole lot of people who live a superficial existence whose value is measured by the colour of their credit card or by the model of their car or by where they are permitted to check in at the airport. But we believers understand that none of this ultimately matters. What matters is that we are laying up treasures above; what matters is that we are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; what matters is that we are being conformed more and more to the image of Christ and less and less to the ways of this world. That, my friend is a recipe for true happiness!

We must be committed to a practical pursuit of holiness and as we help one another in this then we can indeed have a beautiful and powerful impact on our community. The fact of the matter is that those who live their lives absorbed in and by “worldly lusts” are empty. And many of them know this. What they do not know is that there is an alternative. Thus when we live pursuing holiness, when we live reverently then we indeed will be a relevant witness to the world. Our “peculiar” lives will be attractive to those who have eyes to see. Let us remember that holiness is, always has been, and always will be, beautiful (Psalm 29:2).

Yes, let us affirm our commitment to pursuing holiness and be a people of whom our Lord will say, “They are zealous of good works.”

Finally, we are to pursue holiness “by Divine aid remembering that we have been voluntarily buried by baptism and raised again from the symbolic grave.”

As already mentioned, we who have been born again have been raised to newness of life. Paul tells us quite clearly in Romans 6 that we were identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. That is, He took away our sins and has given us new life. He has given us resurrection power. Thus our pursuit of holiness is not energised by our flesh or by our self-effort but rather our sanctification is fuelled by He who works within us (see Colossians 1:27; Philippians 2:12-13). It is for this reason that we affirm to fulfil this responsibility “by Divine aid.” We know that apart from Christ we can do nothing and thus we are committing ourselves to constantly looking to Him for encouragement and for the energy needed. Be happy, He freely gives it!

It should be observed that the covenant points to the fact that we have been “voluntarily” baptised. That is an important statement, which emphasises the fact that we have publicly declared that we have decided to follow Jesus. By our baptism we have given testimony that that we have been born again, justified by God in Christ and thus we are aware that we have a new allegiance and a new obligation: to live for Christ. In other words, in our acknowledgement of our need for Divine aid in our pursuit of holiness we are not minimising in any way our responsibility for this pursuit. As individuals we have made the confession of faith in and allegiance to Christ, and He expects for us to live out this commitment.

Dear people, let us individually agree that by God’s grace we will walk with one another in this newness of life helping one another to pursue holiness, thus experiencing the happiness that is our birthright. Let us affirm this commitment!

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