THE BEAUTY OF HOLINESS
By Hubert Harriman
Thank you for the opportunity you’ve given me to be with you today. I come with a nervous delight. I know God has given me something to say, but each time I know I can’t do it.
I’m not nervous about the subject, but just the responsibility I have with this subject. There is no greater subject. It has to with the very nature and color of God and His people.
I’ve taken my title from a KJV phrase in I Chronicles 16:29 that says, “Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness”. This is quoted again in Psalm 29:2 and 96:9.
The word beauty is actually splendor. The NASB says, Worship the LORD in holy array”. I see it as “Worship the LORD in pure, brilliant color!” Somehow, we need to rediscover the beauty of holiness – the brilliant, splendorous, glorious, delightful color of God.
So help us God, we must move this subject from a some fuzzy, dull black and white screen to high definition!
The huge task that we have is to redeem a word and a way that has been so misrepresented and so misunderstood? We face a bias against it that often stems from—
HOLINESS OFF COURSE
In the realm of the spiritual, that which is good, right and pure always has its opposite, or worse, its counterfeit. Satan has played that game well, over the years, with anything that has worth or value.
Holiness, and especially holiness, has not escaped his notice. As with anything of such importance, he has not destroyed the idea; he’s just damaged it by getting some off course.
Isn’t it interesting that, even with marriage, immorality and homosexuality has not destroyed the idea. They’ve just damaged it by taking it off course.
Though we don’t have time to dwell on each point, here’s where holiness off course usually goes:
- It tends to hold to a standard that is quantitative rather than qualitative (time use, money—the Pharisess were good with both)
- It tends to be driven by the love of law rather than the law of love. (Sky Jethani, in his book entitled With, p11, as different than Life under God, over God, from God or for God, comments that “There is an eerie correlation between meanness and how absolutely certain a person is about their beliefs”.)
- It tends, as Tom Hovestol says in his book Extreme Righteousness (p.208), to “spiritual dermatology rather than spiritual cardiology”.
- It tends to make a show of the outward over the inward.
- It tends to concentrate on one’s whiteness rather than one’s wholeness.
- It tends to make holiness a matter of cause rather than a matter of character.
- It tends to fence the law tighter than the law.
- It tends to make traditions laws.
- It tends to be exacting and exclusive rather than kind and caring.
- It tends to make holiness a job rather than a joy.
Illustration: The other day, our grandson, Cambel, because his mother had a conflict with her time, asked if his grandmother could take his mother’s place as a chaperon for their kindergarten outing to the Indianapolis Zoo. After a full criminal investigation, Sarah entered into this kindergarten world. She had to watch two kids all day: Cambel and his friend Jasper.
Have you ever listened to kindergarten conversations? One had to do with “what are you going to do when you grow up?” It went like this: Our grandson, Cambel, says “Jasper, I’m going to have to work hard because I’m going to be a scientist. You can just play and have fun.” Jasper must not have had high aspirations. But Cambel had pitiful thinking.
That’s about the way our thinking goes when it comes to holiness: “Some of us are going to have to work real hard while everyone else has a great time.”
That’s holiness off course. Some, because they have witnessed a holiness off course, have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. We end up killing the very life we feel in us. This is spiritual abortion.
Sure, there’s a holiness off course, but that does not negate the issue of holiness. This begs our next point.
HOLINESS? OF COURSE!
Illustration: I participated in a CEO track at a CLA conference earlier this year (2012) in Orlando, Florida. Mark Miller, Vice President of Chic-fil-a, was one of the presenters. He spoke of their organizational values or culture, and quickly pointed out that there were some things they didn’t have on the list because they are “a given” in their organization, and didn’t need to be stated in a values list; things which were door issues, before they ever had a chance at getting into the building.
As someone put it (http://www.answerbag.com/) “When something is characterized by ‘that's a given’ or ‘it's a given’ you'll know that whatever the something is, it's so obvious that no one really needs to point it out. It's already accepted as fact.” Or, as someone else said, “A ‘given’ is…an element of a logical argument, in that it is a supposition that is accepted as true...
So, when we talk about holiness in the Christian life, I say, “Of course! That’s a given!
Dr. William Coker, who taught at Asbury College some years ago, after masterfully unpacking this great Bible theme in one of his class lectures on holiness, bringing in wave upon wave of scripture, simply, strongly and succinctly made the point that “You have to accept that the Christian message is that of holiness! You cannot throw it out!”
It’s a given!
- Holiness is Scriptural
Though human example is a powerful evidence of this great truth, finally it is not proved or disproved by human example. Truth is proved by the Word of God alone.
- We are commanded to be holy
I Peter 1:15-16, But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.” Dr. William Coker liked to point out that, “in the Greek language, the word holy is the same word in reference to God as it is in reference to man,” (Asbury College lectures)
- We are chosen to be holy
Ephesians 1:4, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”
- We are called to be holy
I Thessalonians 4:7: “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.”
- Holiness is Purposed
I Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”
- Holiness is Provided
Hebrews 13:12, “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” Ephesians 5:25-17, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and blameless.”
- Holiness is Prayed for
John 17:17, “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.” I Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
With Dr. Coker, we would say emphatically, “You have to accept that the Christian message is that of holiness! You cannot throw it out!” That’s a given.
Holiness is not only Scriptural—
- Holiness is Central
There is the call to holiness in scripture, not because this is God’s cause but because this is God’s character. This is who God is at the center, and He speaks, acts and moves out of who He is.
- This is the central point of God’s Identification (He is known as “The Holy One of Israel”) A.W. Tozer, in his book The Knowledge of the Holy (pp.112-113), says, “Holy is the way God is. To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is. Because He is holy, all His attributes are holy; that is, whatever we think of as belonging to God must be thought of as holy.”
- This is the central point of God’s Exaltation (Isaiah 6:1-3, “In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him…And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’”)
- This is the central point of God’s Adoration (I Chronicles 16:28-29, “Give to the LORD, O families of the peoples, give to the LORD glory and strength. Give to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!)
- This is the central point of God’s Expectation (I Peter 1:15-16, But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.”) Holiness is not a good idea. Holiness is the very essence of who God is, and all of His dealings with His creation are determined and demonstrated out of this essence.
Holiness is the center pole that holds the tent up. Take this down and the whole tent comes down. That’s a given.
Holiness is (1) Scriptural, (2) Central, and—
- Holiness is Essential
The topic of holiness hits a nerve with sinners, and it strikes a chord with Christians. Even in our fallenness, and especially because of our fallenness, we know something is wrong in us. It’s what George Barna, in his book Maximum Faith, p.xvi, refers to as “the deep down place where we know that something is missing, something is off.”
Just as much as God cannot be God without holiness, because that’s simply who He is, so we are not wholly (complete) human without holiness. It stands to reason that God would not create something contrary to Himself in moral vitality, values and vision.
Therefore, holiness is not an option in the Christian life. The writer to the Hebrews makes this point when he says, in Hebrews 12:14,“Pursue (“pursue” means ‘now that you’re on this way, stay on it’) peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” This is not just futuristic talk. My relationship to the Lord and others depends on this way in me now.
That’s I John all over. People struggle with this little letter.
Illustration: Group that wanted to study I John didn’t finish because it contradicted what they had been taught.
If I’m going to talk about the presence of the Lord in my life, the evidence is in my relationship to those around me. There is no wholeness without holiness. And that’s a given!
Holiness is (1) Biblical, (2) Central, (3) Essential, and—
- Holiness is Honorable!
The concept of holiness, as the children of Israel would begin to grasp it, was honed in the Middle Eastern culture of honor and shame, which looks at things differently than our culture of guilt and innocence. They understood it in ways we sometimes struggle to grasp.
I say it carefully but truthfully; God is more Middle East in His thinking than western. For instance, God is very Middle East in the way He views time—it’s the event that matters. Not time. It’s the relationship that matters. Not time. The same is true with honor and shame.
In this Bible culture, dating back to Adam and Abraham and the Children of Israel—
- Holiness carried the weight of honoring a name.
Leviticus 22:2, “Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, which they hallow unto me, and that they profane not my holy name: I am Jehovah.”
Psalm 103:1, “Bless Jehovah, O my soul; And all that is within me, [bless]his holy name.”
Psalm 111:9 “Holy and reverend is His name.”
Isaiah 29:23, “they will sanctify my name; yes, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob...”
Ezekiel 20:39, “but my holy name will you no more profane with your gifts, and with your idols.”
Luke 1:49, He that is mighty has done to me great things; And holy is His name.” And then—
Matthew 6:9, “Pray, then, in this way; ‘Our Father in heaven, hollowed be Your name…
This carries the same idea as “honor your father and your mother”. The Apostle Paul takes hold of this, in Ephesians 6:1-2, and says, “Children, obey your parents in the LORD for this is right. Honor your Father and Mother (which is the first commandment with a promise”, that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.”
Illustration: “Mal Criado” (Lit. “Raised wrong”) This dishonored the parents.
The word “hallowed”, in the phrase “hollowed be your name” is used in the active sense. This isn’t just words of honor. These are actions that bring honor, glory and credit to the Father.
John 5: 22-23 says, [The Father] has given all judgment to the Son, in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
Paul, in this same vein says, (Ephesians 2:10), “For we are His workmanship (poem), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they might see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
God, as with Job, likes to “show us off”. And God, in turn, honors those who honor Him! Job’s response was one of honor (Job 13:15); “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him (in His face). That is really Middle East! This wasn’t rebellion. This was prayer! In all this, Job did not sin against God! He honored the name! And God honored him! “God honors those who honor Him!”
-God was Sovereign
-God was Supreme
-God was Solo Dios
Barna (Maximum Faith, p. xiii-xiv) states that “literally tens of millions of American Christians have denied God His rightful place on the throne of our lives and withheld control of our lives so that we, not He, can reign supreme, all under the cover of being ‘good and responsible Christians… you and I have convinced ourselves that our inability to…give God total control of all aspects of our lives is a natural and common failing, a weakness that is both predictable and expected… despite all the self-recommending activities we list or the theological truths we know and intellectually believe, make no mistake about it: the evidence clearly identifies us as brothers and sisters in arms, quietly rising up in steadfast opposition to the God who loves us more than we presently understand.”
Holiness! Of Course! It’s a given!
- Holiness carried the weight of honoring a community.
This is a tough one in our culture, where independence is so highly valued. But community played a vital part in Bible culture. To sin against God was to sin against the community, and you have people like Achan paying a heavy price for this kind of action.
Community holiness was also a vital part of New Testament thinking. No one was to be independent of the church/community and you were to honor the community with holiness. This is especially seen in Paul’s writing to the church at Corinth.
A truth we usually personalize, but which is actually written, not to one particular person, but, as Kenneth Schank points out in his commentary on I Corinthians, to the church as a body, is I Corinthians 3:16, where Paul asks, “Do you not know that you (plural) are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you (plural) are.”
The same is confirmed in I Corinthians 6:18-20: “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside of the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
Paul was conveying the concept of the church as the body with members each, and that the body was God’s holy sanctuary, and that the community had the high responsibility of protecting the body by either cutting off the impure member or disciplining the impure member, but it was basically to call them out before you call them in.
Paul’s view was “what right do individuals have to independently do their own thing? He would say “Think body man! Think body! Honor the body!” He believed in a corporate holiness, as a testimony to the world of Christian unity, Christian love and Christian purity, and that the church was the protector of its body by judging its members (5-6), reigning in its members (8-10, calling for order among its members (11-14) and reminding its members (15-16).
We desperately need to redeem the meaning of the name Christian. And it begins with the church.
It’s interesting to note, not only the “we” of church relationship, but also the “we” of divine relationship (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), as well as the “we” of marriage relationship, and, in the Biblical sense, in each of these, all are one. If this, in any of these relationships, becomes “me”, we have a problem. Thus Keith Dury’s “must read” book, There is No I in Church.
Illustration: John Wesley was one who strongly believed in the protection of members through the body. He “perfected” accountability groups. Gordon McDonald notes that, different than George Whitfield’s death, where his movement died with him, John Wesley’s influence continued to grow up to 100 years after his death. McDonald credits this to the small accountability groups, noting that growth ceased when they ceased.
Has the church lost holiness because its members forgot the honor system? We are hurting big time because of Christian mavericks. We desperately need a revival of holiness because holiness honors both God and community.
Illustration: “Don’t you embarrass (shame) the family name now!”
Whatever happened to shame? Today, some would say, “You can’t put that heavy a responsibility on a child!” Well, God does on His children.
Honor and shame says I’m connected. This is different than personal guilt. Guilt thinks of “me”. Shame thinks of community.
Holiness is (1) Scriptural, (2) Central, (3) Essential, (4) Honorable and—
- Holiness is Ancestral
The story of the Prodigal Son is a classic Jewish story with a twist. The twist is in the concept of grace that would give a prodigal son the full blessings of sonship again. Jesus makes his point in the response of the father to the older son who accused the father by saying,“Look! For many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends… (Luke 15:29).
Therein lays the tragedy of the church: what I don’t have. The father says, “Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours,” (Luke 15:31).
“ALL THAT IS MINE IS YOURS!” Why do we live so far below what is ours, when the Father has blessed us with all that is His. The Apostle Paul said we are heirs with Christ! “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son…that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father! Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God,” (Galatians 4:4-7). All that is His is yours!
The One who “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him,” (Eph 1:4), is not making us a slave. He’s redeeming our rights of ancestry by making us a son, clothing us with His glory and blessing us with His name with all of the rights and privileges. So what was lost in Adam is regained in Christ. This is our inheritance. This is what was always meant to be. All that is mine is yours!
# Isaiah: “I was born for this!”
HOLINESS, ON COURSE
Holiness language has become quite popular in the church world today. The devastating moral and ethical failure of many Christian leaders in the last several years has pushed this subject to the forefront of concerns in the church and Christian organizations.
You can hardly attend a leadership conference today without this being on the menu. We hear the term promoted, not only in conference themes, but books, articles, core value statements, and preaching.
That we need holiness, nobody will deny. We’re all uncomfortable by the reality of sin among the “saints”. Most sensible Christians know it ought not to be this way—so we try to counter it with a good dose of lectures and literature on how to be more holy in our Christian walk. This is commendable because it speaks to the bad taste un-holiness is leaving in our mouths/hearts.
Is it working? To a degree it might be, as a matter of awareness—keeping a reminder in front to watch ourselves. But is it working as a matter of character? I dare say no, because if holy living is a matter of reminder alone it enters into effort rather than character, and character is a matter of the heart.
N.T. Wright, in his book After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, refers to this as “the clear through” aspect of character. “The pattern of thinking and acting which runs right through someone” – As he illustrates—like the name that goes right through a stick of Breighton Rock.
It kind of reminds you of the Apostle Paul’s words to the church at Thessalonica (I Thess.5:23) when he prayed, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely (through and through)…”
Yes, it’s a matter of the heart! And therein lays the heart of the matter. Jesus made this point very clear when he said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”(Mt. 12:34), and “those things which proceed out of the mouth, come from the heart...for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Mt. 15:18,19).
This wasn’t revolutionary thinking. It was scriptural thinking, and both Old and New Testament writers underscored it as right thinking.
Therefore scripturally and logically, if holiness isn’t a matter of the heart the results will eventually be unholy actions and attitudes. The very things we decry in our ranks. And yet it’s disheartening to listen to the theologians, and want-a-be theologians, of the day, decry bad living, even making a case for the need for holy living, while in the same breath speak of “sinning saints” as something inevitable.
Remember what Barna said? “…you and I have convinced ourselves that our inability to…give God total control of all aspects of our lives is a natural and common failing, a weakness that is both predictable and expected…”
Illustration: Goliath—To Saul, Goliath was impossible, inevitable, predictable, acceptable
One of the greatest problems we face in the church today is the disconnection, or what Dallas Willard, in his book The Divine Conspiracy, calls “disjunction” between faith and life.
Willard, troubled over this “disjunction” asks the question: “Are we to suppose that God gives us nothing that really influences character and spirituality? (p.39). Can we seriously believe that God would establish a plan for us that essentially bypasses the awesome needs of present human life and leaves human character untouched?” (p.38)
Willard quotes a leading American pastor who laments, “Why is today’s church so weak? Why are Christians indistinguishable from the world?” Willard’s response is astounding to today’s Christian culture. He writes, “Should we not at least consider the possibility that this poor result is not in spite of what we teach and how we teach, but precisely because of it? …Once we understand the disconnection between the current message and ordinary life, the failures…at least make a certain sense. They should be expected… The current gospel…becomes ‘a gospel of sin management’ (forgiveness is all that matters). Transformation of life and character is no part of the redemptive message”, (pp.40, 41).
Illustration: A Peanuts (Charles Schultz) cartoon shows Pig Pen and Schroeder playing together with their toy trucks in the dirt. Pig Pen says, “I think it’s time to go home and take a shower.” Schroeder responds, “Going to get all cleaned up, eh, Pig-Pen? “Well,” says Pig-Pen, “I’ve learned never to expect too much from a shower. I have to be satisfied if it just settles the dust.”
Illustration: Mom and the power of spit. “Couldn’t you just dust me?”
This is where we find ourselves today! And this low level of theology has produced low expectations.
Well, God raises the level! And it’s amazing what happens to people when someone believes in him or her. And God does!
Illustration: The Crossing—an accredited alternative school for dropouts (A or B to pass a subject. 94% graduation rate) The power of higher expectations.
Isaiah (35:8) records these prophetic words from the LORD, concerning His people: “And a highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called ‘the highway of holiness.’ The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it.”
Let’s talk about that highway of holiness, or this “course”, as I have referred to it.
- This Way of Holiness is Possible
The tragedy of the day is that we have made sin bigger than God in our thinking. We have made sin both omnipotent and omnipresent, thinking it the great impossible in our lives. And, sadly, many have accepted that kind of life.
Illustration: I find people, much like an experiment I read of “glass between a fish and food in a fish tank.” When it couldn’t get to the food it quit trying.
President Obama got into office on the theme of “Yes we can”. I think we need to turn that and put God back into office on the truth of not “Yes we can” but “Yes He can!”
Paul put this directly in relation to the power of the resurrection when he asks (Romans 6:1) “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? 2-May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 4-we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5-For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. 6-knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin… 11-Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
YES! HE CAN!
This had to be what John the Baptist felt when he saw Jesus coming to him that incredible day by the Jordan River. John, seeing him, exclaimed what ought to be our mantra (John 1:29): “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
YES! HE CAN! As John the Baptist made the point: “he is well able to positionally and provisionally.
There is a progression of questions we need to ask in relation to sin and God’s power to deliver:
- Can God deliver from one sin? YES HE CAN!
- Can God deliver from any sin? YES HE CAN!
- Can God deliver from all sin? YES HE CAN!
We need to raise this hope in people’s hearts again!
Not only is the way of holiness possible—
- The Way of Holiness is Creational
When God created man, He looked at this creation and said, “You look like me—you’re looking very good!”
Then came the Fall, and man didn’t look too good. There was the loss of God—we no longer looked like Him. There was enmity with God—we no longer thought like Him. . There was the opposite of God (life)—we no longer breathed Him. In fact, man was dead because he was “dead in trespasses and sins”. He looked deformed because of sin. And the fact is, sin is ugly. From the nursery to the nursing home, sin is ugly.
So here’s the question? Will I always have to look this way? What does God do about this deforming and defacing of His creation?
Here’s where the Apostle Paul gets real interesting. He says God, in Christ, makes us a new creation (II Cor. 5:17).
And so you have words—and words mean something—words of restoration (Used several times in healing—“Do you want to be made well?—restored, whole, or like the other”), words like—
Repentance = a change of mind. A change of the will and purpose. A change of the way we think about God and sin. This is a work of God in us—as Luke records in Acts 11:18, “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” The Apostle Paul said “it’s the goodness of God that leads you to repentance,” (Rom. 2:4).
Redemption = payment for deliverance from loss or hold. It means to purchase to give back again. Writing to Titus (2:14), Paul says “Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” II Cor. 5:15 states, “and he died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
Remission = forgiveness for sins and freedom from sin (deliverance, liberty). Mt. 26:28, “blood is shed for many for the remission of sins”; Mk. 1:4, “repentance for the remission of sins”; Lu. 24:47, “remission of sins should be preached”.
Reconciliation = removing a previous enmity and reinstating friendship. Paul says, in Col. 1:22-23, “He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard.”
Regeneration = to give life again. Strong calls this spiritual renovation and Messianic restoration. Paul says, in Titus 3:5 “He saved us…by the washing of regeneration,”
Renewing = to make new. We come back to what Paul wrote in II Cor. 5:17: “if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
We need to understand something about the Fall. Sin was not the result of the Fall. It came before the Fall. Sin was not a consequence. It was the cause. God must remove the cause of the Fall before He can remove all the consequences of the sin.
This is where renewing comes in. We have to be made new again—what we were before the Fall—“a new creature; old things passed away” (aorist tense). Then come some other renewing—“new things have come” (present tense).
He must renew before He can renew!
Illustration: My knee infection (infection removed before I could have therapy to walk again.
Paul, to Titus (3:5), again: “He saved us…by the washing of regeneration and renewing (A noun. Literally, “renewal”) by the Holy Spirit…”
Dr. Dennis Kinlaw makes the point that the Holy Spirit is called “Holy” Spirit because of His work in the inner being of man. It’s certainly not because it distinguishes Him from the Father and Jesus, for they too are holy. It’s just not attached to their names.
So how are you looking? Can anyone argue that God’s intention and work is to restore our hearts as it was in the beginning, here and now? This is the fire of the holiness message!
The way of holiness is possible, creational, but also—
- This Way of Holiness is Relational
The greatest disservice we could ever do to the truth of holiness is, like a marriage certificate, to put it in a box of some experience that knows nothing of the beauty, delight and color of relationship.
The word “delight” is the most descriptive and active word in God’s relationship with man. If holiness is the very nature of God, His greatest gift or delight is to impart His nature in us.
Peter wrote (II Peter 1:2-4, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature…”
Holiness, all too often, has become something austere, stern, serious and cold in our thinking when, in fact it is the very color of God splashing out on His people with splendor and affect. As in a marriage full of life, He delights in us and our response is sheer delight! Jesus begins to describe the depth of this relationship in John 14-17.
In His prayer, in John 17, it boils down to one thing (v.21) – “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that You did send Me.”
John 14-17 is a beautiful mingling of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to where it almost becomes difficult to make the distinction – “you know Him…He abides with you…and will be in you…I am in My Father…and you in Me, and I in you…When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me...when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak of His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak…He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine and shall disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine...as you, Father, are in Me, and I in You…We are one…I in them, and You in Me”
They were all about the other, and what you begin to see is that we can’t really know the Trinity without the other Person of the Trinity. It’s the Father from whom the Holy Spirit proceeds. It’s Jesus who sends Him. We can’t know the Father without Jesus, and we can’t know Jesus without the Father. And then this sobering truth: we can’t know the Father without the Holy Spirit (cries “Abba, Father!”), and we can’t really know Jesus without the Holy Spirit. Paul, in I Corinthians 12:3, confirms this truth: “and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”
And the point made is that we can’t really be a witness without the Holy Spirit – “He will bear witness of Me – you bear witness also,” (Jn. 15:26 & 27). “But you shall receive power (lit., the ability to do—It’s the “YES HE CAN!”) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses,” (Acts 1:8).
This is why the early church was so intent and insistent on knowing the Person and presence of the Holy Spirit. Now this becomes much more than sound doctrine, the faith of the church, or our theological position. This becomes a moral urgency – the world cannot know the Father nor the Son without His Spirit – the Holy Spirit in His children.
Illustration: Sammy Morris and Steven Merrit. O for a portion of His spirit!
He wasn’t some outside power they employed to get a job done. He was the very breath of God in them. He was the very color of God all over them (Stephen: “His face like an angel). He was the very life of God through them.
He was the inspiration of the church.
He was the insistence of the church.
He was the influence of the church.
Which brings us to the next point:
The way of holiness is possible, creational, relational and—
- This Way of Holiness is Fruitful
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” (Gal. 5:22-23).
This isn’t something that God does in us that we have no control over, as if it just gushes out of us and we can’t help it.
I’ve learned something about God’ dealings with us, and that is that He never does anything in us we can’t help. It’s humanism that wants to believe we are such that we can’t help it. But God’s grace is too rich to be brought to the level of animal instinct.
With the first fruit, to the last fruit, you have the involvement of the will in submissive cooperation with His will.
Illustration: I’ve never danced, and always wished I could. But I enjoy watching good dancing—especially ball room dancing. It’s a picture of submission, colaboration and cooperation. This is what the Holy Spirit wants of us, and He’s the lead dancer.
I also like seeing the fruit of the Spirit like a sandwich, with love and self-control as the two breads that hold the meat and other ingredients in place. The interesting thing about love and self-control is that they are both a matter of choice, resulting in voluntary actions. I can help it! But I can’t do it without the Spirit in me.
One thing I’ve noted about fruit—the sweetness, or bitterness, comes out under pressure, and what’s in it is what comes out. The pressure doesn’t change the taste. It simply releases it.
Illustration: Slinging oranges
I pray for our missionaries, that they might know the fullness of the Holy Spirit, the fire of the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We can put on the first two, but the third gives us away. May God give us hearts that bring forth fruit unto holiness!
The way of holiness is possible, creational, relational, fruitful and—
- This Way of Holiness is Useful
Paul, writing to Timothy from prison, asks Timothy, in his coming to see Paul (II Timothy 4:11), to “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful (easily used) to me for service.” One of the greatest evidences of a holy heart is usefulness with the needs around us.
Peter, makes the point (II Peter 1:5-8) that we should, in our faith, “supply moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love” and then states, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul said (Philippians 2:3-6), “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not [‘merely’—not in original] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who…emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant…”
Peter, again, wrote, in I Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
Holiness has to do with OTHERS! It has to do, not only with loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, but also with loving our neighbor as ourselves.
This, like the story of the good Samaritan, takes the time, makes the effort, bears the load and pays the price.
There are two words in Scripture that ride through God’s Word like two rails that make a track, as inseparable and dependent on one another as Siamese twins. Those words are holiness and righteousness.
Zacharias noted these “two rails” when prophesying about Jesus in Luke 1:74, 75, giving hope of “being rescued from the hand of our enemies, and being enabled to serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.”
True to the original meaning, the word righteous, in Spanish Bibles, is translated justicia, which means justice—having to do with doing what is right or just toward others.
Holiness and righteousness are not synonyms but they are similar, in that they both describe the kind of God we worship and serve.
We simply cannot speak of the holiness of God without speaking of the righteousness of God. Metaphorically we might speak of holiness as the heart of God and righteousness as the hand of God.
Though righteousness flows out of His holiness, it also flows alongside of His holiness. It can’t help but do this because it is His very nature. And both the holiness of God and the righteousness of God must be the very nature of the believer, clearly evident in our lives as believers.
Dr. Robert Morris, describing this moral attribute of God, states that “Righteousness, though closely related to and dependent upon holiness, when applied to the nature of God indicates that essential element in God’s nature found in the standard of right, and that His will and all His activities are in perfect accord with that standard. Righteousness in God is the expression of His holiness by which His treatment of all His creatures conforms to His purity,” ("The Attributes of God— Who He Is").
Without negating the vital need for holiness, we must stress as vigorously that righteousness is as vital to the Christian life as holiness, simply because they are inseparable.
Jesus said (Matthew 5:8) “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God,” but earlier (v6) He stated, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Jesus backs this statement with a list (Mt. 5-7) of what are true acts of righteousness/justice, emphatically declaring, in Matthew 5:20, “that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” To emphasize one over the other, or perhaps against the other, is not only counterproductive—it is spiritual death.
In the believer’s life, holiness without righteousness becomes hard, cold, exacting, legalistic and critical. Its tendency is to become self-focused, taking on unnecessary excesses and expressions to prove its holiness.
On the other hand, righteousness without holiness is as filthy rags. Its tendency is to become self-important, doing good works to prove its righteousness. It leads to social action without salvation. In the believer, holiness alone can cause one to become obsessed with his own whiteness.
Righteousness alone can cause one to become obsessed with his own virtue. But together…it is a thing of beauty! One infects and affects the other, making both take on the very heart and hands of Jesus.
This is what causes the world to take notice. This is what Jesus was referring to (Matthew 5:16) when He said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” This is what it means “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength…and to love your neighbor as yourself.”
If we are not only to survive but thrive as followers of Jesus Christ, we must seek to ride both these rails of holiness and righteousness well. Not to do so is to get off track and derail.
John Wesley was one who rode these two rails of holiness and righteousness well and called other believers to do the same. All along in his ministry, and even as he looked back on the Methodist movement at the end of his life, Wesley’s great concern was the tendency among “Methodist” to have zeal without knowledge.
In keeping with our metaphor, if you will, he feared that if they continued to ride this one rail without the other, they would derail. The antidote to this, as far as Wesley was concerned, was to actively pursue and fully practice what he called “the means of grace”, or as he defined them, “works of mercy and works of piety.”
Works of mercy included things like hospitality, visitation, healing, liberty, peacemaking, doing good, and sustenance. Works of piety included things like giving, sacrificing, praying, and serving.
But Wesley clearly understood and preached that this came out of a heart fully given and centered in love of God and neighbor “which,” he states, “fills the whole heart, and reigns without a rival,” (Sermon 92, “On Zeal”).
The point that Wesley makes is that each (holiness and righteousness) needs, feeds, sustains and enhances the other. To lack or be slack in either one was to kill the other. To grow and mature in either one was to quicken the other.
In the same “Wesleyan” spirit, the members of Christ’s family should delight in the optimism and aggressiveness of God’s grace that can bring wholeness to the individual heart and life but they should also throw themselves into the blessing and kindness of God’s justice that can bring wholeness to our neighbor, community and society. This is who we are. We are two rail Christians.
The way of holiness is possible, creational, relational, fruitful, useful and—
- The Way of Holiness is Grace-Full
Holiness is grace full in failure—and most of our churches desperately need a theology of failure. Look at I John 2:1 in relation to I John 1:7
I John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
I John 2:1, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
Illustration: Falling on ice. I didn’t start all over again. I Got up and moved faster.
The way of holiness is possible, creational, relational, fruitful, useful, graceful and—
- The Way of Holiness is Normal
Holiness, in the human sense, is wholeness at the center, working itself out into our daily life.
- It doesn’t alter our personality, but it does affect our personality.
I’m free to be me: I don’t have to care about every-thing (I don’t have to impress anyone) but I care about everyone.
I’m free to become more and more like Him: Holiness creates needed change, and holiness creates actual change. If my personality stinks, He can change it. Let Him!
I’m free to learn: Barna, advocating for the sense of children’s ministries, because formation takes place up to age 12, said “Adults are nothing but maintenance work”. Jesus said, “Except you become as a little child you will in no wise enter the Kingdom of heaven.” Don’t ever grow up. Holiness keeps us childlike—we become easy learners. Keep learning!
- It doesn’t carry us into extremism, but it does cause us to do exploits.
Steve DeNeff said, “Some Christians over-convert”. I say, “Amen!” Holiness does not make us over-performers. It actually makes us under-performers. The key word is “rest”. We aren’t world changers. Rest! You can quit trying to leave your mark.
Our significance is in God; not in what we think we have to do to be significant. We’re not called to be fanatics. We’re called to be faithful!
Holiness doesn’t leave us all out of breath trying to keep up with God, but it is the breath of God in us helping us to do what we cannot do on our own—and, yes, it will do exploits. It will be expressive. It will get extravagant.
It has to do with love, not law! But mostly it just enjoys life, as Sky Jethani say, “with God”; not over God, not under God, not from God, and not for God. Just WITH! I like that relationship with my wife too!
- It doesn’t put on a spiritual face, but it puts on the armor of God.
And here, Paul says, “so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil…Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm,” (Ephesians 6:11, 13).
- The Way of Holiness is Volitional
No one will ever know the holiness of God unless they want it and then, only if they will it with all their heart. A major percentage of holiness is hunger.
Jesus asked the man at the pool, “Will you be made whole?” Believe it or not, some people like to be sick.
Illustration: Blind beggar who didn’t want to see if he had to work.
Barna says, “American Christians verbally dismiss the possibility that they are trading in cheap grace—taking the free gift of salvation without simultaneously committing to allowing the Holy Spirit to rule their life. That”, he says, “is spiritual mutiny: hijacking the treasure and jettisoning the Captain. Yet the research consistently reveals that we have sustained that mutiny for well over a quarter century.” (Maximum Faith: Live Like Jesus, p.185)
- The Way of Holiness is Beautiful
The Psalmist (93:5) said, “Holiness adorns your house forever.” The Apostle Paul would frame this with this verse from Ephesians 1:12: “To the end…that we should be to the praise of His glory.”May God grace us with His holiness that our lives might be a living testimony of God’s presence and beauty and that all who come in contact with us might taste and see that He is good.