Several years ago Barna Researchers conducted a survey to find out what people knew about holiness. Surprisingly, they discovered that “though the Bible talks a lot about holiness, most adults are confused and even daunted by the concept.”
Only 1 in 4 of the Church goers they interviewed believed they were holy.
And when asked what holiness meant, the most common answer was “I don’t know!”
As we continue to pursue our theme this year, “Let’s Renew in ‘22″, a renewal of holiness ought to be of paramount importance. Especially as we observe the putridity, vulgarity, and depravity of this world.
However, as my friend Gary Henry observed holiness has developed “a bad reputation.” It “doesn’t conjure up a very positive image in the minds of most people.” Many see holiness as akin to self-righteous, smugness, or arrogance. In a pejorative way our secular society speaks of someone as being “holier-than-thou.”
What is holiness? Why do we need it? And how do we achieve it?
A preacher once asked a group of disadvantaged, inner-city kids in Bible class “What is holiness?” A poor little boy in tattered rags jumped up and exclaimed, “It is to be clean inside.” The little fella was right on target.
Holiness is about moral purity. Cleanness. Uprightness. The Greek word is often translated “sanctification,” which simply means “set apart.”
Consider these insights into the issue of holiness.
A 19th-century theologian, John Brown wrote, “Holiness does not consist in mystic speculations, enthusiastic fervors, or uncommanded austerities; it consists in thinking as God thinks, and willing as God wills.”
“Our progress in holiness depends on God and ourselves — on God’s grace and on our will to be holy,” suggested the humanitarian Teresa of Calcutta.
“How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing,” opined C. S. Lewis. ‘It is irresistible. If even 10 percent of the world’s population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year’s end?”
“Holiness has love for its essence, humility for its clothing, the good of others as its employment, and the honor of God as its end” wrote Nathanael Emmons, an influential theologian of the late 18th and early 19th century.
The Bible offers these practical applications regarding holiness in our lives.
- Holiness must begin with a pure heart (Matt 5:8). From such comes righteousness, faith, love, and peace (2 Tim. 2:22).
- Holiness issues itself in God-ordained worship that exalts His holy name (Ps 96:9; 30:4).
- Holiness produces the fruit of Spirit (Rom. 6:22; Gal. 5:22-23). Patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control all arise from a holy heart.
- Holiness abstains from passionate lusts, sexual impurity, and moral degradation. (1 Thess. 4:3,5)
- Holiness does not take advantage of or defraud his brother or sister in Christ (1 Thess. 4:6).
- Holiness walks in the way of honor, integrity, and mutual respect for others (1Thess 4:4).
- Holiness is focused on matters of the spirit, instead of the desires of the flesh (2 Thess 2:3).
We should want to be holy because God is holy. And He desires that we be like Him (1 Pet 1:16). Christianity is a life dedicated to holiness. The prophet Isaiah called it “the highway of holiness.” And further affirmed “that the unclean shall not pass over it” (Isa 35:8).
“The true Christian ideal is not to be happy but to be holy,” wrote A. W. Tozer. “The whole purpose of God in redemption is to make us holy and to restore us to the image of God. To accomplish this He disengages us from earthly ambitions and draws us away from the cheap and unworthy prizes that worldly men set their hearts upon.”
“The true Christian ideal,” Tozer repeats for emphasis, “is not to be happy but to be holy. Real faith invariably produces holiness of heart and righteousness of life. No man should desire to be happy who is not at the same time holy. He should spend his efforts in seeking to know and do the will of God, leaving to Christ the matter of how happy he shall be.” In other words, if you sow holiness, you will reap happiness.
Pascal was right when he wrote, The serene, silent beauty of a holy life is the most powerful influence in the world, next to the might of the Spirit of God.”
Let us renew our desire for, commitment to, and pursuit of holiness. Because “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman