Holiness: Does it matter?
Holiness: Does it matter?
To phrase the question this way evokes a predetermined answer. We may refer to holiness as "it," but must make a disclaimer. If holiness were a "thing," then the answer is, "No, holiness doesn't really matter."
Holiness could be a code of ethics we futilely strive to embrace, an incomplete formula we employ to help us make choices. Holiness could be an ethical lifestyle we produce through gradual reform, following instructions, or by imitating examples. Or holiness could be a fleeting emotional experience, which, like drugs, renders us "high" for the short term.
If we think of holiness in such ways, we invite frustration and failure to fill our spiritual journeys.
On the other hand, understanding holiness as a relationship with God in Jesus Christ leads us to affirm that holiness matters in every aspect of life.
Holiness matters because life consists of attitudes and relationships-toward God, people, and material things. Holiness corrects our attitudes and our relationships with others. Imagine the positive changes that would occur in our personal affairs, international relations, and attitudes toward all people if we pursued holy lives. Using Jesus' words, John Wesley observed that Christian holiness is "loving God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as our self"-including our enemies. "Holiness" describes God's essential nature. To be holy is to be like God. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the embodiment of holiness (Mark 1:24, Luke 4:34, John 6:69). We are to model the holiness demonstrated in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. In short, holiness is Christ-likeness.
Holiness matters because the holy God commands us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15). God intended for His holiness, which is a projection of His character, to be shared with His creatures. God issues this command. So being holy and living a holy life is not optional for Christ's followers. Holiness is the heart and core of the Christian life.
Holiness matters because Christ prayed that we might be holy (John 17:17, 20). Jesus not only prayed for our holiness, but went to the Cross to make it real in our lives (Hebrews 13:12). The doctrine of holiness is in harmony with the purpose of Christ's atonement. He came to restore humankind's original relationship with God. He came to "seek and save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10, KJV). He was manifested that He might "destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8, KJV), and purify the heart (John 17:17). By his life, death, and resurrection Christ has won for us the victory over sin (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Holiness matters because holiness of heart and life is necessary for the growth of the Church, and the evangelization of our world. The Church's health is measured "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty" (Zechariah 4:6). Christ's indwelling Spirit provides the love, motivation, passion, and power to grow the church. He enables the Church to invade the world for His glory (John 17:18, 21, 23). Holiness is the only answer to the world's needs-from the nightmare of war to the shattering collapse of social structures. We will not find solutions in legislation, military might, culture, or education. Our national, social, and international problems are spiritual in nature and require a spiritual solution.
Holiness matters because individuals and society need Christian holiness. Paul admonished "Follow peace with all men, and holiness. . ." (Hebrews 12:14, KJV). We long to be holy. Jesus Christ is our "moment by moment" salvation. The Apostle James wrote: "that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:4, KJV).
Holiness matters because holiness is necessary to get to heaven-to see God. "Blessed are the pure [the holy] in heart: for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8, KJV, see also Hebrews 12:14). "Herein is our love made perfect- "that is what Christian holiness is-that we may have boldness in the day of judgment" (1 John 4:17, KJV). General Superintendent Jim Bond beautifully stated: "Holiness is about love, relationships, and investing ourselves in others. It's the 'Jesus way,' the way God intends us to live. "Be imitators of God... and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us" (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Such a life is not possible in human strength. It becomes reality by the purifying, indwelling, enabling Spirit of Christ, as we totally submit our wills to His. "Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it [make you holy]" (1 Thessalonians 5:24, KJV).
John A. Knight is a general superintendent emeritus in the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, July/August 2004