Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Holiness is not an Option

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)
One of the struggles in which many churches encounter is that there is a lack of evangelistic zeal or earnest outreach. This is especially so for those of us who have been Christians a long time. In some ways, the very secular society and expectations of non-religious talk have caged us into silence. In other ways, people have dabbled in worldliness so much that they are more often than not, "Christian" by name only. What if, the problem lies not in the secularism around us, or the worldliness all over us? What if the problem is something more internal? A lack of holiness.

Dr J.I. Packer in his book Rediscovering Holiness, makes three observations about why holiness is missing in the modern Church or Christian lives nowadays.
  1. There is a lack of teaching and preaching on holiness. 
  2. We have not insisted upon holiness on our leaders. 
  3. We fail to address the need for personal holiness. 

After commenting about how many Christians of old place such heavy emphasis on holiness, Packer laments the modern state of worldliness. He writes:

 "The Puritans insisted that all life and relationships must become 'holiness unto the Lord." . . . . . But how different it is today! To listen to our sermons and to read the books we write for each other and then to watch the zany, worldly, quarrelsome way we behave as Christian people, you would never imagine that once the highway of holiness was clearly marked out for Bible believers. " (J.I.Packer, Rediscovering Holiness, Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2009, p12-3) 

I wonder what will happen if Christians, instead of worrying about sharing the gospel, start LIVING the gospel. Through honest living. Through purity of thought and word. Through holiness that starts from the inside out. Once holiness takes shape inside us, perhaps, others around us will sit up and take note. How do we do that? Packer recommends the following:

  1. Serve one another, especially the least attractive among us.
  2. What we do for others is a test of our love for God. 
  3. Think of holiness often, as we work and serve. 
  4. See negative circumstances as opportunities to learn.
  5. Even when we do not understand, continue to do good and to trust God. 

Holiness is not an option. It is a calling, a duty, and an expression of love to God. Let us not be Christians by name, but people of holiness in our words and in our works. Be holy in ALL we do. It is a biblical imperative, not an option. I echo Major Allistaire Smith's words about the call for Christians to be holy. There will then be a revival. Holiness may very well be the gospel's most powerful witness.


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