“Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” ~2 Timothy 2:19
A.W. Tozer was one of the greatest saints of God and a powerful preacher of the gospel. In 1973, while stationed at Ft. Polk, LA, I visited a bookstore outside the army base, and came across the writings of this wonderful Christian. It was then that I read the book, The Root of Righteousness, and knew that here was a man with a message.
No one will deny that the state of the Church in the twenty first century is in disarray, especially in America, and in the conservative circles in which most of us move.
Neither in many of the Christian churches, nor in many of the Christian schools is there the imparting of gospel principles with overwhelming life transforming results and we are forced to ask why?
What is wrong? Why do our children, the product of Christian homes, and Christian schools, why do they not keep the faith? Why do adults leave the Church?
Sin is closing in on the Church. Sin is making a frontal assault on the people of God. Satan desires to sift your children and mine as he desired Peter of old. But where is the power to withstand the day of the Evil One?
There is a story associated with Thomas Aquinas. The legend goes that Thomas came upon the Pope one day counting his coins. “Look Thomas,” said the Pope, “never again can the Church say silver and gold have I none.” “True,” replied Thomas. “But neither can the Church say, ‘Rise up and walk.’”
If the Church of Jesus Christ is ever to have power again, if the Christian school movement is to enjoy more success in instilling godliness into the graduates, then I submit to you, God’s people must learn to value a holy life as the beauty of Christianity.
There are unfortunately congregations, and even denominations, and religious schools, which talk about holiness in great detail. But upon examination the concern of the people is more with the fruits of holiness rather than the root of righteousness.
Since there is no deep root, the fruit is superficial, and no different than the Pharisees of old. Emphasis is placed upon a dress code, a certain style or cut of hair, and whether or not certain movies are watched, and certain music is listened to. The general, spiritual buzzword is “holiness” in some circles, and “standards” in others.
Here, I want to be careful. I do not belittle attempts to control behavior, or to have outward conformity to desired standards. But neither do we want to let the popular conception stand unchallenged that meeting the approval of some by outward appearances is holiness. It is not. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.
Perhaps one way to enter into an understanding and appreciation for holiness as a virtue is to discover holiness in God. But this too is not easy for us. Arthur Katz has pointed out, “Our mouths are too glib, our amens and hallelujahs are too easy, and we walk because we have not the sense of His pervading holiness.”
Perhaps as none other, Stephen Chamock has written on the holiness of God. I want to share in summary just a few of the points he makes on holiness. Then I challenge you to get his work and study the rest.
First, the holiness of God is that attribute of God that is an excellency above His other perfections.
The angels sound none of the other attributes of God out as this one, for the angels cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isa. 63, Rev. 4:8).
God swears by this attribute in order to affirm what He says. “Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David” (Psa. 89:35). “The Lord will swear by His holiness” (Amos 4:2).
Holiness is the beauty and glory of God. 2 Chronicles 20:21 teaches men to “praise the beauty of holiness.”
Holiness is the very life of God. “Once we were alienated from the life of God. Now we share that life” (Eph. 4:18).
Second, positive and negative statements better understand the holiness of God.
The holiness of God is a perfect and unpolluted freedom from all-evil.
Positively, the holiness of God is that integrity of the Divine nature where by there is conformity in the affection and action to the Divine will. For God to know what is right, and to do what is wrong, is impossible. He is always God, “blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5).
There is more. The holiness of God cannot be diminished, dimmed, or overshadowed (James 1:17). God is the “Father of lights, with whom is no variableness or shadow of turning.”
The holiness of God ever never approve of any evil done by another. Psa. 5:3 says, “He hath no pleasure in wickedness.” “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Heb. 1:13).
By manifesting His holiness, by displaying His power, people will come and worship before the Lord. We have seen this truth before.
On January 16, 1991, when “Operation Desert Storm” began, and America fought Iraq, Church attendance increased. Religious services in the combat area were well attended. Under pain and under pressure people really do see the beauty of holiness, and for the moment really want to change. A sick bed conversion, where promises in the hospital are made, or the news of an impending crisis, might compel some people to return to a worship service, and consider holiness.
But there is a better way then pressure and that is to see holiness as beautiful in and of itself. When we see holiness in God, we long to be holy. And for good reason. Without holiness no man shall see God. (Heb. 12:14). Let us begin to set forth a holiness of God to our young people not as a club but as truth.
Why is it that the professing people and young people in particular in Christendom do not pay closer attention to this matter of holiness?
Let me suggest three major reasons.
First, the concept of holiness has been perverted so that it is often presented as a hopeless act of rules and regulations to observe. To make matters worse, those who cry the loudest against some form of evil are often found to be violating their own standards.
Warren Wiersbe has commented on this problem by noting that, “The Church has grown accustomed to hearing people question the message of the gospel, because that message is foolishness to the lest. But today the situation is embarrassingly reversed, for now the message is suspect.”
The message is suspect in part because of the messenger. If we are going to have a moral right to speak, then there must be character as well as conviction. It is time for God’s people to reconsider the issue of holiness and do what Jonathan Edwards did when he wrote in his diary the following words.
“Resolved: That every man should live always and everywhere at his highest and best for God.”
Resolved: “Whether any man in the world strives to do so or not, I will—so help me God!”
A second reason why holiness is not pursued is because Jesus Christ is not loved as He is worthy of being honored and cherished. So many Sunday school lessons and sermons are geared to solving personal problems, and offering psychological therapy from the pulpit that the love of Christ, and His work on Calvary is obscured.
It is time for pastors and parents, teachers and Christian workers to find ways to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love. When our young people begin to see only the face of the Man who not only said He would, but did in fact die for them, there will be motivation for pursing holiness. We need to speak often of Jesus and His love.
A third reason why holiness is not pursued is because of a fundamental unwillingness to be crucified with Christ. Arthur Katz notes very pointedly this truth, “How we can buck against the perfect work that God wishes to do in our lives by restlessly striving to find glory without thorns, resurrection without crucifixion, joy without sorrow, life without death.” It is a valid question.
The testimony of the saints over time is that holiness is such a beautiful state of existence that it is worth paying the price to have.
Long ago John Hus said, “It is better to die well than to live badly.”
For those who would begin to protect the root of righteousness, let me suggest that the spiritual “weeds” which surround the root be pulled up and cast into the fire.
There is the weed of double mindedness. James reminds us that, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). Paul said, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).
There exists the belief in all of Christendom that we can somehow blend together things that are sacred and things that are profane and lump everything together under the banner of “the good.” No, the weed of being double minded must be rooted out so that we cry, “Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord, I want to be holy!”
There is the weed of self-centeredness. You can just mark it down as the truth and as a necessity: “Every fleshly quality of God’s people must be cut and laid bare at the altar of the Spirit: our pride, fear, ambition, selfishness, lust, all of it must be offered as a sacrifice wet with tears, and ready for the burning” (Arthur Katz).
Finally, there is the weed of ease that produces among other things, boredom. There is simply no cheap, easy, or coldly mechanical way to become holy.
There is a price to pay.
There is a battle to fight.
There is a pursuit for holiness.