The subject of holiness has occupied the minds of many a Christian scholar, theologian and pastor. Here are some selected quotes in order to prime the pump, so to speak, as we begin this study of holiness.
W. Tozer (1897-1963), pastor and writer, explains that, “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 should be. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. A Pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man (a holy man) is easy on others and hard on himself. Wise leaders should have known that the human heart cannot exist in a vacuum. If Christians are forbidden to enjoy the wine of the Spirit they will turn to the wine of the flesh….Christ died for our hearts and the Holy Spirit wants to come and satisfy them.
Respected pastor Andrew Murray (1794-1866) writes, “The greatest test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain is truth and life will be whether it produces an increasing humility in us. In man, humility is the one thing needed to allow God’s holiness to dwell in him and shine through him. The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is lack of humility. The holiest will be the humblest. Nowhere can we get to know the holiness of God, and come under His influence and power, except in the inner chamber. It has been well said: “No man can expect to make progress in holiness who is not often and long alone with God.” Just as a servant knows that he must first obey his master in all things, so the surrender to an implicit and unquestionable obedience must become the essential characteristic of our lives. Let it be your business every day, in the secrecy of the inner chamber, to meet the holy God. You will be repaid for the trouble it may cost you. The reward will be sure and rich. Do not strive in your own strength; cast yourself at the feet of the Lord Jesus, and wait upon Him in the sure confidence that He is with you, and works in you. Strive in prayer; let faith fill your heart-so will you be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.”
Theologian J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) explains that, “We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot see how any man deserves to be called “holy,” who willfully allows himself in sins, and is not humbled and ashamed because of them. I should as soon expect a farmer to prosper in business who contented himself with sowing his fields and never looking at them till harvest, as expect a believer to attain much holiness who was not diligent about his Bible reading, his prayers, and the use of his Sundays. I am convinced that the first step towards attaining a higher standard of holiness is to realize more fully the amazing sinfulness of sin.”
Dr. Keith A. Mathison, currently professor of systematic theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, FL offers an insightful critique regarding the church’s attitude towards holiness today. “In the early centuries of the church’s existence, Christian apologists would sometimes appeal to the distinctively holy lives of Christians as evidence for the truth of Christianity. Would such an appeal be of any use today? According to numerous surveys, the behavior of professing Christians is not discernibly different from the behavior of those who profess other religions or no religion at all. The phrase one often hears on the lips of pagans who observe contemporary Christian behavior is: “The church is full of hypocrites.” This should not be. We worship a holy God who calls His people to be holy and who has provided the means by which they may be holy.”
I find Dr. Mathison’s observation disturbing because I find it to be true. I wonder how often I have appeared to people in their minds as just another hypocritical Christian. Let each of us commit to be sincerely holy as the Lord Jesus Christ would have us be.
Soli deo Gloria!