Holiness is often something Christians view as the Everest of the spiritual realm. It is formidable, the price is steep, and many turn back within its clefts and craggy cliffs. Why is this misnomer on holiness so prevalent? Corps members whom I’ve spoken with tell me that holiness is impossible or just too hard…I am shocked when I hear them tell me this. Commonly I will ask them why they think that holiness is impossible, and usually there will be those who respond by saying because to be holy you have to be perfect. But is that correct? Holiness is perfection? I would have to say a resounding ‘no’! We are still sinners saved by grace, and ultimate perfection or total sanctification will only take place when we finally come face to face with Christ in Eternity. But though we are still imperfect, the Holy Spirit is making us perfectly into the image of Christ if we allow Him to do so.
Holiness first and foremost is submitting to the will of God in every aspect of our lives. We say to the Lord, “Not my will but Yours, and you can have all there is of me.” Does this imply that we automatically become perfect? Absolutely not. We still struggle, we still ought to pray “Lord lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…” Because the fact of the matter is we will still face temptation in this life. Holiness isn’t about automatically living in perfection, but rather about walking in the footsteps of Jesus and allowing His Holy Spirit to transform you into the image of Christ in this life. We reject the old sinful self, as well embrace the new creation which is Christ in us.
Another aspect of holiness that I feel we often get wrong is this notion that it’s a corporate holiness. Meaning that holiness is first done as a body of Christ. I think we get this backwards. We have to first be transformed and sanctified individually before we are holy in corporate fellowship. General Shaw Clifton once put it this way in reference to Samuel Logan Brengle: “His (SLB) constant emphasis was upon personal holiness. Now we hear much today about institutional holiness but I cannot help thinking sometimes that this misses the point. There can be no institutional holiness without your personal holiness and mine. Only then can institutional holiness flow through an organization.” (Select Writings, Clifton. pg.181)
So what does this holiness for one look like?
Like Daniel of old, do we have a prayer closet? A place where we daily kneel before our Lord and pray and fellowship with Him? These moments of solitary fellowship are vital to our personal holiness. Do we allow Him the first fruits of our time, our talent and our treasure? Is He included in everything that we do or do we often leave Him at home with our devotions or bible by the night stand? I believe Brother Lawrence had it right as well, and let me take his ideology one step further. We practice the presence of God in every moment of every day…is it possible? Yes. Difficult? Of course! But transforming holiness in our personal lives ought to be moment by moment within our day and not just during our devotions in the morning or evening. Our fellowship with God on a moment by moment basis draws us closer to Him and to His very will for our lives.
These are sacred things should not to be trifled with or taken lightly. If we, as His people, are truly serious about living holy lives and embracing this theology of holiness then, as difficult as it is, we ought to practice living within His presence on a moment by moment basis. This is a holiness for one! We invite Him into our thoughts, every corner of them. The Holy Spirit will bring conviction when areas yet to be surrendered are brought into His light. He will also provide affirmation to us when we are growing and on the right path.
When this intimate setting for one is preserved in us and our lives are His, then and only then will can we begin to look at the corporate body of Christ through the lens of holiness.