Preaching Holiness: Summary
The concept of holiness is frequently used when discussing the notion of Christian values and the importance of spiritual progress, yet the very notion of holiness remains the source of multiple confusion for a range of Christian people. By conflating the concept of holiness with the state of being holy and sinless in one’s nature, Christin people consider pursuing holiness a pointless and even impossible task, which is quite far from the truth (Leclerc, 2010). Therefore, changing people’s minds in order to shape the discourse is highly required.
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Applying different perspectives on holiness to the analysis, as well as considering some of the Biblical mentionings of the concept of holiness, one will realize that the subject matter embraces a vast number of ideas apart from the notion of being devoid of sin. In fact, the latter does not necessarily factor into the phenomenon of holiness in a range of theological perspectives (Leclerc, 2010). Therefore, interpreting the subject matter as the goal of spiritual development that will allow one to establish a better personal relationship with God should be seen as a priority for the Christian community.
Furthermore, the problem of disobedience in the contemporary Christian community as a major obstacle to promoting holiness and the developing of strategies for attaining sanctification needs to be mentioned. The challenge of transforming the current perspective on the holistic approach of questioning ideas and principles of Christianity and especially the principles established in the Bible needs to be outlined as one of the foundational concerns (Leclerc, 2010).
Finally, the problem of the lack of wisdom and the unwillingness to explore the dialogue with God further through spiritual practices, primarily, prying, deserves a mention as the primary issue with the promotion of holiness in today’s world. The specified issue leads to underestimating the importance of holiness and, therefore, the failure to develop it as an essential component of communication with God (Leclerc, 2010). Overall, the absence of a coherent perspective on holiness and the strategies that can be used to promote it represents one of the main issues with the promotion of holiness and the possibility of sanctification among modern Christians.
Being Passionate about Holiness
A substantial number of people look at the idea of holiness with a substantial amount of skepticism and even disbelief as the goal that they are unlikely to ever approach, not to mention attain, given the perceived criteria for achieving holiness that is quite ubiquitous in modern media (Darrell, 2009). However, the idea of holiness as being an immaculate human being with no imperfections is quite detached from the truth, namely, from the current understanding of holiness as a theological concept. Instead of viewing holiness as an attribute of divinity, one should consider holiness as the point of spiritual development at which one becomes capable of living by the Biblical principles and ideas, particularly, the teachings that Jesus offered to people. Thus, attaining holiness becomes not only achievable but also instrumental for personal spiritual discovery, as well as for the spiritual growth of the community, in general. As the Scripture states, “With minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (Peter 1:13, The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973). By connecting holiness to the ability to follow the teachings of Christ and focusing on becoming a better person, one can embrace the idea of holiness as seeking grace and penance as the path to salvation. Thus, the problem of viewing holiness as an unattainable estate that is not worth pursuing in the first place will be resolved.
The solution to the problem of holiness is quite easy, yet it will require a complex task of exploring individual problems toward the perception of the subject matter and the role that people place on maintaining holiness. Specifically, the very concept of holiness, as well as its definition, will have to be suspended and scrutinized closely n order to identify the core source of the problem of misconception arising in the context of the modern Christian community (Leclerc, 2010). The notion of holiness, as well as the idea of pursuing it, is often abandoned by modern Christians as a goal that is not worth their consideration, which must be changed by changing their attitudes toward the subject matter.
For in these troubled times, we often forget that love is the true goal of holiness and sanctification. We pursue a selfish goal of self-improvement as a vain attempt at becoming holier-than-thou while forgetting that the concern and care for others lie at the core of true Christian values. Therefore, it is only by expressing love to each other that we can achieve true holiness and elevate above sin. In Hebrews 12:14, the Scripture tells us, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14, The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973). In this passage, we focus on the warning about failing to see the Lord after failing to gain holiness in His eyes, and we chase the nebulous concept of holiness throughout our entire lives, yet behind the screen of self-absorption, we fail to see that living in peace with others is what should be prioritized.
The problem of failing to recognize the needs of others, as well as the focus on oneself and the failure to see the trap of egotism becomes apparent when considering the warnings offered in the Augustinian perspective on holiness. One could claim that the Augustinian-Dispensational approach relies on the stereotypical portrayal of sin and, thus, does not represent the complexity of the present-day idea of relationships between an individual and God. However, what the Augustinian perspective does right is reinforce the threat of sin and the importance of penance (Dieter, 1996).
At its core, the fear of sin and the idea that once succumbing to it, one will step on the irreversible path of spiritual damage and destruction, which the Augustinian doctrine suggests, represents a dangerous trap for those willing to achieve holiness yet doubtful about their strength. Once the seed of doubt is planted into one’s soul, the idea of reaching holiness and withstanding the multiple temptations becomes highly implausible. The observed change in attitudes is quite understandable, given the increase in exposure to temptations, which the modern Christian community is witnessing currently. However, we as a Christian family must remember that doubt has a highly destructive power and may set one on the path to abandoning Christian values (Leclerc, 2010). Therefore, one must put doubts concerning the trap of sin aside and make a continuous effort to avoid sinful behaviors.
Moreover, we must remember that even having succumbed to sin, one will not be denied salvation from God due to His grace and His mercy. After all, the Bible tells us that the possibility of becoming and even being holy is given to us by Christ: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30, The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973). Therefore, every human being has an opportunity to redeem him- or herself once abstaining from the behavior that ultimately leads to sin. Moreover, the specified passage indicates that God will grant His forgiveness to anyone who accepts wholeheartedly the principles of mercy, good nature, empathy, and love (Falsol, 1996). Therefore, by gaining wisdom and the qualities viewed as the principal characteristics of a good Christian, one will be able to step on the path to redemption despite the sins and missteps that may have occurred in the past.
Another obvious problem that people tend to encounter when seeking to achieve holiness as the means of being granted forgiveness and salvation is the issue of disobedience. The specified concern is clearly outlined in Peter 1:14: “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” (The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973). Specifically, there is a problem of obedience observed in the present-day Christian community, which mainly stems from the increase in the influence of skepticism on the evolution of the Christian community. Originally, obedience is viewed as the foundational Christian value based on which decisions should be made, according to the Scripture: “Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them’” (John 14:23, The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973). In turn, people seem to have lost the willingness to comply with the Biblical standards and postulates, which is a very unfortunate development for the global Christian community (Leclerc, 2010). Specifically, the failure to be obedient will inevitably result in the inability to comply with the foundational Christian standards that define one’s holiness.
However, what we tend to forget in the busy environment of the present-day world is that it is our responsibility as Christians to commit to the idea of personal salvation and the search for redemption and ultimate holiness. Although it is common to place the emphasis on God’s will and grace when it comes to the issue of personal holiness and salvation, it would be a massive mistake to use the statements such as “Holiness is God’s command” (Hebrews 12:14, The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973) as the means of justifying one’s susceptibility to sin. Instead, the idea that holiness depends on the command of our Lord should be seen as the opportunity to gain holiness through a personal connection with Him and a more profound exploration of His teachings and ideas.
Therefore, the specified problem can be resolved by making minor steps on the journey toward personal holiness as opposed to confining to the notion of holiness as the unattainable goal of spiritual perfection. After all, the Scripture insists that holiness can be pursued even in day-to-day life and activities: “The sanctified shows holiness in daily life” (1 Timothy 5:4, The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973). Thus, taking one step at a time and doing one’s best to avoid temptations should be prioritized in the pursuit of holiness and spiritual purification.
Finally, the failure to relate the concept of holiness to one’s personal dialogue with God remains the central problem in promoting holiness across the Christian community as a goal worth pursuing. Being emotionally and personally detached from the notion of holiness, Christians tend to avoid considering it as a part of their spiritual identity, hence the failure to develop the characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors that will ultimately lead one to reach holiness as a stage of spiritual growth.
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The problem in question could be related to the issue of gaining wisdom as a part of changing one’s attitude toward holiness. In order to develop the characteristics needed for achieving holiness, one should mature spiritually and personally. Specifically, the Scripture insists on the importance of spiritual maturity as the pathway to gaining holiness: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24, The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973). The quote provided above indicates that the role of listening to God and following His word is central to achieving holiness and encouraging one’s spiritual growth.
Therefore, it is the duty of the Christian community members to prioritize holiness as one of the main goal to be sought when engaging in daily chores, interpersonal communication, spiritual practices, or any other kind of activities (Koller, 1962). Instead of viewing holiness as the concept that should be confined to a very restricted set of spiritual practices, some of which require years of development and training to achieve, a true Christian must embrace the opportunity to gain holiness as the means of improving oneself and simultaneously contribute to the community (Calhoun, 2015). As brothers, we must look out for each other and promote the significance of following the word of God as a way of making the world a better place.
Furthermore, a very heavy emphasis must be placed on crucial spiritual practices that allow one to build more profound and personal relationships with God. Thus, it will become possible for a Christian to embrace the essential principles of spirituality and holiness, thus defining one’s path toward it. Although the quote above suggests that the word of God should be followed directly and unquestioningly, it still implies that the understanding of the importance of the specified word needs to be present (Calhoun, 2015). In turn, the full understanding and, therefore, absolute compliance as the major step toward reaching holiness can only occur once a believer recognizes the role that communication with God and engagement in relevant spiritual practices.
Specifically, it is important to remember the role of praying as one of the foundational spiritual practices that help a believer to reconnect with God and examine the relationships with the Lord in a more nuanced and intimate way. Aligning the specified practice with the Wesleyan Doctrine, one will be able to pray sincerely and, therefore, walk with God (Leclerc, 2010). Therefore, as a Christian, one should strive to approach Christlikeness in one’s endeavor at performing key spiritual practices such as praying.
In an effort to pursue spiritual development, continue personal growth, and reinforce the unification of the Christian community, we must strive for holiness as the state that will help us achieve salvation. Moreover, the very process of seeking holiness may become a goal in itself as the attempt at being one’s best self and keeping the relationships with others grounded in the foundational tenets of the Christian philosophy, as well as the basic Christian values taught and promoted by Jesus Christ. Rejecting the proposed endeavor at walking down the path to holiness as a simplistic and, therefore, undignified representation of holiness would be erroneous since the concept of sanctification as compliance with Christian values has been supported by multiple scholars and several main Christian perspectives, including the Wesleyan interpretation of it.
Moreover, since the focus on the needs of others and the promotion of empathy remains essential Christian principles, it needs to be seen as the basis of achieving holiness. As a community, we need to recognize the importance of Jesus’s teachings concerning the importance of prioritizing support and empathy as the foundation for one’s spiritual development. Namely, by offering empathy and assistance to the community, one will be able to reach holiness and, ultimately, salvation.
Therefore, holiness should not be seen as some semblance of an unattainable state that only the chosen ones could reach. While it is important to recognize the divine nature of Jesus Christ in order to understand His holiness, it is also crucial not to equate it to the state of holiness that is accessible to regular people. Therefore, striving toward holiness and avoiding the temptations that may diverge one from the journey toward salvation are critical components of the spiritual growth of a member of a Christian community.
Calhoun, A. A. (2015). Spiritual disciplines handbook: Practices that transform us. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press Publishers.
Darrell, W. J. (2009). The glory of preaching: Participating in God’s transformation of the world. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press Publishers.
Dieter, M. E. (1996). Five views on sanctification. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publications, Inc.
Falsol, A. (1996). A complete guide to sermon delivery. Nashville, TN: Broadman Publishers.
Koller, C. W. (1962). Expository preaching without notes. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1962.
Leclerc, D. (2010). Discovering Christian holiness: The heart of Wesleyan-holiness theology. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, Inc.