Holiness in the life of a believer is a conduit for the work of the Spirit. More and more, we are losing sight of this incredible principle of power. Dirty lives lead to dirty churches. Dirty ministries lead to dirty disciples. When this happens, the voice of the Spirit is quenched and the once refreshing oasis is nothing more than a dried mud hole. The heat of our times has dried it out and it is cracked and broken along the edges as well as in the very center. Sadly, this is where the refreshing water used to be. The joy of the Lord used to rest on us in this place of holiness but no longer.
Holiness in the life of a believer is a conduit for the work of the Spirit. It is imperative that my life and yours as well be a holy life. Uzzah died because he touched the Ark of God. The men of Bethshemesh died because they looked into the Ark. The beasts who crossed the boundaries of the holy mountain of God were to die at the hand of Moses. That was how serious God was about touching holy things and crossing holy boundaries. But we live in a time where the longsuffering and mercy of God is sorely abused. We have bought into two lies; God has changed and separation no longer matters. But we can still be certain that those who will handle the holy things with dirty hands will corrupt something sacred.
This is especially true in the life of the minister who is to serve as a conduit for a work of the Spirit. Too often when we speak of “holiness” we immediately direct our thoughts to a particular set of standards, manner of dress, or the “do’s and don’ts” of our relationship with God. Yet, holiness in its purest sense is a separation to God and a separation from the world. Holiness is a Spirit-led cleanliness of our own spirit. A clean spirit will resist much of what is being offered by the world. Furthermore, a clean spirit will allow for a much sharper ability for spiritual discernment.
Holiness is fed with holy thoughts. This is where devotion and places of private prayer plays such a crucial role in our life. What is the state of the prayer meetings in our churches? What is the condition of the private prayer times where we get alone with God? Holy prayer will lead to holy motives as well. God is going to place much emphasis on our motives at the judgment of every saint. In fact, the final rewards of heaven will be most exalted if our motives are pure and Kingdom minded. We can never afford to allow our own egos to edge out the purity of proper motives in the Kingdom.
I ran up against this thought some time back and thought I would share it. It became perplexing to me that those of Saul’s character could prophesy with the prophets. The real point was understanding it had to do with the atmosphere that he was in. This is the mystery behind seeing how that very un-holy lives could be greatly used in the gifts of the Spirit. It came to my understanding that the gifts are exactly that, gifts from God. I also understood that personal talents could take some a very long way. However, the catch is this, God will not reward us for our giftings and talents but rather for the fruit that has grown in our lives.
For this reason, we cannot depend on atmosphere or talent to bring us a great move of the Spirit. The great Scottish minister, Robert Murray McCheyne, who was a great revival preacher had this to say, “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.” Have you read that in a “how-to” book lately? Very few in modern times, whether clergy or laity, would agree with this statement. We rarely look for a demonstrable sense of holiness in our leaders. Instead we are looking for people who can get the job done and motivate the followers to higher goals. God is looking for holy character!
The churches where we serve has much need of our own personal holiness. Holiness in heart, action, and practice is where it is crucial. It is very hard to lead a flock toward greater spiritual growth if personal holiness is not present in your life. We need holiness and separation in our youth ministries, Sunday school classrooms, in our worship leaders, and certainly in the pulpits.
One of the most remarkable things that happened to me as a young minister was an event that took place going on twenty-five years ago was a meeting that I had with Brother Ernie Jolley who formerly pastored in Bessemer and served in a variety of positions in our district. He took time with me to help me put together a list of books that ultimately made it into my personal ministerial library. He recommended a very old book (written in 1879) entitled Holiness and written by Bishop J. C. Ryle. That book listed a classic twelve-point profile of a holy person of which Brother Jolley told me that he had used the points for a Bible study series in the church there in Bessemer. They are very simple points but they are very biblical.
- Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find his mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment, hating what he hates, loving what he loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of his Word.
- A holy man will endeavor to shun every known sin, and to keep every known commandment. He will have a decided bent of mind towards God, a hearty desire to do his will, a greater fear of displeasing him than of displeasing the world and will feel what Paul felt when he said, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” (Romans 7:22)
- A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only live the life of faith and draw from him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labor to have the mind that was in him, and to be conformed to his image (Romans 8:29). It will be his aim to bear with and forgive others, to be unselfish, to walk in love, to be lowly minded and humble. He will lay to heart the saying of John: “He that saith he abideth in Christ ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked (1 John 2:6).
- A holy man will follow after meekness, longsuffering, gentleness, patience, kind tempers, government of his tongue. He will bear much, forbear much, overlook much, and be slow to talk of standing on his rights.
- A holy man will follow after temperance and self-denial. He will labor to mortify the desires of the body, to crucify his flesh with his affections and lusts, to curb his passions, to restrain any carnal inclinations, lest at any time they break loose (Luke 21:34; 1 Corinthians 9:27)
- A holy man will follow after charity and brotherly kindness. He will endeavor to observe the gold rule of doing as he would have men do to him, and speaking as he would have men to speak to him. He will abhor all lying, slandering, backbiting, cheating, dishonesty, and unfair dealing, even in the least things.
- A holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence towards others. Such was Dorcas: “full of good works and alms deeds, which she did” not merely purposed and talked about but did (Acts 9:26).
- A holy man will follow after purity of heart. He will dread all filthiness and uncleanness of spirit, and seek to avoid all things that might draw him into it. He knows his own heart is like tinder, and will diligently keep clear of the sparks of temptation.
- A holy man will follow after the fear of God. I do not mean the fear of a slave, who only works because he is afraid of punishment and would rather be idle if he did not dread discovery. I mean rather the fear of a child, who wishes to live and move as if he was always before his father’s face, because he loves him.
- A holy man will follow after humility. He will desire, in lowliness of mind, to esteem all others better than himself. He will see more evil in his own heart than in any other in the world.
- A holy man will follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations of his life. He will try, not merely to fill his place as well as others who take no thought for their souls, but even better, because he has higher motives and more help than they. Holy persons should aim at doing everything well and should be ashamed of allowing themselves to do anything ill if they can help it. They should strive to be good husbands and good wives, good parents and good children, good masters and good servants, good neighbors, good friends, good subjects, good in private and good in public, good in the place of business and good by their firesides. The Lord Jesus puts a searching question to his people, when he says, “What do ye more than others?” (Matthew 5:47).
- Last, but not least, a holy man will follow after spiritual mindedness. He will endeavor to set his affections entirely on things above, and to hold things on earth with a very loose hand. He will aim to live like one whose treasure is in heaven, and to pass through this world like a stranger and pilgrim traveling to his home. To commune with God in prayer, in the Bible, and in the assembly of his people–these things will be the holy man’s chief enjoyments. He will value every thing and place and company, just in proportion as it draws him nearer to God.
These matters are crucial to take to heart for anyone who would desire to take time to be holy.