The call to holiness is always lingering in my heart. God is holy. If He is in us and we are His Temple, holiness must be implied. One of the main reasons God led me to write "The Crossroads: Asking for the Ancient Paths" was to encourage the church to return to holiness of life; not by definitions of our own, but by the power and presence of God indwelling the believer. Today, I'm posting an excerpt from the chapter on "Holiness." If you like this excerpt, the book can be purchased right here on this website. Just CLICK HERE. God bless you.
Pastor Brett Heintzman
The death that comes before death.
When Jesus looks at us He sees something worth dying for.
When we look at Jesus, do we see something worth dying for?
Do the scriptures support this idea of “death to self?” Yes, indeed they do. Consider the following passages:
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?" (Matthew 19:27)
Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." (Genesis 22:2)
Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 21:13)
The inner rebellion will either prevail or suffer defeat at the crossroads of self and surrender. Those who choose surrender over self die in advance of their death. Paul was able to say he was “crucified with Christ” because he chose surrender over self. Peter acknowledged that he had left everything to follow Jesus because surrender won out over self. Abraham took Isaac and fully intended to sacrifice him because he was on the path of surrender. Paul verified his surrender when he said, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 21:13) Even though it took me a long time to arrive at the place of death in my own life, God proved this truth of entire sanctification to me in two ways. First, through the scriptures, so I could know about sanctification in my mind, and then through my personal experience as I surrendered all to Him and subjected my will to His.
For the longest time, I never understood what must go through the mind of someone who is martyred for the sake of Christ. I can recall youth group meetings as a teenager where a mock-hijacking would occur and people would storm into the room demanding that we renounce our faith in Christ or die. We were all familiar with the drill. We knew the correct answer, but it was a set-up, not real life. But what if our lives were threatened simply because we knew Jesus? I believe that no human is capable of the martyr’s response without first dying in advance of their physical death.
Dead to the world and alive in Christ. Dead to self and surrendered to God’s will and ways. That is the essence of holiness, and holiness is needed now more than ever.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
It is this amazing combination of inner devotion and death, alongside the outward supporting evidence, all done through the power and inner working of the Holy Spirit, that produces holiness in unholy flesh. Is this possible? Is it possible to be “entirely sanctified?” Based on the biblical accounts and the power of God, I will answer with a confident “Yes.” Will I roam this earth telling anyone who will listen that I am entirely sanctified? I will refuse to use those words. Rather, I’ll allow my inner devotion to remain dead to self before my God, and allow Him to be alive in every outward deed of my life to do the speaking. And, should anyone see holiness in me, may all the glory, honor and praise go to God the Father, who gave us Jesus, His Son, and sent the powerful Holy Spirit.
A Church without holiness?Is it possible to have a church without holiness? Perhaps if we are studying literal definitions of the word church, we would have to say “no.” Perhaps the question should be rephrased. Is it possible for a group of people to claim to be a church and do churchy things without holiness? Yes, absolutely! When a person or group of people claims to be part of a holy church and has neither the inner devotion and death, nor the outward fruit, the damage that is caused is beyond troubling.
In the year 1879, author J.C. Ryle penned these words: “Sound Protestant and Evangelical doctrine is useless — if it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse than useless; it does positive harm. It is despised by keen-sighted and shrewd men of the world, as an unreal and hollow thing, and brings religion into contempt.”
Verbal, Christian professions of faith which are not supported and evidenced by holy living do “positive harm.” This statement is beyond true. This statement speaks to the foundational truth behind every comment ever uttered claiming the church is full of hypocrites. Wherever our actions do not align perfectly with our words we become hypocrites. When we speak of holiness and our lives do not show the inward devotion or outward evidence of the Spirit’s presence, we are agents of “positive harm.” For this reason, holiness of life, surrender to Christ, continual growth in knowledge and grace, and an urgency from the pulpit to align our actions with our words is, vital.
The one and only thing keeping any church from a life of holiness is the failure of the pastor to die to self.
 Booth, William ; Wesley, John ; Bonar, Horatius; Ryle, J. C. ; Brengle, Samuel; Taylor, Jeremy; Law, William (2012-02-27). Top 7 Classics on Holiness: Purity of Heart, Heart Talks on Holiness, Holiness, God's Way of Holiness, Christian Perfection, Serious Call, Holy Living (Top Christian Classics) (Kindle Locations 2465-2467). . Kindle Edition.
Emotional, relational, situational, circumstantial, physical and mental pain is a reality of life. Every life. Just hearing those words I can safely assume you've conjured up images of past painful events of your life. Perhaps it stung your heart right now because of present pain in your life.
Pain is usually a momentary motivator to let us know something is wrong or has done harm to us and signals to us that we should retreat and seek safety. Think of touching a hot stove... it is ridiculous to think that you'd leave your hand on the heat while you consulted Google to see if you should stop touching it or not. Pain says "get out."
But pain often goes far beyond the momentary to the chronic. Chronic pain is a lingering condition, not a momentary warning sign. If a painful moment is a warning that something is wrong and must be dealt with, then chronic pain is generalized condition that something is "always" wrong, and hopelessness can set in when it seems like nothing can be done. Understanding chronic pain as an ongoing, generalized condition that has the potential to lead to discouragement and hopelessness brought me to this realization: The sin nature is the chronic pain of the entire human race.
We are all sisters and brothers of the chronic pain resulting from the sin nature. I live with chronic pain and so do you. As I sat in a town hall meeting last night addressing heroin addiction in Bradford, PA, it became quite clear to me that the resounding theme in the room was PAIN.
Something seemed to be very clear to me: We have lost sight of how to deal with pain in ways that lead us to life, health and wholeness. We have conditioned ourselves to reach for solutions that are not solutions at all. I would like to share some thoughts that were aroused in my mind as I listened and prayed in this meeting last evening.
How do you deal with your pain? When relational or emotional pain emerges, what action do you take? Do you find rest in unhealthy habits, emotions, language, actions or substances? They are not the answer.
Lord Jesus, help us through your great wisdom to learn to deal with our pain in ways that do not add to our death, but lead to life. We thank you that you can relate to our pain, not just because your bore the stripes, but you also bore our chronic sin. Call us to hunger and thirst for a move of your powerful hand in our midst. Spring up wells of compassion in our hearts. Draw us to greater revelation and understanding. Heal our land.
Rearranging chairs on the deck of a sinking ship is an exercise in futility. We've probably heard that old line a hundred times or more, but it's so true in the church today. Why is it that the tendencies of people is to wander away from the important things that Jesus instructed us to be about, and into the land of the petty and trivial things?
Here's a formula that I think applies, then a scenario that explains the formula:
Facing a crisis situation gives way to denial. Denial gives way to diversion of focus. Diversion of focus turns on the church and gives way to criticism. Criticism gives way to argument and division. Argument and division cause a drain of leadership strength and overall ability to address the crisis situation.
Pastors and Leaders, keep your focus. Do not let those who deny the better work and take up magnifying glasses rule your time and mind. In the same way, people of the church... if your church is focusing on the more important ministries of the church, stop draining your leadership with trivial details that have no purpose. Stop building golden calves while others have their priorities in order.
Priorities, people! Priorities.
Focus on these as the most important priorities and let the rest of the trivial details fall away. Church isn't about pleasing the people, it's about pleasing God. It's not about getting your way, it's about Him having His way in you.
One of the most dangerous spiritual conditions occurs when someone confuses their "goodness" with life in Christ. "I'm a good person" is not what saves you. Everyone has the capacity to muster up within them a measure of "goodness." Jesus said this: "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (Matthew 5:46) Yes, the tax collectors, swindlers, bitter people, those who hate many enemies... they all have the capacity to muster up some goodness for those to whom they choose to be good.
This is likened to what I have witnessed in people as "neutral spirituality." In other words, people believe that somewhere between heaven and hell; somewhere between Jesus and the devil is this condition of neutrality. We can be good, okay, status-quo, benign, not-as-bad-as, and just get through life and into eternity with our general goodness. This has caused the church of Jesus much harm.
Neutral spirituality always elevates the power of "okay-ness" over the power of sin, all the while it acknowledges Jesus with a nod of religiosity but "denies it's power" because of its reliance on mere "goodness." It's insidious and deceitful and is destroying the church. Neutral spirituality is to blame wherever we see sin creeping in the church and people tolerating it as if that was okay. We obviously need to be reminded that if God calls a particular act or behavior or motive or heart condition "sin" then no amount of our reasoning will change that. God doesn't call it sin so you are judged and condemned to death, He judged sin and condemned His own Son to death to pay for it! What grace! What ... amazing ... grace!
How then, in light of that wonderful grace that saves us, can we even entertain the thought that our goodness can replace the gift of God in Jesus? It can't. If you are in spiritual neutral then you are deceived. Again, Jesus says this to us: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Matthew 6:24a) Either Jesus is your Master, or the sin nature is your master. If your sin is not surrendered under the blood of Jesus, then it still has power over you. If you've not allowed Him in to convict you of the sin in you, and you find that you're trying to navigate life, managing your sin while nodding in the direction of Jesus, then the sin nature still has power over you.
Don't nod at Jesus, surrender to him.
Today, more than ever, there are people whose aim is to try to correct the church and set them straight by getting them to welcome sin. The church must always welcome sinners because that is the heart of Jesus, but it must never welcome sin as its bedfellow. The church is not the problem. Sin, and the sin nature, is what must be set right. When it is, then the church becomes the collection of those who see the eternal value of Jesus and therefore surrender their "light and momentary" troubles. We surrender addictions, sexual struggles, our tongues, our will and our ways in exchange for his. The church doesn't need the world's ways, the church needs the higher ways of Jesus Christ.
Dear Lord Jesus, uncover for us the deceitful ways of spiritual neutrality and show us your most excellent way. Show us that we forsake you and deny the power of the finished work of the cross when we give in to sin. Let us see our sin for what it truly is and lead us in the way of life.
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.