This past Sunday I preached on the topic of Practical Holiness. After looking at some aspects of God’s holiness in Exodus 3,19 and 20 we attempted to make application focusing on:
1. Holiness in private
2. Holiness in public
3. Holiness at home
4. Holiness at church
I am concerned about effectively communicating a Biblical view of practical holiness. I DO NOT wish to communicate a list of rules for holiness. What I desire is to teach and (attempt) to live holiness in such a way that each person makes his own application, but that his application is legitimately in line with the Scriptural teaching about who God is, and what He desires in light of our immersion in a system of this world which hates God.
Please consider the following four points about holiness and rules in the Christian life.
1. People who are consumed (a good thing) with the idea of God’s holiness develop specific applications of holiness for living in this world system. We might call these “ideals” for living. They are not things explicitly stated in Scripture and they do not automatically apply to all believers. They are personal applications of holy living in an unholy world. Examples from the past include things like:
- Always carrying the Bible on top
- Dressing up for church
- Women not wearing pants
- Never attending movie theaters
- Refraining from watching or listening to certain media
2. Out of this passion for God people pass these ideals on to others: parents to children, pastors to congregation, and schools to students. Some learn this passion for holiness and espouse these ideals, often adapting them to their own situation and time. Others never grasp the concept of passion for God’s holiness and reject the whole system of ideals taught to them.
3. A breakdown occurs.
Some children, church members, or students passionately follow these ideals, now called “rules”, because of a fundamental desire to obey authority, remain faithful to their roots, or even to please God, but they never fully grasp the underlying reason for the ideals as being a personal passion for the holiness of God. While this group is often saved, many of them stand in danger of becoming Pharisaical in their application of said ideals which have now become rules.
Other children, church members, or students rebel and make no attempt to embrace these “rules”. They may rebel because of hypocrisy in that they’ve never been taught about true holiness, but only the rules. This is a common and very unfortunate case because many who rebel might have been won to the cause of holiness had those teaching them emphasized the core truths of holiness more than the rules for holiness. Of course they may also rebel out of a wicked heart that simply refuses to submit to authority, be it man or God.
This group often hurls accusations of legalism crying that “the Bible says no such thing” and “we are free from the law” having “Christian liberty”. There is a large element of truth in these statements, but missing is too often a heart which is passionate about holiness, hates the stain of worldliness, and seeks to “flee all appearance of evil”.
4. My passion is to teach the core truths of God’s holiness – “ideals” and not “rules”. I want to teach people who God is, and what He is like so that as they grow in truth and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, they will make practical decisions about even the most trivial areas of life with the holiness of God in mind; they will instinctively hate worldliness and the spot of contamination from it because they are filled with the love of God and love for God.
I have no desire to be a rule maker, but I am grieved to see believers engage in so many things which must grieve the heart of God. When passion for the holiness of God fills believers, their behavior changes. The old man is put off and the new man is put on.