The Pursuit of Holiness
Captain Shaun Baker, chaplain at The Salvation Army Territorial Headquarters in Wellington, calls us to examine our lives through the lens of holiness and what this means as followers of Jesus Christ.
Samuel Logan Brengle was a colleague and friend of co-founder of The Salvation Army, William Booth. His impact on faith and belief in Salvationism cannot be underestimated. He also profoundly impacted my own Christian faith, particularly his book Helps to Holiness.
Five years before I had my first church experience in the Army, my mother found Brengle’s book in a Catholic second-hand bookshop she just randomly visited. She gave me the book with the words, ‘You’ve got to read this book, it’s the “thing” you’ve been looking for’. And this has proved to be true, as I have read this book multiple times and no other book outside of the Bible has excited me or been as transformational in my life as this book.
Brengle’s ability to simplify deep meaning is summed up in the introduction of Helps to Holiness where he writes, ‘Do you want to know what holiness is? It is pure love’.
If God’s intention is that all people will be made holy as stated in 1 Peter 1:16 where it says, ‘For it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy”,’ then we must understand what holiness is and how it is expressed. There is truth in the statement that we will never be holy or perfect until we reach the next life, but there are multiple definitions of ‘holy’ or ‘perfection’ that we need to define before we can start to understand what God is saying to us in this verse.
Holiness or perfection in a biblical sense has several facets. Here are a few of them:
- Godly perfection or absolute perfection is something which we will never attain. This is the perfection only found in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
- Adamic perfection is not godly perfection, but perfection no less. This was the state of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden until they both made a conscious decision to sin.
- Angelic perfection is for those angels who made the choice to stay with God and not leave heaven to follow Satan. They hold a type of perfection that is quite unique to them, simply for the fact that God cannot be in the presence of sin, and we know from Scripture that angels work very closely with God.
- PTG (promoted to Glory) perfection is the perfection obtained when we die in Christ and are united with him for all eternity. Then our holiness will be on a totally different level to what we will ever hold here on earth.
- Christian perfection is for us here and now, and is what 1 Peter 1:16 is saying. It’s different to the other types, as it is practical; it’s when we live and breathe God’s Word; it’s when we walk with God as Enoch and Noah did and are completely directed by his good and perfect will through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Being holy doesn’t mean it’s impossible for us to sin anymore; daily we face situations where we are tempted to depart from God’s way of living. The enemy works to trip us up to do those things which we know will break God’s heart. Thank God if we do fall into temptation that he gives us a way to make those wrongs right through repentance and turning our back on sin.
Personal holiness can only be maintained in a close love relationship with God. As we seek him and participate in the work of sanctification, we enable him to work through us with much more effect. What he asks us to do is to walk with him and trust him.
He has taught me that sin is the only thing that can harm me, and that the only thing that can profit me in this world is ‘faith which works by love’. He has taught me to hang upon Jesus by faith for my salvation from all sin and fear and shame, and to show my love by obeying Him in all things and by seeking in all ways to lead others to obey Him. I praise Him! I adore Him! I love Him! My whole being is His for time and eternity. I am not my own.
In Christ’s service
God wants to use his children in ways we never thought possible. He wants to use you and I in ways that far exceed our expectations, but to do that he needs to make us holy. He wants the Holy Spirit to penetrate to the deepest depths of our soul in a way which maybe we’ve never experienced before and perhaps the only thing stopping that from happening is things we’ve created in our own lives.
Being diligent students of the Bible will foster a hunger for Christ and his holiness. It will cause us to seek and pursue holiness. He also wants people who are committed with time in his presence through prayer. He requires people of prayer—dedicated, constant, heaven-rejoicing and hell-shaking prayer. The kind of prayer that makes devils tremble with fear. And once we’ve sought his holiness with all we’ve got, take it—it is ours by right and by promise.
‘Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it’ (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24).