“Holiness” is one word culture and the world that calls themselves Christian cringes at. The very mention of it often stirs up sentiments of anger, contempt and even hatred. It has almost become a “bad word” even in church. Even the word “godly” is preferred before the word “holy,” because men of most sorts can easily cozy up to the idea of being like God, or like a god. But holy?
I understand that the word holy may have negative connotations for some people, especially if what they saw portrayed to them as holy was not biblical holiness, but a perverted, twisted, unscriptural holiness falsely so called. This sadly can and does happen even in the name of Christianity. People who may name the name of Christ exalt themselves, their own righteousness and their own goodness out of sheer pride and hypocrisy are flat out wrong in doing so and disgrace the name of Christ. And it isn’t actual holiness as God defines it. It is an ugly perversion of it. Satan always likes to twist things that should be good and give glory to God to try to make them repulsive and repugnant to man. So if you have that idea of holiness in your mind when that word is spoken to you from something you’ve seen or experienced in the past, please pray that God would wipe away that false distorted idea from your idea of what holiness is. I have heard of some folks who really struggled to ever come to God because of how Christianity was exhibited to them with hypocrisy and false holiness. It can be a real stumblingblock.
But regardless of the devil’s attacks on holiness through the sinful acts or words of men, the true holiness set forth in the Word of God stands sure and will always remain, not only steadfast as an eternal truth, but a spiritual and practical standard set forth for us to aspire to by the grace of God, and one that we should not run from, but rather strive for every day.
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:” (Hebrews 12:14)
The idea of following peace is widely accepted in most circles (though the word “peace” to most just means a good feeling, not what the Bible is talking about). But holiness? The same verse that tells us to follow peace also tells us to follow holiness.
“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15, 16)
At one point early on in my Christian walk I fell into the trap of thinking holiness in the Bible in relation to us always meant our state of being justified in Christ. The rationale is that because man can never be fully holy in this life, the Scriptures must be speaking of only that holiness in our position in Christ and no more. This was a great error which leads to many other errors in doctrine and in turn in practice. Yes, it is of course true that Christ’s holiness alone will save us, and that we can only be holy by what He does in and through us, and that we will never attain absolute perfection in this body. But to exclude the holiness of sanctification is to miss a major point of the Bible God wants us to know. Holiness is a daily walk where we are conformed more and more into the image of Christ. If we are truly justified by Christ’s holiness in our relation to God, there will be fruit in our life, even the outworkings of holiness that are more than just a concept of something that happens “way up there” in head-knowledge alone and doesn’t affect more than an impractical and unscriptural theology. The carnal church that calls itself Christian today may wish to believe otherwise because it fits with their mode of life and conversation, but the truth of the King James Bible declares plainly otherwise.
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:22)
“And let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19)
The Scriptures really are too clear and numerous on this matter for there to be any biblically-based argument or debate to the contrary. And this was understood for the last 2,000+ years by true Christians without question. It’s a pillar truth of Christianity. Only in recent years has the multitude of professors sought to turn the Scriptures on their head, wresting and explaining them away into ambiguity, because of carnality and worldliness that has infected the majority of them that name the name of Christ, and probably the deeper problem is most of them were never truly saved to begin with, but are false converts that like the label of Christian and carry a Bible on Sundays and sing the songs and know a bit or maybe much of the lingo… but that’s about as far as it goes. Because when push comes to shove, holiness does not make sense to most of these professors because they are actually lost, unregenerate, and the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:14). They can’t down with holiness because it condemns them in how they live and they aren’t willing to change or repent. They want to do things their way regardless of what God says. They don’t care about seeking God’s will when it doesn’t line up with what they want. Yet they will say they are clean, they are righteous good people because Christ’s blood has given them liberty to live how they will.
“There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” (Proverbs 30:12)
Christianity without practical, biblical holiness is a mar, a disgrace, an object of mockery to the world and a tool of the devil himself to degrade this way. Those who profess Christ and would proclaim the message of the gospel without true holiness of conversation cut off the feet and damage the cause of Christ (Proverbs 26:6). No testimony, no preaching, no teaching, no reasoning, convincing or exhorting they do will be of true effect, because the Spirit of God is not in it. Prayers and power with God are rendered ineffective without a holy life. God does not just hope for us to be holy; He demands holiness of us – practical holiness, for what other holiness is there, really? If it isn’t practical, if it doesn’t penetrate into real life and not just float around in the air somewhere, it is DEAD. It is of none effect. Faith without works is DEAD being alone (James 2:17). Works are what can be seen in everyday life. It is evidence and the fruit of salvation, of having the Spirit of God. Works are holiness in action. And such Christians that lack it are so far from being simply ineffectual that they harm the cause of the kingdom. It were better for the gospel’s sake if they would denounce Christianity altogether rather than profess with a carnal, worldly, unholy profession and spatter the world’s perception of what it means to be a Christian with their loose conversation. It is a blight and a curse to have such professors among the Church.
Some will subscribe to a kind of halfway-holiness. They will abstain from certain sins and possibly participate in works of service. But their lives are still quite full of the world. They won’t party hard, drink heavily and do drugs, but they’ll frequent places where those things happen and choose the company of the lost for their companions in direct opposition to the prohibitions of the Word (Psalm 1:1, Proverbs 13:20, 1 Corinthians 15:33). They’ll go to church on Sundays and volunteer for VBS, then watch questionable movies. They’ll stop most swearing and profanity but keep a few choice words in reserve. They’ll throw away their evil profane music but take up Christianized versions of the same. I would say they dress and appear differently but usually that doesn’t change a bit with a halfwayer. The thing about halfway-holiness is it never stays that way; if you are saved, there are forces pulling in opposite directions and one will have to give and get the better of the other. You are always in a state of change. You are either growing or shrinking. You are either becoming more godly or more worldly as the flesh wresteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. If you aren’t saved, it’s not a battle at all, it’s a veneer, a whited sepulcher, which will be manifest itself for what it truly is inside either in this world or the one to come (1 Timothy 5:24). Whether one is saved or lost, halfway-holiness is just plain unholiness, because the two can’t compromise. There is no middle ground.
Now, that does not mean Christians don’t sin. It is plain that we still have our sinful flesh after salvation. But there is a difference between the saved soul who falls and repents and continues on on the narrow way as opposed to the soul that does not care or just tries here and there. One is actively pursuing holiness, and though failure may come, he does not stay there. It grieves him when he falls because he knows it grieves the Lord. The other is not pursuing holiness and will convince himself that it’s not a big deal because Christ will atone for him and he thinks he’s got a get out of jail free card that gives him license to live loosely from day to day and speak of holiness as a side hobby. The difference between these two souls is one saved and one is not, plain as that. The saved man will seek holiness as a fruit of salvation because he is made a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The other is a deceived false convert who has not the Spirit of Christ, but merely made a mental ascent to a checklist of doctrines without any real change, whose gospel is in word only but not in power (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Without the power of the Spirit of God, there can be no change. There can be no holiness. There can be no true, full departure from sin.
Holiness does not come from ourselves. It is of God only; it is His holiness showing through us and weeding out sin from our lives. There is no glory in who we are if we are to be truly holy. We are just the vessels. It isn’t about us at all or how good we look to others. Holiness requires yielding to God that He may have His way in our lives, both to grow in grace and virtues as well as be purged from the weight and sin that so easily besets us.
Of course holiness can be faked, and it can be faked quite convincingly by many people in many situations, but true, biblical holiness wrought of God is an entirely different thing than man’s pretended holiness. Ultimately God will judge them that are not truly holy, manifesting their sins to all, when it comes time to give an account before Him. And it will be fearful for such. But we, the children of God, are not to waver in the thing which is right, regardless of other men’s false lives.
To one who names the name of Christ who will not hearken after being reproved and seek holiness, but continues on stubbornly in carnality and worldliness, there is given this word:
“He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still…” (Revelation 22:11)
This fearful verse secures the judgment of God upon such an one. There comes a point where the Scriptures have been brought out and the truth manifested, and that truth is willingly and knowingly rejected in favour of sin. That person has made their choice. They will go on defiling the name of Christianity and themselves. They will cling to their pride and refuse to admit they, a professing Christian, have been doing more damage to Christ’s cause than before they ever took upon themselves the name of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Let them alone, they be blind leaders of the blind. Let them alone to do what they will, after the arguments and pleadings have been made. God shall bring them to account at the last day, unless in mercy He opens their eyes before then, before it is too late. They will not come to the true light because their deeds are evil.
“For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:20, 21)
A Holy Life the Beauty of Christianity
Besides being sound in faith, anointed with the Spirit of God as few ever have been, and incredibly godly himself, Bunyan was far ahead of his time. This excerpt from his work A Holy Life the Beauty of Christianity was such a blessing to me, and I pray it is to you as well.
“To this end, shun those professors that are loose of life and conversation: ‘From such withdraw thyself,’ saith Paul, and follow ‘righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.’ (1 Tim. 6:5; 2 Tim. 2:22) If a man, if a good man takes not good heed to himself, he shall soon bring his soul into a snare. Loose professors are defilers and corrupters; a man shall get nothing but a blot by having company with them. (Isa. 1:4) Besides, as a man shall get a blot by having much to do with such; so let him beware that his heart learn none of their ways. Let thy company be the excellent in the earth even those that are excellent for knowledge and conversation. ‘He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.’
Be content to be counted singular, for so thou shalt, if thou shalt follow after righteousness, &., in good earnest; for holiness is a rare thing now in the world. I told thee before that it is foretold by the Word, that in the last days perilous times shall come, and that men shall walk after their own lusts; yea, professors, to their destruction. Nor will it be easy to keep thyself therefrom. But even as when the pestilence is come into a place, it infecteth and casteth down the healthful; so the iniquity of the last times will infest and pollute the godly. I mean the generality of them.
Were but our times duly compared with those that went before, we should see that which now we are ignorant of. Did we but look back to the Puritans, but especially to those that, but a little before them, suffered for the word of God, in the Marian days, we should see another life than is now among men, another manner of conversation than now is among professors. But, I say, predictions and prophecies must be fulfilled; and since the Word says plainly, that ; in the last days there shall come scoffers, walking after their own lusts,’ (2 Peter 3:17) and since the Christians shall be endangered thereby, let us look to it, that we acquit ourselves like men, seeing we know these things before; ‘lest we, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from our own steadfastness.’
Singularity in godliness, if it be in godliness, no man should be ashamed of. For that is no more than to be more godly, than to walk more humbly with God than others; and, for my part, I had rather be a pattern and example of piety. I had rather that my life should be instructing to the saints, and condemning to the world, with Noah and Lot, than to hazard myself among the multitude of the drossy.
I know that many professors will fall short of eternal life, and my judgment tells me, that they will be of the slovenly sort of professors that do so. And for my part, I had rather run with the foremost and win the prize, than come behind, and lose that, and my labour, and all. ‘If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.’ And when men have said all they can, they are the truly redeemed ‘that are zealous of good works.’ (1 Cor. 9:24; 2 Tim. 2:4, 5; Titus 2:14)
Not that works do save us, but faith, which layeth hold on Christ’s righteousness for justification, sanctifies the heart, and makes men desirous to live in this world, to the glory of that Christ who died in this world to save us from death.
For my part I doubt the faith of many, and fear that it will prove no better at the day of God than will the faith of devils. For that it standeth in bare speculation, and is without life and soul to that which is good. Where is the man that walketh with his cross upon his shoulder? Where is the man that is zealous of moral holiness? Indeed, for those things that have nothing of the cross of the purse, or the cross of the belly, or the cross of the back, or of the cross of the vanity of household affairs; for those things, I find we have many, and those, very busy sticklers; but otherwise, the cross, self denial, charity, purity in life and conversation, is almost quite gone out of doors among professors. But, man of God, do thou be singular as to these and as to their conversation. ‘Be not ye therefore partakers with them.’ (Eph. 5:7), in any of their ways, but keep thy soul diligently; for if damage happeneth to thee, thou alone must bear it.
But he that will depart from iniquity must be well fortified with faith, and patience, and the love of God; for iniquity has its beauty spots and its advantages attending on it; hence it is compared to a woman, for it allureth greatly. (Zech. 5:7) Wherefore, I say, he that will depart therefrom had need have faith, that being it which will help him to see beyond it, and that will shew him more in things that are invisible, than can be found in sin, were it ten thousand times more entangling than it is. (2 Cor. 4:18) He has need of patience also to hold out in this work of departing from iniquity. For, indeed, to depart from that, is to draw my mind off from that, which will follow me with continual solicitations. Samson withstood his Delilah for a while, but she got the mastery of him at the last; why so? Because he wanted patience, he grew angry and was vexed, and could withstand her solicitation no longer. (Judges 16:15-17) Many there be also, that can well enough be contented to shut sin out of doors for a while; but because sin has much fair speech, therefore it overcomes at last. (Proverbs 7:21) For sin and iniquity will not be easily said nay; it is like her of whom you read–she has a whore’s forehead, and refuses to be ashamed. (Jer. 3:3) Wherefore, departing from iniquity is a work for length, as long as life shall last. A work did I say? It is a war; a continual combat; wherefore he that will adventure to set upon this work must needs be armed with faith and patience, a daily exercise he will find himself put upon by the continual attempts of iniquity to be putting forth itself. (Matt. 24:13; Rev. 3:10) This is called an enduring to the end, a continuing in the word of Christ and also a keeping of the word of his patience. But what man in the world can do this whose heart is not seasoned with the love of God and the love of Christ? Therefore, he that will exercise himself in this work must be often considering of the love of God to him in Christ; for the more sense, or apprehension, a man shall have of that, the more easy and pleasant will this work be to him: yea, though the doing thereof should cost him his heart’s blood. ‘Thy loving kindness is before mine eyes,’ says David, ‘and I have walked in thy truth.’ (Psalm 26:3) Nothing like the sense, sight, or belief of that, to the man of God, to make him depart from iniquity.
But what shall I do, I cannot depart therefrom as I should?
Keep thine eye upon all thy shortnesses, or upon all thy failures, for that that is profitable for thee. 1. The sight of this will make thee base in thine own eyes. 2. It will give thee occasion to see the need and excellency of repentance. 3. It will put thee upon prayer to God for help and pardon. 4. It will make thee weary of this world. 5. It will make grace to persevere the more desirable in thine eyes.
Also, it will help thee in the things which follow:– 1. It will make thee see the need of Christ’s righteousness. 2. It will make thee see the need of Christ’s intercession. 3. It will make thee see thy need of Christ’s advocateship. 4. It will make thee see the riches of God’s patience. 5. And it will make heaven and eternal life the sweeter to thee when thou comest there.
But to the question. Get more grace, for the more grace thou hast the further is thine heart set off of iniquity, the more, also, set against it, and the better able to depart from it when it cometh to thee, tempteth thee, and entreats thee for entertainment. Now the way to have more grace is to have more knowledge of Christ, and to pray more fervently in his name; also, to subject thy soul and thy lusts, with all thy power, to the authority of that grace thou hast, and to judge and condemn thyself most heartily before God, for every secret inclination that thou findest in thy flesh to sinward.
The improvement of what thou hast is that, as I may say, by which God judges how thou wouldest use, if thou had it, more; and according to that so shalt thou have, or not have, a farther measure. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful, and will be so, also in much; and he that is unjust in the least, is, and will be, unjust also in much. I know Christ speaks here about the unrighteous mammon, but the same may be applied unto the thing in hand. (Luke 16:10-12)…
… I know that to depart from iniquity so as is required, that is, to the utmost degree of the requirement, no man can, for it is a copy too fair for mortal flesh exactly to imitate while we are in this world. But with good paper, good ink, and a good pen, a skilful and willing man may go far…
… But if thy complaint in this matter be true, thou wilt not rest nor content thyself in thy complaints, but wilt, as he that is truly hungry or greatly burdened useth all lawful means to satisfy his hunger and to ease himself of his burden, use all thy skill and power to mortify and keep them under, by the word of God…
…Why do men profess the name of Christ that love not to depart from iniquity? I answer, there are many reasons for it. 1. The preaching of the gospel, and so the publication of the name of Christ, is musical and very taking to the children of men. A Saviour! a Redeemer! a loving, sin-pardoning Jesus! what better words can come from man? what better melody can be heard? ‘Son of man,’ said God to the prophet, ‘Lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song’; or, as a song of loves, ‘of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument’ (Ezek. 33:32) The gospel is a most melodious note and sweet tune any that are not prepossessed with slander, reproach, and enmity against the professors of it. Now, its melodious notes being so sweet, no marvel if it entangle some even of them that yet will not depart from iniquity to take up and profess so lovely a profession. But,
2. There are a generation of men that are and have been frightened with the law, and terrified with fears of perishing for their sins, but yet have not grace to leave them. Now, when the sound of the gospel shall reach such men’s ears, because there is by that made public the willingness of Christ to die for sin, and of God to forgive them for his sake; therefore they presently receive and profess those notions as the only ones that can rid them from their frights and terrors, falsely resting themselves content with that faith which standeth in naked knowledge; yea, liking of that faith best that will stand with their pride, covetousness, and lechery, never desiring to hear of practical holiness, because it will disturb them; wherefore they usually cast dirt at such, calling them legal preachers.
3. Here also is a design of Satan set on foot; for these carnal gospellers are his tares, the children of the wicked one; those that he hath sowed among the wheat of purpose, if possible, that they might be rooted up by beholding and learning to be vile and filthy of them. (Matt. 13:36-43)
4. Another cause hereof is this, the hypocrites that begin to profess find as bad as themselves already in a profession of this worthy name; and, think they, these do so and so, and, therefore, so will I.
5. This comes to pass, also, through the righteous judgment of God, who, through the anger that he has conceived against some men for their sins, will lift them up to heaven before he casts them down to hell, that their fall may be the greater and their punishment the more intolerable. (Matt. 11:20-24) I have now done when I have read to you my text over again–‘And let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.'”
It is a lengthy quote, but the book is much lengthier, and well worth the read. As with all of Bunyan’s works it is filled with all manner of gems of wisdom, and I highly recommend it as an encouragement to your Christian walk on the narrow path. Bunyan had a way of writing that was uncanny and insightful like few ever have had. Even today his simple yet powerful writings prick the conscience and cause hearts to burn. God used the humble Bunyan in a mighty way, confounding the intellects of his time with his deep knowledge of the Word of God and spiritual wisdom. It is such a blessing to be able to read his writings today. I am not here to cry up a man, far be it from me I pray. But I know that it was not Bunyan himself – no, not in the least – it was how God used him that made a staggering impression on the church for centuries to come, and that make his writings such a valuable treasure to the Church today. Bunyan was fully yielded unto God. May I say (or rather plead with you), reader, you are impoverished if you haven’t read at least The Pilgrim’s Progress 1 & 2, and ideally the entire 62 works of Bunyan. It is almost impossible to find any doctrinally sound teaching today, much less teaching so anointed by the Spirit of God, but it exists and can read it without charge online. It’s a blessing from God. It might take a few pages or so to get used to the writing style that is mostly unused today, but it isn’t actually hard at all and he was a very plain spoken man. We live in a place and age today where we are so privileged to be able to access such materials. Of course, nothing takes priority over the precious King James Bible, no other external writing. I’m not here to try to take away from that in the least, but I would add to your faith such things as are expedient and profitable. Give up other things if you must to make time to read a bit of his works each day, it will be such a help to you if you read with understanding. Better yet throw out your Christian bookstore devotional and read Bunyan. It will be the exchange of a clod of earth for a pearl. You’ll never be able to go back to that watered down stuff again, if you’re saved and right with God. What has that author given up for the cause of Christ? Bunyan gave up his liberty for 12 years, his family, his life and his all to be cruelly mistreated, imprisoned and die an early death. He faced the fires of persecution. He lived with next to nothing. He was a saint of great significance in history like few others, and his legacy lives on for us to reap the fruits of his labour.
“There is nothing more seemly in the world than to see a Christian walk as becomes the gospel; nor anything more unbecoming a reasonable creature, than to hear a man say, ‘I believe in Christ,’ and yet see in his life debauchery and profaneness. Might I [add], such men should be counted the basest of men; such men should be counted by all unworthy of the name of a Christian, and should be shunned by every good man, as such who are the very plague of profession. For so it is written, we should carry it towards them. Whoso have a form of godliness, and deny the power thereof, from such we must turn away.
“It has ofttimes come into my mind to as, By what means it is that the gospel profession should be so tainted with loose and carnal gospellers? and I could never arrive to a better satisfaction in the matter than this–such men are made professors by the devil, and so by him put among the rest of the godly. A certain man had a fruitless fig tree planted in his vineyard; but by whom was it planted there? even by him that sowed the tares, his own children, among the wheat (Luke 13:6; Matt 13:37-40). And that was the devil. But why doth the devil do thus? Not of love to them, but to make of them offences and stumbling-blocks to others. For he knows that a loose professor in the church does more mischief to religion than ten can do that are in the world. Was it not, think you, the devil that stirred up the damsel that you read of in Acts 16 to cry out, ‘These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation?’ Yes it was, as is evident, for Paul was grieved to hear it. But why did the devil stir her up to cry so, but because that was the way to blemish the gospel, and to make the world think that it came from the same hand as did her soothsaying and witchery? (verse 16-18). ‘Holiness, O Lord, becomes thy house for ever.’ Let, therefore, whoever they be that profess the name of Christ, take heed that they scandal not that profession which they make of him, since he has so graciously offered us, as we are sinners of the biggest size, in the first place, his grace to save us.” – Bunyan, The Jerusalem Sinner Saved
Sister (and I speak this to myself also), I pray that you follow the paths of righteousness and true holiness of life, for it is the way of life. It is the way of the saved. I pray the Lord lay it to your heart that you take heed to your walk and stay the course, by His grace running the race with patience to please the Lord and let nothing lead you astray – no corrupt doctrine, no weakness or sin. Stop your ears to the cries of the world, harden will against the wiles of your flesh and press on to glory, with all prayer, and pray that God would soften your heart to the truths of the Word. Don’t be turned aside, you don’t have long to go.