The Meaning of Holiness | 1999-4


As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and selfcontrol. Galatians 5:22-23

Traditionalists, denominationalists, and legalists have really muddied the waters in trying to call Christians to holy living. Wesleyan-Arminians labor their doctrinal approach, Calvinists make their cryptic mention and so many Pentecostalists simply ignore the subject.

When God speaks in His Word of a person, place, or thing being “holy,” He means that such a person, place, or thing, is no common, ordinary, insignificant person, place, or thing; that he, she, or it, has been set apart for a divine purpose. To be holy is to be unique or special. When a person, place, or thing is holy, it is different from the rest, distinctively better, reserved for a special purpose.

Sometimes I wonder: if John Wesley, Francis Asbury, John Fletcher, Charles Spurgeon, William Boothe, Charles Finney or P. F. Bresee should suddenly return to the present evangelical scene, would they recognize us as children of the faith? Or might they have to ask with the demons of old, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15). Of course, the real question is not how well we are measuring up to the expectations of our human fathers and heroes, but are we pleasing to the Lord? Are we holy? Do we want to be holy? Do we know what the Lord means when He demands holiness of His children?

My dear people, I’m truly concerned about the indifference and ignorance of so many professing evangelicals to the call to holiness. I say it with a broken heart, but I believe so many have conformed to the spirit of the age. Too many of our pastors spend more time with their computers than they do with the Word of God. They read more books on business management and public relations than they do on holiness and prayer. We need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will convict pastors and lay leaders of the sins of omission as well as the sins of commission, until our passion for holiness equals that of Isaiah’s and the apostle Paul’s.

No church in any culture will ever experience genuine revival until its people begin to respond to the Spirit’s call to holiness. So please allow me to speak definitively about holiness. Let’s not get lost in legalism, traditionalism, or denominational distinctives.

Purity of Heart

Holiness is, first of all, purity of heart. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt. 5:8). When Jesus and His apostles spoke of purity of heart, it is clear that they had at least two things in mind: (1) sanctity — or freedom from the power of sin; and (2) singleheartedness — freedom from insincerity or doublemindedness. The apostle Paul often expressed his prayer that believers prove to bear the scrutiny of the Lord’s Presence in the Day of His coming. Even so we must live godly and holy before the eyes of men each day. This is done only as we live and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Fruit of The Spirit

Holiness is life lived in the power of the Spirit so that He reproduces the life of Jesus in our hearts and lives. In Galatians 5:22-23, we learn what this fruit (or proof that we are living in the Spirit) is. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Note that it is love which heads this list. Love (agape) is in fact the main tap root of all the other qualities. For instance, joy is love singing. Peace is love resting. Patience is love enduring. Kindness is love’s blessing. Goodness is love’s character. Faithfulness is love’s habit. Gentleness is love’s touch. And self-control is love in charge. Holiness is the conquering power of Jesus Christ in our lives working through love as that agape is “poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5)

The Renewing of The Mind

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:1-2). Once the believer is enabled by the Holy Spirit to make the Lord a present of his/her total self (a crisis commitment), then the Holy Spirit enables him/her to rise to the level of living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ (a continual, processive experience). The “renewal of the mind” is a quickening, stimulating, purifying, revealing, guiding, empowering work of the Holy Spirit that enables us in every thought we think, in every pleasure we enjoy, in every habit we form, in every decision we make, in every word we speak. All of this is not the performance of an actor or the shouting of a parrot; it is the Holy Spirit taking our surrendered hearts and wills and showing the beauty of Christ through our yielded lives lived out daily in the power of His Spirit.

A Passion for God

Christians who are made holy by the grace of God are not just interested in God; they hunger and thirst for Him. Their prayers sound like the psalmist when he said, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (42:1 -2). Loved ones and close friends will sometimes not understand this spiritual passion, and they may wonder about our emotional balance or spiritual equilibrium. The believer who lets go and refuses to quench this hunger and thirst for God will allow the Holy Spirit to take him out of the comfort zone and lead him to the very edge of “safe Christianity.” The closer we get to Christ and the deeper we go into the way of holiness the more we shall overflow with “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Our passion for God will know the joy of humility, obedience, faith, wisdom and fresh baptisms in agape love.


It is the purpose of God in these times to bring His people back to a revival of the reality of holiness. Doesn’t your heart yearn and burn for this? Aren’t you weary of coldness of heart, deadness of spirit, going through the forms, aching for a fresh Pentecostal outpouring?

Then shut yourself in with God for an extended time (several hours, a half night, or even a weekend), get on your knees, deal with everything the Holy Spirit reveals to you. Study His Word. Surrender your will. Surrender your reputation. Surrender your theology. Surrender your loved ones and friends. Surrender your church. Make a clean sweep and tell God you will not settle for a formal religion; you must have the spiritual power promised by Jesus and demonstrated in the book of Acts. Let Him know that you are not just interested in holiness of heart and life — that you will not go on without it! And then allow Him to do the work! It is His work, not yours. Your faith and surrender are important; but holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit in you.

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