The Hard Image of Holiness

“Even the word holiness has become tarnished, both inside and outside the church. It suggests something negative, restrictive, prudish, uncool, and undesirable. When I was a little kid, my sister and I used to watch Little House on the Prairie. The character we loved to hate was Mrs. Oleson— arrogant, exacting, overly proper, and legalistic, and that’s the image I had of holiness. Hypocrisy. Hardness. Very unattractive. Many of us today hold that same image, so much so that the word holy is almost always used pejoratively, as in “holier than thou” or “holy roller.” The call to be holy is often viewed as a big no to anything pleasurable or fun. It may retain the sense of being set apart, but not in a good way.” -Rankin Wilbourne

 

Holiness? Who Cares!

“I don’t like broccoli. Even though I now live in Los Angeles where you’re supposed to like healthy food, I still associate it with my mom saying, “Eat your broccoli! It’s good for you.” It’s something unpleasant but good for me, something I don’t enjoy but know I should. Grit your teeth and take it. Holiness is like broccoli for many of us. We know we’re supposed to want it, but we don’t, not really. And we might even think the good news is that we no longer need to pursue it. Psalms talks about “the beauty of holiness” (29: 2 KJV), but beauty is not what comes to mind when we hear “holiness” today. Holiness sounds stifling, boring, even off putting. I remember years ago trying to encourage a couple who were going through a difficult time. They faced one setback after another with no relief in sight. They felt as though God had abandoned them. With less sensitivity than was needed, I turned to one of the oldest reasons why God allows trials in our lives. “When God seems absent,” I said, “he can be doing his most important work in us. As a loving Father, he’s training us as his children to trust him.” And I quoted the book of Hebrews: “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Heb. 12: 10). I’ll never forget their response because it was so refreshingly honest: “Holiness? Who wants that?” Exactly. Who wants that?”” -Rankin Wilbourne

Grace Before Law

“Are you interpreting the ‘visual aid’? Egypt first, then Sinai; Passover first, then the giving of the Law; the divine work of grace first, then the life of responsive obedience, redemption/ salvation first, then walking with God in his appointed way of holiness.” -Alec Motyer, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament

How Do Bad Things Work For Good, What ‘Good’?

“All things work together for good.” But what exactly is the “good” that Paul has in mind? We might be tempted to think Paul is referring to philosophical discourses about the nature of “goodness,” such as Plato discusses it in the Republic, where Socrates describes “the Form of the Good.” But that is not what Paul has in mind here. The text itself provides the explanation as to the “good” Paul has in view-conformity to the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29). Providence is working to make us holy.” Derek W.H. Thomas.

Motivations to Holiness

“What is our motivation in pursuing holiness? Perhaps, to be more accurate, we should ask: what are our motivations (plural) in pursuing holiness? There is more than one motivation for holiness in the New Testament. In Romans 8, for example, the following two motivations are readily discernible: I want to live and not die. “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). The principle here is, “We reap what we sow.” If we yield to sinful desires, we will reap death. Too often, we fail to see the long-term consequences sequences of our actions. We live for “now” without sufficient attention to the ultimate consequences of what we do. Sometimes all we can see is the fleeting enjoyment of the present; we hide from ourselves the truth that sin’s payback (“wages,” Rom. 6:23) is death. My sin affects others in the church. Several considerations underline this point: “brothers” (v. 12); the plural “you” (v. 13), showing that we belong to the family of God; and the affirmation that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (v. 14). Sinclair Ferguson writes, “Our fellowship with other Christians is one of the chief instruments God has given us to overcome sin.”” -Derek Thomas