Summary: This message uncovers some of the myths that have surrounded the holiness tradition and offers some basic, practical, biblical direction for holy living.
Holiness: A Matter of the Heart
A father told his young son that it was time to get ready for Sunday School. They would be leaving in just a few minutes.
You know how little boys can be. They are inquisitive. The boy asked his dad, "Did you go to Sunday School when you were a boy?"
The father gladly answered, “Well yes I did."
The boy looked disappointed as he said, "It probably won’t do me any good either!"
One of the greatest problems with Christianity today, are people who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and deny Him by their lifestyle. Their lives don’t line up with their testimony on Sunday morning.
1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV)
15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
16 for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
How has your lifestyle reflected the holiness of God this past week? Are you living the holy life that God has called us to live? People are sometimes afraid to answer that question, because they aren’t 100% sure what it means to live the holy life. They have heard some confusing messages down through the years. There have been some conflicting reports. I hope we can clear some of that up today.
The Church of the Nazarene is a holiness church. That means we preach and teach holiness. We advocate living a holy life. We believe that according to scripture, holiness is clearly God’s desire for His children. Let me share with you some examples:
2 Peter 3:11b (NIV)
11 What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives
Hebrews 12:14 (NIV)
14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 4:7 (NIV)
7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.
It seems obvious that God has called us to holy living. But one of the biggest problems we face in the holiness church is that sometimes people don’t really don’t understand what holiness means. That’s due in large part to the fact that through the years we have heard some pretty unfortunate explanations as to what holiness is and how it looks.
For instance, some have taught that holiness for a man means things like NOT wearing shorts, NOT having long hair, or NOT wearing jewelry…even to the point of not wearing a wedding ring!
For women we were told that holiness meant NOT wearing makeup; NOT wearing jewelry; NOT cutting their hair and so on.
Across the years we have been told that holiness is NOT watching television; NOT going to the movies; NOT dancing; NOT gambling; NOT playing pool; NOT smoking; NOT drinking; and the list goes on. We were told that this is holiness.
I know we could add to this list, but you get the idea.
I think it would be fair to say that for many years, holiness was interpreted as a long list of don’ts. We don’t do this. We don’t do that. We don’t do the other thing.
I suppose that even though we didn’t hear as much about it, holiness did include some do’s, like DO read your Bible; DO pray; and DO go to church every time the doors are open. But we certainly focused more on the DON’Ts than we did on the DOs.
Even though that’s sometimes how we have defined holiness, I don’t think it is ever how God defined holiness.
This can be a highly emotional issue for a lot of people. My goal this morning, which is always the case, is to be scriptural. I am not going to preach opinion, personal conviction or tradition. I want to stick with the truth. Is that OK?
We sometimes tend to choose tradition over truth. Truth should always be the goal. And that’s not always easy, but it is always right. Sometimes our traditions have been with us so long that we are tempted to value them above truth if we are not careful.
What we need today is a biblical understanding of Christian holiness.
I am concerned that what we have heard about holiness through the years, though usually well intended, was not always based solidly on the truths of scripture. In some instances I believe tradition was actually given precedence over the truth.
This is where the legalism of the Pharisees creeps in. Straining to keep over 600 rules and regulations, life was lived by the measuring rod. There’s little to no joy in that kind of existence and it is clear from the Word of God that it is not God’s will.
What’s needed to live a holy life, is not a list of more rules and regulations. What we need is a heart change. Holiness is really a matter of the heart.