Summary: what does God your Father see you doing in secret? The "Holiness" stream asks us these tough, heart questions.
The Holiness Stream: How Broad Is The Kingdom Of God
Feb 5, 2006
How broad is the Kingdom of God? That is the question we have begun exploring throughout January. To review quite quickly – thus far we have looked primarily at two “streams” of Christianity – the “evangelical” or “word-centered” stream which would historically describe Laurier, and the “charismatic” or “Spirit-empowered” stream most familiar to us through the Pentecostal movement, many elements of which have been pouring back into evangelical churches such as ours. Throughout January, I’ve been calling us to unity and to a deep love for one another that would find the strength and power that comes as we bring the best of those two streams together.
In the midst of those corporate “streams”, we have also identified individual “spiritual temperaments” or what Gary Thomas calls “pathways”. This is the quiz with which we began January. The “evangelical” stream, with its focus on the Word, has often attracted intellectual/conceptual people, while the “charismatic” stream has often appealed to enthusiasts.
This morning we are going to reach a little further out from many of our own experiences, and into a third “stream”, called the “holiness” stream which focuses on the “virtuous life”. This stream has often appealed to people called ascetics, who value simplicity and silence and tend to find God when all the clutter of life is stripped away (note, not aesthetics, which is about beauty).
How’s Your Heart?
As we begin, let me ask you a question: how is your heart? Is it well with your soul, are you in a good place, content, do you feel like you are deepening in your Christian life, like you are living in obedience to God and like you are living in a closeness to God?
That question, to which I will return a little later on, sort of encapsulates this particular stream. How is your heart? is the chief concern… The simple, one line response to the question, “what is the Holiness tradition?” is this: “A life that functions as it should.” It is about a life that works, with a pure heart as a source of Godly living.
This is important – the focus of the holiness stream is not on external activity, it is on a right heart out of which those behaviours flow.
The book of James, in the New Testament, is a good example of a focus on the holiness stream. James talks a lot about right action, which must flow from a right heart. James writes things like: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (Jas 1:22); “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (Jas 1:27); “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?... Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” (Jas 2:14, 18).
Throughout church history, we have examples of people and movements that exemplify this stream. In very early church history, during a period we know as “The Desert Fathers and Mothers”, a group of Christians removed themselves from their society and culture in an effort to find a pure heart and thus a holy life. A few took to sitting way up high, on the top of tall poles, to try to get away from influences that might lead them into sin. One of the great contributions from this period is their testimony that sin comes from within, from the “deceitful heart.”