Summary: There is a missing element, a missing piece of the puzzle in modern day evangelicalism. I've always felt that. But I couldn't figure out what it was.
There is a missing element, a missing piece of the puzzle in modern day evangelicalism. I've always felt that. But I couldn't figure out what it was. I thought for a while that perhaps it was a missional attitude, an emphasis on evangelism. I was really, really sure for a while that it was zealous missional evangelism. But now I realize that I was way off. The missing piece of the puzzle was always right in front of me, actually. It was inscribed on the altar of every Salvation Army corps I attended, where it said: "Holiness unto the Lord."
I never understood what that meant. In fact I asked several people, and they didn't know what it meant either. Holiness preaching and teaching has largely left holiness movement churches. Very, very few pastors preach holiness anymore. It's a lost teaching. It's the missing piece of the puzzle. It's what I've been aching and yearning for in my spiritual life, day in and day out. I've wanted it so badly, but it's always seemed just out of reach. So what does it mean, to be holy to the Lord?
The scriptures say, 1 Peter 1:14-16 (ESV) "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”"
Holiness is the work of God in us, as we yield to the Spirit of Christ, who conforms the inclinations of our heart, and our outward conduct toward holy (set apart) living.
Too many Christians today are living in active, willful sin. And it needs to stop. This is not how the Christian life is to be lived. We must repent (turn away from evil) and stop sinning. God has called us to a holy life in Christ Jesus.
Jesus Christ has washed away our sins. But we must be careful not to dirty our robes (Revelation 3:4). Thankfully, even if we sin after having come to know Jesus, we can bring those sins before God, ask for forgiveness in Jesus, repent, and we are washed clean once again (1 John 1:9). So it's never too late to repent, as long as we're here on Earth, and still alive in the flesh. But once we stand before God, we will be judged according to how we lived (2 Cor 5:10). And for us pastors and teachers, we'll be judged with greater strictness (James 3:1).
So what are the common sins we struggle with today? Sexual sin is the big one, and the various layers of it: Top layer would be adultery (sleeping with another man's wife, or another woman's husband), fornication (having sex with your boyfriend or girlfriend before marriage), and masturbation. Repent of those first. And ask God for help in doing that, day and night. The next layer is pornography, get free from that. Finally, the last bastions are fantasizing (playing images through in your mind) and lusting in your heart (indulging in staring at a scantly clothed man or woman). Break free from those.
Sex really comes up first because it's the area most of us try to get away with, because the urges are so powerful. But honestly, if we live in sin like this, we're not going to be going to eternal life in heaven, we're going to be going to outer darkness. We'll be conscious there. And we'll know that we're never leaving. I'm not trying to use scare tactics. I'm just telling you what the word of God says. Take it seriously.
I know some teachers may have taught you that you can never lose your salvation. They lied to you, and that doctrine simply isn't in the word of God. The Bible talks again and again about falling away and shipwrecked faith, and we're urged constantly to "continue" in the faith and "abide" (remain) in Christ (1 Timothy 4:1, Rev 2:4-5, 2 Cor 11:3, 2 Peter 2:20-22, Romans 11:19-22, Matthew 24:10-13, John 15:1-8).
Other sins that are fairly common are stealing, lying, mistreating parents, being a lukewarm Christian, watching certain R-rated movies, smoking cigarettes, using drugs, drinking to get drunk, manipulation of others, cussing, idolatry (putting something before God), envy, divisions/dissensions, fits of anger, and so on (Galatians 5:19-21).
As it says in the scriptures, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (ESV) "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
We often avoid these lists of sins like the plague. Why do we do that? It's in the word of God. We shouldn't be afraid of it. It's the truth. And if it bothers the church body, so be it, maybe we need to be bothered a bit more.