Open secrets about holiness
By: Lt. Colonel Vern Jewett
The Holiness Podcast is a monthly in-depth Bible study on subjects related to scriptural holiness. It is sponsored by The Salvation Army Florida Division and produced by Soundcast Ministries. This article will introduce you to representative examples of the topics and format used on the podcast.
What is an open secret? If they are open, visible and identifiable, why call them secrets? Simply put, they qualify as secrets because they are ignored—not because they are hidden.
WARNING! These secrets may raise questions for you. That’s by design and that’s wonderful! God has a homesickness for holiness among His children. His heart hurts when this gift is ‘in absentia’ among Christians. The New Testament description of holiness is broad, instructive and often nuanced in meaning.
Some Open Secrets about Holiness
PSSST!—You are a charter member. Yes, the card-carrying kind of the Society for Holy Living! If you know Jesus as your Savior, then you are already sanctified! Salvation consists of two wonderful blessings from God which happen instantaneously when you accept Jesus—justification and sanctification.
Justification takes place in the heart of God. You are reconciled to Him, your sins are forgiven and you are part of the family of God! This happens only once and is completed at the point of conversion. The guilt of sin is erased and your sins are forgiven.
Sanctification also takes place when the Holy Spirit comes into your life. (Romans 8:9) The power of sin can now be broken. This initial sanctification is the real thing! It begins the lifelong process of growing into being “sanctified through and through” (I Thessalonians 5:23).
PSSST!—God the Holy Spirit brings spiritual power. Your holiness is the purpose of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to you. Jesus’ final words were, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The promise of spiritual power and the assurance of its availability to all Christians explode from the pages of the gospels, Acts and the epistles. We “live according to the Spirit,” our “minds are set upon what the Spirit desires” and as His children we are “led by the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:4, 6, 14).
You and I are acutely aware that we are just ordinary folks, but ordinary becomes earthshaking in the life of a Spirit-filled believer! The Holy Spirit desires to be opportunistically redemptive in our daily lives. How exciting is that?
PSSST!—Spiritual struggle is not on God’s agenda. This secret is perhaps the most needed corrective in the church today. Countless millions of Christians are taught that holy living is impossible, that sin is inevitable and that they will constantly struggle in their spiritual lives.
The powerful teaching in Romans 12:2 that you can “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” is explained away. Rather, we are told that we must settle for the endless cycle of sinning and seeking forgiveness. That is a description of “being conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2).
At the heart of this false teaching is the assertion that God deals with sin only by forgiving us. That is a tragic half-truth. The missing truth is that God gives us the Holy Spirit who empowers us to resist sin. Dallas Willard made the poignant observation in his book, Renovation of the Heart, that “no one need live in spiritual and personal defeat. A life of victory over sin and circumstances is available to all”.
You and I need not struggle spiritually. We can live in spiritual victory. I John 3: 8-9 says “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them.”
PSSST!—What God wants is all of you. In 1967 I passed a United States Post Office had a large sign with a picture of a white-bearded old man pointing his finger and saying, “Uncle Sam Wants You!” Within the hour I had joined the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. I soon learned that the USMC wanted and claimed all of me.
Listen, dear Christian friends. The failure of the church today is to water down the commitment demanded by the gospel. Becoming a Christian is not merely praying a prayer sincerely at the moment to enter salvation land and then proceeding to live your life as you please! Jesus’ call to repentance was “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). The real question is “Does God have all of you?”
PSSST!—You can be perfect. Jesus said it, so I will, too. “Be ye perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 KJV) Sure, I hear people say all the time that no one can be perfect! But do you believe people? Or do you believe God?
The Bible was written in two ancient languages, Hebrew and Greek. Therefore, when we study today’s English translations, words matter! The Greek word teleios used by Jesus and translated “perfect” carries the meaning of “being complete, mature, or fully equipped for a particular use.” Today that meaning is lost when we translate it “perfect” a word which has evolved to carry with it a sense of absolutism and flawlessness.
Look, you need to study this more on your own, but the doctrine of Christian perfection is tenable and consistent with New Testament teaching. The prominent Wesleyan term “perfect love” is the sum of the two great commandments taught by Jesus. It is the essence of living in the power of the Holy Spirit as Paul characterizes it, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). A perfect heart, not perfect behavior, makes a perfect Christian!
PSSST!—A final word: “This is the will of God, even your sanctification” (I Thessalonians 4:3). Yes, you can be holy!