Keeping Holiness at the Center of Corps Life“Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer … He will renew your life and sustain you.” – Ruth 4:14–15 NIV
We have found over our years in the Army that most folks in our corps have either very little understanding about holiness or their views are incomplete, sometimes even negative. That indicates a consistent need for strong, biblical, exegetical and engaging preaching and teaching on holiness. Our unique calling as a denomination to holiness of heart and life should permeate our self-understanding. A balanced reintroduction to our history — with its multi-faceted emphasis on the massive topic of holiness — deserves to be creatively and unapologetically offered. Somehow, we have given up trying to help people understand, much less appropriate, a real, experiential holiness. Our fight against all unholiness ought to be based in the very nature of God, Who is Holy Love. What is central to God must captivate our vision and purpose.
I would recommend pointing every prayer, every small group discussion, every testimony and every sermon to a clear call to full salvation. Each metaphor in Scripture for salvation can be “completed” or “fulfilled” in the offer of a holy heart. Recently in my devotions, I read the entire book of Ruth. Is it little wonder that in the chaotic days of the judges when “everyone did what was right in their own eyes,” we have the record of only a handful of people who unobtrusively sought God’s best in their dire situation, and from those a family of faith was to be included in the lineage of the Savior? The Lord is looking for simple, total, unblemished, daily faith. For He is the Redeemer Who powerfully frees us to be completely His. He can transform all hopeless bitterness into beautiful goodness (Ruth 1:20, 4:16).
One practice I have found helpful is to take every major idea in Scripture to its logical conclusion. The Creator makes me new, to remake His image in me. My King pardons me, to enable my full submission. Our Reconciler removes our alienation, so that He might fill us with His Presence. The Great High Priest forgives sins because He desires to cleanse the sin nature. As Judge, He justifies so as to write His standards on my heart. Being born again initiates God’s desire to fill us with perfect love. The Good Shepherd Who found me when lost brings me home to the peace of a completed heart of total trust.
Holiness should never be touted as a feat of superhuman strength or an unworldly sphere. Holiness should form the grace-filled and normal fabric of our worship and work. As Brengle put it, “Holiness is not some lofty experience, unattainable except to those who can leap the stars, but rather it is a lowly experience, which lowly people in the lowly walks of life can share with Jesus, by letting his mind be in them.”
Nothing about Jesus ever came across as impossible to the person who understood Who He really was. We are made for Him. We are made for holiness. If we as a church ever allow the reservations about the possibility of holiness that will always surround us to dictate what we proclaim and live, then we will not be doing much good at all.
Holiness should always be presented in a winsome and natural way. It is the goal of our Savior and thus, it should be our mission. As many saints before us have modeled, the way to approach every person no matter how damaged, broken, and hopeless they may seem, is to see them as Jesus does. We can thus claim His deepest desire over their lives, that person perfect — completed, whole, all in, unreserved — in Christ.