I want to commend you to a fantastic website www.johnowen.org. Owen is so critical to pastors and churches today because he helps us connect holiness to private and public life like no one in recent church history. Many of you may be like me, in that you do not desire (at least at heart) to be a different person in private than you are in public. YET…we sin and we have marginalized what sin means to our public life. No matter what you or I believes, there is no distinction between our public or private spiritual life in holiness. We are only as holy as we are holy in private. Now, that is true and yet there is a part of me that cringes at writing it.
As a pastor, I am invariably put on a pedestal and in many ways you should expect and demand a greater holiness out of me. So, pray for my personal, private holiness against all lust, materialism, anger, pride, etc. However, you must also pray for yourselves because although I am held in stricter judgment before the Lord for my teaching post, without holiness NO ONE will enter the kindgom of heaven (Hebrews 12:12-17). What this means, is that holiness (its progressing evidence in our lives of putting off sin and living out Christ) is an essential verification that we will enter the kingdom of heaven, having been genuinely converted. If we do not pursue and practice holiness, we very simply should be concerned for our own souls.
For years (particularly the 80’s and 90’s) there were debates in theological circles about “lordship” and “holiness”. The debate centered on not diminishing free grace, which is critical. However, the conversation seemed to drift into defending “cheap” grace – that grace that costs nothing of Christ and demands nothing of the believer. Some would say, “I knew Him as Savior” but then later to confess, “Now, I know Him as Lord”. Honestly, yielding to His rule in our lives is a constant battle and part of pursuing holiness. Whether you know “how” to yield or not is not the most critical issue at conversion. Yielding to Him as the all-sufficient Savior and ruler of the universe is! To accept a “part” of Christ (as Savior, but not Lord) is to be partly saved; and, biblically speaking, to be partly saved is to be wholly unsaved. One day we will have to answer for the belief of our lifestyles. This is not perfectionism…it is pursuit.
Think about this… Is it more likely that Christ will demand that we prayed a prayer / walked an aisle without any real change, or is it more likely that the Living Word would use the living written word (Hebrews 12) in seperating the true believer from the false believer? Some may feel this harsh. I do not mean it so. I am a sinner and have doubted my own salvation many times along the way. My only hope is your only hope in this world…Jesus Christ! We must remember, however, that the “human” part of us that may feel this too harsh is most likely that same human part of Pharisees that wanted to kill Jesus because his standards seemed impossible and self-righteousness would not do.