This is the double issue of the Gazette, meaning that the summer is upon us, most of our ancillary ministries will be closed for the duration of the school holidays and to a greater or lesser extent we as church members are going to be scattered across the country and in some cases across the world. How are we going to use the holiday period?
If we were to insist on the original meaning of the word ‘holiday’ we would make sure that they are holy days i.e. days set apart for God. We don’t use holiday in that way, but rightly emphasise the need for rest and I trust that all who manage to take a holiday this year will enjoy a time of great rest and refreshment. That said, I don’t want to forget the subject of holiness, because it formed an important part of our Ministers Conference at Bala in June. On the Tuesday evening Pete Campbell, who is minister of the Fron in Penrhyndeudraeth gave a summary of a book called “The Hole in Our Holiness” by Kevin de Young. It is a book written because there are people in the USA, who argue that as long as we have been saved by grace through faith that is all that is required of us. To put it at its most basic, we have a reservation in heaven, therefore it does not matter how we live. Many would use Augustine to support such a position, because he argued “Love God and Live as you Want.”
The wonder of the Christian Gospel is that no matter what our sin before God, if we confess our sin to God and believe that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin then we have the assurance that we have been forgiven and are cleansed (1 John 1:7-9). The hymn writer, Fanny Crosby put that truth like this,
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
Does that mean however that we go on living a life of sin? At the beginning of Rom 6 Paul answered that question in this way – ‘By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?’ (Rom 6:2). In fact in Thessalonians he wrote, ‘For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.’ (1 Thess 4:7). Our Christian lives are to be holy, set apart as different for God 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.” (1 Pet 1:15,16). This is a command that is carried over from the Old Testament and is directly connected to our relationship with God “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy”. (Leviticus 11:44). He is holy and we are to be holy. Hebrews makes an incredibly powerful statement when it states “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord”. (Heb 12:14).
Think about that last statement for a moment. Strive for … the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. God is in effect saying that if we are not holy people then we have no hope of heaven. Does that contradict the words of the hymn quoted? No! nor does it oppose the truth taught by John in his first letter or Paul in Eph 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” In Ephesians Paul goes on to write “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (v. 10). Good works will not save a person, but God expects us to do good works, another way of saying that we live a holy life. God expects us to live a life that daily displays His character.
Since the Holy Spirit lives within every Christian it must be surely obvious that His holiness will be displayed in our lives, unless of course we have never been saved by the blood of Jesus and filled with His Spirit who helps us to love God by keeping His commandments.
As we use the rest period of the summer may we each consider carefully how we might live lives that will reveal the holiness of God.
Seeking to be holy,
Bernard Lewis July 2014