1 Jan 2021
In the very early morning of 2021, as I evaluated the past year and considered the New Year, I pondered before the Lord God on what is the most important aspect in my christian life that I need to focus on, nurture and preserve, with God’s enabling and grace. My thoughts went back to what was expressed by the late J.I. Packer before his demise – his sadness that holiness is not taught and preached as much as it should be among believers and in the church.
I read again what was written by this servant of God: “What holiness is and why it matters”. I thought about the past year, the global upheavals, the untimely deaths of so many, the economic hardship, the challenges believers face in evaluating what are the real important issues for the church and God’s people – things are moving so fast and what is unexpected can happen in a twinkle of an eye. What Packer wrote struck a deep chord in my heart and the Lord reminded me that what really matters for me and my brethren is to be presented holy before HIs throne of grace individually and corporately as a pure and unblemished ‘bride of Christ’. Packer expressed this in the most comprehensive way and I take the liberty to quote extracts of what he wrote:
What Holiness is
“‘Holy’ in biblical language means ‘separated and set apart for God, consecrated and made over to Him.’ In its application, it implies both devotion and assimilation: devotion, in the sense of living a life of service to God; assimilation, in the sense of imitating, conforming to, and becoming like the God one serves.
A holy person’s motivating aim, passion, desire, longing, aspiration, goal, and drive is to please God, both by what one does and by what one avoids doing. In other words, one practices good works and cuts out evil ones…
Asceticism, – voluntary abstinence, routines of self-deprivation and grueling austerity – is not the same thing as holiness….
Formalism, in the sense of outward conformity in work and deed to the standards God has set, is not anything like holiness….
Legalism, in the sense of doing things to earn God’s favour or to earn more of it than one has already, is not to be regarded as holiness…
Holiness begins in the heart – so I must labour to keep my heart actively responsive to God in devotion and assimilation, seeking always to please Him.”
Why Holiness matters
More from Packer:
“From looking at today’s Christian world, you might easily conclude that holiness does not matter. What Christians mainly preach and teach seems to be not holiness, but success and positive feelings: getting health, wealth, freedom from care, good sex and happy families.
What do Christians chiefly value in our leaders – seems to be not their holiness, but their gifts and skills and resources…
The number of Christian leaders found guilty of sexual and financial shenanigans, and when challenged have declined to see themselves as accountable to any part of the body of Christ, is startling…
How do Christians formulate the gospel to others in our evangelism, and to ourselves as born-again believers who are called to live by it? While we do lay stress on faith, we touch very lightly on repentance (binging one’s conscience to God’s moral law, confessing and forsaking one’s sins, making restitution for past wrongs, grieving before God at the dishonour one’s sins have done Him, and forming a game plan for holy living)… When you explain the gospel to others,, do you emphasise repentance, and the holiness by which repentance is expressed, as a spiritual necessity?
When we play down or ignore the importance of holiness, we are utterly and absolutely wrong.
Holiness is in fact commanded. God wills it, Christ requires it, and all the Scriptures – the Law, the Gospels, the prophets, the wisdom writings, the Epistles, the history books that tell of judgments past, and the Book of Revelation that tells of judgment to come – call for it.
In reality, holiness is the goal of our redemption. As Christ died in order that we may be justified, so we are justified in order that we may be sanctified and made holy. Holiness is the object of our new creation. We are born again so that we may grow up into Christlikeness.
Holiness is actually the true health of the person. Anything else is ugliness and deformity at character level, a malfunctioning of the individual, a crippled state of soul.
Holiness effectively thwarts Satan in his designs on our lives. By contrast, unconcern about holiness and failure to practice the purity and righteousness to which we are called play into his hands every time.
Holiness also gives credibility to witness. Those who proclaim a life-changing Saviour will not impress others if their own lives seem to be no different from anyone else’s. Holy ways will enhance our testimony, while worldly ways will undermine it. ‘You are the light of the world..Let your light shine before them, that they may see your good deeds (good works, backing up good words) and praise your Father in heaven (about whom you told them, and whose power they now see in your living (Matthew 5:14,16).
Finally, holiness is the substance of which happiness is the spin-off. Those who chase happiness miss it, while to those who pursue holiness through the grace of Christ, happiness of spirit comes unasked..”I delight in your commands because I love them…They are the joy of my heart” (Psalm 119:47,111)”.
As we consider the comprehensive writings of God’s servant, Packer, let us soberly ponder over their implications for our lives in 2021.
If we truly desire spiritual victory in our lives; if we desire to truly please God in our lives in our ‘inner man’ and ‘heart’; if we long for true spiritual happiness and satisfaction; if we desire to cultivate Godly values and discernment, we must pursue holiness through His grace.
In fact, if we appreciate true wholesome health (and not just freedom from viral illness and physical ill-health for 2021) and desire effectiveness in our Christian life and ministry, and seek to stand before God’s judgement seat without apprehension, not just in this year but until we finish the race, then we cannot afford to ignore holiness in our lives and in the life of the church.