Holiness: What It Is and What It Is Not

First of all, holiness is not necessarily a state in which there is perpetual, rapturous joy. Isaiah 53:3 tells us that Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” and Paul tells us that he had continual sorrow and great heaviness because of the rejection of Jesus by his kinsmen after the flesh.

Joy is the normal state of the holy man, but it may be mingled with sorrow and grief and perplexities and heaviness on account of many temptations. The low water mark, however, in the experience of a holy person is one of perfect peace—the high water mark is up in the third heaven somewhere. However, this third heaven experience is not likely to be constantly maintained. Jesus and the disciples had to come down off the Mount of Transfiguration and go to casting out devils, and Paul returned from the third heaven to be attacked by Satan, stoned, whipped and imprisoned by men.

Holiness is not a state of freedom from temptation.
This is a world of trial, of conflict with principalities and powers, darkness and terrible evil. The holy soul who is in the forefront of the conflict may expect the fiercest assaults of the devil and the heaviest, most perplexing and prolonged temptations. Our blessed Lord was tried and tempted for 40 days and 40 nights by the devil, and the servant must not be surprised if he is as his Master.

Paul tells us that Jesus was tempted at all points as we are, and that He is able to sympathize with us when we are tempted. It is no sin to be tempted. In fact, the Apostle James tells us to rejoice when we are subjected to all kinds of temptations, for the resulting trial of our faith will produce in us strength and force of holy character, so that we shall be lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).

WaterfallHoliness is not a state of freedom from weakness.
It does not produce a perfect head, but a perfect heart! The saints have always been surrounded with weaknesses that have proved a source of great trial, but when patiently endured for His dear sake, such travail has also proved a source of great blessing. Paul had a thorn in the flesh, an infirmity, a messenger of Satan to attack him. Possibly it was weak eyes, for he was once stoned and dragged out of the city and left for dead, and in writing to the Galatians, he says they would have plucked out their eyes and given them to him had it been possible. Or it may have been a stammering tongue, for he tells us he was accounted rude of speech. Anyway, it was a weakness which he longed to be rid of, doubtless feeling that it interfered with his usefulness, and three times he prayed to the Lord for deliverance, but instead of getting the prayed-for deliverance, the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Then Paul cried out, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). In the Epistle to the Hebrews 4;15, we are told that Jesus was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” We may be faulty in memory, in judgment, in understanding; we may have many weaknesses of body and mind, but God looks upon the purity of the heart, the singleness of the eye and the loyalty of our affection, and if He does not find us faulty there, He counts us perfect men and women. It is not in the mere natural perfection that the power and glory of God are manifested, but rather in goodness, purity, love, humility and longsuffering shining forth through weaknesses of the flesh and imperfections of mind.

Holiness is not a state of freedom from suffering.
The saints of all ages have been chosen “in the furnace of affliction’ (Isaiah 48:10). Job, Jeremiah, Daniel, Paul and the mighty army of martyrs have, and shall always, come up through great difficulty. It is not God’s purpose to take us to heaven on flowery beds of ease, clothe us in purple and fine linen and keep a lollipop in our mouths all the time. That would not develop strength of character nor cultivate simplicity and purity of heart. Nor in that case could we really know Jesus and the fellowship of His sufferings. It is in the furnace of fire, the lion’s den and the dungeon cell that He most freely reveals Himself to His people.

Other things being equal, the holy man is less liable to suffering than the sinner. He does not run into the same excesses that the sinner does. He is free from the pride, the temper, the jealousy, the soaring ambitions and selfishness that plunge so many sinners into terrible affliction and ruin. And yet he must not presume that he will get through the world without heavy trials, hard temptations and suffering. Job was a perfect man, but he lost all his property and his children and in a day was made a childless beggar, but he proved his perfection by giving God glory. Then when his wife bade him curse God and die, he said unto her, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). And when his three friends were undermining his faith, he looked up from off his ash heap, and out of his awful sorrow, desolation and fierce pain he cried out, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).

Joseph is one of the few men in the Bible against whom nothing is recorded, but like Daniel, his very holiness and righteousness led to the terrible trials endured in Egypt. And so it may be, and is, with saints today. But while we may be afflicted, we can comfort ourselves with David’s assurance, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19). A friend of mine said he would rather have a thousand afflictions and be delivered out of them all, than have half a dozen and get stuck in the midst of them.

Holiness is not a state in which there is no further development.
When the heart is purified it develops more rapidly than ever before. Spiritual development comes through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the heart, and the holy soul is in a condition to receive such revelations constantly. And since the finite can never exhaust the infi- nite, these revelations will continue forever and prove an increasing and never ending source of development. It would be as wise to say that a sick child would grow no more when he recovers, or that corn would grow no more when the weeds were destroyed, as to say that a soul will cease to grow when it is made holy.

Holiness is not a state from which we cannot fall.
Paul tells us that we stand by faith (Romans 11:16-22), and he says, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). It is an unscriptural and dangerous doctrine that there is any state of grace in this world from which we cannot fall. Probation does not end the moment we believe in Jesus, but rather the moment we quit the body. It is only those who endure to the end who shall be saved. While here, we are in the enemy’s country and must watch and pray and examine ourselves daily, and keep ourselves in the love of God, lest we fall from His grace and shipwreck our faith. But while we may fall, thank God holiness is a state from which we need not fall. In fact, it is a state which Paul calls “this grace wherein we stand” (Romans 5:2).

WaterfallSome have asked the question, “How can a holy soul be tempted, or how can it fall?” I will ask the question, how could the angels fall? And how could Adam just fresh from the hands of his Maker in whose image he was made, fall? And I will ask the more startling question still, how could Jesus, the blessed incarnate God Himself, be tempted? We have our five senses and various bodily appetites, none of which are in themselves sinful, but each of which may become an avenue by which the holy soul may be solicited to evil. Each must be regulated by the Word of God and dominated by the love of Jesus, if we wish to keep a holy heart, and “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12).

Finally, holiness is a state of conformity to the divine nature. God is love, and there is a sense in which a holy man can be said to be love. His is like God, not in God’s natural perfection of power, wisdom, knowledge and omnipresence but in patience, humility, self-control, purity of heart and love. As the drop out of the ocean is like the ocean, not in its bigness, but in its essence, so is the holy soul like God. As the branch is like the vine, not in its self-sufficiency, but in its nature, its sap, fruitfulness, its beauty, so is he that is holy like God.

This unspeakable blessing is provided for us by our compassionate Heavenly Father through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and is received through a complete renunciation of all sin, a total consecration to all the known will of God, persistent prayer and childlike faith. I obtained this crowning blessing of the gospel through the conscious incoming of the Holy Spirit when I believed, after weeks of earnest seeking. Bless God! He still abides with me and my peace and joy increase and abound. Many have been my afflictions, and fierce and perplexing and prolonged have been my temptations, but with a daredevil faith I have pressed on, claiming victory through the Blood, testifying to what I claimed by faith and proving day by day this grace to be sufficient while the path shines more and more unto the perfect day. Glory be to God forever!

By Commissioner Samuel Logan Brengle

Army Reinforces Commitment to Dr. King’s Vision

Commissioner Roberts joins representatives of Christian communions in the USA in signing the Response to Dr. King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail.Commissioner William Roberts, USA National Commander, and Lt. Colonel Stephen Banfield, National Secretary for Program, joined with Christian Churches Together in April to commemorate and respond to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Dr. King wrote his letter 50 years ago after being arrested and jailed for helping organize nonviolent protests on behalf of desegregation. He was responding to a Catholic priest, six Protestants and a rabbi who petitioned the civil rights movement to hold negotiations rather than demonstrations. His letter is considered a seminal statement on social justice, nonviolent protest and the foundational principles of America.

“We proclaim that, while our context today is different, the call is the same as in 1963—for followers of Christ to stand together, to work together, and to struggle together for justice,” the 20-page document states. More than 100 Christian leaders signed the response during an ecumenical gathering at St. Paul Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, confessing their silence and slowness in addressing racial injustice.

“The mission of The Salvation Army reflects exactly the ideals of Dr. King. We take this opportunity to pledge our continued pursuit and affirm our commitment to serve human need without discrimination, a hallmark and characteristic of The Salvation Army throughout its 148 year history,” Commissioner Roberts said.

A Salvation Army position statement on race relations released in 1964 voiced respect for individuals regardless of race, ethnicity or any trait other than being a child of a loving God. During 1965, the Army further clarified its position in the War Cry: “The Salvation Army opposes discriminatory practices related to race or national origin at all levels of operation and administration . . . It faces firmly and supports fully the imperatives of human and civil rights . . . With such a heritage, today’s Salvationists can do no other than stand firm on the basic Salvation Army philosophy, Bible-given, that ‘all men are created equal’ for ‘God hath made of one blood all nations of man, . . . Barriers, walls of prejudice, for reasons of race or color, are intolerable to the Salvationist who is committed to the brotherhood of all men.” (Source, Sweeping Through the Land, a History of The Salvation Army in the Southern United States by Allen Satterlee, 1989.)

Colonel Banfield joins with religious leaders in Birmingham to express ongoing commitment to God's justice and peace.The response to Dr. King unequivocally defines prejudice and injustice as endemic to the human condition, and as anathema to the Church as it “unceasingly pursues justice and greater harmony within the human family. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, she continues to press toward ‘the beloved community’ of which Dr. King spoke with passion and eloquence.”

The document also calls for dialogue to dispel misunderstanding and prejudice and to confront rhetoric that perpetuates “the bondage of myths and half–truths.” Finally, it recognizes “a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’ that persists in the experience of many African Americans. Millions are still cut off from hope for a future . . . Children growing up surrounded by substandard schools, housing and neighborhoods still internalize a message of inferiority. The structures of our society must echo the truth that Dr. King called ‘the birthright of every individual’: I am a person . . . with dignity and honor.”

Such has been the rallying cry of Salvationists who through their ranks and service strive to emulate the reality of a Christ-centered identity, “where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:10–11).

Songs of the Soul: A Deeper Level

By the time he carried out his horrific plan, David had not only committed adultery and exercised elaborate deception, but topped it off with the cold blooded murder of a trusted and innocent associate. It is a sordid story of a very good man going very, very bad. And he thought he’d gotten away with it. Sitting smugly on his throne and now married to the widow of the man he had murdered, his arrogance was shattered in a matter of minutes by the prophet Nathan. Nathan outlined a story of greed about a wealthy farmer who owned thousands of sheep, but to feed a visiting guest took a poor farmer’s pet sheep away for slaughter. Hearing of this horrible and heartless injustice, David cried out, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” With fearless authority Nathan pointed at the king and said, “You are the man!” Nathan then inventoried David’s crimes, leaving the king breathless until he could but whisper, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:1-13). He next learned that his sin had wide ranging consequences, beginning in his own home and radiating throughout the kingdom.

The pompous king was now a broken man as he felt the crushing load of his sin. As a result of this experience David wrote Psalm 51, a psalm that reveals both deep remorse and hope for cleansing.

God Knew
David’s first plea is for mercy. He seeks God’s protection from His just wrath, but he appeals to God’s unfailing love: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” (vs. 1). David remembered God’s tender mercy for the sins of his past. Based on that record of compassionate love, David approached Him once again. When his sin was out in the open, he saw himself for what he had become. David knew that only God’s mercy could save him. Despite the horrible acts that caused so many innocent people to suffer, he owned that it was God who was more deeply offended than the most wronged among his people. Everyone else had only a partial understanding of the depth of his sin, but God knew not only what David had done but what he had fantasized and longed to do in defiance of his Lord.

David had to accept his sin before he could receive God’s forgiveness. Too many people who have done wrong are unwilling to acknowledge the harm they have done to themselves, to others and to their relationship with God. But David knew that a shallow repentance was no repentance at all. This was no “slap another coat of paint on it” but a sanding down to the base material until all the old paint is removed.

Even as he pleaded for forgiveness, David realized the scope of his situation. Verses 5-9 outline the problem. With a fully operating sinful nature David knew he was not only guilty of this sin but capable of far worse. When he sought to do better, determined he would live right, he could feel the gravity of sin pulling him forcibly back down to defeat. David said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (vs. 5).

What was his hope? It wasn’t to be converted—David sincerely loved the Lord. If not to be saved, what did he need? He pleaded for a cleansing that would go beyond anything that he had ever experienced. “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (vs. 7). Hyssop was used in ceremony to sprinkle lamb’s blood on cleansed lepers. The cleansing he begged for was deep enough to even remove a leper’s scars.

This purity that David needs leads him to pray, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (vs. 10). He does not ask God to reform him but to bring him into a new life experience. Holy cleansing is not to restore his heart to its former state, but to make it better than ever—not returning to the start but moving to a deeper level of righteousness.

Now living in the power of the Holy Spirit, David finds he is more able to be the witness God intended. He says, “I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you . . . my mouth will declare your praise . . . ” (vs. 13,14). In the book of Acts, after the fullness of the Holy Spirit rested on the original disciples at Pentecost, the first evidence that life had changed was their bold witness on the streets of Jerusalem among the very people who only weeks earlier had murdered Christ (Acts 2-3). While not everyone is an eloquent speaker when purified and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can all say something to someone.

The conclusion of the psalm reveals that David has come to a deeper knowledge of God. When the psalm opens, he is a rejected and dejected man. But at the end, he speaks of what God accepts. “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise . . . you will delight in the sacrifices of righteousness . . . ” (vs. 17,19).

The heart that is broken before the Lord is not only opened to allow all the infection out but to allow the healing and purifying Spirit in. For many of us who are like David, the failure of trying to live Christianity on our own terms brings us to the brokenness that God uses to create a clean heart. Where do you find yourself in this story? Are you at the beginning of the psalm crying for mercy, or at the end, rejoicing in victory?

By Major Allen Satterlee

New Crest Book Ready for 2nd Printing 30 Days After First Release.

Say Something, by Lt. Colonel Stephen Banfield and Major Donna Leedom, culls accounts and experiences from 5,500 delegates and leaders who have participated in the Salvation Army National Seminar on Evangelism over the past 45 years. “The demand for this latest Crest Book is heartening and represents a groundswell of interest in effective evangelism,” says National Editor–in–Chief Major Allen Satterlee.

Available at shop.salvationarmy.org or through the Salvation Army Supplies Department nearest you: Des Plaines, IL – (847) 937-8896; West Nyack, NY – (888) 488-4882; Atlanta, GA – (800) 786-7372; Long Beach, CA – (847) 937-8896.

Say Something Inspiring Accounts of Everyday Evangelism