Holiness Is Taboo in the Church by Dr. Henry Aug 2011

Evangelicals in the 21st century do not take seriously the biblical call to holiness. This Christian discipline is now a thing of the past since we have become complacent in preaching holiness from our pulpits. The mere mention of this word sends chills down the spines of Christians, and the word holiness is synonymous with legalism. It is much easier to allow sin to be unchecked in our lives and we have become far too content with the lives we lead here in America.

1. Christ died “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor. 5:15)
2. We were chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Eph. 1:4)
3. Christ “loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her…so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27)
4. Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14)
5. Christ came to break the power of sin; He does not merely take away the guilt of the believer’s sin. (1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 12:10). Christ did not just save us from Hell but He saved us to holiness.

J.C. Ryle, the Bishop of Liverpool from the nineteenth century, said: “We must be holy; because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world…Jesus is a complete Savior. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, He does more—He breaks its power


In previous generations, particularly within Pentecostal and Holiness denominations, holiness meant you separated yourself from the world and did not participate in certain things. Our younger generation has little patience for this type of biblical holiness. Further, they see it as a bunch of rules of do's and don'ts. A Christian practicing holiness in this generation is viewed as weird and legalistic. He/she is viewed outside the pale of orthodoxy. Abstaining from swearing, inappropriate movies, questionable music or adhering to modesty, sexual purity, self-control or just plain godliness are seen as pious, legalistic, fundamental and a works based Gospel. The new generation gets nervous when around the old timers who understand the biblical mandate for holiness, applicable to all generations. We must realize that biblical holiness is not a Pentecostal doctrine but it is a biblical faith practice starting with our Jewish forefathers of the faith with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and taught by New Testament leaders such as Paul, James, and Matthew. Our American culture pushes the agenda of tolerance. Americans are cool, and to be cool means pushing the boundaries with language, entertainment, alcohol, and the latest fashion or fad.

Even though holiness is much more than these things, our effort to be hip and cool within our culture has run counter to the biblical mandate of holiness. These generations of Christians figure since these things have nothing to do with holiness, then regularly engaging in them could not possibly be anti-biblical. Christianity now calls for Christian freedom at the expense of pursuing the Christian virtue of holiness.
Among even more liberal denominations, the teaching of holiness is suspect because any talk of right and wrong behaviors is participation in being judgmental and intolerant. However, if we are to be “without spot or blemish,” doesn't the Word of God make necessary that we distinguish between what sort of attitudes, actions, and habits are pure and which ones are impure?

Even among conservative evangelical Christians, there is sometimes the mistaken notion that if we are truly to be evangelical, then we should not talk about rules or even exhort our fellow brethren to moral behaviors.

I do understand that in some denominational circles there is a set of moralistic teachings outside of the confines of Justification by faith (Grace) but we must be careful not to go to the other extreme and not teach the biblical mandate of true biblical holiness, morality and righteous living.

Preachers have become afraid with words such as diligence, effort, obedience and sin. We have minimized and sometimes overlooked scriptures that call for us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), command us to cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit (2 Cor. 7:1), and warn against even a small tinge of immorality among the saints (Eph. 5:3).

Most evangelical Christians are really excited about justification by faith, the Justice of God, fellowship, evangelism and even serving in their communities. You can find young believes of this generation passionate about orthodox theology which by the way should be pursued in our Christian walk. However, where are the Christians known for their zeal to live right before God and bringing their bodies under subjection in pursuit of holiness? Where is the passion for honoring Christ with obedience? We need more Clergy among the more than 6,000 American denominations who will begin to sound the alarm of true biblical holiness. Who will say as Paul said, “Look carefully then how you walk.” (Eph. 5:15)
When is the last time we took scriptures like Ephesians 5:1-7 ("Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all un-cleanness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.") and began to apply them to conversation, our joking, our movies, our YouTube videos, our Media addictions and the commercials and shows we watch?

What is most interesting to me is the fact that the New Testament has very few explicit commands that tell us to evangelize or to take care of the poor in our communities, but there are many more verses and much more support which exhort us to pursue holiness in our Christianity and to be holy as God is holy (e.g., 1 Peter 1:13-16).

My purpose is not to minimize any of the other biblical mandates of Christianity, but to bring back the holiness teachings of the Bible in today's modern interpretation of evangelical Christianity. The LORD God wants Christians to be much more careful with their eyes, ears, and mouth. Clearly it is not legalistic to take holiness seriously. Holiness was pursued by the Hebrew believers and should be pursued by the Christian believers as well. To be holy is to be separate, to be distinct, and to not allow the world to shape our viewpoints of life. Holiness does not call for us to be weird but to be different from the world. We are in the world, but we are not of it. We can impact this generation if preachers would get back to the biblical mandate of living and teaching holiness, regardless of our denominational distinctives and hang-ups. Perhaps the greatest motivator for anyone in the faith is that the LORD Himself commanded it. "Be ye holy for I am Holy"...."without Holiness, no man shall see the LORD." To me personally, this is a pretty good motivator. Perhaps we have also lost "the fear of the LORD." May He help us to be more like Him and less like us.

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