Stuart Briscoe wrote, "In light of the widespread disinterest in holiness in the church, and the deep distrust outside the church . . . it is not surprising that the subject is often treated with benign neglect by the church."
While that attitude may prevail, it is not an option for Nazarenes who see holiness as a priority in both our practice and our preaching. Yet how do we make the connection to today's audience? What communication barriers do we need to overcome?
One communication barrier may be the use of our "exclusive" Nazarene terminology. Terms that may be dear to us, such as "sanctification," "second blessing," or "Christian perfection," may be unfamiliar to those who have not grown up in our churches. While we must not abandon these terms, we are called to present them within the context of 21st century life and language.
For example, a term like "sanctification" may be illustrated in the context of full surrender to the will of God. "Holiness" may be pictured as wholeness - being spiritually whole and undivided in our allegiance to Christ.
Language may vary, but the message of holiness will never be outdated. Every pastor should revisit the holiness classics. Every teacher in small group and Sunday School settings should be well versed on the message of entire sanctification. We must give it a high profile. Teach it often. Preach it regularly. Plan a sermon series on the doctrine.
Consider using these approaches:
1. Series One: What does the Bible teach about holiness?
Focus on some of the holiness passages such as Isaiah 6:1-8, Matthew 5:43-48,
Ephesians 5:15-20, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, Hebrews 12:14-17, and others.
2. Series Two: How do biblical characters exemplify holiness?
Use examples of people such as Abraham, Hannah, Paul, Peter, Stephen, and others to teach the principles of a surrendered life.
3. Series Three: What are some modern-day challenges to living a holy life?
Honestly address some of the spiritual speed bumps of a holiness lifestyle.
- Is my lifestyle consistent with holy living?
- What about temperaments? How does holiness affect an individual's personality?
- Is it possible to have healthy self-esteem and still be holy?
- Is it appropriate to "pursue" holiness, or does it happen automatically?
- How can we make holiness work in actual practice?
4. Series Four: Examine passages that deal with practical issues, such as Colossians 3:12-17 and Ephesians 5:22-32.
Be prepared to answer the big questions:
- What practices are consistent with holiness?
- What needs to be discarded if we are to live a holy life?
- How does a life of holiness inform and influence our decision to be missional?
- What did Jesus mean when He said we would receive power to be His witnesses?
- How does holiness affect our commitment to plant new churches?
We preach holiness because we have the responsibility to teach the whole counsel of God.
As D. A. Carson points out, "People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord."
By reclaiming the message of heart holiness and issuing a biblical call to holy living, we will be able to resist the drift and keep our missional focus on making Christlike disciples in the nations.
Stan A. Toler is general superintendent emeritus in the Church of the Nazarene.