“. . . for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:16)
For about 20 years, I have had the privilege of teaching a course called “Doctrine of Holiness” at various Nazarene institutions. It is a course that contributes to ordination requirements for ministry candidates, and it explores a key emphasis of the Church of the Nazarene—that God is willing and able to transform us in such a way that we can consistently say “yes” to Him and “no” to things that pull us away from Him.
Throughout the course, many students ask questions like, “Do we believe that we can never sin?” and “Does this happen to all believers?” and “Are we the only group that believes this?”
The answer to all three of these popular questions, of course, is “No.”
We believe that even sanctified believers still have free will, which means that we have the ability to disobey God.
Furthermore, though all believers have access to this dynamic and ongoing work of grace, we believe that many do not allow God to move them in this direction. This is why we believe that we as Christians are called to proclaim the great message of holiness.
Finally, we are certainly not the only group that believes that God can move us more toward Christlikeness. Our way of presenting and emphasizing this great message may have some unique characteristics, but we are joined by many groups—Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant—in proclaiming that God wants to do more than simply secure us a place in heaven after we die. God wants to transform us, in the words of Scripture, “into His [Christ’s] image with ever-increasing glory. . .” (2 Cor. 3:18).
By the end of the course, my goal is more than academic. I want students to receive more than just the historical development of the doctrine, the ways in which other groups (comparatively) articulate the doctrine, and a way to communicate the doctrine well enough to convince an ordination committee that they understand it!
I do want these things, of course, but the nature of the doctrine of holiness is that, like all good theology, it is meant to be lived! The Christian life is about an ongoing, dynamic relationship with the living God through the person and work of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is lived out not just individually, but in the context of the Christian community God has created—the Church.
Unless people see holiness lived out, they will have little interest in hearing about doctrinal formulations involving holiness.
This week, how is God calling us to grow in holiness? The answer involves living “out loud” the doctrine of holiness, which means loving as Christ loved, serving as Christ served, surrendering as Christ surrendered to the will of the Father, and living out what we say we believe.
Prayer for the Week:
Holy God, I pray that day by day I may become more and more like the Lord Jesus as I yield to Your Holy Spirit’s work within. I pray that I may learn to walk in Your love and truth, yielding to Your Spirit’s guidance in my life day by day. I ask that You search my heart and point out any areas that are displeasing to You, and lead me in the path of righteousness, for His name’s sake. Amen.
Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.