Holiness isn’t fashionable. Some people think it’s scary/ risky/ uncool/ sanctimonious/ sad/ cranky… Think again! Holiness is at the core of Christianity. There’s no stronger testimony for the Gospel than a transformed life. The New Testament teaches salvation by grace through faith, but repeatedly urges us to live righteous lives. Several of the epistles address ordinary church members as “saints”. The world longs for us to live up to that title – but can we? And, if so, how? How does temptation work and how can we resist it? What difference will holiness make to our world?
That is a brief summary of my latest book – my latest and most relevant to the current situation of the western Church. News headlines about immorality by Christian leaders shame us again and again. Some churches have yoked themselves unequally with political parties (it never works out well). And many Christians have too easily taken on the moral standards of secular society. It’s not our job to pronounce judgement on non-Christians, but they expect us to live righteously. It’s time to give them what they expect.
Living righteously – the New Testament has a lot to say about that. Of all the New Testament texts on this subject the majority originate from St Paul. Paul also provides most of the proof texts for the doctrine of “justification by faith”, so it’s a mistake to suppose that there’s a conflict between these teachings. Christians are saved by Grace through faith, but we are expected to demonstrate our faith by holy living. That’s easy to say but, with temptation all around us, how can we do it?
There’s a lot to amaze us about Grace, and it’s not only about forgiveness. The Bible assures us that Grace also provides strength to resist temptation and to rebuff spiritual attacks. But, whilst it’s all free, God never forces it on us. The life of holiness requires an effort of the will. We have to want it. And we need to learn how to used the spiritual tools God provides.
Constantine is credited with the victory of Christianity over paganism in ancient Rome, but he could only do that because Christians had already won the moral battle. The Roman people had just witnessed the most violent and widespread persecution of Christians, by command of Diocletian, the previous emperor, and they were impressed by the integrity of the believers. Similar things are happening today, as Christians suffering persecution around the world are winning converts, not by their power, but by their holiness. We need to learn from them, because personal righteousness speaks louder than anything we can say.
Since the Second World War, churches have tried every device imaginable to stem the tide of decline. Much that has been tried has been good, and there’s no reason to throw away valuable ideas, useful technology, good music, or any of the useful devices that have been introduced. But nothing is more important than our integrity. We don’t need tricks or gimmicks, but just the sincere testimony of a transformed life. When we talk morality, the world sneers. But when we live righteously, they notice. Holiness matters.
“My Goodness!” is not a moralising book, but a practical help for committed Christians who want to grow in grace. Holiness is not achieved by keeping the rules, but by using divine resources – and the central aim of this book is to draw attention to the tools that God has provided. The life of faith is an up and down journey, and sometimes a battle. We may struggle with unnecessary guilt feelings. We may sometimes become discouraged. Temptation constantly seeks to catch us out. But Grace empowers us to become what God intends us to be.
Why does Holiness matter? Because conversion is not an end but a beginning, because the world needs to see faith in action, because a clear conscience aids prayer, but most of all, because God is holy.
© Derrick Phillips 2021
The book, “My Goodness!” is available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle eBook form. Search for “My Goodness! REASONABLE HOLINESS”