As a preview to the first National Seminar on Holiness next summer, Dr. Bill and Diane Ury, National
Ambassadors for Holiness, talk about what holiness means and how Salvationists can live it out.
What is Holiness?
Bill: Holiness is the highest thing a person can say about God. It is God’s essence, His nature. Every attribute of God’s—His justice, mercy, sovereignty—must be qualified by His holiness, which means it informs all He does.
The crucial matter is that holiness is not defined by us. It is revealed by God, and it is offered to every person by God Himself. So, the key is not a “what” but a “who.” Yahweh told Moses the ground he was standing on was holy because the Lord Himself was present. He makes holy wherever He is. The most important place He desires to dwell in His fullness is the human heart, and that is where we focus our attention. If God can have access to all of us, then His “all” can restore the moral image which was destroyed by sin. If that occurs, then He can pour His holy love into our hearts for the sake of others.
Why does holiness matter to Salvationists?
Diane: Holiness is the manifested, self-emptying nature of God that is more concerned about others than self. Our motto is “others.” There’s no possible way to live for and serve the lost, last, least and unlovely (with a heart that isn’t false in motive, grumbling in spirit or self-vaunting) without the cleansing presence of the only One who is that way.
Bill: As we have traveled to every territory and met the finest people we have ever known in the Army, it has become very clear: holiness is the reason The Salvation Army exists. We must be as clear as possible in what we are preaching and producing as maturing disciples of Christ. Our continued ministry depends upon the depth to which we allow the reality of holiness to permeate our soldiers, corps and ministry. We must not allow an undercurrent of unbelief regarding holiness of heart and life to pervade our movement.
As a result of our commitment to the fullness of God’s life permeating our hearts and motivating all we do, we will find this beautiful concept of holiness will be accused of claiming too much for the human life before heaven. We have been fed a line for too long. We have been told the highest thing we can claim is that we are abject sinners. Though we understand sin, we believe in the Resurrection and Pentecost. God can do what He alone can do in everyone who desires to be transformed. Nothing in salvation is defined by our ability. We do not have to sin because of the power of God in our hearts.
What are your goals for the new National Seminar on Holiness slated for summer 2021?
Bill: We hope to discern what Salvationists know about holiness. Theology can become abstract pretty quickly, but it is impossible for anyone to know Christ without being theological. So, we want to converse about the theology of holiness—what is understood by that and how it is applied to our lives. Also, we want to learn how each territory is encouraging this fundamental doctrine, experience and expression of holiness. We believe the Army is one of the few voices in the Church to emphasize the possibility of a clean heart and clean hands of service. Culturally, how does holiness fit in?
Diane: Our culture is crying out for holiness. Every person is created with hunger for God. What manifests itself as vile sin and destructive behavior has its root in being separated from the One who is life, light, goodness and truth. Jesus Christ in Himself is the healing of our separation from God. I believe with all my heart that holiness is the most relevant message for our culture. Whatever you’ve done, whatever filth seems to be clinging to your soul, however despairing your life seems, Jesus is your rescuer.
Holiness feels so abstract, what does it look like in everyday life?
Bill: The best term to describe holiness is Jesus. And the clearest revelation that He is on the throne of a human heart is love—selfless, others-oriented, active love. When God began to describe Himself to Moses, He did not use abstract terms. He said I am warmly disposed toward you. I am kind. I am always faithful, always loving, and I never cease to be fair. (Exodus 34:4-6). As we move through scripture those themes, actions, attitudes and expressions are found to be gifts offered to every believer. Think of the Beatitudes, the fruit of the Spirit, or any list of character traits in the epistles. Our Sanctifier does not want us to be confused or to buy into the belief that these gifts from His heart are only for a small, elite group of super-spiritual people. This is the real life God made us for.
Diane: Holiness shows itself in our lives through humility and speech, right off. When God’s Spirit makes His home in us, we will not have such an appetite for being noticed, acknowledged or thanked. There’s a profound, almost secret joy that inhabits our daily duties. People who abide in intimate relationship with Jesus see the beauty in life, of the mundane and small things of daily living.
Adapted and reprinted from the New Frontier Chronicle online.