by Diane Ury
National Ambassador for Holiness
What is holiness? It’s good to refresh our thinking about this so that we don’t find ourselves moving down the wrong path in our understanding. One of the greatest dangers we face is the daily deception that entices our minds to move away from what is real; to walk in delusion, all the while thinking we are in truth. “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
Holiness is not, first of all, our behavior. Morality and ethics are not the essence of holiness. Those are just modern terms for good old-fashioned pietism. Unless intimately tied to Jesus, they’ve consistently been used throughout history in ways that can harm.
What is holiness? Holiness, first of all, is the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Holiness is this personal God Who is the relational essence of mutual, self-offering, other-oriented love. Because God is Love (1 John 4:8, 16), He continuously offers His Life to be received by all who will choose Him (John 1:12). Holiness is a reality in our lives only when we live in a continual state of relationship with the Holy One (1 John 5:12, Doctrine Nine). All persons are created with a capacity to be filled with God’s Life (Gen. 2:7). We are made for intimacy with Him. All our desires are symbols that point us to Him.
What is it that keeps us from holiness? Anything that comes between, that separates us from the Holy One. That is called sin. Sin doesn’t originate with our behavior either. Holiness is intimate union with God; Sin is removing ourselves from intimacy with God through distrust. We fall for deceit. We doubt His good character. We turn our backs on Him. We reject His ways and act that out.
Jesus tells us He is the Way (John 14:6). There is no other. During the Christmas season, we remember that Jesus is the restored union of God and humans (Colossians 2:9-10; Doctrine Four). There is no salvation or holiness by any other entrance. Our kindness, our generosity at Christmastime, our compassion, grace, inclusion, social justice—none of that will save us or anyone else. Just being included in The Salvation Army will not save us. “Doing the Most Good” is not holiness. Only surrendering our entire lives to the Kingship of Jesus, turning away from sin and back to God, being filled with His Spirit, obediently living out His Word, is the way of salvation and holiness (Titus 3:5-7; Doctrine Seven).
No person can widen the door that leads to God. Jesus was very clear that we must strive to enter through the narrow way, which is the only way to life. There is a broad way, but it leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus is the Door (John 10:7-10). He is the Way to get from where we are to where we want to be (John 14:1-6). And He is what our hearts are longing for (Psalm 42:1-2). He is what we are seeking (Luke 11:9-10).
Love is the Door. All our desires to find meaning, to belong, to live in joy are fulfilled within. Love longs for us. Everyone is created for holiness—exclusive devotion to and union with God. Don’t miss this.