Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It Takes Time To Be Holy

By Pastor Bruce Oyen

   1 Peter 1:16 is one of many Biblical statement that make it clear that Christians are to be holy. The verse tells us that God said to his people, "Be ye holy; for I am holy."  
   Before getting to my main point on this subject, which is the fact that it takes time to be holy,  let me first  make some introductory  points about it: 
1.) We need a definition of holiness. Simply put, holiness is separation from sin, and dedication to God.
2.) We need an example of holiness.Some things are easier understood by an example than by a definition, for an example is practical. And the best example of holiness the world has ever known is found in the daily life of the Lord Jesus Christ. His remarkable example is revealed to us in the pages of the New Testament's four Gospels, which are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. When we read those Gospels, we see in his life what holiness is, in the best and worst of circumstances.  And, Hebrews 7:26 summarizes his life by telling us that Jesus was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." So, we conclude that the Christian's pursuit of holiness is really the pursuit conformity to Jesus Christ in thought, word , and deed. In fact, Romans 8:29 tells us that God the Father has predestinated Christians to be conformed to the image of  His Son, Jesus Christ.
3.)  I make no claims to holiness. With the apostle Peter, I must say, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord," (Luke 5:8). I know my sins, failures, and weaknesses. Holiness is a pursuit in my life, but not something at which I have arrived.  I keep in mind the good statement William Culbertson made in is book on holy living. It goes something like this: "We should never make our definition of sin so narrow that we dare claim sinlessness."  It is also true that we should be slow to claim holiness.
   Now that we have considered some introductory points on this subject, it is time to get to my main point of this article: It takes time to be holy. Time spent in certain activities can help us in our pursuit of holiness.
1.) It takes time in prayer to be holy. The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Chap. 5:23) Since he prayed for the holiness of others, he must have prayed for his own holiness. And if an apostle prayed to be holy, should not we do so? Let us pray for an increase of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Let us pray for Christ-like speech habits. Let us pray for pure thoughts. Let us pray that our lives will be dedicated to the Lord. Such praying can't be done hurriedly. Remember, it takes time in prayer to be holy. 
2.) It takes time in Bible reading to be holy. This does not automatically produce holiness. Our minds must be attentive, and our hearts teachable if Bible reading is to make us holy. The Lord himself believed in the power of the Bible to make us holy, for in John 17:7 he prayed for his disciples, "Father, sanctify them through thy truth; thy Word is truth." And King David said in Psalm 119:11, "Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." It has wisely been said that the Bible will keep us from sin, or sin will keep us from it. So, we must discipline ourselves to read the Bible daily. If we read four chapters each day, we will read it once a year. And if we do so with open hearts, we will be made holier in the process. Remember, it takes time in Bible reading to be holy. 
3.) It takes time in church attendance to be holy. Regular church attendance does not guarantee holiness any more than sitting in a kitchen fills your stomach. But for those who attend church in search of nourishment from the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, such attendance will prove helpful in their aspirations after holiness, for the Heavenly Father sanctifies his children through the truth of his Word, John 17:7 tells us. Moreover, the music in Bible-believing churches can promote our holiness, whether we hear it in special music, or sing with the congregation. And, participating in heartfelt, Scriptural prayer at church promotes our holiness. Remember, it takes time in church attendance to be holy. 
4.) It takes time in confession of sin to be holy. Proverbs 28:13 says, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." Psalm 32:5 says, "I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin."
   Confession of sin need not be lengthy to obtain forgiveness. What counts is sincerity of heart. David's awful sins of adultery and murder were forgiven after a one sentence confession of them. 2 Samuel 12:13 says he said, "I have sinned against the LORD." He felt what he said, and was forgiven.
   Sincere confession is not rushed through. In fact, the only rushed confession that God accepts is that which comes from one who is desperate to make things right with God. But even then the confessor wants to linger in God's presence until the burden of guilt has truly departed. And then they pour out their hearts in thanksgiving to God for his forgiveness. Remember, it takes time in confession of sin to be holy.
    Do we want to be holy? Then we must spend time in prayer, in Bible reading, in church attendance, and in confession of sin, for It takes time to be holy!
    William D. Longstaff wrote an excellent poem on this subject. It was set to music by George C. Stebbins. The title is: "Take Time To Be Holy." Here are the first two verses:
   "Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord; abide in Him always and feed on his Word. Make friends of God's children, help those who are weak, forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
   "Take time to be holy, the world rushes on; spend much time in secret with Jesus alone. By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be; thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see."

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