Phil Congdon, NBBC, March 1, 2019
Recently in my study, I was reading Hebrews 12.14, which exhorts Christians to “pursue…holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” The author’s idea is this: One day we will stand holy in God’s presence – not because of our own merit, but because of Christ’s sacrifice for us; this motivates us to pursue holiness now, so that our awareness of God will be greater every day.
Holiness. I know that word seems almost like a relic of a bygone age, or a pious title – a la ‘His Holiness, the Pope.’ We carry a ‘Holy’ Bible, and the church observes ‘holy days,’ yet beyond this, we don’t give holiness much thought. But if we distill the word down to common vernacular, it means something like ‘set apart.’ To be “holy” in Scripture is to be ‘set apart’ from sin and the world, and ‘set apart’ to God. And that ‘set-apart-ness’ is what enables us to “see the Lord” more vividly in our daily lives.
I’m afraid that if I were to ask average Christians what it means to ‘pursue holiness,’ they’d probably camp on a bunch of do’s (do go to church, do give to the poor, do live a moral life) and don’ts (don’t commit sin, don’t fall to temptation, don’t do drugs). I’m not suggesting such things aren’t important – but I think to ‘pursue holiness’ is more of a heart thing. It’s taking – or perhaps better, making – time for the Lord in our busy lives.
An old hymn captures, I think, some of the essence of this ‘heart-pursuit’ of intimacy with God:
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.
Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide; And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord; And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul; Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love; Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.
If you ask me, those words penned by William Longstaff well over a century ago capture timeless truth for our walk with the Lord. The repeated line “Take time to be holy” reminds us that to be ‘set apart’ from the world and ‘set apart’ to God involves time. Irwin Lutzer writes, ‘There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity. It takes time to be holy.” We spend time ‘with Jesus alone in secret.’ We desire the ‘bread’ of God’s Word, and meditate on it. In a world that is fighting God, we know His love and calming presence. And we serve the Lord each day in anticipation of serving Him forever in glory.
Pursuing holiness doesn’t happen by chance, or easily. It is always intentional. But ‘seeing God’ more clearly in your daily life is the reward. And that’s worth it. Take time to be holy. Make that your goal, this month.