Confessions of a Teacher of Holiness

John 17:17

It is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified.” As a Salvationist teacher and preacher of holiness, I have heard that call and rejoice to proclaim it to others. Gladly I bear witness to its reality and redemptive power in my own experience. Still, I confess concerns as to the adequacy of my presentation of this grand truth and the extent to which we effectively embody it.

I wonder if we espouse a kind of holiness that is not tough enough. J. I. Packer speaks trenchantly of a modern preference for “hot tub religion,” which soothes our troubled spirits and makes but few demands. Is our holiness far too fragile to see us through the traumas of life? We face a determined and powerful enemy who seeks to destroy us. We need an experience that makes us tough enough to triumph in life’s inevitable encounters.

I also confess that I sometimes wonder whether our holiness is truth-centered enough, grounded firmly enough in the truth of Scripture, rather than based upon the experience of others. Jesus Himself said, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). It is our certainty of the truth that gives stability to faith and integrity to experience.

Further, is my approach to holiness total enough? Is our holiness too therapeutic in its emphasis? There are dangers of beginning with our human problems instead of God’s purpose. Is my approach to holiness sometimes too cosmetic? Holiness deals with the essential inner orientation of the personality. The self dies hard. The cross is painful and total.

I must confess that I have sometimes had cause to wonder if the holiness I profess and proclaim has made me tender enough. The truth is that we live in an age that is seductively desensitizing us to evil. What once might have appalled and embarrassed us, perhaps even angered us, now only makes us sad. What would it take to make us cry out in indignation? What miscarriage of justice, what indifference to standards of integrity, what crass immorality would move us to tears and stir us to action? How much do I care about purity, justice and integrity?

Finally, is my holiness telling enough? Our age cries out for men and women of God whose lives stand in stark contrast to the darkness that surrounds us.

May the Lord direct our hearts to a holiness that is tough enough, truth-centered enough, total enough, tender enough and telling enough.

Paul A. Rader, The Salvationist Pulpit


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