A Crisis and A Process

Philippians 3:12

The question is sometimes debated whether the experience of holiness is gained instantly or gradually. The answer is that the life of holiness is both a crisis and a process. There can be no experience without a beginning, but no beginning can be maintained without growth.

First there must be a beginning. There arises an awareness of personal need which draws a man on to an act of full surrender. The forgiven soul awakes to the truth that forgiveness is not enough. Blessed is the man whose iniquity is forgiven—but that act of divine grace arouses in him a longing to be like the One to whom he owes his forgiveness.

Or the beauty of holiness as seen in another life may awaken this desire. Here is the magic of Christian love shining in other eyes and the light of Christian joy illuminating another face. What could be more inviting? True Christian living not only is good but looks good. Grace and charm are never far apart.

The life that is wholly forgiven needs to be wholly possessed. And to be fully possessed requires a full surrender. Need, of which I am made conscious by a variety of reasons, may drive me to my knees in total surrender.

God’s answer is to grant me of His Spirit according to my capacity to receive. In faith believing I receive of His Spirit. That is the beginning.

The beginning, but not the end. This is the commencement of the life of holiness, not its crown. And a start loses all meaning unless there is a continuance.

The crisis must be followed by a process. In the initial act of surrender I receive the fullness of the Spirit according to my capacity to receive. But that capacity grows with receiving—as a bandsman’s facility to play grows with playing, or to speak with speaking or to follow his craft by practicing it. I learn by doing, not less in matters of the heart than of the hands. A full surrender is the beginning of the life of holy living; the end of that experience I do not—I cannot—see. There’s a long, long trail a-winding between start and finish.

At no point is the believer ever as good as he can be. Ever must there be growth in grace, and every day of growth will prepare the way for days of further growth. Just as the longer a musician practices his art, the more sensitive becomes his ear to any untunefulness, so the closer a believer draws to Christ, the more sensitive will he become to anything un-Christlike.

Frederick Coutts, The Call To Holiness

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