What Is Holiness and Why Should We Even
by Steve Bussey
All human beings were created in the
image of God, but because of the sin committed in the garden,
the image of God has been “effaced.” But through the gift of
salvation, we are JUSTIFIED - forgiven by receiving the
undeserved and unearned grace of God by placing all our hope
on the holiness of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ!
He demonstrated what we as humans
failed to do on our own merit - living a life of PURE LOVE. He
modeled what it is to live a life that not only TOTALLY LOVES
GOD with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength… but (and
this is important) He also modeled what it means to TOTALLY
LOVE ALL PEOPLE, not only those who love him back, but even
those who do not!
He loved Judas!
He loved the Pharisees and Sadducees
who plotted his death.
He loved the Romans who were oppressing
He loved the soldiers who nailed Him to
He loved without condition.
He loved his neighbors and even His
enemies! He did this because He longed for the WHOLE WORLD to
be REDEEMED - to be capable of being brought back into right
relationship with their Creator, their Life-Giver and Keeper.
So He did the unimaginable:
As the only human being on earth and in
all of history that was truly SELF-RIGHTEOUS (but not the way
we understand self-righteousness as false pretense), He was
legitimately pure on His own merit, and did so while being
totally human without ceasing to be totally God.
He stood in the place of our LACK of
righteousness and paid for ALL the debt, ALL the punishment,
not just for one but for ALL of humanity in ALL of history and
ALL the world!! His sacrifice was like a CREDIT card that paid
our debts in FULL! His righteousness was CREDITED to us!
Amazing, right? This was WHOLLY because of LOVE - but it was
also prompted from His BEING THE VERY ESSENCE OF HOLY LOVE. He
showed to us and continues to be THE IMAGE of the invisible
So, the BIBLE - which reflects or
mirrors “the image of God” (think about it, 2 Timothy reminds
us that all the Bible is God-breathed) - lays out the
guidelines and guardrails of HOW TO BE TRULY HUMAN by being
TRULY GODLY. Note: not how to BE God, but rather to REFLECT
HIS LIKENESS and to BEAR HIS IMAGE. To be holy LIKE He is
Remember how I mentioned earlier that
the image of God had been defaced? Think about this:
The Bible shows us who our Creator
really is - the one who not only SUSTAINS us, but should in
all fairness GOVERN us. And yet we have forgotten who He is -
we might not even realize how good He actually is!
Because of sin, we have forgotten that
we are made in HIS image and therefore look to things that
have been created, chiseled, GRAVEN… and confused those
things, those images (even our own self-reflection!) for BEING
God. We think they have CREATED us. We think they SUSTAIN us.
We allow them to GOVERN us.
We even etch our "authentic"
(delusioned) "selves" as that image…
How tragically deluded.
You see, WE FALL SHORT.
We try, but we fail.
Reading the Bible leads to some pretty
embarrassing and shocking reality checks - that while we might
THINK we've figured things out we actually have got it ALL
Like the people of Israel, we have
created our own golden calves - our own graven images and
worshipped idolatrous things (and idolatrous selves) that
cannot save or redeem… The Bible exposes the fraudulence of
our man- or woman-made solutions.
The Bible, this LETTER OF LOVE is also
a LETTER OF LAW, because it outlines the parameters for being
in right relationship with our Creator. It shows us the
guardrails - and how we have broken through them and are in a
state of spiritual free fall!
But Jesus - who is TOTALLY GOD, and
who, because of love, became TOTALLY became HUMAN - has done
for us what we could never do for ourselves! What the LAW
states actually dooms us, but BY GRACE and by GRACE ALONE, we
ALL can be saved.
What great news!
Now… stop for a second. Does this mean:
So don’t even worry about it. Do whatever you want to do,
because it doesn’t matter how you live? Jesus has got you
So BE YOU.
LIVE HOWEVER YOU WANT - you’ve got the
golden “Jesus ticket,” so it doesn’t matter.
Is that what this means?
Just, plain no.
You see we are saved BY GRACE. But we
are saved by grace through FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS.
We must be IN Christ. Not just have
faith ABOUT Christ but have faith IN Christ.
So, how do we do that?
It means that being “in” is a CONDITION
REQUIRED to access this gift. Remember the price is PAID once
for all. But this must be WILLINGLY RECEIVED. And He OFFERS it
for all. However, it must be received by each person coming
with conviction to a point where we willfully choose
REPENTANCE (acknowledging OUR guilt) and FAITH (acknowledging
HIS gift) and allowing HIS IMAGE, HIS NEW, REGENERATING BREATH
- HIS HOLY SPIRIT to truly awaken HIS MORAL IMAGE!
What does this mean?
Well, humanity’s curse which goes way
back to the origin of sin (think Adam and Eve) is that our
dispositions (our internal drive and direction) has a natural
propensity for death and destruction. We have a HELL-BENT
nature that naturally DISOBEYS and DISBELIEVES. We naturally
are deceived, naturally duped into believing that MY GLORY
trumps GOD’S GLORY - that MY WAY is best. Yes - I said the
word “NATURAL” way too many times, but for a reason: it IS
NATURAL to think and act this way…
Sure, Adam and Eve sinned - but there
is NO way you and I haven’t lived a life absent of ACTUAL sim!
If you think you haven’t, you can quickly check the deluded
and deceived box! We ALL fall short of the glory of God… So
being our natural selves might be authentic but that's not a
good thing. In fact it is mighty dangerous!!
So, how do we correct our natural
DISBELIEF? You do so by FAITH. Do I mean some Oprah-style,
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, confidence-boosting, self-helping
faith? NOPE. Disbelief is conquered by killing the
deception-trap and abandoning the doomed faith-in-self trap to
rather place our FAITH IN CHRIST OUR SAVIOR.
He saves us.
If we try to save ourselves, we doom
And, how do we correct our natural
DISOBEDIENCE? You do so by OBEDIENCE.
Wait a second: I thought this whole
long post was to prove we CAN’T be obedient? Remember the
whole disposition and “my way is the highway to hell” thing?
Yeah, that’s presents a serious dilemma:
Can I repent?
Can I place my faith in Christ?
Can I be obedient? Be holy? Be
No. We just established that we can't
"merit" or "earn" or "be obedient" on our own. We lack the
power to override our magnetic attraction to do things “my
way.” So, no matter how much we try to- we continue to fall
short. So why even try if we know failure is imminent?
If “continuance in a state of salvation
DEPENDS on continued OBEDIENT FAITH IN CHRIST,” then, is
salvation just a cruel joke from a cruel God?
If REPENTANCE from sin and FAITH in
Jesus is the only way I can FEEL saved, KNOW with assurance I
am saved, and truly BE saved, then I might as well STOP LIVING
and die immediately and go to heaven immediately - otherwise I
will fail again. Or maybe I should just stay at church and
never leave the altar?
Remember: We are not saved by our work.
We are saved by grace.
So - again - if I am saved by grace and
not the law, I can just do whatever I want to do? Does grace
give us a metaphorical “license to kill?”
No it does not.
Grace is NOT anti-law. The law sends us
to grace and grace sends us to the law.
That's not cool.
That’s what is actually so cool:
Cue the plot twist:
There is a second part to the gift of
You see, Jesus doesn’t just save us
FROM sin, but HIS GIFT makes us a PERFECT VESSEL in which the
BREATH OF HEAVEN REGENERATES HIS SPIRIT IN US SO THAT WE
ACTUALLY CAN BE HOLY AS HE IS HOLY!!
Did you hear that?
He doesn’t just give us the golden
ticket of JUSTIFICATION, but He doubles down with also
providing via salvation the gift of the PERSON OF THE HOLY
SPIRIT who can help us truly U-TURN from the GLORY OF SELF so
that we are REORIENTED TOWARD THE GLORY OF GOD!!!
So, we are not just saved FROM our
disobedience (justification) but we are also saved FOR
This is why we say that we REPENT to
the Father, place our FAITH in the Son, and allow the Holy
Spirit to REGENERATE us (yes - that’s the Trinity all involved
in our salvation) so that we are not only JUSTIFIED, but that
we BEAR WITNESS with the Holy Spirit with FULL ASSURANCE that
we are (and CAN continue to be) CHILDREN OF GOD!
So, God lights the FIRE in us by His
BLOOD - but it doesn’t stop there - the Blood fuels the FIRE
TO SPREAD - REFINING AND RESTORING ALL ASPECTS OF OUR LIFE.
Remember, this is about ETERNITY, but
that gift of GRACE is not just for LATER. This gift of grace
is about EXPERIENCING ETERNITY NOW!!
You see, the Bible clearly shows us
that it is the PRIVILEGE OF ALL TRUE BELIEVERS (those living
in a state of continued, obedient faith in the grace of Christ
Jesus) to see this gift of Grace spill over into EVERY PART OF
OUR LIVES! That our whole bodies and souls and spirits can
KEEP HOLY, but do so by the BLOOD AND FIRE - BY SANCTIFYING
That, my friends, is what we like to
call FULL SALVATION!
So - to go back to the beginning:
The LAW, which condemned and sends us
to GRACE is no longer something we FEAR, because it chisels
away all the bondage that is barnacled on us! The stuff that
weighed us down, that entangled us. The Law now becomes
something we LOVE! We look to the Word (the Bible) and see the
reflection of the Word (the Son) that helps us know who (and
whose) we are and are becoming!
The Bible - which is God-breathed -
helps us who have the breath of God, to spiritually respirate
by having the Holy Spirit ruling and reigning in us! He shows
us how to restore the IMAGE OF GOD!
The Bible teaches us how to have the
MIND OF CHRIST!
How to reflect His heart!
How to KNOW AND DO HIS WILL!
The Spirit points us to the Son who
points us to the Father - and we do so not only in
relationship with Him, but also in fellowship with other
believers who shine like stars in a world otherwise filled
The law sends us to grace and grace
sends us to the law which is now a divine mirror, our "divine
rule for faithful practice" - to help us reflect on how we can
BE LIKE JESUS.
This is our privilege: to be wholly
To be wholly holy.
To not PRETEND to be like Jesus (we
call that hypocrisy), but to ACTUALLY BE like Jesus.
To experience the righteousness, peace,
and joy that comes from being part of the Kingdom of God!
That means the moral image of God is
being restored as He intended it to be! To be SINGLY AIMED
TOWARD THE GLORY OF GOD and join with Him in His mission to
SEEK AND SAVE THOSE WHO ARE LOST!
Such holy love of God will change how
we see people. Rather than hating and despising and condemning
- we will see even our fiercest enemies in need of
encountering the grace of God! we will love unconditionally as
If we are truly dead to self, and alive
to His purpose - we will be able to look beyond the walls and
barriers people put up and, with CALVARY LOVE, relate to those
whom the world might consider vile and offensive as modeled by
our Lord and Savior - recognizing that vile offensiveness once
We are called to bear the image of God
- and we do that by lifting high the banner which declares:
HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD!
That is holy love.
THAT is what the General is talking
THAT is why The Salvation Army exists!
I pray God REVIVES this way, this
truth, the life in each and every one of us - starting with