JAC Online

What Is Holiness and Why Should We Even Care?
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 the Jews.


He loved the soldiers who nailed Him to the cross!


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 God!


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 holy.


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 sad.

How dangerous.

How tragically deluded.


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 WRONG!


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 covered!





LIVE HOWEVER YOU WANT - you’ve got the golden “Jesus ticket,” so it doesn’t matter.

Is that what this means?


No.  Just, plain no.

You see we are saved BY GRACE. But we are saved by grace through FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS.


Hear that?


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.  We don't.


If we try to save ourselves, we doom ourselves.


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 righteous?

No check.


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 salvation!




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 obedience (regeneration)!


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 GRACE!


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!




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 with darkness!


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 sanctified.


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 He loves.


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 trapped us.


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 about!


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 me!












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