This year, I’m slowly working through J.C. Ryle’s Holiness. I’ll be processing through different parts of his work and posting them every Monday. Hope these excerpts are as encouraging to you as they have been for me.
Two things come to mind as I’ve been reading through J.C. Ryle’s Holiness. For all of our culture’s hyper-sexualization, we actually discuss the holiness of believers very little and when we do, we relegate it in terms of negativity and restraint, rather than a vigilant pursuit of something that is better. Essentially in arguing for holiness, we strive for a vein of seriousness with a dose of danger and communicate: flee from things you really want because it’s not good, fulfilling or pleasing to God. In holiness, we preach “don’t” a lot more than we preach “do”, and here is one of the most essential differences in Ryle’s work.
He understands the gravity and sheer necessity for holiness to exist and be pursued at all costs, relentlessly communicating sanctification as the duty of every believer and cautions against a life left to it’s own pleasures. He writes “Sound Protestant and Evangelical doctrine is useless – if it is not accompanied by a holy life…it is my firm impression that we need a thorough revival of Scriptural holiness.” Truer words couldn’t be spoken for the church today. We need a passionate revival and pursuit of personal holiness. Here’s 3 positive reasons why holiness matters:
– Pursue holiness for obedience:
Scripture intrinsically ties our sanctification to our holiness. They are one in the same, because Christ is holy. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;” Paul writes in I Thess 4:3. Paul connects the will of God, our sanctification and sexual morality. Why? Because of our design. God has designed us for Him, and he has also crafted a design for sex. Going outside of God’s design for sex, goes outside his design for you as his creation. All throughout Scripture God tells his people “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.” It’s like God is saying: “Be holy, because I’m holy. Be like me! That’s how I created you” So we pursue holiness to live within our design, which is for our good, and to be obedient to our Creator, which is also good. Win, win.
–Pursue holiness for mission:
We are given a mission. Christ gave us the Great Commission, that every tribe, tongue and nation should hear about his good name. Our mission is for other’s satisfaction in Christ, sexual sin is synonymous with sexual destruction, hurting those who we should be giving Christ to. There are few hinderances in the believers life a secret, progressive and unconfessed life of sin to distract from the mission of God. You can’t pursue your earthly pleasure in Christ, and simultaneously pursue sex outside the bounds of God’s design.
– Pursue holiness for pleasure:
Ryle writes repeatedly that the correlation between our pursuit of holiness and our deep joy and satisfaction are one in the same. An unholy man can not, truly, be a happy man, for sin does not ultimately satisfy. He writes: “...let us teach that there is more holiness to be attained, and more of Heaven to be enjoyed upon earth – than most believers now experience.” Translation: most of us have only scratched the surface, and Heaven on earth and personal holiness run parallel in our hearts and experiences here on earth. We pursue holiness not out of avoidance, but out of pursuing things that are far better, far more pleasurable. Denial of ourselves should only ever be for a deeper, greater pleasure, namely, Christ.