In the context of our discussion, Bryan spoke of holiness as a “bridge” to “seeing God.” As we talked about that, I thought of the IPHC holiness focus for the remaining four months of this year: Radiate. How do we live in such a way that our lives, attitudes, and actions manifest the holiness of God to this unholy world in which we live? Over the course of this year, I have reflected on the holy nature of God, and on how evangelism and holiness go hand in hand. Evangelism is the announcement of the good news of “abundant life,” a way to live in the fullness God has for every person who will respond in faith to the gospel. Holiness is our demonstration of a “full, abundant life.” That life, by its very being, invites someone to the journey with Jesus. Holiness is also another way of describing discipleship. A follower of Jesus is someone who takes the mental, emotional and spiritual posture of a student who follows the One who is greater. Our lives become conformed to the life of Jesus. There is a “bridge-crossing” process in this. First, in all things, God takes the initiative to reach to us. We are powerless without the manifestation of His grace. 1 John 4:19 reminds us: “We love Him, because He first loved us” (NKJV). God builds the bridge to eternity through His Son, the living and revealed Word. But we must respond to the One who stands on our side of the bridge, the One who comes to us and invites us to cross over with Him into abundant life. We must respond with faith, repentance, and the reality of a new walk informed by the Bible and the Holy Spirit. When we discover the reality that we are blessed to be “pure in heart,” this leads us on a fulfilling discovery. Jesus’ phrase in Matthew 5:18, “pure in heart,” is given an insightful nuance by Soren Kierkegaard: “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” It is reminiscent of Jesus’ words later in the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you,” (Matthew 6:33). Those who have learned as disciplined, grace-inspired followers to “follow holiness” discover the revelation of who God is. We can see God’s face, without fear of dying due to our own human frailty. How do we “see God?” We see Him in the faces and cries of other people. The Hebrews 12:14 passage connects “peace” and “holiness” with “seeing” the Lord. It also connects “pursue” with the “with all.” New Testament scholar Gareth Lee Cockerill, in his commentary on Hebrews, translates the phrase, “Together with all pursue peace.” Thus the pursuit of holiness is more than our individual actions; it is the body of Christ together that recognizes the face of God in those estranged from Him. Jesus’ striking words in Matthew 25:35-46 remind us that the eschatological imperative of the gospel reaches beyond our personal spiritual ecstasy. Charismatic gifts are useless without love for others (1 Corinthians 13:1-2). Sacrificial acts, though acclaimed as noble, without love may work in utopian schemes but not in the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 13:3). It seems to me that holiness and seeing God are the antidote for well-meaning utopian dreams. This is particularly true for us today when secular agendas press upon us without reference to the Living God. Both ends of the political world, right or left, offer their own eschatologies. Without hope, political, social, and economic agendas have no traction and no appeal. Thus, they generate a false hope that is based on human agendas birthed in the schemes and plans of fallen humanity. That is why the eschatology of human agendas has its own forms of judgment upon all who fail to subscribe to the “dream.” In modern history, the extremes are seen most vividly in the mass murders of the 20th century as political ideologies sought to impose their utopian visions. We must not presume that 21st century visionaries and dreamers are any less immune from the same temptations of abuse and privilege.
This is why I find Bryan Nix’s image of the bridge helpful. If we can see God’s holy face, and turn around and see His image in the face and lives of others, then we can offer “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7). It helps us understand what Jesus said in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
It is Jesus’ holiness and peace that keeps us “pursuing with all peace.” It is Jesus’ holiness and peace that liberates us from the anger of disillusionment. It is Jesus’ holiness and peace that we see in His face, and that enables us to have the patience, wisdom, strength and hope to live holy lives on our side of the bridge
This article was published in the September 2016 issue of Encourage.