John Wesley was intensely concerned that Christians pursue holiness. That’s why early Methodism was often called a “holiness movement” by others.
For Wesley, our pursuit of holiness should flow out of our love for God. And our love for God flowed out of the fact that he first loved us. In other words, because God first loved us, we love him. And because we love him we seek to obey him as his obedient children. Because we love him we seek to look like him.
A text that really captures this idea comes from the Apostle Paul…
Ephesians 5:1-2 – Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children  and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But perhaps for Wesley, the central text of what our holiness should look like came from the words of Jesus in the Great Commandment…
Matthew 22:37-40 – Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Wesley said that we must first pursue what he might call, “personal holiness” or “inward holiness.” It’s a holiness of heart. It’s the love and desire for God himself. It’s the pursuit of knowing God better, loving him more, following him more closely and looking more and more like him.
But Wesley would quickly add that holiness isn’t true or complete unless it yields an outward or social holiness. In other words, our love from God and our love for God produces a love for others. It’s a holiness of life. Our vertical relationship with God manifests itself in our horizontal relationships with others.
- And so, if you want to know the way to become a better friend: Pursue holiness.
- What’s the secret to becoming a better spouse or parent? Pursue holiness.
- How do you become a better employee or employer? Pursue holiness.
- If you want to know how to do a better job caring for the poor and serving the oppressed – Pursue holiness.
Well let me finish up by saying this: Holiness is not an option. It’s not an exclusive call for the over-achievers among us. It’s for everyone who calls himself or herself a Christian.
Two verses in God’s Word that make me feel more uncomfortable than all others are these…
The first is from Jesus…
Luke 6:46 – “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
The other is from Hebrews…
Hebrews 12:14 – Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
Now, real quickly, let me say that these verses are not teaching that we’re saved by our own works… by our own efforts. We’re saved – from beginning to end – by grace… through faith in Christ alone.
But what I believe these texts are teaching us… is that you can’t just “say” you believe in and follow Christ, and then not seek to know him, love him, follow him and be like him. It’s no good calling yourself a Christian, and yet not seeking to live like one – to live like an obedient child of your heavenly Father… joyfully bearing his image.
The Bible calls this “holiness.” And if you’re not seeking holiness… if it’s not even a desire that you have… then that may be an indication of a more serious spiritual condition. It may well be that you don’t know Christ to begin with.
Now please hear me: This call to holiness doesn’t mean that you’re always going to perfectly obey God and look like him in every detail of your life… all the time. But the question is: Are you growing and moving in that direction? Do you even desire to?
The only people who will grow in holiness are the ones who want to. You’ll recognize them because they’ll be spiritually sweating as they pursue it for all they’re worth. As Peter said, it’s hard work. We have to roll up our spiritual sleeves to get there. But it’s not an option.
And so my parting words of counsel to you are these thoughts…
- If you don’t have a desire for holiness, then ask God for that desire. Even desiring the desire is pleasing to God.
- If you do have that desire, then ask God to help you in your daily life to be holy as he is holy.
- If you have the desire to be holy and you’re praying to God for his strength and guidance, then do your part by rolling up your spiritual sleeves and pursuing it for all you are worth.
If you begin working on these three areas, I believe that will be a sign that you’re moving in the right direction on the road to holiness.
Grace and Peace,