What is missing in the American church…

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

The short answer: Holiness.  God’s and our own.


1 Peter 1:13-16 – “Therefore, get your minds ready for action, being self-disciplined, and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance but, as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.” (Holman Christian Standard Bible)


I am a novice at this topic but I am learning.  Jerry Bridges wrote a book called The Pursuit of Holiness and his teachings so far have been very insightful.  Here are some excerpts to hopefully motivate any of my readers who desire this for their own life:



“The concept of holiness may seem a bit archaic to our current generation.  To some minds the very word holiness brings images of bunned hair, long skirts, and black stockings.  To others the idea is associated with a repugnant “holier than thou” attitude. Yet holiness is very much a scriptural idea.  The word holy in various forms occurs more than 600 times in the Bible…More important, God specifically commands us to be holy…”


(cont.) “…The idea of exactly how to be holy has suffered from many false concepts.  In some circles, holiness is equated with a series of specific prohibitions – usually in such areas as smoking, drinking, and dancing. The list of prohibitions varies depending on the group.  When we follow this approach to holiness, we are in danger of becoming like the Pharisees with their endless lists of trivial do’s and don’ts, and their self-righteous attitude.  For others, holiness means a particular style of dress and mannerisms.  And for still others, it means unattainable perfection, an idea that fosters either delusion or discouragement about one’s sin.”


“All of these ideas, while accurate to some degree, miss the true concept.  To be holy is to be morally blameless. It is to be separated from sin and, therefore, consecrated to God.  The word signifies “separation to God, and the conduct befitting those so separated.”” (pp. 16-17)


He goes on to list three reasons why Christians struggle with the idea and aspect of living in holiness:


1. our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered


2. we have misunderstood “living by faith” (Gal. 2:20) to mean that no effort at holiness is required on our part


3. we do not take some sin seriously


There is so much in the book that I cannot unpack here.  Let me encourage you with Paul’s exhortation to the church at Philippi: “So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed (and if not, then start obeying now), not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose.  Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. Hold firmly the message of life.” (2:12-16a; italics added).


Be holy, because our God is holy. His commands are not grievous, and if we love God we will obey what He commands, for God is love.




9 thoughts on “What is missing in the American church…

  1. Dave Majetich

    I don’t see it as “holy” being archaic as much as the word itself primarily finding place in religious context. Being set-apart [from things which take away life] speaks more directly, I believe. To me the common usage of holy denotes something akin to shikana which seems to find root in the great mystery religions, not clearly defined.


    1. I believe what I am seeing as holy is probably more akin to obedience than anything else. That scares me too. I don’t want to blindly obey, and at the same time my past experience tells me that when I do not only is my faith increased, it is also validated. The pillars of faith in any religion have stepped out in obedience to the tenets of their religion. If and since I claim to be a follower or disciple of Jesus the Christ, then shouldn’t I strive for holiness even though it is unattainable by effort?


    2. Holiness seems to be the action of God at work in the life of the believer. I think of three things: righteousness, obedience, and sanctification. Only one of those is something I can do and even that is empowered by the Holy Spirit in me. Let me get back to the house where I can respond more in depth with scripture references and further explanations. MaKim, I agree all around but will respond more later.


  2. Ma K

    I so agree with your thoughts on this, Keith. The American church as a whole acts pretty much like the world, which is entirely self-centered. We seldom hear exhortations or sermons on holiness. And a lot of the teachings we hear are entirely based on a “me” centered faith, appealing to the soul, and not to the spirit. For example, a lot of the teachings on the subject of giving appeal to the soul, because we are told to give so that we can get back, instead of giving just because God commands us to. I do believe God blesses those who give, but that should not be our motive in giving.

    God wouldn’t command us to be holy, as He is holy, unless we could achieve that–with His help.

    I don’t see much holiness when people think nothing of watching television and movies with an incredible amount of foul language. I don’t see much holiness in how we treat others, or how we care for the poor and widows and orphans, which the New Testament tells us is true religion. The motto that is ingrained in our souls is, “If it feels good, do it.” Well, it doesn’t always feel good to not give in to what our souls want. Truthfully, I am not doing near enough to radically live a life of a sold out believer. I look at the Moravians, who lived in Hernhutt Germany, who took turns praying 24/7 for over 100 years. Now that is sacrifice. When I look at how they lived, I feel like I am backslidden in comparison. I am sure they didn’t always want to pray, or feel like praying, and yet they did tag team prayer every day, every hour, every minute, every second for over 100 years. And the incredible fruit that came out of that prayer movement sent hundreds into the mission field. Something like 25% of the people became missionaries, who were so passionate for Christ that some sold themselves into slavery, just so they could go and reach the lost.

    The church loses credibility with the world, when we don’t walk in holiness, because they can’t tell the difference between us and the world. I believe that those that walk in true holiness are very humble, because they know their failings and weaknesses, but live a life of daily repentance, agreeing with God and calling their sin for what it is–sin. And because they keep themselves pure, they draw near to God, and He fills them with His Presence. They are the real deal.


    1. Yes, I completely agree with you. I have to guard myself though so that I am not spurred on to holiness by an inappropriate to desire to be better than someone else. But the people that provide motivation for me are true pillars of the faith that I know or grew up with, although one of the guys I know seems to be off at the moment. That is disheartening but also a gentle reminder that perfection will not be attained in this life. Heather just talked to me the other night about my movie choices as we were talking about a show she was watching. That is one area that I am weak in and will be making changes with. It is very interesting too that as we live a holy life we start to see things that God hates very clearly. The danger with that is that I will be tempted to hate the person, and not the sin. I loved what Jerry Bridges wrote about that: “Because God is holy, He hates sin. Hate is such a strong word we dislike using it. We reprove our children for saying they hate someone. Yet when it comes to God’s attitude toward sin, only a strong word such as hate conveys an adequate depth of meaning.” I have never thought about God’s hatred of sin to that level before. We say things like “hate the sin, love the sinner” but as he notes in the book we usually just skip right to the love part and ignore the hate part. That hate part is critical to the gospel of Jesus and true repentance.

      Thanks for reading and posting. Love and hugs.



  3. Dave Majetich

    Honestly though, what does it mean to be holy? I have done a word study and I was born into a Christian home, was involved in AWANAs, was homeschooled for the majority of my childhood education. I understand various christian doctrine on holiness – and with that mindset I can relay about it in Christian terms. But really, what does it mean beyond the vague cliche lingo of Christiandom?


    1. There is nothing vague about holiness throughout scriptures. Laymen’s terms from Jerry Bridges, author of

    2. The Pursuit of Holiness
    3. : To be holy is to be morally blameless. It is to be separated from sin and, therefore, consecrated to God. The word signifies “separation to God, and the conduct befitting those so separated.”

      1 Peter 1:14-16, “Therefore, get your minds ready for action, being self-disciplined, and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance but, as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.”

      Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (And then might I add, so that you may DO the will of God. “If you love me you will obey what I command.” John 14:15)

      Bridges goes on to write:
      Perhaps the best way of understanding the concept of holiness is to note how writers of the New Testament used the word. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, Paul used the term in contrast to a life of immorality and impurity. Peter used it in contrast to living according to the evil desires we had when we lived outside of Christ (1 Peter 1:14-16). John contrasted one who is holy with those who do wrong and are vile (Revelation 22:11). To live a holy life, then , is to live a life in conformity to the moral precepts of the Bible and in contrast to the sinful ways of the world. It is to live a life characterized by the “[putting] off of your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires…and [putting] on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22, 24)



      1. Dave Majetich

        I have nothing against holiness. The term itself I have removed from use – but the actions that define holiness I am all for. I observe and analyze as I do and what I found is that when I perform actions that are ‘not holy’ I directly pay for it in one way or another. To try to bear the misery of the repercussions of disobedience is insane.

        And at the same time, I doubt I could have arrived at a point of desiring a holy life without having been acted on by a force outside of myself.


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