Now that we have some idea why we emphasize the things we do regarding personal holiness, let’s try to be candid about some of the effects our traditional emphasis may have…both positive and negative.

One of the positive effects of our traditional emphasis on personal holiness includes the realization that being in relationship with the Holy God will have profound impact on the realities of life.  Another is the understanding that since we represent the Holy God in a sinful world, we are fundamentally counter-cultural. Our Christian distinctiveness should set us apart.  Finally, another positive is the knowledge that sanctity is ultimately practical; sanctification is not merely theological and spiritual. It works itself out in how Christians behave and how they present.

But there are also negatives effects…negatives that include an easy slide from sanctified living to legalism.  Of course, we recognize that legalism is not the insistence that Christians behave and present distinctively.  Legalism is, however, an emphasis on the letter of such laws, while ignoring their intent or spirit.  Further, legalism is reflected in the tendency of some to make issues of practical sanctity salvific. In other words; if one isn’t living in accordance with them, one is probably not saved.  (This is always a puzzler, knowing how greatly these concepts may vary from region to region.)  Another negative effect of our traditional emphasis is the adoption of a critical and judgmental spirit…which even though we understand doesn’t have to be present, those of us who are experienced in such matters know how often it usually is.  A final negative effect, and perhaps the most dangerous, would be the tendency to continually expand the “list” of prohibitions to include things that are not Biblical, or are based on very questionable Biblical exegesis.

So, while the understanding that God is holy and calls us to be holy people is of undeniable significance, and while appreciating that a holy life most certainly will work itself out in practical matters, we must also be very careful not to add to the great pressure of an already counter-cultural life a list of codes that are based on a leader’s feelings, and things that will not pass Scriptural muster.  Every prohibition or code should be required to come under the scrutiny of sound exegetical practice.  Not only should we ask, “What did the apostles say?”, but we should also ask, “Why did they say it?”

Finally, it’s important to realize that, at the core, holiness is about living out God’s values…about demonstrating in practical ways what God considers important.  One can easily lose track of this when one begins to think that holiness “is all about me…about what I do, about how I feel, about what I want, and how it makes me better.”  Instead, the adoption of a holiness ethic calls for us first to consider holiness and sanctification from God’s point of view.

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