Last month, I found myself saying, “I don’t just want to pastor a church; I want to lead a movement!” That sentiment has shaped my first sermon series of the year: Cultivating a Movement. So far, I’ve talked about Surrender and Rely on God’s Power.
Another area that’s vital to being a people God can move through, a church God can use, is holiness. It was certainly a central part of the beginnings of the Methodist movement. Wesley described the mission of the Methodist movement as spreading “scriptural holiness over the land.”
In prayer, I often use a phrase from Psalm 24.4. The phrase comes in response to the psalmist’s own questions in verse 3 …
Who can ascend the Lord’s mountain? Who can stand in his holy sanctuary? Only the one with clean hands and a pure heart … (CEB)
God, give us clean hands and a pure heart!
The writer to the Hebrews states it pretty bluntly: “Pursue the goal of peace along with everyone—and holiness as well, because no one will see the Lord without it” (Hebrews 12.14, CEB).
Pursue holiness! No one will see the Lord without it!
When I talked about relying on God’s power, I used a vessel to describe what we are to be. Paul put it this way in his letter to Timothy …
In a mansion, there aren’t just gold and silver bowls but also some bowls that are made of wood and clay. Some are meant for special uses, some for garbage. So if anyone washes filth off themselves, they will be set apart as a “special bowl.” They will be useful to the owner of the mansion for every sort of good work. (2 Timothy 2.20-21, CEB)
Some translations use the language of a “vessel of honor” instead of “special bowl.” Being washed and set apart makes us useful!
But what I also love about holiness in the Wesleyan tradition is that you can’t talk about holiness without talking about grace and love.
Love grows where God moves!
In the Wesleyan tradition, we describe the multiple facets of God’s grace, using terms such as prevenient (or preventing or preparing), justifying, and sanctifying, among others (convincing, convicting). The bottom line is, God’s grace is always at work in people’s lives, no matter what stage of the journey we are in!
The value of sanctifying grace is that God’s grace doesn’t stop when we are justified (or saved). God keeps working IN us on a lifelong journey of transformation!
In Wesleyan theology, holiness is closely tied to love—love of God and neighbor. As we pursue holiness, and experience greater and greater transformation, we also grow in our love for God and our love for others!
Means of Grace
Today, we commonly talk about spiritual disciplines. But I love the language Wesley used—“means of grace.” Spiritual disciplines are ways in which God chooses to work in us!
Wesley talked about the means of grace in two areas—works of piety and works of mercy. God works through us in works of mercy. God works in us in works of piety (e.g., prayer, searching the scriptures, holy communion, fasting, and participation in Christian community).
We pursue holiness as we engage in works of piety and work of mercy!