By Zac Poonen.
The burden of all the prophets was Holiness: Give up your idols and put God first in your life. True holiness is to have no idols at all in our life. Holiness is to have God filling our whole heart. Our calling is to proclaim that today so that the church can be a place where God dwells with delight.
True holiness comes only to the man who seeks after it with all his heart, and not to the one who has merely the correct teaching in his head. The secret of holiness is discovered not through a study of Greek words and tenses in the New Testament but through a wholehearted and sincere desire to please God. God looks at our hearts, not at our brains!
Growth in holiness will always be accompanied by an increasing consciousness of one’s own sinfulness in the sight of God. Holiness is the very nature of God. The Spirit God gives us is a Holy Spirit. When Isaiah got a vision of God, he saw Him in His Holiness and saw himself as an unclean man (Isaiah 6:1-7). The Spirit-filled life is a life of growth in holiness. As a man’s own life increases in holiness so does his consciousness of the absolute holiness of God. The two go together. In fact, the latter is one of the tests of whether a person really has the former. Twenty-five years after his conversion, Paul says, “I am the least of the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:9). Five years subsequently, he says, “I am less than the least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8). Still a year later he says, ” I am (notice, it is not “I was,” but “I am”) the chief of sinners ” (1 Tim. 1:15). Do you see his progression in holiness in those statements? The closer Paul walked with God, the more he was conscious of the corruption and wickedness of his own heart. He recognised that no good thing could be found in his flesh (Rom. 7:18).
We must come to the place where we desire total holiness more than we desire total health. Just like we want to be totally free of all sickness in our bodies, we must want to be totally free of all sin that defiles us. We must not tolerate sin any more than we tolerate sickness. To tolerate dirty thoughts is like tolerating tuberculosis or leprosy. To tolerate anger by justifying ourselves saying, “That’s my weakness or that’s my temperament” and thus to permit it in our lives, is like making allowance for AIDS or syphilis in our body. Sin and sickness are very similar.
“May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness” (1 Thess. 3:12,13). These verses teach us that if we are to be unblamable in holiness, we must increase and abound in love for all men. Holiness without love is a counterfeit – and any such holiness is actually self righteousness and legalism, that are like filthy rags in God’s sight (Isa. 64:6).
Holiness and God’s unchanging love were the burden of all the prophets: Holiness in God’s people and God’s unchanging love for His people even when they are in spiritual adultery and gone astray. God’s desire was always to bring His people back. He disciplines them; but then He wants to bring them back to Him after the discipline is over.
This is how true prophetic ministry should function in the church too. A true prophet in the church today will have the same burden that the Old Testament prophets had for holiness among God’s people. And he will be moved as they were, by God’s unchanging, longsuffering, compassionate love that perpetually desires to bring His backslidden people back to Him and to genuine holiness. There should be a prophetic ministry in every church, if it is to be kept alive and functioning for God as it should.