Highway of HolinessGod has a way for you that is so much better than your own way. His way for us is a holy way.
My eight-year-old daughter recently discovered earbuds. At first, she didn’t realize that everyone in our house (and maybe our neighbors, too) could hear her. Then the realization came that she had an audience—and she sang a level or two louder. The lyrics from the first “Cars” movie, “Life is a Highway,” were belted out for all to hear. As she sang the chorus, I heard these words in a new way:
“Life is a highway,
I want to ride it all night long,
If you’re going my way,
I want to drive it all night long.”
That’s how many of us may look at our relationship with God. “God, if you’re going my way, then I’m glad to drive.” I think there are some problems with this view of life. God is calling us to His way and not to push our way on Him. The book of Isaiah talks about a different highway—it’s called the “highway of holiness” (Isaiah 35:8).
In The Salvation Army, we believe that the Bible speaks clearly about this way for our lives. It is a journey of spiritual wholeness. We sometimes call this journey holiness or sanctification. Though I don’t speak Spanish, I know the front of a Spanish translation of the Bible says “Biblio Santo,” and an English one says “Holy Bible.” The words “holy” and “sanctification” are connected. Sanctification is how God makes us holy. Sanctifying grace is everything God does to make us more like Jesus. Grace is a gift, something we cannot earn and don’t deserve—a gift from God. God wants to give you this gift of sanctification.
A Spiritual Swim
When I first learned to swim, I was an expert at the “doggy paddle.” I was doing my best to keep my head above the water and not drown. After many years of swimming, I can now go down to the bottom of the pool and enjoy being underwater in a way that I never could have dreamed of when I started. That’s similar to the difference between salvation and holiness. Sure, you are saved when you are forgiven—that’s like learning to swim. But when you experience God’s sanctifying grace—that’s like learning to scuba dive! Forgiveness is important to Christians, but your Christian journey doesn’t end at forgiveness. God also wants to transform you. He wants to sanctify you and make you holy.
The word “holy” is generally used in the Old Testament to describe God as distinct and separate from us. In the New Testament, holy is applied to people who follow Jesus and want Him to be at work in their lives. Paul addresses believers and calls them “holy ones” or “saints.” He says in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NIV), “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.”
“Holiness isn’t you trying really hard not to sin, instead, it is God at work in you by the power of the Holy Spirit, helping you be the person He has created you to be. ”
A Holy Life
One of my favorite short definitions of holiness comes from John Wesley, theologian and evangelist who founded the Methodist movement with his brother, Charles. John Wesley said, “[Holiness] is love excluding sin, love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul.”
Can our lives really exclude sin? Maybe we need to think about what sin is. Dr. Timothy Tennent, notable author and president of Asbury Theological Seminary, clearly states, “sin is any area of our lives where we reject the presence of God.” If you know God wants you to do something and you reject what He wants you to do, you reject His presence—that is a sin. You are sinning then when you choose to reject God’s Way for you—when you say to God, like in that song, “I’m going my way.”
God has created you to be holy. Think about this: there is never a time in your life when you must sin. John Wesley said no one can “prove that any Christian must sin.” God always provides an opportunity for you to defeat temptation. The trick is this: we cannot depend on our own power.
Remember 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NIV): “May God Himself … sanctify you … He will do it.” Holiness isn’t you trying really hard not to sin, but instead, it is God at work in you by the power of the Holy Spirit, helping you be the person He has created you to be.
God has a way for you that is so much better than your own way. His way for us is a holy way. The work of the Holy Spirit not only gives us power over sin, but it gives us the strength we need to serve Him every day.
Will you stick with your own way? Or will you find His “highway of holiness” for your life?
For Further Study
- The Call of Holiness: Pursuing the Heart of God for the Love of the World by Dr. Timothy Tennent
- Holiness for Ordinary People by Keith Drury
After reading some books like these, you will get more out of Salvation Army authors like Samuel Logan Brengle and William and Catherine Booth.
- Captain’s Corner by Captain Andy Miller. Search for “Tampa Salvation Army” podcast, specifically the interviews with Dr. Chris Bounds and Dr. Timothy Tennent.
It’s crazy, but Captain Andy Miller III is a sixth-generation Salvation Army officer (pastor). With his wife Abby, he leads the Tampa Salvation Army corps in Florida. He has written two books, did a bunch of school (Asbury University and Southern Methodist University), but mostly loves to spend time with his family and root for the Chicago Bears.