The Annoyance of Holiness
"'Holy' people are so annoying. They pretend to be something that they cannot be, doing things they cannot do. And while we're on a roll, the whole idea of holiness is annoying. A sliver in our understanding of God, a pebble in the shoe of our faith. Holy people are pretenders and holiness is a figment of their imagination." So think many professing believers deep in their hearts. But deeper still we know that what eludes us is necessary. And simultaneously beautiful and terrifying.
Holiness to a Christian is what air is to lungs, what water is to life. It is indispensable, and quite beautiful, and good for you, and sweet to the soul. It can feel like something far out of your reach, like fruit on the topmost branch of an unclimbable tree. It can seem like one of those things we all want but for some reason can’t have. So we easily give up our pursuit and settle for cheap imitations. Instead, like spiritual addicts, we crave other things that would do us harm. But Holiness is no forbidden thing, it is not out of reach, and it certainly won’t harm you; it will only draw you nearer to Jesus.
C.S. Lewis, in one of his letters wrote, “How little people know who think holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing…it is irresistible.” Jonathon Edwards commented, “Holiness is a most beautiful and lovely thing. We drink in strange notions of holiness from our childhood, as if it were a melancholy, morose, sour and unpleasant thing; but there is nothing in it but what is sweet and ravishingly lovely.” Ahhh. Abject, rapturous, captivating beauty.
And, sheer terror at the same time. R.C. Sproul calls it "the trauma of holiness". In the presence of a holy God, we are undone, we fall apart, we disintegrate. We rightly say with Isaiah, "God, You are Holy and woe is me." We cannot contain it. But we hunger and thirst for this holy God and His holiness. We need. It is a Gospel need. John Owen said “Holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing, and realizing of the gospel on our souls.”