“Those who are not holy will not see the Lord” [Hebrews 12:14].
Pastor Bevere begins Chapter 9 in Good or God? with this quote. Then he titles his chapter the “Avoided Truth.”
Maybe I can explain by constructing a scenario. Let’s say you have a good friend who knows quite a few Christians that you don’t know and he wants to introduce you to his friends. After you meet his friends you naturally have questions; you want to know more about these unfamiliar people. He gives a little thumbnail sketch of each person and for one person [we will call him William], he has these words. Your friend says “William is holy; he is pursuing God.”
Stop for a minute and honestly think how you would respond to someone who is pursuing holiness.
Bevere is honest. He says even mention the word and watch people “recoil” and quickly change the subject. It is not “cool” to be holy; it can really take the fun out of life. Some Christians don’t appreciate someone trying to pursue holiness; it smacks of legalism. To be holy, it must mean that one has to follow a strict set of rules. They may say something like “I’m free and living in God’s grace. Don’t attempt to bring me under the law” [Bevere, 122].
All this just highlights the confusion many of us have about New Testament Christianity.
Bevere is simply trying to clear up the confusion. In short, he says all Christians should be pursuing holiness. We should not recoil and change the subject when the topic of holiness comes up. We should not jump to the conclusion that holiness equals legalism.
All Christians should desire the strongest relationship they can have with the Lord and pursing holiness is part of that. When Jesus was at the Last Supper he said “In a little while the world will no longer see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive” [John 14:19]. In 2nd Corinthians 3:18 Paul states “All of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.”
Why would a Christian not want to see God? Why would a Christian not want to experience God’s presence?
Bevere feels that Christians can see God in a way that others in the world cannot. Through prayer, listening to our Holy Spirit, Scripture study and responding to God’s “still small voice,” we can discern that God has a plan for each of us. He wants us to be a part of His Kingdom and even though we may not “see” the Lord, we can know Him personally as we ask His direction for our everyday lives.
It is important to know Him because “knowing Him” allows us to be changed. Change or transformation is what a life in Christ is all about. When we dedicate our lives to Jesus, the process is just beginning. Paul says those who see the Lord “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” [2nd Corinthians 3:18].
A sad fact of many who profess to know Christ is that they say they are Christian but they live a life as if they have never met Him. They have never really committed themselves to learning about Jesus; “they love themselves and their money, disobey their parents, communicate in a crude manner, refuse to forgive, seek fame and reputation, betray their friends, love pleasure more than they love God—the list goes on and on” [Bevere, 123].
Paul says “They will hold to the outward form of our religion, but reject its real power” [2 Timothy 3:5]. The power that they reject is the power of transformation.
This is serious stuff because many think they are living righteous lives when in reality they are not. One can attend church, conferences, prayer meetings, Bible schools and small study groups and still not experience God, if character and behavior do not change.
What can we do about this?
Here is a simple answer. Welcome transformation with open arms. Acknowledge that the way you are is not the way you want to be. You want something better. Make learning about God a part of your life and make responding to God’s urgings a daily habit.
If you ever encounter someone who is described as “holy,” I don’t think recoiling is the correct response. Maybe the best response would be to say “cool” or “awesome.” [Of course, we all know that those words are trite and far from adequate]. Bevere has these words from C. S. Lewis at the beginning of Chapter 9 and they may say it best “How little people know who think holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing…it is irresistible.”