I don't tend to be one of those people who reads and rereads books, time and time again. Generally, I read it once and then pass it along or put it on the shelf to pull out for one of my children to read later. Granted, I have a few "good friends" to whom I return time after time... but really, there's only a few of those. This one has definitely made the "must read" list for our older children, and it has earned a membership in that pretty exclusive forever-keep-to-read-over-and-over-again club section of my bookshelf. In fact, I have a friend wanting to read it... and I'm going to hand it over in the next few days... but I already can't wait to get it back to study through it again, more slowly and keeping a journal and using it more as a Bible study.... hmmm... maybe she'll want to go through it as a Bible study with me? I might have to ask.
So... how's that for a recommendation? If you are looking for a book that will step on your toes and challenge you, this is one of those sorts of reads. As an adult, I've appreciated the writings and ministry of Nancy Leigh Demoss; she tends to say it like it is, and has a gift for doing so gently and succinctly.
The book begins with the challenge to pray the following prayer at least once a day for the next 30 days:
show me more of Your holiness.
Show me more of my sinfulness.
Help me to hate sin and to love righteousness as You do.
Grand me a deeper conviction of sin
and a more thorough spirit of repentance.
And make me holy as You are holy.
It isn't a prayer to pray unless you want God to do just that - point out areas of darkness and filth and resemblence to the detestable things of this world as He begins the process of refining and removing all those unholy bits.
Somehow, much of current Christian culture practically believes that grace = tolerance, that holiness = legalism. They might agree with the theological and doctrinal principles that we are all unworthy sinners overwhelmed by grace and that we are to be a people set apart reflecting our Lord's loveliness, purity and moral character. Why do you thinkg that is a common conception? CS Lewis writes "How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing... it is irresistible." (in Letters to an American Lady, p. 19) I love how Nancy shares about this:
Towards the end of the book, a powerful example is given from the persecuted Romanian church while under communist rule. There, followers of Jesus were given the name "repenters" as an insult. One pastor began confronting his church with regular sin... sin that had become not only tolerated but accepted and even encouraged. This church of "repenters" repented, began pursuing holiness in all areas of their lives and God sent a revival that impacted churches throughout the country and Nancy makes the following observation: "In many of our churches, we're knocking ourselves out trying to be 'relevant' so we can attract new members. We don't want to appear to be different, extreme or too spiritual, for fear of turning off unbelievers. By contract, once the church in Oradea [the example above] was willing to be different from the world, the very unbelievers who had once ridiculed them were irresistibly drawn to Christ.... When will we realize that the world is not impressed with a religious version of itself? Our greatest effectiveness is not to be found in being like the world; it is to be found in being distinct from the world, in being like Jesus." (p. 160-161)
Holiness: The Heart God Purifies is worth the investment for anyone passionate about not abusing the marvelous gift of grace and thus pursuing holiness.
"I remember first discovering as a child something of what it meant to be 'set apart' for and by God. Based on their understanding of the heart and ways of God, my parents established what they felt to be wise practices and limitations for our family. At times, we would complain, 'But everybody else...!' My parents' response was along these lines: 'You don't belong to everybody else -- you belong to God!' They convinced us that there was something really special about being set apart for God rather than being squeezed into the world's mold. I learned early on that to be 'set apart' is not a punishment; it is not an attempt on God's part deprive us or to condemn us to a cheerless, joyless lifestyle. It is a priceless privilege-- it is a call:
- to belong, to be cherished, to enter into an intimate love relationship with God Himself, much as a groom declares his intent to set his bride apart from all other women to be his beloved wife
- to fit into the grand, eternal plan of our redeeming God for this universe
- to experience the exquisite joys and purposes for which we were created
- to be freed from all that destroys our true happiness." (p. 30-31)