Inward & Outward Holiness
One of the most intriguing things about Christianity is that a person doesn’t need to be holy to approach God to receive His mercy and grace, yet they need to walk in holiness to truly follow Him (Hebrews 4:15-16, I John 1:5-10). That is precisely how a filthy sinner can approach God and be cleansed (I Corinthians 6:9-11). We don’t first get “cleaned up” to get God, we first get God and He then “cleans us up”. Holiness is built directly upon the foundation of the New Birth experience – the initial cleansing process (John 3:1-8, Act 2:38-39, I Peter 1:15-19). When discussing the topic of holiness, several observations can be made:
First, holiness is one of the callings of the Christian. Individually our human bodies are the temple of God, as His Spirit resides within us (I Corinthians 6:15-20, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). It makes sense that a holy God desires to dwell in a holy vessel – He has chosen us (II Timothy 2:19-22). We, as Christians, have been called unto holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:7) – called out of the darkness and into the light (I Peter 2:9). Corporately, the entire body of Christ (the Church) will be found to be glorious. Why? Because the Church will be found “holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-29). Paul declared that we should “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” (2 Corinthians 7:1). God’s call to holiness always needs to be partnered with humanity’s willful choice to “cleanse ourselves”.
Second, holiness is a two-fold cleansing that deals with both the inward and the outward. The psalmist David asked the rhetorical question, “who would stand in the Lord’s holy place?” and immediately replied, “He that hath clean hands [outward], and a pure heart [inward]; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity [inward], nor sworn deceitfully [outward].” (Psalms 24:3-5 italics inserted). When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, He made it clear that righteousness-holiness is needed on both the inside and outside (Matthew 23:23-28, Mark 7:20-23). This is significant because the Pharisees obeyed “outward” holiness to the letter of the law, yet inwardly were defiled and full of wickedness.
Let me give a practical example of this “inward-outward” holiness concept. During my teenage years, I obeyed all “the rules” that people could visually see. I did not curse, rob banks, or murder people. I faithfully attended church and paid my tithe and gave my offerings. I attended every youth event, sang in the choir, etc. The “outside” looked clean to everyone around me, but on the “inside” I had lingering anger, bitterness and resentment. I had attitude problems and held “nuclear option” grudges. My “inside” holiness was corrupted and destructive. Many places of my “inside” life had cobwebs and layers of dust and dirt (Isaiah 64:6). I was like the Pharisee who seemingly had his life together, yet on the inside was a walking disaster, a “train wreck” of unresolved issues. Only when I began to allow God address the issues on the inside could I truly say that I was pursuing Godly holiness. Inward holiness will naturally lead one towards outward holiness, but outward holiness does not automatically result in inward holiness.
Third, holiness is necessary to realize the promise of heaven. At the marriage supper of the Lamb, the bride will be “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Revelation 19:7-9). God’s righteousness is the result of God dealing with our sin and putting us back in correct standing with Him; holiness is the process that keeps us walking on the road of His righteousness. Righteousness and holiness go hand-in-hand and we cannot spiritually have one without the other (Romans 6:16-22, Ephesians 4:2224). Those who have rejected holiness and submitted themselves to the works of the flesh will be unable to inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:16-21, Hebrews 12:12-15, I John 2:15-17).
James H. Aughey said, “Holiness consists of three things separation from sin, dedication to God, transformation into Christ’s image. It is in vain that we talk about the last, unless we know… about the first.” There is valuable insight in that statement, an acknowledgment of the necessity to be separate from sin and separate unto Christ. As this world grows more and more wicked, we cannot only be separate from the world for we may gradually find ourselves in decline. We must also be separated to Christ; that is we must continue to draw closer and closer to God who is unchanging in His perfection and holiness (Psalms 145:17, Hebrews 13:8, I Peter 2:21-25). Jesus told His disciples, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). Let your sincere love for God point you toward the pursuit of holiness and obedience to His Word.
Let God cleanse the inside and outside of your life. Get on the “Highway of Holiness” (Isaiah 35:8-10), And don’t turn back.
Holiness is built directly upon the foundation of the New Birth experience – the initial cleansing process (John 3:1-8, Act 2:38-39, I Peter 1:15-19). Holiness is a two-fold cleansing that deals with both the inward and the outward. Having already discussed inward holiness in depth, we will now investigate what outward holiness is. It is assumed the reader already understands the importance and necessity of inward holiness in their life.
In Genesis 3, the fall of humanity provide several observations about holiness:
a) The serpent (Satan) used Eve’s lack of knowledge of God’s word against her (Gen 3:1-5) – a lack of biblical knowledge can only result in confusion and doubt. A lack of personal devotional time in study of scripture can only have negative results. For this reason alone, we should all faithfully read and study the Word so that we can resist sin and be approved unto God (Psalms 119:11, 2 Timothy 2:15, James 1:21). A person that struggles with the Word will struggle with holiness. We should not be ignorant of God’s righteousness and holiness (Romans 10:1-3).
b) Eve fell to the core temptations of the world (1 John 2:1517 italics inserted for insight): “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [pride of life]…” (vs 6) This passage highlights the fact that inward holiness is a prerequisite to successfully pursue outward holiness.
c) Note the weaknesses of the inward led to sinful mistakes of the outward: afterwards “…she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband…” (vs 6). Outward actions or words always originate from the inward heart (Luke 6:44-46, James 1:12-15). Whatever is growing on the inside of our hearts will eventually manifest itself as fruit on the outside.
John wrote Christians are in this world, but not of it (John 17:14-16). It states that while we live surrounded by a wicked world we are not a part of it nor bound to it. The peer pressure of this world seek to conform us, yet through Christ we can overcome it (Romans 12:1-2, I John 5:1-4). 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 paints a picture of contrast: righteousness cannot mix with unrighteousness. There is a need for a clear line of separation. This passage shows a spiritual sequence:
a) Relationship – …”ye are the temple of the living God… I will dwell in them…” (II Cor 14:16) – A person’s pursuit of holiness will directly parallel their devotional walk with God.
b)Realignment – “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate…” (II Cor 14:17) – From the calling out of Abraham to the calling of the twelve disciples, God has always required a separation. It is a separation from the world, as well as unto Christ. It is ultimately a calling to commitment.
c) Resistance – “…touch not the unclean thing… (II Cor 14:17) – If the Christian walk is in numerous places compared to a mighty battle, then the pursuit of righteousness and holiness all begins with the guarding of our heart (Proverbs 4:23, Philippians 4:6-8 read in Amplified). In John Bunyan’s allegorical book The Holy War he mentioned that the two main gates into a man’s city are the Eye Gate and the Ear Gate. Although merely a fictional work, Bunyan reveals a powerful insight – it is important what we allow ourselves to watch or hear. If we faithfully guard the condition of our heart (inward holiness), our outward actions will resist the temptation of touching the unclean.
d)Reassurance “…I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters…” (II Cor 14:17-18) – There is nothing more encouraging than feeling the presence of God as it gently whispers, “My Child, I love you. I receive you. I accept you.” to your heart. Even at times when we make mistakes and sin, we know that He is faithful and just to forgive us (I John 1:7-10).
II Corinthians 10:3-5 gives us the battle plan of how to transition inward holiness to outward holiness. Cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bring into captivity every thought [both worldly and carnal influences] – to the obedience of Christ [inward and outward holiness]. Tear down the known evil influences in your life, take control of your thoughts and bring both your words and actions into obedience unto Christ. Together with I Corinthians 10:13, we are also given the assurance that no matter what temptation we face, a) God will never allow us to be tempted with something that He knows will overcome us and b) temptations can only be presented with a way of escape. We will never be backed into a corner where we are forced to act or speak unholy – we will always have the option of righteousness and holiness.
God has called each and every one of us to a place of holiness. Both holiness on the inside and holiness on the outside are attainable. It is a battle that we can win (Philippians 4:13) through Christ!
The above article, “Inward and Outward Holiness” is written by Tim Morey. The article was excerpted from Alabama Accent Magazine, August 2009.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.