Living the Christ-Life I
The first Lord’s Supper developed in an environment laden with fear, treason, and uncertainty. However, the whole environment was immersed in the holiness of the blessed person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Time has passed, but the stage hasn’t changed much. On occasion, the truth of the revelation has been betrayed; at other times, fear has invaded large areas of the church and uncertainty has multiplied in the ministry and faith of the mission fields. But always, in the hopeless crises as well as in the uncertain decisions, the radiant figure of the Lord ‘s holiness has covered the church and its ministers with glory. It is as true now as it was before that: he lives and is the Lord of the church.
We are a step away from the twenty-first century. Looking back with gratitude and ahead with hopeful perplexity, we find that the greatest need for the church and for the world is that of producing men and women who know, live, and communicate holiness. This is not a simple statement; it is an urgent demand—not only from God, but from a mankind paralyzed in amazement by so many moral crises and so many spiritual disappointments.
What Is the Model of Holiness?
There have been—and still are—good models of holiness. God has placed men and women in each era who reflect his holiness. They are attractive and convincing, but the true model is Jesus Christ. An imitation of Christ is a poor copy of a model that cannot be imitated. Authentic holiness exposes and displays itself from the inside out. We have imitated the exterior of Jesus’ life, and that replica consists of reproducing his miracles, teachings, promises, and even his charisma. The results have not been very convincing. We get the mistaken impression that the one who makes miracles, or astonishes with his biblical discoveries or his charismatic gifts, is a saint. We can be wrong when we use this reference as a standard.
Holiness, as well as the total Christian life, should be a reproduction of Jesus ‘ inward life—not his exterior life—of the pure and transparent character of Jesus Christ. The holy person does not imitate Jesus, he just looks like Jesus. The world is continually searching for people who look like Jesus. We have had a sufficient number of gifted people and eloquent speakers. We desperately need saints with the fragrance of Jesus Christ and the aroma from heaven.
The Price of Holiness
When we speak of price we think of the cost we have to pay or we think of sacrifice, renouncement, self-denial, or of taking up the cross. We are mistaken if we begin from this viewpoint, as if the core of holiness has to do with us. This could explain our natural unconscious rejection of holiness.
When we truly speak of holiness, we speak of renouncing, of sacrificing, of dying. This is true and it is painful. But the pain is the profitable exchange. We renounce even that which is good, to obtain that which is better. To renounce is not always to lose; it is to yield to God all things—even the most beloved—so that he will return them beautified and enriched with the touch of his approval. It is an exchange. Paul expresses it with these words:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the truth of the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me, and, gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20, KJV)
We look at the marks of the cross. Paul spoke of the marks of Christ in his life. This is the difference between religion and holiness.
Holiness reflects itself in the suffering of humble pastors in poor villages of the Third World, but it also should reflect itself among computers and high-tech equipment. The price of holiness is the renouncement of all so God can beautify everything that touches our lives.
Holiness is the presence of God in our lives. Not only do you have to desire it, you have to claim it. Moses was boldly clear; ‘If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence’ (Exodus 33: 15, KJV). And God heard him. Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord. He knew his precise need and said, ‘I will not let thee go, except thou bless me’ (Genesis 32:26, KJV). And God responded: ‘For as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed’ (v. 28, KJV). This is holiness—to claim the presence of God. This is our struggle with God. This is the cost; we must say, ‘If thou go not with me, I go nowhere; and if thou dost not bless, I will not let thee go.’ If we cannot say this, we will know a great deal of the theory of holiness but very little of the reality.
The true price of holiness is what it is worth, what it signifies, what it represents, and what it produces in our lives in relation to the model which is Jesus Christ. The cost of holiness is insignificant, overwhelmingly insignificant compared to the price we pay for. it and what we receive—holiness—is attractive, optimistic, contagious, and exuberant.
The Urgency of Holiness
Everyone demands urgency for their priorities. There is an urgency to evangelize. There is an urgency to pray. There is an urgency for missionaries. There is an urgency for the return of Jesus Christ. But all these urgencies are under the urgency of holy lives.
When we look at the model of holiness, which is Christ in us, we discover the true price of holiness. As we examine our motives, our ethics, our finances, our relation toward others, and the secret world of the heart that only God knows, then we perceive not only the importance of, but also the urgency for, men and women who are holy before God and have the approval of men.
Yet, I ask myself some questions:
We have many specialists that are a great help to the church, but where are the special men who look like Christ?
Every day there are more and more doctorates in our modern churches and the fashion continues to be in obtaining the greatest amount of credits to gain the greatest amount of approval, but where are the saints who look like Christ?
Our colleges and seminaries are being directed by excellent and experienced professionals, but where are the prophets of God who can say with the overwhelming authority of a saint: ‘Thus saith the Lord’, and at the same time have a resemblance to Jesus?
A holy life, a holy church, will evangelize, pray, and open new mission fields with greater efficiency and better results than any other priority out of the context of a holy life. Holiness is not a magic touch or an instantaneous prescription, but it involves an instantaneous decision and a process that embraces the whole life. Lausanne I produced one of the best statements of faith in history. Lausanne Ⅱ should produce the best people of faith in history. Men of God, holy men; women of God, holy women—that is our greatest need and our greatest goal.
Carmelo B. Terranova is pastor of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Puerto Rico. He is a citizen of Argentina.