Pursuing Christ personally and in discipleship
By Erin Wikle
Holiness—a “ baptism of love that brings every thought into captivity to the Lord Jesus Christ,” according to Samuel L. Brengle, The Salvation Army’s leading author and teacher on the doctrine of holiness.
Has it become something of such disputed theology that holiness no longer holds any practical meaning? Or has it lost its appeal because we don’t get it and therefore don’t want it? As General Linda Bond said, “To be an Army on the march, we must first be an Army on its knees.”
To gauge our understanding of holiness in the Western Territory, I recently met with a number of individuals, all “red, yellow, and blue through and through.” The overall consensus is for us to be holy, individually and as a movement, we must be intentional, which includes pursuing Christ personally and in discipleship.
“When people say ‘we don’t preach holiness enough in the Army,’ I think they are referring to the doctrine of holiness and not necessarily the discipline or the demonstration,” said Major Rob Birks, Golden State divisional secretary for program. “Living it out is way more important and behavior follows believing. We would not get so hung up on doctrine if we could look at someone and say, ‘Man, he really knows and loves Jesus.’”
Birks said he sees this quality in Bond.
“Every time I hear from the General, I can tell she’s spent time with Jesus,” he said. “I need [to spend] more time with Jesus and [spend] more time in the Word. The same love I feel for people on the streets I want to feel for those in my own movement who respond differently than I think they should. It’s not for me to condemn them. I have a need to have a deeper love for those who are harder to love.”
It stands to reason that if there is a lack of love for one another (let alone “others”), the cause may be a lack of love of Jesus.
“I have always struggled with my understanding of us as a holiness movement,” said Major John Chamness, divisional commander in the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Division. “Not because I do not believe in holiness, but because I think every part of my life should be submitted to Christ and through this, he sanctifies me through and through.”
If you’re pursuing Jesus—holiness is happening. No wait is necessary. Am I more sanctified today than yesterday? I hope so! If I’m pursuing Jesus and rejecting the world, then, yes, I am!
Chamness spoke to “surrendering the next thing,” laying down whatever widens or simply does not close the chasm between the individual and God. As we humbly and obediently ask God to show us what we must die to in order to allow for his increase, he will not back down from his pursuit of us! Will we respond in pursuit of him? Should we prioritize what we consecrate to him and say “Lord, ‘More, more! I want more of you!’ Yes.”
Major LeAnn Trimmer, corps officer, Murrieta (Calif.) Corps Community Center, spoke at length of her journey to a fuller life in Christ. Once consumed by an “unintentional connection between who [she] was and what [she] did,” Trimmer came to a crossroads where she faced the choice between joyful obedience to the Lord or a hard and embittered heart. She refused bitterness. “I didn’t and still don’t want to be impotent for the kingdom,” she said.
Trimmer shared of God’s transforming work in her congregation in Murrieta, teaching and showing the people how to truly love one another instead of tearing others down. She also spoke at length on the correlation between discipleship and holiness. “We must lay a foundation for difficult times, enable those we disciple to identify sin in their lives, and learn to deal with it,” she said. “Otherwise, they will drift away.”
This takes a concerted effort in discipleship. Not Bible study or youth group, discipleship is frequent, one-on-one, intentional time spent in discussion, accountability, prayer, and Scripture between a believer and someone more mature in faith for the purpose of spiritual growth—full freedom from flesh, full freedom in Christ. Discipleship entails humility, honesty, obedience, and an investment of time and heart, which is requisite of the disciple and discipler.
While we each are responsible for our own consecration, we’re not meant to go it alone. Discipleship is a critical part of our individual journey toward holy living. If you have not yet been brought under the discipleship training and teachings of a more spiritually mature believer, what experience do you draw upon as you aim to make discipleship a priority in your corps and for your people?
We must recommit to a higher standard of personal holiness—saying “no” to the garbage that keeps us in bondage and from knowing our Savior more intimately. We must commit to the costly investment of discipleship of our junior soldiers, soldiers, adherents, band and songster members and innocent bystanders.
We must understand that holiness is neither a buzzword nor an obscure part of our doctrine, but an essential (more than privileged) part of our transformation as committed followers of Jesus Christ. We must believe that God will release even greater blessing—favor—and increase our territory for mission once we re-consecrate our all to him and commit to such re-consecration daily.
This is it, friends. This is the war you signed up for and the Army you belong to, one with its roots planted in holiness unto the Lord.
See you on the front lines.