Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,
Bow down before Him, His glory proclaim;
Gold of obedience and incense of lowliness,
Bring and adore Him—the Lord is His Name.
Low at His feet lay Thy burden of carefulness,
High on His heart He will bear it for thee;
Comfort thy sorrows and answer thy prayerfulness,
Guiding thy steps as may best for thee be.
Fear not to enter His courts in the slenderness
Of the poor wealth thou wouldst reckon as thine;
Truth in its beauty, and love in its tenderness,
These are the offerings to lay on His shrine.
These though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness,
He will accept for the Name that is dear,
Mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness,
Trust for our trembling, and hope for our fear.
I make no apology for quoting the entirety of the above hymn even though it’s really only the first line that I am going to dwell on for this post. As with most old fashioned hymns it puts a lot of the modern efforts to shame. But that is a topic for a different day.
The great clarion call of the Christian life is holiness. Jesus said: “If you love me you will obey commandments.” (John 14v15) and “Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy.” (Matthew 5v48) A Christian expresses his love for Jesus through increasing holiness. And do you know what? That’s really hard. Holiness is not easily gained, even desiring to be holy is a struggle and actually putting effort in and working out holiness through actions is properly difficult. We have our own cold, unmoving hearts which are so easily distracted and attracted by anything other than holiness; our flesh with all its desires which fights against the Holy Spirit within us; the world in all its loud, brash, scornful folly and the Devil, the prowling lion constantly looking for ways to defeat us. This is the battle for holiness.
So it is of no surprise that we can swiftly come to look upon holiness as a chore, a hard work with little reward, we can even, in bad moments, regret the fact that we face this daily battle. In short, we all too easily lose sight of the beauty of holiness.
“O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.”
Psalm 96 v 9 (KJV)
Consider the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. And consider how excellent such qualities are, how delightful it is to be on the receiving end of them, how noble it is to display them and how beautiful it would be if we overflowed with these fruits. This holiness is not the tedious drudgery that the world thinks of but the all surpassing excellence of all that is good in a character.
Consider too the law of God – the Ten Commandments, the summary: to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself and all the manifestations of this law: purity not lust, truth not lies, hard work not theft, gentle words not gossip, peace not worry, forgiveness not murder, etc. Would not the world be a better and more beautiful place if mankind kept completely to the law of God?
And is not sin always vile, always stealing, never satisfying, always doing harm? From my own experience then I can say that I have never gained anything worthwhile from sin even if at the time I did not think so. Look upon a drunkard and tell me sin is beautiful; look at a brothel and tell me lust is to be encouraged; see the conflict a gossip causes and remark upon its excellence; such things are impossible for we know that sin is ugly and holiness is beautiful.
Finally, consider too the holiness that is displayed in the life of Jesus Christ, was there ever such a man as he? Filled with compassion for the poor, needy and lost; meek and humble despite the legions of angels at his command; bearing with his disciples in all their weakness, giving his life on the cross to win for himself a people and all out of obedience to his Father. Recall all the words of encouragement we have recorded in the gospels, remember his death and resurrection, read about the miracles he did and try and say that holiness is not beautiful.
Christians are called to a light in dark places and that light we show is the light of the beauty of the holiness of our God. As Jesus said: “By this will all men know that you are my disciples: if you love one another.” (John 13v35) If you think holiness is a dull fight for righteousness then you have lost sight of the loveliness of God and the beauty of holiness.
Holiness is beautiful, strive for it.
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”
Revelation 4 v 8