What does it mean to be holy?
Can a godless society be expected to become godly without seeing what godliness is? Are Christians today willing to live their lives in such a way that they reflect God’s holiness? Simon Ponsonby’s The Pursuit of the Holy: A Divine Invitation tells the story of a holy God seeking friends among the unholy and bringing life to those who, left to themselves, would miss out completely on the joy of His promises. Ponsonby begins by looking at God’s essential and unique holiness and what it means for us as sinful human beings. He states, “When we learn that God is actually moving towards us and not away from us, the command to ‘be holy as I am holy’ becomes reachable.”
First, we need to understand what it means to be holy. The Bible uses the word holy in context with other words such as cleanliness, purity, blamelessness, glory, righteousness, godliness, and trustworthiness. These words provide a starting point for Christ-followers to understand the invitation to reflect God’s holiness and the fullness of what it means in our relationship with God. Ponsonby states that holiness is a way of behaving that is determined by the being of God—a life that becomes like the God who possesses holiness.
Rather than unattainable perfection, Ponsonby encourages others to understand that our pursuit of holiness is a life-long transformation process that is not only desirable but is also an exciting opportunity and offer placed before us to go for it. Holiness is a supremely positive word that reflects God’s desire to restore His children into His likeness. Moses and Isaiah are two characters Ponsonby uses to provide vivid windows into God’s restoration process. Careful study and examination of these men and their encounters with God reveal many things about the divine characteristics of God’s holiness:
◦ God’s holiness doesn’t preclude His visitation to sinners.
◦ God’s holiness doesn’t negate His revelation to sinners.◦ God’s holiness doesn’t eliminate His desire to communicate with and show compassion for sinners.
◦ God’s holiness won’t destroy us if we repent of our sinfulness.
◦ God is gracious, forgiving, and cleansing, removing sin in an instant.
◦ God will employ us in His service, despite past failure, if we will only say, “Here I am.”
Ponsonby wants people to understand the grace and mercy of God’s invitation to holiness. He writes that once we understand this, we will no longer desire to live as we once lived, as sinners. Instead, we will desire to live like God. “God-likeness, conformity to His character, is a pilgrimage, a journey made together. We are to walk and work with one another as a family of God’s children,” Ponsonby states. This pilgrimage is not one of subservient creatures before their Creator, neither of soldiers before their commanding officer, but of sons and daughters and lovers of God. To be holy is to be fully alive, fully human, and whole, as God intended.
About the Author: Simon Ponsonby is Pastor of Theology at St. Aldates Church in Oxford. He received his BA in Theology and M Litt from Trinity College Bristol and was ordained in the Church of England. He previously served as Evangelical Pastorate Chaplain at Oxford University and has recently become the Dean of Studies for a new initiative, “European Church Planting Centre,” being established in Oxford. The author of four books and an active evangelist and preacher, Ponsonby is married to Tiffany and they have two sons.
The Pursuit of the Holy: A Divine Invitation
by Simon Ponsonby
David C Cook/September 1, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7814-0366-5/253 pages/trade paperback/$14.99
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