The Holiness Dilemma


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First, a disclaimer. I don’t presume to have all the answers, let’s make that perfectly clear right from the beginning. However, looking back over some seven decades now, all the while prayerfully wrestling with this personal “holiness dilemma,” seven illuminations have now surfaced and settled in my thinking.
I use the word “illuminations,” as opposed to “revelation” and “inspiration” because I’m not totally clear on the source, often vacillating between the human and divine. I can say, without reservation, that it has been a sincere and honest quest for Truth, the substance of this mini Ebook evolving.
During this lengthy pilgrimage, it has surprised me to find so many others along the way wrestling with the same “dilemma,” and this emerging generation now joining in on the chorus. Thus, I feel Spirit-led to share the results of this quest, to date, in (7) simple personal illuminations.

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The Holiness Dilemma

  1. 1. THE HOLINESS DILEMMA! (For Me Personally) JOE NOLAND 7 Experiential Illuminations
  2. 2. PREFACE The number 7 has special significance for me. My birth certificate says that I was born in July (7th month) 17th day, a Saturday (7th day), at 7 a.m., weighing in at 7 lbs, 7 oz. Here’s another interesting tidbit. I was born at Mercy Hospital, San Diego, California 77 years ago, and Doris, my life partner, was born at Grace Hospital, Winnipeg, Canada, not so many years ago. Someone has said, “justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you deserve, and grace is getting what you don’t deserve.” If you take that to it’s logical, non spiritual, birthing conclusion, my parents didn’t get what they deserved, and her parents got what they didn’t deserve. And that’s the truth! This virtual, literary creation is about the quest for mercy and grace, with justice finding it’s rightful place in there somewhere. I’ve chosen this medium because the emerging generation (The future), resides here on the Internet. They want it short, simple, to the point, interactive and graphically stimulating. They also want it to be mobile centric. For them, paper books are going the way of the dinosaur. Even this aging septuagenarian orders and reads his books on the iPad. I envy this generation, wishing I’d been born 40 years later, say on Saturday, July 17, 1977, thereby becoming the corps officer at Santa Ana (now Tustin Ranch), in 2020, the Divisional Commander in the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Division in 2030 and Territorial Commander USE East in 2038. Kind of scary, huh? To think how much better prepared my sermon preparation would be with all the Biblical resources on line at my fingertips. And vision casting with Google (8th Wonder of the World) at my command, And the word “dinosaur” above popped up on spellcheck automatically. Miraculous! Enough of this self commiserating. On with the quest!
  3. 3. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day, from all the work he had made. And God blessed the seventh day,and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” (Genesis 2:2) The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tied in a furnace or earth, purified seven times.” (Psalm 12:6) In Scripture seven symbolizes completeness or perfection. For a more thorough study, Google “Scripture number seven.” One example:
  4. 4. THE QUEST First, a disclaimer. I don’t presume to have all the answers, let’s make that perfectly clear right from the beginning. However, looking back over some seven decades now, all the while prayerfully wrestling with this personal “holiness dilemma,” seven illuminations have now surfaced and settled in my thinking. I use the word “illuminations,” as opposed to “revelation” and “inspiration” because I’m not totally clear on the source, often vacillating between the human and divine. I can say, without reservation, that it has been a sincere and honest quest for Truth, the substance of this mini Ebook evolving. During this lengthy pilgrimage, it has surprised me to find so many others along the way wrestling with the same “dilemma,” and this emerging generation now joining in on the chorus. Thus, I feel Spirit-led to share the results of this quest, to date, in (7) simple personal illuminations.
  5. 5. Holiness teaching suffers from periodic bouts of Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia: involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings... (in general use) a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements. (Google Dictionary) Here’s the deal. For decades, I have sat under the holiness teaching of many, and witnessed the “inconsistent and contradictory elements” of many of the many up close and personal. In some instances the teaching has been superb, textbook brilliant, eloquent, whilst off the platform, the relation between “thought, emotion, and behavior” too often extremely disappointing. In fact, as a young officer, when appointed to the Brengle Institute, I graciously declined, citing appointment conflicts, which was the truth. The other part of the truth was, that I knew some of the holiness teachers too well, deciding that it would not be beneficial for my soul and spirit to attend. Not to fault anyone, as corporately, without even recognizing it, we suffer from these periodic bouts of “holiness” schizophrenia.
  6. 6. Then there’s the dichotomy between the teaching of “instant perfection” and “progressive holiness,” or in Salvation Army parlance, Brengle holiness and Coutts holiness. More on these “contradictory elements” further on. For these reasons, I’ve struggled with my own holiness teaching and preparation, knowing full well that I would need to meet the same standard on and off the platform. And yes, I too have suffered severely from periodic bouts of holiness teaching schizophrenia. For a period of time, I served as Corps Officer (Pastor) with a very large, sophisticated congregation, one of my soldiers (members), a retired officer, being the premiere Salvation Army holiness writer and teacher of that day. Like clockwork, every time I preached on holiness, he would greet me with a smile as he shook my hand going out the door. The handshake was both genuine and perfunctory, as in the palm of my hand would be left a note critiquing the holiness aspects of my message that morning. He of the Brengle, and I of the Coutts persuasion. Take away: Wherever you are on the holiness continuum, walk the talk, practice what you preach. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. (Matthew 23:3)
  7. 7. One Size ‘Doesn’t’ Fit All. I’ve rubbed shoulders with some pretty holy people, take Colonel Gene Rice, a Saint if there ever was one. He had an uncanny way of being able to minister to everyone, everywhere continuously. I like to say that his holiness was omniscient and omnipresent. It was a unique calling. Take my cousin, Skeeter, for example. He attended the corps sporadically as a kid, worked one summer at camp when Rice was the Divisional Youth Secretary (Pastor). At about age 17, Skeeter stopped attending the army, and began re-enacting the story of the Prodigal Son. I never knew where he was in his wanderings, but Rice always found him, kept in touch. Long story short, in retirement, the Rices ended up in Paradise, California, and Skeeter next door in Chico. Rice found him again. After a 50 year interim, Skeeter is wholly immersed in Christ centered, Salvation Army ministry. He will tell you that Rice’s holy omnipresence over the years played no small part in this.
  8. 8. Oh how I longed to fit into Colonel Gene Rice’s size 12 holiness shoes. Impossible! No matter how much I tried, they just wouldn’t fit. And he’s only one of many that I so desperately wanted to emulate, Brigadier Josef Korbel being another shining example. It took awhile for me to finally conclude that “one size doesn’t fit all.” Perfection for Gene Rice was found in the multifaceted complexity of his God created uniqueness and life circumstance. No way could I fit into his, Korbel’s or any other’s holiness shoes. I had to find my own customized unique fit, which happens to be a size 7 in real life, by the way (-: Take Away: Holiness is custom made to the unique complexity of every individual. Find your fit and wear it individualistically. Don’t attempt to force fit another’s holiness experience expression. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous —and how well I know it. (Psalm 149:13)
  9. 9. One Size ‘Does’ Fit All Illumination #3 amplifies the difference between “works of grace” and “work of grace,” wherein one size does fit all. As Salvation Army Cadets in training, we were asked to write a paper explaining our view of holiness, no holds barred. In fact, we were given a number to identify the paper, no names attached, anonymous. Well, in my disquisition, I took issue with the manifestation of Brengle’s personal holiness experience being a universal one, as this seemed to be the flavor of the day in Salvation Army circles. Oh, I wholly agreed with it being his unique experience, the following excerpt one example from his writings: “I walked out over Boston Commons before breakfast, weeping for joy and praising God. Oh, how I loved! In that hour I knew Jesus, and I loved Him till it seemed my heart would break with love.”
  10. 10. “I was filled with love for all His creatures. I heard the little sparrows chattering; I loved them. I saw a little worm wriggling across my path; I stepped over it; I didn’t want to hurt any living thing. I loved the dogs; I loved the horses; I loved the little urchins on the street; I loved the strangers who hurried past me; I loved the heathen; I loved the whole world.” How I longed for this same happening, but it wasn’t something I could personally grasp, nor could I see it demonstrated similarly in the life of many others also claiming the experience of holiness. How desperately I wanted this universal expression of love to work itself out in my own outward experience. But snakes and spiders (human kind and otherwise)? I’m still not quite there yet. Alas! One of my session mates was summoned into the instructor’s office, he thinking this cadet’s name and my number on the paper were synonymous, to which the cadet vehemently denied, whereupon I was then summoned into the inner sanctum. That one of us had written the paper was an educated guess on the instructor’s part. Getting right to the point, he was being protective, not wanting me to be singled out as a heretic by those with the power to cut one’s cadetship short. As an aside, he too was sympathetic to much of what was written. I agreed to tread softly, until now some 50-years later, it’s about time to come out of the closet, don’t you think? Take Away: The inner manifestation (second work of grace) is universally, singularly the same (one size fits all), whilst the outward manifestations of holiness express themselves uniquely through the singular personality and life experience of the individual: Soul Grace and Goal Grace. I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me - Philippians 3:12
  11. 11. Disposition is genetic; Holiness is regenerative It took a long time coming to terms with this reality. By nature, I am a hardcore introvert, painfully shy and reserved. I denied the “genetic” part well into adulthood, and finally came to terms with it by compensating creatively, sometimes even to the extremes (as is true with most creative people). The following quote says it perfectly: “Human Salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted” - MLK, Jr. The confusing part has been in wrongfully equating holiness with disposition. I am not of a Brengle, Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi temperament. There is a hard edge to mine, not unlike that of my grandfather and mother. No question whatsoever of this being an inherited trait. Others by nature, have sweet, kind, gentle spirits, whether they be agnostic, Buddhist, Christian or whatever.
  12. 12. Can the Holy Spirit take the rough edges off an aggressive, competitive, hard-charging spirit? Of course. Does He want to change and remake that spirit into one that is gentle, laid back and passive? I think not. Think William and Catherine Booth. Their unique, creative, aggressive spirits were foundational to all that has transpired. Holiness cannot be defined by innate temperament; it is, rather, regenerative. Regenerative: restored to a better, higher, or more worthy state (Merriam-Webster). Or taking one’s inherited disposition, intact, yet molding and shaping it into a better, higher, or more worthy (holy) state. This resonates with me, and something I can relate to experientially. Brengle: “Holiness, for you and for me, is not maturity, but purity: a clean heart in which the Holy Spirit dwells, filling it with pure tender, and constant love to God and man.” Coutts: “In making holiness my aim on earth, a further truth has to be kept in mind. The question is sometimes debated whether the experience of holiness is gained instantly or gradually. The answer is that the life of holiness is both a crisis and a process.... They are two sides of a coin. You cannot have one without the other.” Two individuals with the same aim and desire: to be wholly sanctified, regeneratively, albeit each following a path attuned to his unique persona. Take Away: One’s innate disposition is not an indicator of holiness. Holiness is regenerative, taking into account one’s inherent nature, shaping it uniquely and individualistically, instantly or progressively. It’s just that some of us need a little more fine-tuning. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back - Philippians 3:13-14.
  13. 13. The Holiness Experience is Personal, Not Communal This “personal/communal” thing was another confusion for me, because every testimony I ever heard on holiness sounded collective, rather than distinctive. For a long time, I didn’t understand, that whilst there is a common thread (2nd work of grace), the holiness fingerprint on each individual is a solitary one. Enter Coutts who disturbed the present (1963). So much so, that a “Coutt’s Club” was formed in San Francisco, shaking up the communality big time. As a Cadet, I was approached by a senior officer couple on THQ, their daughter involved, pleading with me to help extinguish this emerging heresy. Little did they know that it was my number at the top of that holiness paper (actually they didn’t even know there was a paper). Not to worry, the system prevailed and it quickly faded into nothingness. Except for me. A light went on, igniting a spark that was progressively fanned into flame.
  14. 14. Don’t panic, read on. Whilst the holiness experience is personal, it’s full expression is both personal and communal. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it - Philippians 3: 10-11. To illustrate a personal holiness distinctive, take my good friend John Gowans, now enjoying the ultimate Glory (Holiness) experience. When God created John, He threw away the mold. I remember one time, he preaching on a Sunday morning in the Santa Ana Corps. To emphasize a point, he used a swear word. There was a communal gasp throughout the congregation, my holiness brethren going immediately into prayer for him. This was quintessentially John, part of his personality and style. It wasn’t me, I could never get away with it because it would seem forced, not natural. Interestingly enough, he was able to reach people with the Gospel message that the rest of us could never reach. His holiness experience was unique and personalized, just as yours and mine is - perhaps not as flamboyant, but just as peerlessly effective if discharged genuinely. Take Away: Every “second work of grace” is an exclusive, one-of-a-kind experience; it is not communally Xeroxed. Know thyself. Know Christ Personally. Be thyself. Be genuine.
  15. 15. Communal Holiness Is The Sum Of It’s Parts The expression of holiness is first personal, then it transforms into community. We sometimes isolate the two apart. Communal holiness is the sum of it’s various distinctive parts united in concert together. What would an orchestra sound like if it were made up only of oboes? Ever heard of an oboe soloist? This instrument has a unique look and sound, critically important to the full resonance and musical quality of every performance. And every oboe sound is influenced differently according to the passion and personality of it’s player. This is what sparks revival, the sum of all parts perfectly uniting together. If everyone tries to emulate the oboe (metaphorically), communal holiness (perfection) can never be achieved. The holiness church needs to get it’s act together, too many trumpets (prima donnas), too few oboes. Take Away: Get the personal part right and communal holiness will take care of itself.
  16. 16. Holiness Is The Elixir For Eradicating Evil We’re guilty oftentimes of attempting to overcome evil with human good. Good is both a human and divine thing, and we confuse the two, mostly without even realizing it. And the church is not off the hook here. The emphasis has slowly and subtly changed from “being” to “doing.” The doing has become, dare I say it, sometimes contrived, programmed and forced, instead of natural, spontaneous and automatic. This is what sets the holiness Gospel apart. All good issues out of a pure heart. Not out of a guilty conscience, or celebrity status, or social prominence, or community expectation, or funding opportunities, or public relations possibilities, or institutional requirements. Divine Good issues out of a pure heart. The Foster Care system, is but one example of government’s attempt at doing human good, issuing out of a social conscience. Only
  17. 17. ...but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart - 2 Timothy 2:22 NKJ And, no matter how well meaning, it’s broken! The antithesis to this can be found illustrated in an ancient Roman practice and the early Christian response. Unwanted infants were left outside the city walls, “exposed” to the elements: extreme weather conditions, wild animals, no food and water, death being the certain and horrific outcome. Early day Christians, driven out of a pure heart, did the unthinkable, rescuing these children, often adopting them as their own. This went totally against the culture and ethos of the day. Guilt, social conscience and charity were not factors in this behavior. No one was keeping statistics. It was driven by pure, unadulterated holiness of soul, mind and Spirit. There was nothing other to be gained by this conduct. As a result, the church began to grow exponentially. Here’s the ultimate dilemma. This same kind of evil abounds in the world today, proliferating out of control. “What the world needs now is love, sweet love” - driven out of a pure heart. The lyric continues, “It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” And the church must assume a lion’s share of the blame. Charity is not the answer; Love driven out of a pure heart is the only panacea for eradicating evil. One minuscule example: When in the prime of life, if every Christian couple, driven out of a pure heart, would take in a foster child, adopting him/her as their own, think of all the evil that could be extinguished. Then multiply that with thousands of other potential “do good” opportunites. Only then will the church (The Salvation Army) begin to grow exponentially. God help us! Take Away:
  18. 18. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus Philippians 1:6