Holiness Should Be the Distinguishing Mark of a Christian
by Stuart DiNenno
“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16)
Holiness should be the distinguishing mark of a Christian and O how little of it there is today!
Consider the matter of speech and how often the Scriptures repeatedly condemn filthiness in it and testify to the necessity of keeping it pure. Here are just a few references from the Psalms and Proverbs: Psalm 34:13; Psalm 39:11; Proverbs 4:24; Proverbs 15:14; Proverbs 21:23 and many more could be cited both from these parts of the Bible and many of the others. Yet in spite of numerous biblical condemnations against it, some of today’s so-called Christians think nothing of using some of the worst profanity in their speech.
Now perhaps it is understandable if someone blurts out profanity unthinkingly when he, for example hits his finger with a hammer during construction work, although even that is something we should strive to bring under control, but for a man to use it in circumstances where he has time to thoughtfully consider his words, such as in everyday speech among friends or, even worse, to use it publicly in writing on social media, is just willfully sinning. Some professing Christians today casually spew filthy words out of their mouth that my atheist father never would have dreamed of uttering just fifty years ago, and that is something that should grieve us all. Christians are only being hypocrites if they lament the low condition of the church or their nation, and talk about how they can be reformed, before they have reformed their own behavior on simple matters of personal holiness such as this one.
Be not deceived: you can have a head full of knowledge, and be meticulously careful to gain what appears to be an orthodox theological profession and hold a seemingly accurate worldview, and all of it will be worthless in the end if you had no “holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). I have seen a tendency among “the Reformed” to get so caught up in lofty intellectual topics, or social matters on a national or worldwide scale, that they forget about, or even make light of, the more humble things of practical obedience. Of course, it is a praiseworthy thing if a man can thoroughly expound upon a multitude of biblical concepts and discourse at length about what the anti-Christs are doing to try to destroy Christian civilization but if he has not civilized his own behavior, then his much learning has done him little good. “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” (James 1:26)
I have seen even a Christian minister using some of the worst profanity to hurl insults at others, and making filthy jokes publicly on Facebook as if God accounts it as nothing. This is a great deception when we are instructed to “put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.” (Proverbs 4:24) and when Christian ministers are commanded to be an example to the faithful in purity (1 Timothy 4:12)
I know it is easy to become caught up in this sort of behavior because there is so much of it today but never excuse it, especially in your own behavior, and do not associate with those who dismiss it as unimportant, laugh it off, or call you a “pietist” for speaking against it. Remember, only “fools make a mock at sin” (Proverbs 14:9). How much more foolish is it to apply a label of theological error to a zeal for holiness? Better to heed the words of Holy Scripture: “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil…” (1 Peter 3:10) and “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.” (Proverbs 21:23)
Self-discipline is an absolute necessity in the life a Christian. Regarding our speech, we ought to be able to say with David: “I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle” (Psalm 39:1). You cannot allow your fountain to send forth both bitter water and sweet (James 3:11-12). “Keep thy tongue from evil…” (Psalm 34:13)
Today’s Christians sometimes argue about what is and what is not “a salvation issue” — this certainly is one. It is a matter of defiling ourselves: “…those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.” (Matthew 15:18) And if we defile ourselves, then we are defiling the temple of God: “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” Of course, this is not to say that you have committed the unpardonable sin by using filthy language but it is to say that you are in need of repentance if you have made a habit of it, and much more so if you have been excusing such behavior.
The words of Christ in this matter should make us tremble: “I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” Stop and consider it: we shall be judged for “every idle word.” The thought of this should make us very careful to be wholesome in our speech. How great will be the punishment of those who profess the name of the One who spoke these words and yet their tongues pour out filth? Have they any fear of God?
“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)