About 30 miles from New York City stands the Great Auditorium, built around 1880 at the Ocean Grove Methodist Camp Grounds. It was the site of the climax of what we now call the Third National Awakening, which had begun on Wall Street about 20 years earlier. Over the front platform of the 6,000-seat auditorium, in 8-foot letters outlined with light bulbs like a carnival midway, two biblical phrases dominate: ?Holiness to the Lord? and ?Be Ye Holy.? They are reminders of what all God-given revivals do: ignite a hunger for holiness among God?s people.
In my office is a plaque displaying a sentence uttered by Dwight L. Moody around the time the Great Auditorium was constructed. Moody, a product of that awakening, defined holiness this way: ?The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. I will try my utmost to be that man.?
Notice, for Moody, that ?holiness? and ?wholly-ness? were nearly synonymous. They are for me, too.
Let me refer to 1 Thess. 5:23-24 to back up this claim: ?May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.? Clearly, Paul expected God to bring us to wholly-ness, making our whole being holy ?through and through.?
Recently, I was helped by insights on this passage from A.B. Simpson, founder of The Christian and Missionary Alliance. Simpson, who pastored in New York City in the days following the Third Awakening, said that to be wholly sanctified by God?s Spirit is to experience separation, dedication, and participation?all at the same time. Let?s take a look at each dimension:
1. Wholly-ness means we separate from everything that is not pleasing to God. Passing from death to life, Christians should be ruthless about cutting off moral sin, self-serving pursuits, or any ambitions that hinder full devotion to Christ. In this dimension of being made holy, we are simply emptying the vessel so the Master can use it more effectively. This is the ?NO? of sanctification.
2. To dedicate ourselves is the ?YES? of sanctification. We present ourselves in readiness for kingdom business, transformed by passionate surrender to the Savior. We open up to all He wants to be within us, or pour into us, or release through us. Having reckoned ourselves dead to unrighteousness, we now reckon ourselves as slaves to heaven (Romans 6).
3. Finally, a wholly holy person must fully participate in God?s ways, proactively, aggressively, wholeheartedly, and increasingly displaying a holy character, holy lifestyle, holy indignation, holy compassion, and holy service. As Peter says, once we?ve escaped ?the corruption in the world caused by evil desires? and ?participate in the divine nature,? then holiness moves from faith to moral excellence to self-control to godliness to agape love (2 Pet. 1:5-7). This is the ?GO? of sanctification. We become full participants in God?s strategy to cover the earth with the knowledge of His glory (Hab. 2:14)?to bring forth a new creation saturated with our Redeemer?s holiness and populated with saints wholly consumed with Him.
Separation, dedication, participation. No, Yes, Go. These hallmarks of a wholly holy life, are not merely superficial. They are the bedrock responses of my spirit (which knows God intimately and eternally), of my soul (my thinking, feeling, desiring), and of my body (my tongue, eyes, ears, hands, feet). This is precisely what Paul reminds his prot?g?, Titus: that saving grace teaches us to say ?no? to worldly passions, ?Yes? to a purified life, and ?Go? to the ways of Christ (Titus 2:11-14).
The last time you joined others to pray for revival, did you hear cries of ?No, Yes, Go?? Was there celebration of all God has already done to bring us into holiness and wholly-ness? Was there desperate pleading for more of it to unfold within the pray-ers and their churches? Was there intercession for nothing less than an outpouring of the Holy Spirit?
Just five blocks from the Great Auditorium is the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, where Bruce Springsteen got his start. From that bar emerged one of rock music?s greatest legends. To attend a Springsteen concert is to experience, in a sense, a form of ?holiness.? Consider: the concert-goers separate (physically, mentally, and emotionally) from everything outside. They are totally dedicated to their idol, and totally (wholly) given over to the beat of his music.
How desperate I am, for the sake of my Hero Christ, to see the people who congregate in Ocean Grove (and in every church throughout our nation) similarly on fire?separated, dedicated, and participating in a Christ-centered atmosphere that reflects those lighted appeals: ?Holiness (and wholly-ness) to the Lord? and ?Be Ye Holy? (as well as wholly) for Him!