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The Ruthless Pursuit of Holiness


Do you strive for holiness, or is your approach to Christian living one of laid-back passivity, a let-go-and-let-God philosophy?

In his introduction to the spirituality of Jonathan Edwards, Kyle Strobel argues that “for the believer, this striving is not for salvation, but from within salvation. Furthermore,” building on Edwards’s understanding, “the nature of holiness leads one to desire more and more of it – communion with God satisfies even as it deepens the longing needing to be satisfied” (Jonathan Edwards: Spiritual Writings, 36).

“Nothing short of perfect holiness will satisfy the appetite and craving of their souls,” said Edwards in reference to the believer. “A godly man has a spirit to desire perfect holiness, and to long after it” (WJE, 19:684).

For the believer, says Strobel, “holiness is now an appetite just as much as hunger or thirst. The believer’s spiritual thirst is not simply a desire to have a small taste, but to drink deeply of God. Because of this desire, sin of any kind is abhorred. Sin is seen as an aberration – as the defilement of the good – and as such, it is that which cannot satisfy. The spiritually mature ‘hate all sin in all degrees, and don’t only hate it in others,’” says Edwards, “’but they hate it mainly and chiefly in themselves’” (WJE, 19:686).

Says Edwards,

“A godly man is a mortal enemy of his sins. Nothing will satisfy him, but his life is as it were bloodthirsty towards sin. He never will give his lusts any peace as long as they have any room in his heart, and till he has wholly expelled them thence. Nor will he ever give himself any rest, till they are utterly rooted out and destroyed, root and branch” (WJE, 19:687-88).

May God renew within us a heart that is “bloodthirsty towards sin,” never resting until by God’s grace and the power of his Spirit it is uprooted, cast aside, and holiness is embraced.

1 Comment

Thanks Sam.

I'm wondering if Edwards believed that those professing Christians who honestly don't crave "perfect holiness" can still enjoy some measure of assurance that they are truly born again. ?

Also wondering if he puts any real life definition on what passes for maturity, in his view. In my limited reading of Edwards I've gotten the impression that "certainty" was reserved for a very few.

Would he visit our best churches today and feel the need to preach " Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"?

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