A Holy Heart Necessary For Holy Living
Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt and his fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by his fruit.”
Men are constantly inverting the divine order, and striving to improve the fruit – the outward life and conduct — in order to make the heart good; striving to live holy in order to be holy. God says, “be ye holy,” in order to live holy. Strange to relate, the human method is quite popular, while the divine method is quite unpopular.
Said a brother evangelist to me recently, “I am preaching holy living as never before,” when it is well known that he had personally given up the definite testimony to the experience of heart holiness, and had ceased to definitely press and urge the experience upon others; and even questioned the possibility of such an experience.
This writer has a full appreciation of the importance of holy living, but would insist that men must first have holy hearts in order to live holily. We would emphasize, and insist on the divine order. As Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also;” we contend that the man who preaches “holy living,” without telling them the how of holy living, and thus leading them first to the cleansing fountain, is surely inverting the divine order, and urging the impossible. Men must have holy hearts before they can live holy lives; and when the heart is holy they will live holy lives. They are correlated as cause and effect; but the cause must of necessity precede the effect.
Here is the cunning device and subtle temptation of the devil: to preach on “holy living seldom, if ever, provokes opposition and persecution; no one will object to holy living; whereas, the preaching on sanctification– “the act of Divine grace whereby we are made holy”—invariably arouses opposition, and occasions offense and reproach. The “old man” evidently does not care how much a man talks about “holy living,” “the higher life,” “the baptism of power for service,” “a deeper work of grace,” etc., so long as he is not dislodged; he knows full well that mere resolution and human effort at “holy living,” without the blood that sanctifies, is certain to eventuate in failure. But the instant you preach sanctification — “the act of Divine grace whereby we are made holy” — which means the crucifixion, dislodgement, and utter destruction of the “old man,” he at once arrays himself against the doctrine and whoever proclaims it.
We are free to say to men everywhere, that if they would be popular with carnal professors and worldly church members, they should not preach much on sanctification as a second work of grace, but instead, preach on “holy living,” and outward righteousness. That was popular even with the Pharisees. Jesus said of them, “Ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, . . . indeed appear beautiful outward. . . . Ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matt. 23:25, 27, 28.)
No pretense or effort to “holy living” will commend us to God, so long as He sees that the heart is yet unholy. “For the Lord seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (I. Sam. 16:7.) In the sight of God no one is better than his heart; if the heart yet remains impure and unholy, then before Him the person is unholy. Nothing can take the place of heart holiness.
Out of the heart are the issues of life; hence, God constantly asks for the heart. No one is better than his heart. To undertake to live a holy life without first obtaining a holy heart, is like undertaking to purify and clarify a stream of water while there is yet a pig rooting in the spring. “Can the fig tree, my brethren bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” This being true, we need constantly to preach sanctification, which is the work of God — “the act of divine grace whereby we are made holy.” “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27.)