A Holiness of the Heart

In the words of the author, 'this book is an attempt to re-express biblical holiness for a new generation' (p.18). I believe it is very successful. It is in no sense a detached academic dissertation on the subject - the chapters started life as sermons preached in the author's Liverpool church. The language is modern and he maintains a light touch, yet the book is shot through with conviction and, considering this is modern preaching, a wonderful sense of urgency and passion. The author is intent on informing and persuading his readers, and I feel he succeeds. His own personality is ever present, warm, compassionate and disarmingly frank. By the end of the book he feels like an old friend. As sermons, these chapters have obviously been worked over and edited to present them in book form; but even so they represent a standard of biblical preaching which is refreshing and thoroughly practical. They offer a model which could profitably be followed.

The subject is the positive holiness of God which is given to the Christian as a gift. 'Holiness from beginning to end is a work of God in and through us' (p.39). It begins with new birth by the Holy Spirit and develops 'by God's daily help, living in this new relationship'. No attempt is made to classify or stereotype the beginning or the growth of holiness. It is acknowledged that people respond to the Lord Jesus in different ways. I do feel, however, that he overstates his reaction against the traditional holiness teaching of separation from the world. After all, one of the chief components in the Bible's view of God's holiness is his 'otherness'.

The deepest impression made on me by reading the book is that the reality of scriptural holiness is proved not by feelings, but by practical obedience to Christ. The author deals with personal and social issues (sex, environment, justice etc) sensitively and courageously, greatly assisted by his ever-obvious sense of humour. The reading is never dry and boring. Good illustrative material provides constant lubrication and yet is never intrusive. He shows holiness to be very attractive.

At the end of each chapter there is a book, sometimes two, suggested for further reading, and these are manageable books. There are also searching and personal questions included, and questions provided for group discussion. This book would serve as a very useful and stimulating basis for group Bible study, and equally well as a manual for preachers. Years ago I recall a review by Dr Jim Packer which concluded 'Sell your shirt to get it!'

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