By Rev. Dr. J. Patrick Bowman (Originally published November 14, 2013)
I set off at the beginning of this year (2013) to pursue holiness. That statement, to some, might seem absolutely absurd. In fact, it is. First of all, to set a time limit on the things of God is presumptuous at best. God doesn’t work on our schedule. And secondly, to think one can obtain what is pursued with any certainty is also presumptuous. Finding the things of God is not like a trip to the store to find ice cream. So let me describe my presumptuously absurd journey over the last months and then draw some conclusions from it.
I began my quest with the reading of “Spiritual Sobriety- Freedom and Recovery from Cultural Christianity” by Frank Manno. The plow was harnessed to the oxen with that one. Next came “Holiness, Truth, and the Presence of God” by Francis Frangipane. We were off and running then, turning over some soil in my life that had long lain fallow. Throughout this year I’ve spent the time with Oswald Chambers, Steve Hill, J. Lee Grady, Smith Wigglesworth, C.H. Spurgeon, and a second-round with Frangipane in “The Days of His Presence.” I’ve read and re-read Art Katz’s “Apostolic Foundations” and marveled at his teaching concerning the correlation between priesthood and the apostolic ministry. “Seven Lamps of Fire” and other books by George H. Warnock have challenged me beyond measure. Each author has hit a different note in a beautiful harmony that accompanies the melody the Holy Spirit is beginning to play in my life.
I have listened to hours of preaching by David Wilkerson, Carter Conlon, Leonard and David Ravenhill, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and other men and women of God from a variety of denominational backgrounds. Some are very well known, and others not so much, like Pastor Joe Myers from Grace Street Church of God in Apopka, Florida. He’s a hard-working, blue-collar pastor with a full-time construction business and a full-tilt anointing. Their messages aren’t always explicit concerning holiness, but their spirits are immersed in the experience of holiness in their own lives that comes through their preaching. Some are fiery in their approach to preaching, like Pastor Joe, and some are very conversational in their delivery. It’s their lifestyle behind their styles that made all the difference. It’s the same with the authors. Not every book I read is about holiness, but I found holiness in every book.
With all this reading and listening I even found time to read my Bible and pray. Imagine that! Some of my reading was topical, some devotional, and some just because. I prayed the same way. I think I like the just because the best. I also found with Bible reading and praying came a lot of time just quietly listening to the Holy Spirit. And thinking. And listening. And thinking. And then responding. I believe that’s called a conversation.
I’m not going to spend the time or words here to describe in detail every nuance of my journey this year, but I would like to draw a few conclusions. My presumptuously absurd journey did reach a favorable destination. I’ve long been a proponent of praying, “Lord, help me live with my questions while I’m waiting for your answers.” OK, I’m at that place with holiness, too. Was I able to accomplish what I wanted to this year? Oh, yes, and more. Was I able to “catch” holiness? I rather believe instead that holiness caught me. You might ask, “How do you know that to be true?”
Here’s the bottom line. I believe I’m much farther along than I was because I’m far enough down the path to look back. I’m not the same guy I was going into this journey. I believe I’m a better husband. (Check with my wife for confirmation!) I know that my nature has become more Christ-like. I don’t struggle with some of the sinful attitudes I struggled with a year ago. I know the most important key this year on my end was the fact that I wanted to make the journey. And, as I expected, any destination is just the beginning of the next leg of the trip.
Paul got it right when he said, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. “