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Gatekeepers of Holiness

Weekly Devotional for Preachers
Gatekeepers of Holiness
Image: Cyndi Monaghan / Getty

My Dear Shepherds,

Since reading Chronicles recently, I’ve been intrigued with the temple gatekeepers. They were posted in shifts at the four gates, night and day, to guard the holiness of God’s temple, keeping anyone or anything unclean from defiling his presence. Pastors are like those gatekeepers. Only we guard the holiness of God’s people, for we are his temple now.

That brings me to Hebrews 12:14:

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

To most people holiness is a foreign, incomprehensible word. If it weren’t for foolish oaths, I can’t imagine the word holy ever passing their lips. But holiness is our daily, lifelong work. We guard and nourish those whom God has made holy—set apart as his own—through Christ Jesus.

As we well know, faith in Christ sets his disciples on the path of holiness, and that’s where we pastors come in. In a classic Leadership Journal cartoon by Mary Chambers, two couples are seated in a living room engaged in a Bible study. One of the women says: “Well, I haven’t actually died to sin, but I did feel kind of faint once.” That’s why we monitor and motivate the saints entrusted to us.

The command to “pursue peace with everyone” alerts pastors to the crucial importance of relationships in our church and beyond. It’s a duffel bag command stuffed full of all the “one anothers,” the basin and towel, truth-speaking, grace-giving, and countless intercessory prayers. This command has a way of tapping its fingers impatiently on our desks when we put off difficult calls to an angry parishioner. It clears its throat for attention when our church elders want to move on to the next item on the agenda instead of considering what to do about our own Euodia and Syntyche.

“Be holy” is the sweeping command and most urgent because without holiness, “no one will see the Lord.” It won’t matter how big our church was, or how much people loved the worship band or our preaching if, when they step into eternity, they aren’t prepared to see the Lord. The great pastoral concern of Hebrews was people who professed Christ but who ultimately didn’t trust and obey him. It’s the “make every effort” that makes their holiness our concern, too.

Years ago, I read an article about a hospital where the maintenance workers drained the dirty hydraulic fluid from the elevators into empty detergent drums. Then the instrument-cleaning people, not realizing what had happened, started tapping those drums marked “Detergent” to clean surgical instruments. The article said the staff was still trying to figure out if anyone had been hurt. The administrator assured the public, “We care about our patients,” and I’m sure they did, but what did it matter how much they cared if their instruments weren’t disinfected? A church careless about holiness is like that. We can care about people and still endanger them if we don’t see to it that we and they “make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy.”

When I was reading about the assignments given to the gatekeepers in Solomon’s temple I came upon this wonderful phrase: “Guard was alongside of guard” (1 Chron. 26:16). I love that! I thought about the pastors who have stood alongside me in the churches I served and in the communities where I lived. It explains that kinship we feel when we meet other pastors somewhere. It’s also why I count it such an honor to write to you each week.

Be ye glad!

Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He writes a weekly devotional for preachers on Preaching Today.

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